Pitcher of the year: Brandon Lawson, Sr., Hernando
Why we picked him: Lawson had a statistically dominant season on the North Suncoast’s top team to edge Mitchell’s Cobi Johnson and a loaded group of pitchers for repeat honors. The 6-foot-2 right-hander posted a 0.27 ERA — one of the lowest figures in the state — and allowed only three earned runs all season. He struck out a North Suncoast-best 128 batters in 78.2 innings while, most importantly, compiling an 11-0 record for the Class 5A region finalists. “He wasn’t going out there trying to set records,” teammate Christian Arroyo said. “He was going out there to help us win.”
Most impressive accomplishment: Lawson was strong all season and played his best in his team’s biggest games. In the Class 5A, District 7 semifinal against Tavares and playoff games against Wesley Chapel and Eustis, Lawson allowed only two runs (one earned) and struck out 31 batters in three complete games. Against a loaded Eustis team, he fanned 12 opponents in a four-hitter. “It was just a good game all around,” Lawson said.
Future plans: If Lawson doesn’t sign with a pro team, he has a good backup plan: He has signed with USF. He’s thinking about studying business, and the Bulls are giving him the opportunity to begin his college career as a starter. “It’s just a matter of being able to do my job and see if I can stay as a starter,” Lawson said.
Did you know? Lawson started playing baseball as a 4-year-old growing up in Missouri thanks to a family that’s always been around the game. He also plays golf and finished second for the Leopards (and 14th overall) in last fall’s Class A, District 8 tournament.
Player of the year: Christian Arroyo, Sr., Hernando
Why we picked him: Arroyo is considered one of Florida’s top high school talents and lived up to the billing with a standout senior season. According to MaxPreps, he ranked among the top 20 in the state in batting average (.524), home runs (11), RBIs (35) and runs scored (42). And he did so as the star for the Class 5A, District 7 champs and region finalists. “It was a great season,” Arroyo said. “It’s all you can ask for as a baseball player.” He made history Thursday when he became Hernando County’s first first-round draft pick, chosen by the San Francisco Giants with the 25th overall selection.
Most impressive accomplishment: Arroyo came through with some of the highlights of Hernando’s season. His home run was the only run in longtime coach Tim Sims’ 300th win, and his two-run home run changed momentum in a 3-1 region semifinal win over Eustis. From the district semifinals forward, Arroyo was 10-of-16 with seven RBIs and nine runs scored. “He really did it all this year. …” Lawson said. “You could always count on him doing the job.”
Future plans: Arroyo will likely have a big decision to make in the coming weeks. He could demand a six- or seven-figure bonus from the Giants. If he doesn’t accept that, he’s signed to play baseball at Florida.
Did you know? In addition to being one of the North Suncoast’s top athletes, he’s also one of its top students. He graduated as Hernando’s salutatorian and, if baseball doesn’t work out, he plans to study engineering at UF. “I’ve always been fascinated with how things are built and how things function,” Arroyo said.
P Blaine Duncan, Sr., Pasco: Barry commit ranked among Pasco County’s leaders with 100 strikeouts and a 1.09 ERA.
P Chase Ingram, Sr., Wesley Chapel: Threw a perfect game against Gulf and finished the year with a 1.05 ERA and a county-best 116 strikeouts for playoff team.
P Zach Drury, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: North Florida commit led Bulls to their best season — the 7A region final — with a 1.73 ERA and 97 strikeouts.
P Trae Ratliff, Sr., Hernando: Finished 6-2 with 66 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. Also pitched the Leopards to a win over Eustis for the district title.
C Blake Roberts, Sr., Zephyrhills: Threw out 14 of 17 runners and hit .426 for the Bulldogs.
INF Brandon Brosher, Sr., Springstead: Oral Roberts signee starred at the plate (.451 average, 29 RBIs) and on the mound (no-hitter against Lecanto) for the 6A region finalists.
INF Zachary Whitaker, Sr., Land O’Lakes: Shorter University recruit batted .386 with 29 RBIs and was 8-1 on the mound to pitch the Gators to the playoffs.
INF Ryan Nicoll, Sr., Springstead: Standout shortstop hit .359 and pitched the Eagles to a playoff win over Citrus.
INF Josh Nissen, Sr., Land O’Lakes: Statistical leader in hitting (.468 average) and pitching (1.66 ERA) for one of the county’s top teams.
OF Jason Heinrich, So., River Ridge: His .435 batting average and 16 RBIs carried the Royal Knights.
OF AJ Rainaldi, Jr., Pasco: Led the Class 5A, District 8 champs with 29 RBIs, 17 extra-base hits and a .459 average.
OF Eddie Goscicki, Sr., Mitchell: Batted in 29 runs and blasted one of his four home runs off of King ace Brett Morales in the 6A region final.
DH Marcus Begg, Sr., Mitchell: Was one of the Mustangs’ most consistent hitters (.420 average) while blasting seven home runs and a team-high 35 RBIs.
UTIL Cobi Johnson, Jr., Mitchell: Conference player and FSU commit led the 6A region finalists in ERA (1.68), strikeouts (103) and batting (.426). He’ll compete at Wrigley Field in this summer’s Under Armour All-America Game.
P Jake Rawls, Sr., Land O’Lakes
P Chris McCormick, Sr., Mitchell
P Ryan Girard, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch
P Joseph Hloska, Sr., Ridgewood
C Jake Johnson, Sr., Hernando
INF Lane Stancil, Jr., Pasco
INF Turner Imhoff, Jr., Wesley Chapel
INF Dylan Harris, Sr., Land O’Lakes
INF Michael Campoamor, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch
OF Austin Drury, So., Wiregrass Ranch
OF Will Pagan, Jr., Springstead
OF Robbie Hanlon, Jr., Pasco
DH Kyle Custer, Sr., Wesley Chapel
UTIL Thomas Moschner, So., Ridgewood
Academy at the Lakes: Owen Sarwatka; Anclote: Vincent Nisi; Bishop McLaughlin: Josh Falk, Tanner Koch, Colton Nussel; Central: Trevor McKenna, Thomas Sorrentino; Fivay: TJ Niles, Ryan Mettler; Gulf: Marshall Stitt; Hernando: Brooks Timmons, Eloy Ramirez; Hudson: Blaine West; Land O’Lakes: Alex Reynolds; Mitchell: PJ Dejesus, Blake Hart; Nature Coast: Vito Tambasco, Drue Brooks; Pasco: Derek Dious, Matt Plourde, Logan Johnson; Ridgewood: Tim Osborne, Adam Arrowood; River Ridge: Tyler Hawks; Springstead: Joey Jeffords, Nic Pasarela; Sunlake: Colton King, David Castillo; Wesley Chapel: Justin Ortiz; Wiregrass Ranch: Chris Parra; Zephyrhills: Jordan Hambor
Coach of the Year
Jeff Swymer, Wiregrass Ranch: After solid seasons with no playoff appearances, Swymer’s Bulls finally took the next step this spring to edge Springstead’s Jim Diven for the honor. Wiregrass shut out Gaither in the Class 7A, District 9 semifinals to clinch its first postseason berth, then topped Countryside and nationally ranked Steinbrenner to reach the 7A region final.