HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay
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.
This week: Tuesday at Middleton, Friday vs. Lakeland
Scoop: Jesuit graduated its three best hitters from 2015, but the one-two pitching punch of Michael Sandborn and Drew Martin could carry the 2014 state champs much farther than the surprising first-round playoff exit the Tigers made last year. At the plate, seniors Nico Baldor and Steven Lugo have the potential to lead the way.
This week: Tuesday vs. Robinson, Thursday at Sickles
Scoop: The Warriors return right-hander CJ Van Eyk, who boasted a county-low 0.16 ERA last season, and senior outfielder Drew Burkhart, who led Steinbrenner at the plate in 2015 with a .405 batting average and 17 RBIs. That killer combo should help Steinbrenner be one of the teams to beat in Hillsborough County this season.
5. Palm Harbor University
This week: Wednesday vs. Clearwater Central Catholic
Scoop: The Hurricanes are loaded. There are 12 seniors returning to a team that won 19 games last season. Outfielder Adam Jurco, pitcher/first baseman John Pichman, LHP Riley Degnan, outfielder A.J. Hrica and pitchers Colt Mink and Brian Brown will all have big roles. PHU is in the newly formed four-team Class 9A with top team Alonso.
6. Bishop McLaughlin
This week: Tuesday vs. South Sumter, Thursday vs. Springstead
Scoop: The Hurricanes made a nice run last season to the state semifinals and might have enough talent to do it again this year. Carson Ragsdale, Dominic Diaz, Dillon Morton and Paul Coumoulos all return from a team that won 26 games. Granted, ace pitcher Nate Pearson has graduated, but there is still enough there to go far.
This week: Tuesday vs. Spoto
Scoop: Last season, sophomore left-hander Jonah Scolaro shared time on the mound with senior Bryce Gainer. This year he’ll likely carry most of the load as the Durant’s ace. The Cougars return five players who had at least 75 plate appearances in Durant’s state semifinal run.
This week: Wednesday vs. Middleton, Saturday at Sickles
Scoop: The Terriers graduated just two seniors who had significant playing time last season, and Ole Miss commit Tim Elko, who hit .412 last year with 23 RBIs and 19 runs scored, could be one of the biggest threats at the plate in Hillsborough County. He returns alongside five other Terriers who hit at least .300 last season.
This week: Monday vs. Indian Rocks Christian
Scoop: Senior left-hander Colton Widdows is a big-time pitcher, but he isn’t all the Falcons have. Senior outfielder/pitcher Adam Comas hit .324 last year. And juniors Alex Sexton (catcher/utility) and Justin Rodriguez (shortstop) are two-year starters. As usual, the Falcons have plenty of depth and should be tough to deal with all season. Class 6A, District 9 isn’t overly taxing, so the Falcons should be the favorite to advance to regionals.
This week: Tuesday at Wesley Chapel, Thursday at Crystal River
Scoop: It appears as if the Mustangs have two aces, and any high school team with two aces can go far. Sophomore Jakob Mattos, who was 6-2 last season, moves into the No. 1 spot. Behind him is 6-foot-10 junior Tyler Edling, who was 5-0 last season with a 1.26 ERA in 44.1 innings. Mattos also hit .322, and top offensive threat Kyle Frick (.348, 14 RBI) also returns.
This week: Tuesday vs. Jefferson
Scoop: The Panthers might be somewhat of a question mark after graduating 11 seniors — including a pair of first-round draft picks in Kyle Tucker and Jake Woodford — but sophomore Connor Scott and senior Nick Cerelli, Florida and USF commitments, respectively, should have a chance to shine.
This week: Monday vs. Lakewood
Scoop: Vikings coach Rob Stanifer believes his team will hit the ball all over the field this season. Shortstop Ryan Cook, first baseman/pitcher Derek Jaar, outfielder/catcher Will Condon and outfielder/pitcher Jake Hale all hit well. Joey Jimpie will be the ace and Ryan Quinlivan, who has an upper-80s fastball, will be the closer. Catcher Chase Bardes, second baseman Cameron Cooper and centerfielder Kobe Hartley provide defensive help.
This week: Tuesday at Newsome, Thursday at King, Friday vs. Gaither
Scoop: Though the Eagles graduated their top four hitters from last season, left-hander Antonio Velez, a USF commit and last year’s Times’ Hillsborough County Pitcher of the Year, returns and should be one of the best in the area once again.
