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Prep Sports Report

Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons

HomeTeam 25: Baseball players to watch

Kirby Osborn returns as the ace for Land O'Lakes this season.

Brendan Fitterer | Times

Kirby Osborn returns as the ace for Land O'Lakes this season.

Matt Adams, Jr., RHP/OF, Countryside: Adams was a key player last year, both at the plate and on the mound. He will have the same role again this season. He hit .373 with 15 RBIs as a sophomore. As a starter, he was 10-2 with a 1.22 ERA in 68.2 innings.

Oakley Albinson, Jr., RHP, Indian Rocks Christian: Albinson emerged as the Golden Eagles’ ace last season. At 6-foot-6, he is a menacing right-hander with an above-average fastball. He was 10-2 with a 1.47 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched as a sophomore. He’s getting looks from schools like Georgia Tech, Duke, Stanford and Northwestern.

Andrew Belcik, Sr., RHP/OF, East Lake: Belcik has already signed with Notre Dame. He is a hard-throwing starter who can top 90. He had a 1.95 ERA last season. At the plate, he hit .286 with six doubles and two homers. Expect an even bigger season in the field and offensively. …

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HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

With Kevin Nunez on the mound, Alonso is one of the teams to beat this season.

Eve Edelheit | Times

With Kevin Nunez on the mound, Alonso is one of the teams to beat this season.

1. Alonso

This week: Tuesday at Hillsborough, Thursday vs. Newsome, Saturday at Riverview

Scoop: The 2015 Saladino Tournament champions return most of last year’s talented roster, including five Ravens who hit at least .300 last season and two of its top three pitchers in Kevin Nunez (5-4, 1.64 ERA) and Jordan Butler (5-0, 1.43 ERA). This year Alonso will play in a four-team district in the new 9A classification, alongside tough opponents like Newsome, Palm Harbor University and Sarasota Riverview.

2. East Lake

This week: Thursday vs. Dixie Hollins, Friday vs. Largo

Scoop: To no one’s surprise, the Eagles will be good again. Perhaps very good. Christian James, Andrew Belcik and Travis Macgregor form a tough three-man pitching rotation. Kevin Lambert, Jakob Sessa, JJ Yergey and Reid Zitzelberg all return after nice offensive seasons in 2015. The only major change this season is new coach Zack Roper, who takes over for Dan Genna. Roper was an assistant last season, so he is familiar with this team.

3. Jesuit

This week: Tuesday at Middleton, Friday vs. Lakeland …

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Pinellas all-star girls hoops rosters announced

The Pinellas vs. Pinellas girls senior all-star game will be played Saturday, March 5 at Keswick High School. Game time is 7:15 p.m. Cost is $4 for adults, $2 for students.

Here are the rosters for both teams:

Team White

Carley Plentovich, Jenny Bollinger (Calvary Christian); *Analise Walker (CCC); Monique McAbee (Clearwater); Diep Tran (Dixie Hollins); Kyra Champagne (Indian Rocks Christian); Sakhia Jones, Sarah Snell, *Khaihiqa Davidson (Lakewood); McKenzie Milligan (Northeast); Kaitlin Lindblom, Hailey McDonnell (Osceola).

Team Preston

Savannah Plentovich (Calvary Christian); Tessa Rogari (Countryside); Alexis Bailey (Dixie Hollins);  Autumn Frost (Indian Rocks Christian); Alexis Ross, Rebecca Kiggins (Keswick Christian); *Mikaela Hudson, *Lexi Bryant (Northeast); Ashtyn Cate (PHU), Catherine McClure,  Paige Lawson (Seminole); Jasmyn McCalla (Shorecrest).

*Alternate

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HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay

Jalyssa Autie and Gaither coasted in the season opener.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Jalyssa Autie and Gaither coasted in the season opener.

1. Newsome (1-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Brandon; Thursday at Alonso

Scoop: The Wolves, the defending Class 8A state champions, opened their season with a resounding 24-0 win over Tampa Bay Tech that ended early because of the mercy rule. It was the most runs Newsome has scored in the past decade. On Thursday, the Wolves start play in Class 9A, District 8 with a game against Alonso.

