Pitcher of the Year: Logan Crouse, Jr., Bloomingdale
Why we picked him: The right-hander led a team that struggled offensively all the way to the Class 8A state championship game, upsetting district powerhouse Plant along the way. Bloomingdale had an average regular season — the Bulls were 17-9 before their playoff run — but Crouse was the bright spot throughout. The 6-foot-6 athlete finished with a 0.63 ERA, striking out 116 in 88.2 innings pitched, and boasted a 9-2 record. He started on the mound in every playoff game leading up to the state championship, and in the Bulls’ region quarterfinal win against Sarasota Riverview, Crouse went 3-for-3 at the plate with an RBI while pitching a complete game. He capped that magnificent run with a complete-game shutout against Park Vista in the state semifinal, leading the Bulls to a 1-0 win in extra innings and their first state championship game berth in school history. “I knew I was the better pitcher, and I knew our team was better than them,” he said, “so I definitely expected that.”
Did you know? Crouse, who is also a starting wide receiver for the football team and the starting center on the basketball team, admits he doesn’t have a lot of hobbies outside of sports. He does, however, channel his musical side when no one else is around. “I love to sing in the shower,” he said, laughing. “I like Beyonce, Drunk in Love.”
What’s next: The junior has one more high school season left and is committed to play baseball at Florida State. Crouse, who had more than 500 yards receiving, said he’d also like to play football for the Seminoles if given the opportunity. There’s a good chance, though, he’ll get snatched up in next year’s Major League Baseball draft before any of that happens. “I think about it every day,” Crouse said. “It’s what I work for.”
Player of the Year: Kyle Tucker, Jr., Plant
Why we picked him: It seemed few other players in Hillsborough County incited as much fear in opposing defenses as Tucker — and for good reason. The 6-foot-3 centerfielder hit .415 and led the state with nine home runs. Even while hitting in the No. 2 hole, Tucker led Plant with 35 RBIs, almost double the next best Panther, and he had a .536 on-base percentage. Tucker was recently selected to compete in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game, which will be played in Chicago on Aug. 16. “It’s going to be fun playing at Wrigley,” Tucker said. “I haven’t played in an MLB stadium.” This summer will be his first time playing in a big-league park, but it’s quite possible that it won’t be his last.
Did you know? Tucker likes to keep his home run balls, if he can track them down. After hitting a grand slam in a 4-0 win against Wharton this season — one of two he had last season — Tucker’s dad went into the woods to search for the memento.
What’s next: Tucker committed to Florida before his sophomore season began, and he’s no stranger to the Gators. His older brother, Preston, played at Florida before being drafted in 2012 by the Houston Astros. “With Florida, I got to see how their system worked, and I felt comfortable with going to the college and the campus,” the younger Tucker said. But just like it was for his brother, a draft selection may also be in Tucker’s near future.
P Jake Woodford, Jr., Plant: The Panthers’ ace finished with a 0.43 ERA and 10-1 record, striking out 73 in 65.1 innings pitched.
P Troy Bacon, Jr., Sickles: Led the Gryphons on the mound with a 1.01 ERA and 7-2 record while hitting .351, the second best average on the team.
P Alex Faedo, Sr., Alonso: The Florida commit, who was drafted in the 40th round by the Detroit Tigers, had a 0.58 ERA and 6-2 record, striking out 68 in 48.1 innings pitched.
P Michael Sandborn, So., Jesuit: Pitched shutouts in the region final and state semifinal to help lead the Tigers to Class 5A state title; finished with a 0.85 ERA after moving up from JV in March.
C Ryan McCullers, Sr., Jesuit: Finished with a .366 batting average and 19 RBIs, including the go-ahead run in Jesuit’s state championship win against Clay.
IF Kevin Merrell, Sr., Steinbrenner: USF commit had a team-high .464 batting average, 13 RBIs, five doubles and 21 stolen bases.
IF Bubby Terp, Sr., King: Third baseman had a .452 batting average, 28 RBIs, seven doubles and five home runs while leading King to a region final appearance
IF Tyler House, Sr., Cambridge Christian: Hit .464 with 19 RBIs while putting in 31.2 innings of work on the mound, including a five-inning perfect game.
IF Jose Cuellar, Sr., Jefferson: Strong defensive shortstop who also had a .333 batting average and 13 RBIs.
OF Alex Hanson, Sr., Steinbrenner: Eastern Michigan signee had a .457 batting average with 17 RBIs, nine doubles and three triples
OF Kennie Taylor, Jr., Jesuit: Hit .348 with a team-high 14 extra-base hits, including three home runs and 24 RBIs.
