TAMPA — Last fall, as Tampa Prep aces Nick Adams and Durin O’Linger began their final year of high school, they were given an additional book for their studies.
It wasn’t hard-covered or professionally bound, but the contents of the 12-page Tampa Prep Pitching Handbook, authored by pitching coach Nick Rodriguez, have paid immediate, tangible dividends.
“Its slogan is, ‘It’s a great day for baseball,’ ” Adams said of the book Rodriguez assembled using computer paper and staples.
And Wednesday will be an excellent day for baseball as the Terrapins (19-9) make their first appearance in the state tournament, taking on Jacksonville Providence (25-5) at 10 a.m. in the Class 2A semifinal.
Before Adams could convert Rodriguez’s advice into actions, he had to restructure his throwing arm. Due to a previous break in his left arm that had healed over a tendon, the southpaw couldn’t fully straighten the arm, causing erratic results on the mound.
The remedy was Dynasplint, a metal brace with blue padding that he wore around the clock (“It’s like I was RoboCop,” he said).
Slowly but surely, Adams would crank the brace until he could hold his arm out parallel to the floor.
“It was an accessory; I matched my shirts to it,” he said. “Lots of blue shirts.”
Once his RoboCop-esque addition was no longer necessary, Adams was able to rework his delivery, raising his arm angle to a three-quarters delivery. Thanks to increased flexibility and control, Adams has shaved nearly an entire run off his ERA, going 10-2 this season with a 2.25 ERA in 712/3 innings. He has limited batters to a .205 average and cites his March 6 complete-game one-hitter as his best performance on the year.
The corrections for O’Linger, who transferred from Middleton, came in the mental aspect of his game.
“He pretty much taught me the mentality of how to be a pitcher,” said O’Linger, who will play next year for Davidson. "I wasn’t even a legit pitcher until my sophomore year, so I took my hitting outlook into pitching, and that didn’t always work out well.”
Thanks to more breaking balls earlier in the count, O’Linger has recorded a team-high 83 strikeouts in 59 innings (his ERA is identical to that of his study buddy, Adams). And improved mental toughness allowed him to go nine innings against Bishop McLaughlin to give Tampa Prep its first district title in three years.
If the Terrapins have their way, there is a bigger prize yet to come.
“I’ve been here 12 years, and the goal every year is to win a state title,” head coach A.J. Hendrix said. “And once you get down to Port St. Lucie, who knows what will happen.”
Scouting the opponent
Jacksonville Providence is led by a quartet of seniors who have committed to in-state colleges. CF Christian Dicks, a Florida signee, is hitting .391 with a team-high 29 runs scored. P Tyler Martin, headed to UCF, has the Stallions’ highest batting average (.429) and has a 1.78 ERA and 81 strikeouts through 51 innings. P/1B Walter Lockett, also USF-bound, sports a .416 average and leads the team in innings pitched (53) and ERA (0.40). The third option on the mound is P Zac Favre, a UCF signee, with a 0.74 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 38 innings. … All of Providence’s losses came by one run. … The Stallions won the 2008 Class 2A state title and finished as runnerup in ’09.
Where: Digital Domain Park, Port St. Lucie
Admission: $9 per session; parking is $7
TV: Finals on BHSN
On the Web: Follow @LauraHomeTeam and @RodneyHomeTeam on Twitter for live updates.
Class 3A: Tampa Prep vs. Jacksonville Providence, 10 a.m. Wednesday
Class 3A: Delray Beach American Heritage vs. St. Petersburg Catholic, 4 p.m. Wednesday