Tampa baseball standout gaining nationwide recognition

Ethan Petry is in his sophomore season at the University of South Carolina after a promising freshman year. Experts believe the Tampa Bay native may soon be destined for the MLB draft.

By: Avery Schaub Community & Culture

Ethan Petry, a standout from Wesley Chapel’s Cypress Creek High School, emerged with remarkable promise on the national baseball scene.

Graduating in 2022, Petry quickly captured attention as one of the country’s premier baseball prospects. Now, with his sights set on his sophomore season at the University of South Carolina, he continues to shine brightly on the collegiate stage. He even earned recognition on the pre-season ALL-SEC First Team following an electrifying freshman season.

Petry began his rise to prominence at Cypress Creek as a freshman in 2018, their inaugural year, and quickly showed scouts why he would be in the spotlight for years. His recruitment process began early, even committing to the University of South Florida. However, he reopened his recruitment and eventually found a home at the University of South Carolina.

At Cypress Creek, Petry batted a collective .402 with 12 home runs, 80 RBIs (runs batted in), and a 1.211 OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Before stepping onto the diamond at Cypress Creek, head baseball coach Joseph Neale had the opportunity to coach Petry as a football player at Cypress Creek Middle School. It was during this period Neale knew that Petry would be special.

“His passion, work ethic, athletic ability, and commitment to being the best at whatever he did was evident from day one,” Neale said.

Flash forward to February 19, 2023, the true freshman would start his first game at South Carolina against UMASS Lowell. Petry started the game at the designated hitter’s position, recording one hit, being a home run in 3 at-bats.

“One of the things that has helped me, is just realizing that it is just a game and enjoy every moment you have in college because it only lasts for four years. I don’t really focus on physical miscues, all of that takes care of itself if your mind is right,” said Petry, on what has helped him transition from high school to college baseball.

Petry would continue his rookie season, transitioning between right field, third base, and sometimes assuming the designated hitter role. Standing at 6’4, 230 lbs, Petry has gained comparisons to highly touted big leaguers, some comparing Petry to those such as Rockies INF Kris Bryant per Aaron Fitt’s NCAA article.

“His maturity and leadership were the most impressive things for me throughout his time at Cypress Creek. His competitiveness is unmatched compared to anyone I have ever been around,” Neale said.

The moment that ushered Petry to the spotlight came on April 6, 2023, when the Gamecocks faced off against number one-ranked LSU (Louisiana State University). Petry’s stat line consisted of two hits in three at-bats, including two home runs, one being a grand slam, and eight  RBIs. The first home run came against Paul Skenes, the first overall draft pick in the 2023 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I am blessed to have been a small part of his ongoing journey,” Neale said. “A monstrous home run or a great defensive play are awesome to see from him, but the joy and passion that he plays with is the best part for me.”

Petry would continue his impressive freshman season, earning numerous honors and awards such as the ALL-SEC First Team, and Baseball America’s Freshman All-American First Team. Petry’s final slash line was .376 (AVG)/.471 (OBP)/.733 (SLG), 1.204 (OPS) with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs.

Petry not only tallied one of the greatest freshman seasons in school history, but he also put himself inside the top 10 in Gamecock record books for home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Anthony Zurita, current coach and a former teammate of Petry’s, claims that as Petry advanced through high school, his IQ, skills and leadership qualities expanded in many ways, allowing everyone around him to learn from him.

“Many players have true grit, but few do it in a way that can grow them and the people around them. He can provide passion and confidence into a full team of players,” Zurita said.

Petry will not be MLB draft eligible until 2025, his junior year of college. His breakout freshman season increased his draft stock tremendously. However, many different baseball outlets such as Baseball America project Petry to be a top 10 pick with some putting him as high as a top 2 pick.

“I have the same mindset coming in as last year. Be myself, and back my teammates up… Because at the end of the day, it’s just a game that’s meant to be fun,” Petry said.

The Tampa Bay area has always been a hot spot for college sports recruitment. From baseball to basketball, hockey to football, the area is known for producing top-tier talent. Petry is making his mark and putting Cypress Creek and the area on the map.

“Having Ethan be a part of Cypress Creek was a true stepping stone to the things and success the baseball program has. Younger players got to learn from him and see his journey start here. A great example of how a high school player can define his legacy,” Zurita said.

While Petry is making a name for himself in the Carolinas, he will always have a deep connection with his hometown in the Tampa Bay area.

“I miss it every day, being back there and hanging with my guys. I still stay in touch with them (the baseball program) because they meant a lot to me, they have seen my ups and downs and know me very well,” Petry said.