May 20, 2024

Umatilla High’s Tanner Clark Named Lake & Sumter Style Magazine’s 2024 Baseball Coach of The Year

3.2 min read| Published On: May 20th, 2024|

By Kyle Coppola

Umatilla High’s Tanner Clark Named Lake & Sumter Style Magazine’s 2024 Baseball Coach of The Year

3.2 min read| Published On: May 20th, 2024|

The 2024 Lake & Sumter County baseball season will be remembered for a long time. Perhaps one of the memories that will last a lifetime is the incredible run that the Umatilla High School Bulldogs went on. It had been 22 years since Umatilla High School had won a District Championship. Not one player on the team was alive the last time Umatilla High won a District Championship.

But coach Tanner Clark was. Coach Clark was a graduate of Umatilla High School in the class of 2016. He is in his third year as the head coach. Umatilla already had a successful 2023 season which saw the Bulldogs go 17-9 on the year. Coming into 2024 this was going to be the best team Umatilla would have in over two decades.

(Coach Clark has done an incredible amount of work in just 3 years as head coach for Umatilla High. He delivered the teams first District Championship in over 22 years.)

Coach Clark had a successful career in high school. He played for Eustis and Umatilla before playing college baseball for Lake-Sumter State College and University of North Florida. “Being such a young coach it allows me to relate to my guys on a personal level. This team is one of the closest group of guys I have ever coached.” says Coach Clark.

Rightfully so because many of the players on the 2024 team played together since elementary school. Those bonds made between players allowed Umatilla High to have a successful regular season. It all led up to one of the biggest wins in Umatilla High School history and a massive upset.

(Just a few years ago Tanner Clark was a then player for the University of North Florida before he would ultimately begin his coaching career.)

In the district tournament, Umatilla won against Windermere Prep and Lake Highland Prep to earn the right to play Montverde Academy in the District Final. Umatilla High had long been thought of as an inferior opponent by many schools in the area. They weren’t strong enough, not talented enough, not hungry enough to win the championship. All those years of negativity led to one of the most memorable nights for Umatilla High School in over two decades.

Montverde Academy is one of the best athletic schools in the country. Be it baseball, softball, basketball, they just have a ton of talent. But Umatilla was not fazed and they played like a championship team should. On May 2nd, Umatilla High School won the class 3A District 9 championship game 4-2 against Montverde Academy.

22 years it had been since this team had last accomplished it and this group of players led by Trey Craft, Keegan St. Amant, Logan Bowling, Wyatt Strawbridge, Bailey Teeters, Julian Torres, Kannon Steinke and others hoisted that trophy. While this was a massive moment for the players it was also a big moment for head coach Tanner Clark.

(Coach Clark holds to District Championship trophy along with his coaching staff. Standing to his left is Umatilla Athletic Director Patrick Todd who has assisted in completely turning around many of the athletics programs at Umatilla High School.)

Coach Clark got to coach the team he once played for in a district championship game and took down a goliath type opponent in Montverde Academy. This had been building for years. Ever since coach Clark took over the fledgling Umatilla High program that went 0-12 in 2020, won just 5 games in 2021, but then changed drastically in just 3 years. In 2022 the team finished with a winning record 12-11.

Last year the team finished with a 17-9 record which was one of the best finishes in modern history of the program. Capping it off with a 19-9 season, a District Championship trophy and an FHSAA State Baseball Playoff appearance, coach Clark deserves to be awarded the 2024 Lake & Sumter Style Magazine Baseball Coach of The Year.

(In 2023 Umatilla High Principal Fraizer was honored after he was selected as the Florida Principal of The Year. Coach Clark “right” stands with Principal Fraizer during the ceremony.)

Congratulations to coach Clark but also to all of his players and graduating seniors. I can tell you that each senior graduating loves Umatilla High School. Trey Craft summed it up perfectly. “I could have played anywhere, but I am proud to represent Umatilla High. When I finish here, I want to leave a positive legacy behind and that goes for every senior on the team.”

Trey Craft was certainly right about that. You could write a movie about this team. There were so many storylines. But at the end of the day, this team will be remembered for a long time to come.

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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