2. Gaither (1-0)

This week: Monday at Tampa Bay Tech; Thursday at Hillsborough

Scoop: Jalyssa Autie, Elizabeth Mason and Carolyn O’Neal each had two hits, and Bethany Kursch had a three-run homer in the Cowboys’ 8-1 win over Jefferson in the season opener. The pitching also was strong with Sammi Grat and Hailee DeCicco coming on a two-hitter and striking out eight against the Dragons.

3. Chamberlain (1-0)

This week: Tuesday at Strawberry Crest; Thursday vs. Leto

Scoop: In the season opener, the Chiefs rallied with three runs in the seventh inning to beat Alonso 3-1. The schedule remains tough with games against Strawberry Crest on Tuesday, followed by the Class 7A, District 9 opener against rival Leto on Thursday.

4. Canterbury (0-0)

This week: Friday at Hagerty; Saturday at Winter Springs …

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Baseball season opens with Steve Georgiadis Memorial Tournament

Monday is the first day for high school baseball's regular season. One of the highlights is the Steve Georgiadis Memorial tournament at Seminole. The tournament begins at 4:30 with Northeast vs. Lakewood. At 7:30, Dunedin plays Indian Rocks Christian. On Tuesday, Boca Ciega plays Osceola at 4:30 and at 7:30 Seminole plays Clearwater.

Loser's bracket games are Wednesday. Semifinal games are Thursday at 4:30 and 7:30. The third place game is 4:30 on Friday. The final is Friday at 7.

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Wrestling: Palm Harbor University wins host tournament

Palm Harbor University gets a key tournament win as the postseason approaches.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

Palm Harbor University gets a key tournament win as the postseason approaches.

 

As wrestling season turns the corner into the final run through counties and the state series, this weekend was most teams' last chance to get key matches in before it's do-or-die time.

Palm Harbor University did just that by hosting the Logan Kushner Memorial, a round-robin dual. The ’Canes got a good look at North Port, a team they share a district with and topped them 325.5-322.5 to win the tournament.

"It was important these last couple weeks to wrestle North Port," PHU coach Brad Sakevich said. "We've had some gritty wins this year; we're young but whether it's tournaments or duals, they're not always pretty but we find a way to get it done."

Individual champions for the ’Canes were: Gabe Naranjo (106, 10-0), Joe Capone (126, 9-0), Gavin Mitchiner (138, 10-0) and Matt Westbay (285, 9-0). The swing matches happened at 138 and 285 as Mitchiner pinned North Port's Cody Henson and Westbay pinned Schavallis Petterson in the last second of the first period.

"We lose either of those matches it could go either way," Sakevich said.

Chris Fragale topped Michael Bush of Sarasota 8-6 at the meet. Bush is ranked fourth at 106 by the Florida Wrestling Room and fifth by Scout.com. …

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HomeTeam Hot Shots: Nominations for Jan. 30-Feb. 5

Each week, our HomeTeam staffers nominate male and female Hot Shot athletes from each of the counties we cover. Then we turn the voting over to readers. These nominations span Saturday, Jan. 30 through Friday, Feb. 5. Read up on all of our nominees then vote until noon Monday.

Female nominees

Chelsie Hall, basketball, Seffner Christian: The junior guard had 38 points and eight steals to help lead Seffner Christian to a 62-47 victory against Indian Rocks Christian in the region quarterfinals. Hall averages more than 20 points and five steals per game.  

Tre-Shon Jenkins, basketball, Spoto: Jenkins scored a season-high 27 points in Spoto’s 59-31 win over Lake Wales in the region quarterfinals. It was the school’s first region tournament win. Jenkins made five three 3-pointers.

Alexis Ross, basketball, Keswick Christian: The senior forward had a team-high 22 points and scored the winning basket in the final of the Crusaders’ 44-42 victory over Donahue in the region quarterfinals.

Taylor Polasky, basketball, Calvary Christian: The sophomore scored a team-high 19 in the Warriors’ 77-22 win over Bishop McLaughlin the region quarterfinals. …

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Plant City's Markese Hargrove gets best fit at last minute

Markese Hargrove has received a full academic scholarship from USF.

Kelly Parsons | Times

Markese Hargrove has received a full academic scholarship from USF.

Plant City running back Markese Hargrove was getting restless.

The 1,000-yard rusher and Guy Toph Award winner had just a few college offers, all from smaller schools, as the 2015 football season continued to progress. Meanwhile, he was leading Plant City to its best season in school history, rushing for 1,731 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“We were both getting restless,” Hargrove’s mother, Kenyatta Shaw, said.

