After Florence’s 6-14-1 season last year and following the graduation of six seniors, Buffaloes head coach Bryce Estes told the now sophomores that the opportunity to play on varsity was theirs if they worked to prove themselves.
“The sophomores definitely have,” Estes said. “They’ve stepped up to the plate.
“I feel like they’ve grown a lot, maturity-wise, over the course of a year and really accepted their roles.”
Florence currently has a 7-4 overall record and is 1-1 in District 25-3A play after overcoming some early season hurdles.
Like other teams around the area, many of their early games were canceled due to inclement weather but they also didn’t have a full roster of players available to play as 22 of the 26 players were on the basketball teams.
After the Buffaloes lost a play-in game for the playoffs, Estes took his players the following Monday to play a game.
“I got them in for a couple of at-bats and then subbed them out so that a couple of the younger kids to see what they have,” Estes said.
Many of his players had only averaged two days of practice at that point but “it was one of those things we had to bite the bullet and run with it.”
Since the season started, Estes has seen his team come together and find itsstride.
Florence participated in the Holland tournament to begin the season, when the young Buffaloes were getting a feeling for what works in certain situations as they didn’t really know what role they were going to play on the team at that point.
By the second tournament, Estes noticed a positive change in his team.
“The communication between one another, the energy in the dugout when we were batting,” he said, “it just really surprised me as far as not having to preach or coach it as much and them kind of taking it upon themselves in forming that bond.
“That bond is kind of what I really think brings them together.”
A bond that Estes also credits to his senior leadership.
“It all starts with them,” he said, “because they have a good solid foundation together.
“They’re always playing around and joking around, but when it’s time to be serious and focused, they do so.
“They push each other, and they’re competitive against one another which I think is what keeps the fire going.”
That team unity carried the Buffaloes to a five-game winning streak that ended Tuesday, when Florence lost 17-0 against fourth-ranked Georgetown Gateway.
“Our biggest improvement,” Estes noted, “is we’re finally coming to the point where, and I saw this a lot in our last game getting defeated the way we did, but whenever something bad happens, we’re not hanging out heads down and beating ourselves over it.
“That play is over or that at-bat is over, and it’s time to move on and make the next attempt that much better.”