DH Luis Medina, So., Tampa Prep: Had a .443 batting average, with three home runs, 11 doubles and 29 RBIs.
UTIL Stephen Chamblee, Sr., Plant: Hit .379 with 18 RBIs and four doubles while pitching 67.2 innings, posting a 1.14 ERA and 7-2 record on the mound.
P Ryan Anderson, Sr., Brandon
P Jordan Norman, Jr., Jefferson
P Tyeler Checkley, Sr., King
P Dante Bosnic, Sr., Berkeley Prep
C Jose Lopez, Sr., King
IF Randy Oliva, Sr., Gaither
IF Paulie Russo, Sr., Tampa Catholic
IF Austin James, So., Bloomingdale
IF Ronnie Ramirez, Jr., Jesuit
OF Conrado Skepple, Jr., Bloomingdale
OF Garrett Wright, Sr., Durant
OF Cooper Dickens, Jr., Plant
DH Cole Gordon, Sr., Steinbrenner
UTIL Matt Vaka, Sr., Plant
Alonso: Andrew Abbott, Jose Ciccarello, Ryan Mejia, Kevin Nunez, Mike Paule; Armwood: Jimmy Blake, Roman Oliu, Bryan Thomas; Bayshore Christian: Conner Brown, Evan Courtney, Evan Holland, Jordan Martin; Berkeley Prep: Anthony Pellegrino, Nick Kavouklis, Casey Keller; Blake: Derek Mann; Brandon: Jordan Feist, Austin Sullivan, Drayden Williams; Brooks DeBartolo: Brandon Furr, Tremayne Hopps, Xavier Mills; Cambridge Christian: Devin Lopez, Henry Mesa, Trent Smith; Carrollwood Day: Colin Campbell, Taylor King, Jack Syron; Chamberlain: Allan Radice; Durant: Tyler Long, Jacob Scolaro, Jonah Scolaro, Paxton Sims, Jake Sullivan; East Bay: Tyler Blaisdell, Javi Diaz, Darius Sillart; Freedom: Anthony Grampietro, Coleton Morgan, Jacob Rodriguez; Gaither: Jose Cadenas, Austin Chase, Tyler Tyson; Hillsborough: Rodnie Bernard, Jared Jensen, Diamond Johnson, Jesus Vega; Jefferson: Jonathon Diaz, Alejandro Martinez; Jesuit: Nick Ortega, Kasey Radke, Steven Lugo; King: Donnell Taylor, Michael Taylor; Lennard: Devon Key, Jackson Tetrault; Leto: Jonaton Alverez, JoJo Bergollo, Pablo Diaz, Alberto Guerra; Middleton: Kameron Lewis; Newsome: Devin Cerrato, Daulton Donini, Matt Leslie; Plant: Ryan Ellis, Ben Russ; Plant City: Ryan Boyd, Miguel Martinez, Billy McKay, Connor Slagill, Dalton Wingo; Riverview: Garrett Bye, Chaston Gordon, Angel Morales; Robinson: Darius Autry, Charlie Cole, Patrick Kiszla; Seffner Christian: Evan Glatt, Rett Hobbs, Ryan Peeler, Max Plager, Sickles: Grant Baker, Shane Haight, Xavier Rodriguez; Spoto: Brandon Camargo, Chris Chatfield, Kelvin George, Marc McCoy; Steinbrenner: Chase Debonis, Ryan Fatzinger; Strawberry Crest: Austin Boatright, Flabio Garcia, Jeffrey Murray, Jake Ralyea; Tampa Bay Tech: Isaiah Arroyo, Uylsee Gill, Arthur Spinanci; Tampa Catholic: Kyle Barber, Joseph Burruezo, A.J. Chacon, Jordan Santos; Tampa Prep: Nick DeTringo, Matthew Fulton, Matt Hodges; Wharton: Clayton Coringrato, Tristan Deluna
Coach of the Year
Richie Warren, Jesuit. Not many would have guessed Jesuit would win a state championship after losing nine varsity players to suspensions in the middle of the season, but Warren beat the odds to win his first state title in eight years coaching at his alma mater. Warren — who left Jesuit just days after that victory to coach Berkeley Prep — didn’t allow the midseason turmoil to hold his Tigers back. He led a team comprised of six players who began the season on JV all the way to the highest stage of Class 5A baseball.