Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sports

Tampa Prep gears up for state title bid

TAMPA

Veteran Tampa Prep coaches Joe Fenlon and A.J. Hendrix, with 41 years of experience at the school between them, talked about the glaring omission from their resumes earlier this school year.

Neither, at the time, had won a state title.

"We gave each other the business a little and kid around about it," Hendrix said. "All in good fun."

Fenlon, after seven trips to the Final Four, won that elusive state championship on his eighth try this year with the boys basketball team. Hendrix will get his first crack at the baseball equivalent later this week.

In his 12th year at Tampa Prep, Hendrix will lead the Terrapins to their first Final Four appearance when the they take on Jacksonville Providence at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the state semifinals at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie.

"This team has been about pitching and defense all season," Hendrix said. "If we're going to win it all, we're going to have to excel at both."

Although the Terrapins have never made it this far, Hendrix does have some experience in the state semifinals. As an assistant coach at his high school alma mater in Richmond, Ind., Hendrix reached the state final four three times.

"It's been the hurdle," Hendrix quipped.

Senior third baseman Tyler Jarrell, who leads the club with a .424 average, said the Terrapins are well aware that history isn't on their side.

"It's never been done before here and we want to be the first," he said. "You can definitely tell in practice that the guys are getting more excited."

And after filling out lineup cards for the past 20 years, Hendrix has amassed a number of connections. He dug into his Rolodex last week and called on a favor from Robert Molloy, a former player who is the grandson of former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and works in the organization.

"I asked him if we could get the guys over onto Steinbrenner Field . . . so the team could get a feel for what it would be like to play in that big a venue," Hendrix said. "They agreed and I think it will help prepare these guys a little more for what they're about to experience."

Digital Domain Park, the spring training home of the New York Mets as well as their Class A affiliate, is close in size to Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees' spring training home. More important, both are a far cry from Tampa Prep's cozy home field, one of smallest in the county with a short rightfield porch measuring just 250 feet from home plate.

"It's been a big help to get out on (Steinbrenner Field)," Jarrell said. "Plus we have an all-grass infield (at Tampa Prep's field), and these are clay infields, so that makes a difference."

Hendrix said he and Fenlon had another talk last week. The two spoke about winning it all and Fenlon left Hendrix with some words of encouragement.

"He told me 'Now all you guys have to do is go out and win states,' " Hendrix said. "Then we can celebrate two of them."

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Rays hang on to beat Angels 5-3 behind Robertson slam, get back to .500

Rays hang on to beat Angels 5-3 behind Robertson slam, get back to .500

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Playing .500 ball is obviously no goal, and the Rays certainly know that.But given where they came from, that terrible 1-8 start that oozed into 3-12 and 4-13, climbing back to the respectability of .500 would be an accomplish...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: New pitching plan worked so well Romo starts again Sunday

Rays journal: New pitching plan worked so well Romo starts again Sunday

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The first part of the Rays' new and unusual pitching plan worked so well Saturday, as game "opener" RHP Sergio Romo struck out the first three Angels hitters, that the Rays will do it again on Sunday.That's right. Romo will st...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

TAMPA — A two-goal lead was suddenly only one, and the Washington Capitals, having pulled their goalie, had a furious 96-second siege.Andrei Vasilevskiy made the last three of his 28 saves to preserve the Lightning's 3-2 victory Saturday in Gam...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

TAMPA — Dan Girardi knew where the puck was heading. It was heading to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer on net, so Girardi did the only thing he could do. He blocked it.With his rump."It hit me right in the cheek," said Girardi, the Lightning defe...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

TAMPA — Faster than Justify down the stretch at the Preakness, quicker than Harry and Meghan walked down the aisle at Windsor Castle, the Lightning jumped on Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. No runaway gallop. No funny hats. Just ho...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

TAMPA — They're called grinders. Pluggers. Checkers.They're lunch-pail guys. Like 9-to-5ers. They get up every day and go to work. They punch in and punch out for no glory or credit. But the business would fall apart without them.They're the fo...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Justify wins foggy Preakness, keeps Triple Crown bid alive

Justify wins foggy Preakness, keeps Triple Crown bid alive

BALTIMORE — Justify rounded the final turn and hit the top of the stretch winded but with the lead. The roar from the crowd was delayed, hushed by the thick fog that enveloped the track. When Justify emerged from the haze in view of the grandstand, t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

TAMPA — Cedric Paquette needed only 19 seconds to put the Lightning on the scoreboard Saturday night, coming up with the second-fastest playoff goal in franchise history.The only goal faster? Tampa Bay's Adam Hall needed only 13 seconds to scor...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Rowdies tie in debut of new coach Neill Collins

St. PETERSBURG — Neill Collins, the former Rowdies defender who this week abruptly replaced Stuart Campbell as coach of the team, was a bit ambivalent about his debut, but he sure liked the way his club played in the second half of Saturda...
Updated: 8 hours ago
USF softball team’s season ends in Gainesville

USF softball team’s season ends in Gainesville

The USF softball team's season ended late Saturday in the Gainesville Regional with a 3-2 loss to Ohio State, its second NCAA Tournament loss to the Buckeyes in as many days.OSU (36-15) must defeat No. 2 overall national seed Florida (52-8) twice Sun...
Updated: 8 hours ago