MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Pitcher of the Year: Lance McCullers, Jesuit, Sr.
Why we picked him: Well, let’s see. McCullers was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. He gave up two earned runs the entire season, ending with a 0.18 ERA through 77 1/3 innings. He also struck out 45 percent of batters who stepped in the box against him this year (310 batters faced, 140 strikeouts). And, yes, both of those are tops in the county. Simply put, McCullers, the ace of what ESPN, Perfect Game and Baseball America considered the No. 1 team in the country for most of the season, was dominant to the point where he was in a class of his own.
Most impressive accomplishment: When asked, McCullers mentioned his Gatorade trophy and the fact that, again, he gave up only two earned runs this year. More specifically, we’d like to point to the way he ended his season. With his team trailing against Lake Wales in the Class 5A region final — at one point, Jesuit was five outs from defeat — McCullers stayed in to pitch six innings and get the win, throwing a career-high 136 pitches. Less than a week later, he turned around and threw 93 pitches and six scoreless innings against Plantation American Heritage in the state semifinals. And after walking six (while striking out 11) against Lake Wales, McCullers flashed tighter control, walking only three while fanning nine.
Future plans: The Houston Astros selected McCullers in the supplemental first round of the MLB first-year player draft with the 41st overall pick. Both sides have until 5 p.m. July 13 to reach a deal, but Lance McCullers Sr. suggested the family would like something in place quicker than that, if possible: “I think if he got it ironed out and everything was done, and it was two weeks from today and they wanted him out there, it’d be fine. Hopefully it doesn’t take the whole month.” Should the two sides not come to terms, McCullers would pitch for at least three years at Florida.
Did you know? McCullers was named Lance McCullers II at birth, but legally changed his name to Lance McCullers Jr. a few months ago. “People would call me little Lance and when I was 8 that was fine, but I didn’t want to be little Lance any more,” he said with a laugh. At this point, he’d like to have “McCullers Jr.” on the back of his jersey, provided it would fit … furthering the connection between father and son, who were both drafted 41st overall — McCullers Sr. to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981. McCullers would like to wear No. 41 during his professional career.
Player of the Year: Collin Woody, P/INF, Wharton, Sr.
Why we picked him: Woody was the best overall player on the best team in the best district. Offensively, he led Wharton in batting average (.341), doubles (11), runs (24) and RBIs (21). He also pitched 79 innings, going 9-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 77 strikeouts. Once the playoffs rolled around, though, Woody took his game to another level. In a win-or-go-home district semifinal against Alonso, he pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only four hits while striking out 12. And in the top of the eighth, it was his two-run double that gave the Wildcats the 2-0 victory. The next week in the region quarterfinals, Woody pitched seven relief innings in a 12-inning, 1-0 victory over Sarasota Riverview in which he gave up just three hits and struck out 11. He also scored the game’s only run. And three days later (with a stomach virus), Woody threw a complete game, three-hit shutout against Durant.
Most impressive accomplishment: Thanks in large part to Woody’s individual playoff performance, Wharton had its best season in the school’s 15-year history. The Wildcats won their first district title, beating out the likes of Alonso, Plant, Bloomingdale and Durant in the process (and after Wharton beat Durant in the 12-inning district title game, Woody pitched his shutout against the Cougars in the region semifinals to put an exclamation mark on the Wildcats’ Class 8A, District 7 dominance). “That district we were in was really tough, so winning it was a big deal,” he said. “The fact that it was the first time the school ever won made it even more special.” Woody also picked up the first region playoff win in Wharton history.
Future plans: Woody has signed with the College of Central Florida, a junior college in Lecanto. And while he’s taking one thing at a time, he said it would be nice to transfer to a Division I school. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. Wharton coaches spent the majority of the season dumbfounded that Woody didn’t draw more college interest. Before he gets to campus, though, he plans to play a full slate of summer ball with his Fort Myers-based travel team, Southwest Florida Baseball.
Did you know? Woody did not make the varsity squad as a freshman. His sophomore year he initially sat as a varsity backup, but when a teammate missed the March 13 game against Alonso to take the SAT, Woody filled in and went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs in a 3-1 win. And he never left the starting lineup.
Coach of the Year: Matt Stallbaumer, Brandon
With no college commits or signees — and no transfers — Stallbaumer led the Eagles to the Class 7A state title game, only the third appearance for Brandon in the school’s 98-year history.
