TAMPA — Carrollwood Day held its graduation ceremony on Sunday. For the seniors on the baseball team, there is still some work to do.
For the first time in the eight-year history of the school, the Patriots will be playing in the Class 3A state semifinal in Fort Myers on Wednesday at 10 a.m. against Tallahassee North Florida Christian.
While it has certainly been a team effort, a group of six seniors has played a big role in Carrollwood Day going from district also-ran to state-title contender. Rodrigo Montenegro, Zach Watts, Noah Torres, Frank Furey, Andre Hevesy and Gabe Partridge have been through some lean years together. But all six are making sure they go out with a bang.
Hevesy has been a varsity player since he was in eighth grade. He has emerged as a reliable hitter with a .308 average and 16 RBIs. On the mound he is 4-2 with a 1.06 ERA. He pitched five strong innings against Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic in a 7-5 district semifinal win that allowed the Patriots to qualify for the region tournament.
"We've come a long way," Hevesy said. "We've been talking about playing for a state championship ever since we started. Now that it's here it's kind of unbelievable. But in the back of our minds we always thought we would make it here."
Montenegro has been a reliable bat in the lineup. He is hitting .373 and has 18 stolen bases. Watts and Torres are both role players who get on base and play defense. Watts leads the team with 21 stolen bases. He also pitched well in an 8-7 win over Lakeland Christian in which the Patriots scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to win their first district title.
Furey, a varsity player since his freshman year, has emerged as a dual threat. Mainly a pitcher, he is 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA. At the plate he is hitting .378 with a team high 24 RBI.
That's much better than his first two years on the team.
"My freshman and sophomore years I batted in the low .220s," Furey said. "I didn't really know how to hit. Last season I just wanted to be a pitcher but coach kept making me take batting practice. I'd be hitting the ball 100 feet farther than I used to. That just carried over into the season. This year it's been more of the same."
And then there is Partridge.
He didn't join the team until the start of last season. He spent his first 16 years in Miami but moved to Tampa before the start of last season after his mother got a job transfer. He pitched 48 innings as a junior and had a modest 2.04 ERA.
This year he has taken off.
Partridge has pitched 65 1/3 innings and is 11-0 with a 0.64 ERA. He has been especially effective down the stretch. He pitched all eight innings of the 2-1 district quarterfinal that kept the Patriots' season alive.
In two region tournament games, he has thrown two straight complete game shutouts and eight strikeouts in each game.
"I've seen a lot more success this year than last year," Partridge said. "I've been throwing the same way my whole life. Putting strikes in there and getting outs. This year it has been more successful.
"Right now my confidence is over the roof. I've got a great defense behind me. I know those guys have my back. I pitch to outs. I let my defense do their thing."
When he's not pitching, Partridge is playing second base. But he'll get the start against North Florida Christian and will try to make it three straight shutouts. That could be a difficult task. The Eagles have won eight straight and in each of those games they have scored 10 or more runs.
The Patriots (24-3) have played several close games this season. Their three losses have all been by one run, and two of those were in extra innings.
It may be their first time on the big stage, but Carrollwood Day, and especially the seniors, aren't going to shy away from the challenge.
"We haven't played a game all season where we've thought we were the underdog," Furey said. "That's how we'll approach this game."