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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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Brooks-DeBartolo baseball on rise in just three years

TAMPA - Donnie Oliver has sent a clear message to his players and opponents: They aren't scared to play anyone, anywhere. "We'll play anyone," the third-year Brooks-DeBartolo baseball coach said. "I never shy away from a team." The Class 2A school just off Fowler Avenue has taken on the likes of Armwood, Plant City, Wiregrass Ranch and IMG Academy in hopes of making something good happen. Well, it's all come to fruition.
Not only is this group staunch believers in that "play anyone" attitude, they're backing it up with their play. Oliver's mindset has trickled down from coach to player and because of that, Brooks-DeBartolo (13-14) has found itself in the Class 2A-Region 4 final. They'll host — a loosely used phrase — Shorecrest Prep (23-10) at 7 Friday night. The game will be played on Freedom's baseball field. That's one of the interesting parts of this Phoenix squad, all of their games are essentially on the road. Because the school doesn't have a baseball field, they've hit the road to face everyone on the schedule. Yes, the term Road Warriors does come to mind. "It probably makes us more focused," senior pitcher and first baseman Javier Reynoso said. "There are no distractions. We don't play around with people in the stands. We don't worry about impressing anybody. We just go out there and play and when we're in the game, stay focused." Reynoso should know. On the mound, he's 8-3 with a 1.49 ERA, collecting 100 strikeouts. At the plate, he's hitting .593 with 37 RBIs and eight home runs. As impressive as that batting average sounds, it's not even the highest on the team among starters. Closer and outfielder Adam Eggnatz has a .598 batting average, which he says was in the .600s earlier this season. Eggnatz, also a senior, has 32 RBIs and seven homers. On the mound, he has 0.39 ERA and is 1-1 with one save. What's up with those astronomical numbers? "I don't really care about the average," Eggnatz admitted. "I just want to help the team out and do whatever we need to do to win." Both Eggnatz and Reynoso will attend Coastal Carolina to play baseball. And if you think the squad, made up of just three seniors, is short on resiliency, think again. This season, the Phoenix lost to Bishop McLaughlin three times this season, the most recent was an 11-4 drubbing in the district tournament final. In fact, in the five times they met, Brooks-DeBartolo had never won. Then came the region semifinals. They jumped on the Hurricanes, winning 4-3. "It was just a big game," Eggnatz said. "Win or go home." And there is a byproduct to winning. "I'm very excited about this," Oliver said. "I'm just like a kid inside. You've heard of the Alonsos and the Plants and the other schools that have gotten (to the state tournament). King was there last year. . . . I think it's going to help us a lot. By us going forward, some kids shy away from us because we don't have a home facility, but now they see, 'Wow, they really are a good team.' We play good competition and we have a chance to play for something." edaniels@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7928
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