The Odd Couple
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
WESLEY CHAPEL -- Kris Quinones didn't want to start his freshman season on the Wesley Chapel varsity, but he certainly will finish it there.
The transition from middle school to high school was one challenge, and another was moving from catcher to second base. If he struggled with his confidence, a .700 average with the junior varsity helped solve that problem, as did a strong night in his first varsity start against Land O'Lakes.
"Once the first pitch came by, I knew I would be fine," said Quinones, who is 5-foot-5, 132 pounds but has wielded a big bat for the Wildcats. "I got a double in my first at-bat and then a single in the second, and that made me feel like I could stay there."
Quinones has stayed with the varsity, and the Land O'Lakes game started a six-game hitting streak that had him ranked third in the county in average last week. He entered Thursday's game against Bartow at .345, second on the team.
"We started him out in the bottom of the lineup, hitting seventh or eighth to protect him a little bit, but he was swinging the bat so well we moved him to No.2 in the order," Wildcats coach Steve Mumaw said. "He came in as a catcher but he had such good feet we wanted him in the infield. He's struggled at times defensively, but it's freshman stuff we know he can work through."
In contrast to Quinones' tiny frame is fellow freshman Ken Statham, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound pitcher who opened the season with the varsity. Statham, who played with Quinones at Weightman Middle School, also came on strong in his first weeks with the varsity with a six-game hitting streak of his own.
"It's been going pretty good; I've been real surprised," said Statham, who could make a splash on the football field this fall as a middle linebacker. "I probably couldn't ask for anything better in how my first year has turned out."
His biggest impact might be on the mound, where he has a 3.63 ERA and ranks second on the team with 15 strikeouts. After sophomore Matt Condor held Pasco to two runs in six innings Tuesday, Statham came in for a hitless seventh inning against the meat of the Pirates lineup to close out a key 6-2 district win.
"He's going to be a force on the mound," Mumaw said. "Ken's been with us all year, and that goes back to him being so ready mentally before the season. Kris has played well since he came up, and they're both going to be forces for us in the next few years."
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