But at the last minute, the hometown team started calling.

Hargrove, who boasts a 4.8 weighted grade-point average, had done enough in the classroom to earn a full academic scholarship to the University of South Florida. So when then-defensive coordinator Tom Allen began reaching out to Plant City coach Greg Meyer, it was an easy process from there to secure Hargrove a spot as a preferred walk-on.

“They loved him. It was one of those situations where they thought they were stealing him, because with his situation of having a full academic scholarship and already being admitted,” Meyer said. “With a lot of walk-ons, those are variables that tend to trip that up later on in the process.” …

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East Bay's KJ Sails blazes a trail at UNC

KJ Sails initially tried to fool folks into thinking he had picked Cincinnati before going with North Carolina.

Kelly Parsons | Times

KJ Sails initially tried to fool folks into thinking he had picked Cincinnati before going with North Carolina.

Three-star cornerback KJ Sails marched into East Bay’s media center Wednesday sporting a flat-billed Cincinnati hat, cocked to the side, and his usual wide grin. But even though he was representing the Bearcats at the start of the Indians’ signing day ceremony, it didn’t take long into the festivities for Sails to admit that he was destined to be a Tar Heel all along.

When it was his turn, Sails thanked the crowd in front of him before whipping out a UNC hat from underneath the table. He signed moments later, alongside teammates Gaej Walker (Western Kentucky) and Trey Fullwood (Coffeyville Community College).

“I feel like you’ve got to have fun with it,” Sails said about his prank.

Sails was a three-year starter at East Bay, racking up more than 1,200 all-purpose yards as a senior and recording 21 tackles on defense.

But the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder didn’t start his high school career on top.

“When I met KJ, he was a 135-pound freshman,” coach Frank LaRosa said. “He walked into the weight room and he was what KJ is, definitely not short of confidence and he talked a lot.” …

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Chris Oladokun USF's lone QB in 2016 class

Sickles quarterback Chris Oladokun embraces father Henry Oladokun after committing to USF.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Sickles quarterback Chris Oladokun embraces father Henry Oladokun after committing to USF.

TAMPA — No matter who he put under center last spring, nothing had seemed to work for Sickles quarterbacks coach Jason Silbert.

Frustrated, the longtime Gryphons assistant was almost ready to throw his hands up. But then an answer came one day in the form of a transfer from down the road at Alonso.

It was Chris Oladokun.

"I was working with a bunch of punch-buggies," Silbert told a packed audience inside the school's auditorium Wednesday afternoon.

"Then, one day I walked in the room, and it was like a sports car showed up."

Oladokun hopes to have that same effect at USF, too. …

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Plant players sign at One Buc Place

Scoop Bradshaw was one of several Plant players who signed at the Tampa Bay Bucs' home Wednesday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Scoop Bradshaw was one of several Plant players who signed at the Tampa Bay Bucs' home Wednesday.

The high school football season was still going on when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached out to coaches in Hillsborough County, offering them the opportunity to hold their signing day ceremonies at One Buc Place. The plan was for there to be 90-minute slots throughout the day for various teams to use the facilities and auditorium for their presentations.

But when all was said and done, Plant’s Robert Weiner was the only coach to take the Bucs up on their offer.

“I don’t know that they realized exactly what they were getting into with us in particular because of the number of people that we have and how we like to do it  … I just knew right away that, ‘Hey we’re interested, can we work out the specifics later on?” Weiner recalled. “We knew it would be a great opportunity.”

The ceremony was held in the main auditorium, the same place new Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter was introduced just weeks ago, and afterwards there was a reception on the back patio overlooking the practice fields.

For Weiner, the experience was a nice change of pace to the Panthers’ normal signing day festivities on the school’s campus and a good motivator for his college-bound athletes. …

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Michael Murphy's signing a long time coming for Plant coach

Plant High School's Micheal Murphy announces that he will attend Columbia University.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Plant High School's Micheal Murphy announces that he will attend Columbia University.

Plant linebacker Michael Murphy started hanging around Panther football when he was just 7 years old, helping coach Robert Weiner with odd jobs around the field on practice and game days.

“I was the kid who, during halftime, when /coach was giving his speech, I would run outside, look at the scoreboard, run back in and tell Coach how much time he had left,” Michael said. “He’d look down at me and say, ‘How much time we got, Murph?’ ‘Little Murph,’ at that time.”

