Cameron Alford is quiet, but his bat isn't.
High school athletes rarely come more reserved than Alford. The senior right fielder has provided a major offensive spark for Tampa Catholic High School's Crusaders this season, as well as quiet leadership.
"He doesn't have to say much, the others can tell by the look on his face when he's being serious," assistant coach Tab Joiner said. "They all get quiet when he does talk because you know he's going to say something."
Alford currently sits fifth on the team's roster in terms of batting average at .426, but his 3 home runs and 24 runs batted in lead the team. Most recently, Alford helped beat Clearwater Central Catholic in the regional semifinal with a three run home run and drove in seven runs during a district game. Tampa Catholic head coach Pat Russo has continually been impressed by Alford's ability.
"He's worked a lot on his swing and he gets to where if he's on a roll, you can ride him a long way," Russo said. "I came here and he was a .375 hitter, so he's always been good. But he's smoking the ball right now like I've never seen. Ever since districts he has been a player we look forward to having at the plate."
The growth of Alford as a player has been steady throughout his high school career, but after an offseason of reshaping his offensive game, Alford is having the best season of his high school career.
In his freshman and sophomore years, Alford struggled to be patient at the plate. Nowadays strategy is always on his mind.
"In the early years I wasn't really looking for my pitch," Alford said. "Now I've matured and I've learned how to do that. Other than that it's just that I've changed my stance and did a lot of different drills in the batting cage. All of it has helped."
His technique is an area that grabbed the attention of Russo.
"He has really good hands," Russo said. "From point A to point B he generates some gorilla power that is just incredible. He's hit two balls in practice over the last week that have earned him a new nickname; the big donkey. We're just hoping he stays hot for the next game."
Tonight, Alford and the Crusaders will travel to Bishop Verot in Fort Myers for the regional final, a game that could give them a chance at playing for a state championship.
The Crusaders record is deceptive at 14-14, but Russo's team has played its best baseball of the season over the last three weeks, something Russo wouldn't exchange for consistency throughout the year.
"I'd rather we came in 14-14 and still be playing right now than to have come in 24-4 and be out early," Russo said. "We played a pretty tough schedule this year and I think that it's paying off for us now. What we've done here is establish that we're a family and we all see the goal as the same thing."
The calm his team has exhibited over the last week in preparing for tonight's game has been encouraging for the coaching staff.
"This is our biggest game of the season but the way they're approaching it makes me think that they feel it's their time to do this," Russo said. "Hopefully we can get up and get going early on Friday so I can relax a little bit. I probably get the most intense of anybody in the dugout."