When Brooks-DeBartolo's Adam Eggnatz and Javier Reynoso began playing baseball together six years ago, they were hardly works in progress - let alone prospects. Now they're both college bound and can carry the fledgling third-year Phoenix baseball program to heights never before seen. Eggnatz and Reynoso are Brooks-DeBartolo's only seniors, the two most critical parts of a team that is one win from the Class 2A state tournament in its first year of postseason eligibility. The Phoenix (13-14) can become the school's first team to advance to state in any sport if it beats cross-bay foe Shorecrest Prep tonight at Freedom High.
"We've been right in the middle of it since the beginning," Eggnatz said. "I think a lot of people have always thought of us as the underdog. We don't get a lot of attention. People just think of us as a small school.
"We played just as tough a schedule as the public schools. We've grown as a school; we've grown as a team."
Eggnatz leads the team with a .596 batting average, 17 doubles and 37 stolen bases to go along with seven homers and 32 RBIs. He also owns a 0.39 ERA in 18 innings.
Reynoso is 8-3 with a 1.49 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 642/3 innings, but also leads the team with 37 RBIs to go with a .593 average and nine homers.
Those gaudy stats have paid dividends. Both Eggnatz and Reynoso have signed with Coastal Carolina, but could become the latest MLB draftees for a Phoenix program that had three players drafted in its first two seasons.
Brooks-DeBartolo's free-styling play stands out. Baserunners almost always have the green light to steal - the Phoenix have swiped 130 bases - they can swing on 3-0 counts, and sometimes pitchers stay in an extra inning to work on spotting pitches.
According to Phoenix assistant Reggie Williams Sr., a former major-leaguer, it's about teaching players not to fear failure.
"A lot of guys frown on the way we play," Williams said. "In order to run the bases, you can't have fear. I want to give them a mentality. Everyone can steal a base, but not everyone's a base stealer."
Brooks-DeBartolo stacked its schedule with big-school public powers (Plant City, Armwood, Wiregrass Ranch) and strong private powers (IMG Academies, Montverde, Cambridge) to prepare for the postseason.
In last week's region semifinal, the Phoenix beat district rival Bishop McLaughlin, which had beaten Brooks-DeBartolo three times this season. Tonight, it can avenge a 6-3 late March loss to Shorecrest (22-9).
"Every year we worked really hard and we couldn't compete in districts," Reynoso said. "If we make it to states in our first year, it would really mean a lot. It would mean that all the hard work paid off. We want to compete against the best of the best and see what we can do. To finally get that chance, we can finally prove ourselves."
Williams remembers the first year he coached Eggnatz and Reynoso, who is his stepson, together. They were skinny and undersized, far from the players they've become.
"It was like night and day," Williams said. "You had two kids that you just didn't know where they fit. But these guys were straight workers and they're turning out to be really good ballplayers. They basically grew up together."
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Games tonight at 7 unless noted. Admission is $6.
6A: OrlandoDr. Phillips at Alonso
5A: Durant vs. Lakeland at Joker Marchant Stadium
4A: Jesuit vs. Estero at Florida Gulf Coast University
3A: Tampa Catholic at Fort Myers Bishop Verot
2A: Shorecrest vs. Brooks-DeBartolo at Freedom High
A: Cambridge at West Palm Beach Summit Christian, 4