Another spring season is coming to a close, and with it another prep sports season.
What can we expect from here?
We begin with the very immediate future.
LAKEWOOD RANCH SOFTBALL WILL WIN -- The Mustangs have been playing too well for too long to come away from their second straight Class 6A state semifinal without a win. They're hitting their stride at the right time, wading through a region that included Dover Strawberry Crest and New Port Richey River Ridge, a pair of teams that had lost three combined games before the Mustangs outscored them 13-4. They can hit, they can pitch, and they've been together for a long time. We'll see what happens Saturday, but the Mustangs have one more game in them after today.
BAYSHORE SOFTBALL HERE TO STAY -- Of the nine players coach Frank Luther penciled into his starting lineup during last week's Class 5A-Region 3 final, seven will be back next year, including the talented trio of freshman outfielders -- Lashara James, JoJo Muldoon and Marina Clark. They need a bit more stability in the pitcher's circle and the defense needs to tighten a bit, but the Bruins have the pieces in place to duplicate if not better this year's run and perhaps wrestle the county's softball power away from the eastern part of Manatee County.
(Side note: The same can be said for Palmetto, which graduates no one after reaching the region playoffs this year for the first time since 2006).
MANATEE'S OFFENSE WILL SCORE POINTS AGAIN -- Replacing quarterback Cord
Sandberg and the more than 9,700 yards of offense he stockpiled in his three-year career won't be easy, but the Hurricanes' offense isn't low on fuel. For one, the senior-sophomore tandem of Trevon Walters and Johnnie Lang will give teams fits out of the backfield, and receiver Marquel Hines returns after nabbing a team-best 45 catches. It also doesn't hurt that the offensive line graduated just one starter, albeit a good one in Thor Miller. There will be holes aplenty to plug on defense -- the defensive line lost two Division I players (Derrick Calloway and Blake Keller) and a four-year starter (Marquis Dawsey) -- but Manatee's high-flying offense will give them time to gel.
AREA BASEBALL WON'T BE SHUT OUT IN REGION -- I don't know who, but someone will prove that this season was an aberration. After a pair of county teams made the state final four the past two springs (Manatee in 2011, Lakewood Ranch in 2012), it was rough on area diamonds this year, as only Cardinal Mooney and Out-of-Door Academy made it out of the district playoffs, and both were gone after the first round of regionals. There's too much talent in the area for another 0-for-10 performance. Right?
COUNTY TRACK WON'T BE THE SAME -- We've seen the last of the likes of Manatee's Brandon Carnes, Lakewood Ranch's Olivia Ortiz and Kristin Zarrella and Saint Stephen's Hannah Howell showcasing their talents at area meets and representing the area well at the state level. But there is some more talent coming down the pike -- see Bayshore's Cannan Meester-Kitterman and the Falcons' girls track team, fresh off a third-place regional finish, laden with underclassmen -- meaning next year's county track meet won't be the same, but that doesn't mean it won't be fun to watch.
John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2097. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnLembo1878.