P Chris Toney, Sr., Brandon: Eagles’ ace threw two-hitter in Class 7A state semifinal, finished the year 11-1 with 85 strikeouts and a 0.91 ERA in 84 1/3 innings
P Jimmy Herget, Sr., Jefferson: USF signee, Braves’ 40th-round draft pick and Saladino MVP threw two one-hitters, finished with 0.91 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 54 innings
P Trey Oest, Sr., Durant: Virginia signee threw 73 innings, struck out 87 and finished with 0.48 ERA
P Dylan Drawdy, Sr., Riverview: Amassed 90 strikeouts and 1.02 ERA in 61 2/3 innings; USF signee also hit .347 with nine doubles and 19 RBIs
C Nolan Schultz, Sr., Jesuit: Led the county with 32 RBIs; also hit .429
INF Richie Martin, Sr., Bloomingdale: Florida signee and Mariners’ 38th-round pick hit .438 with 25 runs scored and 21 stolen bases
INF Vincent Miniet, Jr., Jesuit: Leadoff hitter batted .429 and scored 27 runs; .613 on-base percentage
INF Juan Bracamonte, Sr., Alonso: Hit .429 with 13 runs scored and 13 steals
INF Oscar Mercado, Jr., Gaither: FSU commit hit .370 with 29 RBIs
OF Ryan Valdes, Sr., Alonso: FSU signee hit county-high seven home runs, finished with .347 average, 18 RBIs
OF Ricky Escobar, Sr., Jesuit: No. 9 hitter batted .377 with seven doubles, four home runs and 24 RBIs
OF Matt Frey, Sr., Gaither: .394 average with four home runs and 23 RBIs
DH Pete Alonso, Jr., Plant: .485 average led public schools; also hit 11 doubles, six home runs and collected 24 RBIs
UTIL Keon Barnum, Sr., King: No. 48 overall draft pick by the White Sox hit .417 with five home runs and 15 RBIs
P John Kilichowski, Jr., Jesuit
P Shaun Rubin, Sr., Wharton
P Brett Morales, Jr., King.
P Cody Crouse, Jr., Bloomingdale
C Ian Lynch, Sr., King
INF Adrian Chacon, Jr., Jesuit
INF Tyler Danish, Jr., Durant
INF Nolan Schrenker, Sr., Bloomingdale
INF Tyler Jarrell, Sr., Tampa Prep
OF Sammy May, Sr., Steinbrenner
OF Josh Jenkins, Sr., Robinson
OF Sam Machonis, Sr., Sickles
DH Brenden Rivera, Jr., Brooks-DeBartolo
UTIL Corbin Olmstead, Sr., Jefferson
Alonso: Nick Alonso, Nathan Hahn; Berkeley Prep: Bubba Olivera, Victor Pellegrino, Trent Thompson; Bloomingdale: Justin Ambrosino, Brycen Gladbach, Austin Wilson; Brandon: Eric Hinostroza, Adam Sass; Brooks-DeBartolo: Jose Lopez, Ronal Perdomo; Cambridge: Nick Eicholtz, Zach Hessinger, Tommy Robertson; Carrollwood Day: Colin Campbell, Dominiq Sicardo; Durant: Chaz Fowler, Luke Heyer; East Bay: Enmanuel Rodriguez; Freedom: Johnny Keigher, Eric Schindler, Kyle Schindler; Gaither: Evan Gainey, Alex Milne; Hillsborough: Diamond Johnson, Tony Jones, John Safe; Jesuit: Spencer Trayner, Conor O’Brien; King: Matt O’Malley, Tanner Williams; Leto: Chris Miranda-Carr, Jose Pupo; Middleton: Dexture McCall; Newsome: Erik Dowse, Tyler Packanik; Plant: Matt Sanders, Kyle Tucker; Plant City: Sergio Garcia, Cody Smith, Keven Long, Nick Rodriguez; Riverview: Chris Gauthier, Justin Rose; Robinson: Bradley Whiteside; Seffner Christian: Tanner Richardson; Steinbrenner: Cole Gordon, Chase Turner, Chris Williams; Strawberry Crest: Wes Carter, Matt Lemons, Paul Roundtree; Tampa Bay Tech: Deontae Williams; Tampa Catholic: Derek Martin, Paulie Russo; Tampa Prep: Nick Adams, Durin O’Linger, Watson Ransom; Wharton: Tuck Neuhaus