SS Tagliarini is Cambridge's hidden treasure

Cambridge shortstop Trent Tagliarini, left, is batting .515, among the best averages in the county. “He’s just a freak,” coach Rick Shears says of the senior’s power at the plate.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Cambridge shortstop Trent Tagliarini, left, is batting .515, among the best averages in the county. “He’s just a freak,” coach Rick Shears says of the senior’s power at the plate.

TAMPA — Even though he helped lead Cambridge to its first state championship game last year, not a lot of people have seen Trent Tagliarini play.

Maybe it's the 200-student enrollment, or the team's borrowed field, but most certainly it has to do with the fact the Lancers are in Class A.

But coach Rick Shears is more than happy to catch you up on the legend his senior shortstop has created.

He points down the leftfield line of Doc Nance Field, past the 340-foot fence, past the road beyond and over to the gated cemetery that is elevated about 10 feet above the street.

"He's the only one who has put two balls out there," said Shears, who then turned to the deepest part of the Lancers' home field where balls go to die in front of the 410-foot wall in straightaway centerfield. "And he's the only one in my five years here to hit one out there."

"He's just a freak," Shears added.

Tagliarini, last year's team MVP, again has the Lancers on the doorstep of the team's first state title. Cambridge (17-7) faces Sarasota Out-of-Door in this weekend's best-of-three region final. If they win, the Lancers would advance to the state semifinals for the second straight year — this time in Port St. Lucie.

"This one would be a little more special," Tagliarini said, "just because it's my senior year."

His stocky build, broad shoulders and short legs don't make him the prototypical shortstop. But when Shears needed him there before last season, Tagliarini stuck. He covers a lot of ground for his size.

Shears said Tagliarini has dropped about 20 pounds since last season, and has shown a commitment to conditioning and the weight room. (Tagliarini's bench press is up more than 100 pounds to 300.)

As far as hitting, that's where Tagliarini is even more effective. His .515 average was one of the county's best. His quick swing — honed by 120-swing-a-day weekends on his own — stands out.

"I guess I'm more of a batting cage rat," he said.

Despite his numbers, when Shears was going to take Tagliarini to a tryout at Division II Quincy (Ill.), he warned his top player he might not pass the eye test.

"But he went out there and showed what he could do in the field," Shears said. "And then they saw him hit and it was clear. They offered him a scholarship."

As Cambridge advances deep into the postseason, many teams that remain are academy schools — baseball factories like Miami Brito Private and Jacksonville Eagle's View, which beat Cambridge 8-6 in last year's state title game.

Eagle's View senior catcher Austin Maddox, for example, is an All-American who is signed with UF and will likely go early in next month's baseball draft. If Cambridge advances, Brito will likely be the next opponent.

Though he has been there before — 14 of the Lancers' 20 players were on last year's team — there's still a little to prove. But Tagliarini is used to that.

"We have some unfinished business to do," Tagliarini said. "We still have the same roadblocks. Hopefully, we can turn it around on those programs. That's what we're striving for."

FAST FACTS

Region finals

First game Friday at 4 p.m. unless noted, second game an hour after the completion of first game. Third game 1 p.m. Saturday, if needed.

6A: Alonso (26-3) at Melbourne (24-5) TV: 4 p.m. game on Bright House Sports Network

5A: Oviedo Hagerty (15-13) at Armwood (24-5) TV: late game on BHSN

5A: Plant (22-8) at Charlotte (20-10)

A: Cambridge (18-7) at Sarasota Out-of-Door (18-13), 1 p.m.

On the Web

We'll have play-by-play from the early Alonso and late Armwood games, as well as updates from all the finals, at blogs.tampabay.com/preps/

SS Tagliarini is Cambridge's hidden treasure 05/12/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 11:17pm]

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