On Wednesday, “Little Murphy,” as Weiner used to know him, signed his letter of intent to play college football at Columbia University. For Weiner, the moment was a long time coming.

Weiner met Michael’s father, Jeff Murphy, when they were second-graders at St. Mary’s in South Tampa. They were doubles partners in tennis and went on to become best friends at Jesuit High School, where they both graduated in 1983.

Weiner was at the hospital when Michael was born in 1997. And ever since, Weiner said, Murphy’s been a source of joy for everybody around him, particularly his teammates. …

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USF's proximity to home seals deal for Wharton's Tre Dukes

Wharton's Tre Dukes pulls on his University of South Florida cap, just before he announces during Wednesday's national signing day ceremony that he has chosen to play football for the Bulls.

Scott Purks | Special to the Times

Wharton's Tre Dukes pulls on his University of South Florida cap, just before he announces during Wednesday's national signing day ceremony that he has chosen to play football for the Bulls.

TAMPA — The choice of colleges for Wharton's Tre Dukes came down to friends and family.

Dukes' offers included USF (right up the road from his current home), North Carolina State (the area from which he moved two years ago) or Marshall (where family connections were slim).

"I really wanted to play close to home," Dukes said. "Who wouldn't want to play for the team in their own city?"

That's why Dukes (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) said during Wednesday's national signing day ceremony, that he chose the Bulls.

Dukes is projected to play receiver or possibly tight end, positions he also played for Wharton, which Dukes help lead to a 8-2 record in 2015.

Other signees at Wharton's ceremony included: Natalie Ferrin, soccer, Georgia Gwinnet College in Georgia; Destinee Elmore, softball, Ava Maria University in Naples; Casey Grotz, soccer, University of North Florida; Taylor Hubbard, soccer, University of Alabama; Jordan Vitale, soccer, Gardner Webb.

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Mitchell sees three football players sign on same day for first time

Devontay Taylor is all smiles with his family after signing with Florida International.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

Devontay Taylor is all smiles with his family after signing with Florida International.

The Mitchell High cafeteria hosted a couple of firsts on signing day. Coach Andy Schmitz said it was the first time three football players signed on the same day and the Mustangs had their first Division I-A signee under him.

"You can tell how special this day is not just by how many people are here but who is here; college coaches, alumni, current students," Schmitz said. "Today we get to congratulate these kids for the work that no one sees them do."

Schmitz said the trio is an example to younger players coming up through the program. The aforementioned D-I signee was Devontay Taylor, who inked his LOI to play at Florida International University.

"The location was key and how I felt about visiting the school were factors in the decision," Taylor said of FIU. "There was also the opportunity to play right away."

Taylor enjoyed the prospect of making the team as a freshman and staying in his home state. He also was happy to be signing with two of his teammates that he came up with.

"It felt grea;, some of them we've been on the same team since eighth grade (at Seven Springs Middle School)," Taylor said. …

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Long-awaited day finally comes for CCC's Logan Miller

Logan Miller, left, and Kevin Harris get ready to sign at CCC's ceremony.

BOB PUTNAM | Times

Logan Miller, left, and Kevin Harris get ready to sign at CCC's ceremony.

For the past three years, Clearwater Central Catholic’s Logan Miller sat in the school’s auditorium on national signing day, watching teammates turn their oral commitments into binding ones with colleges.

On Wednesday, it was Miller’s turn.

The defensive lineman had a hard time containing his excitement.

“I didn’t sleep much,” Miller said. “I was up at 4:30 a.m. I faxed my letter of intent by 7:30 a.m.”

Miller, who signed with Western Illinois, was one of four athletes present for the ceremony. The others were linebacker John Chiaramonte (Air Force) and two soccer standouts, Kevin Harris (Spartanburg Methodist College) and Abby Harkin (Assumption).

CCC offensive lineman Adam Samee signed with Richmond but was unable to attend.

“It was just a mixture of nervousness and excitement because I’ve working the last four years for this,” Miller said.  “This is probably the most stressful thing I’ve been through, deciding on a college. Days like this make everything worth it knowing everything you did for the last four years paid off.

“A lot of the kids I played with the last four years are sitting here in the crowd. But John and I had the opportunity to sign. It’s something special.” …

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