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Fests push the limits of CDS squad

Tribune correspondent
Published: May 9, 2014
Carrollwood Day softball coach Chuck Fest and daughter Samantha are chasing a state championship.

ODESSA — Chuck Fest is old school.

And his daughter, Samantha, is just like him.

“She’s a mini-me, for sure,” the elder Fest said with a laugh.

But it works. Chuck and Samantha Fest are both hard-headed and hard-nosed, determined, passionate and no-nonsense when it comes to softball. Those attributes have not only made Carrollwood Day one of the area’s best teams, but also they propelled the Patriots (16-7) to the Class 3A state semifinals against Moore Haven (18-4-1) at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach today at 2:15 p.m.

“He treats me like anyone else,” said Samantha, a junior second baseman. “He’s my coach on the field, and there’s no special treatment, but he picks up my attitude and doesn’t let me stay down. It’s tough love, but its how he is and it works for us.”

Carrollwood Day is appearing in the state semifinals for the first time in school history in any sport. Which isn’t bad, not only for Chuck Fest’s second year as coach, but also for a team that has just 11 players and includes three freshmen and a sixth-grader.

“When I started coaching this team,” Chuck, 47, said, “I set in the discipline, so for these girls to want to come play for me under the rules I set, it takes a lot of heart and commitment, but that’s what takes over and that’s what makes them win.

“When they’re out here, they’re all business.”

Chuck Fest is a longtime baseball coach who specializes in coaching travel teams and groomed his son, Matthew, who is an assistant on the team now, into a solid player at Jesuit. But when athletic director Baker Mabry asked Chuck to take over for him, it was the first time he had coached softball.

“At the beginning, he was a little rough,” Samantha said with a laugh. “He always called it a white ball, but he’s growing as a coach with us. He’s always been good at managing players and showing them how the game works. He’s a great coach, and there’s nothing within his boundaries. He can pretty much do anything because he’s that determined.”

Undoubtedly the vocal leader, Samantha also grew up on the field Chuck built in 1999. Fest Field is located on secluded farm land, and the Fests would practice every day, as Chuck treated Samantha like any other player.

“Being like her and coaching her brother and so many boys, I have to do a complete 180 on her and get in her ear,” Chuck said. “Motivating her is taking her emotion out of the game, because it can get the best of her.

“I’m never Dad on the field.”

Samantha, like Chuck, hates to fail. They’re both competitive to an extreme, passionate about winning and driven to get the Patriots the state title.

“A lot of people and my teammates tell me to lighten up,” Samantha said, “but I’m very competitive and determined to be at the state championship and win it. We deserve it — we’ve worked harder than anyone to get it.”

Carrollwood Day will go through a team with playoff experience, but none since 2009 when Moore Haven made the state semifinals.

The Patriots are relying on not only Samantha, but also seniors Amanda Rose (.489, 19 RBIs) and Savannah Bennett (.491, 19 RBIs) and freshmen Emma Frost (.684, 11 RBIs, 12 doubles, 14 triples) and Emalee Jansen (.382, nine RBIs).

“We are a couple of hard-headed people — we butt heads a lot, but we’re used to it,” Samantha said. “I got my playing style from him. We’re both determined, so I hear it a lot that I’m just like him — no doubt he’s my dad.

“I play hard, he coaches hard and we’re determined to win, no matter what.”