TAMPA – It’s all about the spaghetti.
For the Sickles High School baseball team, Monday nights before a Tuesday game are special. For while the Gryphons struggled last season, they are in the mix for a shot at states this season, or at least a trip to regionals. Last year’s team didn’t blend well and suffered a disappointing end, but, this year, everything seems to have come together. With the season winding down, centerfielder Xavier Rodriguez said he had an idea how Sickles became a true team this year.
“Spaghetti Mondays,” he said after the Gryphons pulled out a win in the bottom of the seventh inning over Wharton High School. Nik Dague scored the winning run from second base on a wild pitch.
“It brought us together,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a great feeling to be like this as a team. We weren’t like this last year.”
On Mondays, the Gryphons go to the home of a senior player and eat plenty of pasta – and more.
“It’s all about team bonding,” pitcher Levi Gilcrease said. “It brings us together.”
Sickles has struggled in recent years, but this year’s team, with five seniors and a load of upcoming talent, has gelled. The Gryphons still have to deal with Steinbrenner, Gaither and Wiregrass Ranch in the districts, but this year they are ready to take the next step. Coach Bob Pagano has it all figured out.
“We have the pitching,” he said. “This is a team with a good pitching situation and that means a lot. They are easy to coach and they are like a godsend to us. Pitching means everything and we have it.”
Gilcrease is one of the aces. He is already committed to Baylor University and said he was ready to join Sickles after spending previous high school years at Cambridge Christian.
“I was ready to move on and knew this was a good situation,” Gilcrease said. “I was ready to move up and I loved the school.”
Rodriguez said, like most high school athletes, that it was all about taking it one game at a time, but added that Sickles isn’t taking anything for granted. The season has been a success so far, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We all just want a chance,” Rodriguez said. “If we can just make it past the first game, we’ll start thinking about the next from there. It’s a different team this year and we like what we are doing.’’