TAMPA — Cambridge's senior class has had its share of growing pains.
For centerfielder Will Bakos, it was an ACL injury two falls ago that ended his football career. And with rightfielder Taylor Cabral, take your pick. He has broken his neck, had appendicitis and now has a plastic plate in his face after his orbital bone broke when a fly ball hit him square in the eye.
At tiny Cambridge Christian School, with its student body of 192, most athletes play three sports. They deal with their share of pain. But when it gets to this point, when the Lancers are in the Class A state semifinals?
"It's worth every minute," Cabral said. "If anything, it's a learning experience. For me, first of all, keep your eye on the ball."
The Lancers (25-2) face Deltona Trinity Christian on Monday, their first trip to the state semifinals since 2001, when the school was known as Seminole Presbyterian. For the four seniors — Bakos, Cabral, catcher Erik Shears and ace right-hander Michael Miller — it will likely mark the end of their baseball careers. Cabral and Shears will play football in college, but it's just one or two more games on the diamond.
"I try not to take practices for granted because I know we have a few practices left," said Bakos, the Lancers' leadoff hitter. "I just want to enjoy it as much as I can because it's never going to be the same after high school. You're never going to have the friendships and the bonds that you have with your teammates here. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance."
This senior class is special, and it's something Lancers coach Rick Shears — Cambridge's varsity football coach, too — said he noticed early on.
"Back when they were freshmen, you could tell they were good ballplayers, both baseball and football, but they had that inner drive in them," Shears said. "They kept their mouths shut, they worked hard, and the rest of the team noticed that work ethic. The rest of them expected them to grow into leaders over time.
"Now, they're like coaches on the field," he said.
The Lancers went 14-12 last season. Despite a stacked schedule that included Tampa Catholic and Land O'Lakes along with three Saladino games, this season's goal was to get to states.
Cambridge knew its toughest obstacle would be Pinellas County rival Canterbury, but when the Crusaders were upset by Sarasota Christian in the region quarterfinals, the Lancers' path to the state final four was less rocky.
"It was a dream at the beginning of the season," Bakos said. "And it's come true."
And now, the Lancers' dream season is almost over. It's just a matter or whether they can bring home the school's first state title.
"We have a pretty special bond. I don't think anything can come between us — even if we lose, we'll be there for each other and pick each other up, which is the main thing.
"It's going to be a sad moment when the season ends, regardless."
Cambridge starting lineup:
A look at the lineup the Lancers will likely have for Monday's Class A state semifinal against Deltona Trinity Christian:
1. CF Will Bakos, Sr.
Hitting .342 with 15 stolen bases and 30 runs scored from the leadoff spot.
2. 3B Andrew Widell, Fr.
Patient hitter leads the team with 33 RBIs and is tied with four homers while hitting .434.
3. SS Trent Tagliarini, Jr.
Leads team with .472 average and 15 extra-base hits (seven doubles, four triples, four home runs)
4. C Erik Shears, Sr.
His .469 average and 25 RBIs are second on the team; handles staff well behind the plate.
5. RHP Michael Miller, Sr.
Lancers' unquestioned ace (10-1, 0.99 ERA) has won his past four starts and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in 11 starts. He's good with the bat, too, hitting .387 with 18 RBIs.
6. RF Taylor Cabral, Sr.
Senior is hitting .435, third on the team, with five doubles. His 19 steals lead the team.
7. LF Logan McDougall, Soph.
Hitting .358 with 23 RBIs and five doubles and 15 steals.
8. 1B Matt Fishman, Soph.
Lancers' No. 2 starter (10-1, 1.22 ERA) is hitting .235 from the plate.
9. 2B Peter Miller, Soph.
Has a .435 on-base percentage (10 walks, two strikeouts, three hit by pitches) from No. 9 hole.
On the Web
Have a question for one of our prep writers? Want to sound off in response to one of our county-by-county writers' blogs? Nominate top performers for the month? For this and more, check out our high school sports blog at blogs.tampabay.com/preps.