14. Tampa Catholic
This week: Tuesday vs. Largo, Friday at Jacksonville Bolles, Saturday at Jacksonville Providence
Scoop: LHP Roland Chacon Jr., a Rollins commit who posted a 1.40 ERA in 50 innings pitched in 2015, will help replace the loss of last year’s ace Reeves Martin. The Crusaders also return six players who had at least 70 plate appearances in last season’s region final run. One of them is outfielder Tyler Lala, who boasted three home runs.
This week: Tuesday at Wharton, Thursday at East Bay, Saturday vs. Alonso
Scoop: The Sharks graduated USF signee Garrett Bye, but they were young at the plate last year and will return a talented lineup with another year of experience. Sophomore infielder Freddy Tarnok led the way last year for Riverview, posting a .357 batting average and 20 runs scored.
16. Berkeley Prep
This week: Tuesday vs. Carrollwood Day, Saturday vs. Mulberry
Scoop: The Bucs return two solid arms in sophomore Julian Bosnic and Tyler Fagler, both of whom recorded at least 45 innings pitched last season. Bosnic will also be a force at the plate, having led Berkeley Prep last season in batting average (.352) and RBIs (15).
This week: Tuesday vs. Brandon, Thursday at Alonso
Scoop: Even with an extremely young team, the Wolves had a winning record in their first season under coach Dick Rohrberg. Now that the Newsome lineup has a bit of experience under its belt, the Wolves could be a force in the tough 9A-8 district.
This week: Tuesday vs. Hudson, Friday vs. Ridgewood
Scoop: The Leopards won 18 games last season and return two key pitchers. Senior Elijah Ramirez had a 1.62 ERA in 46 innings. Fellow senior Travis Ritter had a 1.19 in 29.1 innings. Both are getting junior college and NAIA offers. The top field player is rightfielder Tyler Skipper, who is committed to Southeastern University.
This week: Thursday vs. Brandon, Saturday vs. Plant City
Scoop: The Lions missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, but King had a young team and just two seniors in its starting lineup. Now that players like third baseman Jamarcus Lyons, a sophomore who hit .397 last season, have another season under the belts, the Lions should only improve.
This week: Tuesday at Tarpon Springs, Friday at Clearwater Central Catholic
Scoop: The Cougars have some experienced returners from an 18-win team in 2015. Senior catcher Kyle Kania, senior outfielder Jack Skantze and junior outfielder/pitcher Matt Adams are talented players who will help the Cougars win. Coach Kemo O’Sullivan said there is also depth, which will make Countryside competitive again.
21. Clearwater Central Catholic
This week: Wednesday at Palm Harbor University, Friday vs. Countryside
Scoop: There is a good group of returners from a young team that was rebuilding last season. Josh Lamoureux hit .387 with eight doubles in 2015. Derek Smolenski, Nick Marerro, Luca Tresh, Michael Bessell and Charlie Welch are the main offensive threats. Michael Paul is the top pitcher and can throw in the upper 80s.
This week: Tuesday vs. Clearwater (Georgiadis tournament), Wednesday-Friday vs. TBA (Georgiadis tournament)
Scoop: Warhawks coach Jeff Pincus said he likes his team this year, even if they are a little light on experience. Senior Matt Tharp returns after hitting .429. Senior Caleb Johnson transferred from Indian Rocks Christian and will play centerfield. Junior Nick Lamoureux should provide power, transfer David Siegel is a switch-hitting threat and sophomore Connor Berry is a good all-around player. If the pitching staff comes through, watch out for Seminole.
23. Calvary Christian
This week: Tuesday vs. Northside Christian, Friday vs. Brooks DeBartolo
Scoop: The Warriors could find themselves shooting up these rankings throughout the season. Sophomore catcher Matheu Nelson is already committed to Florida State and hit .392 last season. Fellow sophomore Eric Kennedy hit .394 and will play centerfield. Juniors Patrick Fahlman, Graham Hoffman and Marco Benedettini also hit over .300 in 2015. LHP Collin Booten threw 53.2 innings as a sophomore and should get plenty of work this season.
This week: Tuesday vs. Armwood
Scoop: The Bulls graduated a lot of talent from last year’s squad, including draft selection Logan Crouse and leading hitter Daylon Owens. The Bulls, though, always seem to be in contention, and senior Austin James — who posted 12 RBIs last year –– could step up to have a good season.
This week: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at Seminole Georgiadis Tournament
Scoop:The Warriors have pitching, and any team with pitching can go far. The trio of Corey Ireson, Tyler Malinowski and Jeremy Adams will eat up most of the innings. Chase Achuff is a slick fielding shortstop who will solidify the defense.
On the bubble: Indian Rocks Christian, Boca Ciega, River Ridge, Pasco, Wiregrass Ranch, Lakewood, Pinellas Park, Sickles, Wharton