MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Player of the year: Joe Koehler, Sr., Mitchell
Why we picked him: Mustangs coach Scot Wilcox wasn’t sure how his star slugger would adjust to new bats this year. Koehler responded with the best statistics on the North Suncoast. “Gosh, he had probably the best offensive season we’ve ever seen at Mitchell,” Wilcox said. Koehler, a second baseman/shortstop, was among the area’s leaders with a .453 batting average. The Sunshine Athletic Conference’s player of the year led the North Suncoast with seven home runs and 36 RBIs. Koehler said his key was getting off to a hot start and staying consistent throughout the Mustangs’ 14-12 season and their title in Pasco County’s spring break tournament. He added 31 runs with a .538 on-base percentage and .907 slugging percentage.
Most impressive accomplishment: Koehler was the area’s top power hitter all season but showed his potential in a masterpiece against Fivay. Playing against his friend, Jarred Mattos, Koehler said he knew to expect off-speed pitches. He blasted two changeups and one curveball over the fence for a 3-for-3, three-home run game. His six RBIs helped Mitchell earn an 8-6 victory. It was Koehler’s first three-homer game at any level. Koehler added a home run the next game against Nature Coast.
Did you know? Koehler spends much of his time away from the field watching baseball on SportsCenter or the MLB Network. His family is from New York, so his favorite team is the Yankees. Unlike many of his friends, he prefers Robinson Cano to Derek Jeter. “His swing is perfect,” Koehler said.
Future plans: Koehler comes from a family full of police officers, so he intends to pursue a career in law enforcement. He plans to study criminal law while playing baseball at Mercer, and his goal is to work for the Secret Service. “I’ve grown up around it, and I like the nationwide hunts,” Koehler said.
Pitcher of the year: Brandon Lawson, Jr., Hernando
Why we picked him: The Leopards’ star was one of Tampa Bay’s top all-around players. The 6-foot-2 right-hander batted .329 with 20 RBIs and three home runs, including a monstrous blast against Ridgewood in the region quarterfinals. “We were a whole new team after that win,” Lawson said. But Hernando’s ace was most impressive on the mound. With a fastball in the upper 80s, Lawson posted a 1.87 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 71 innings to help his team advance to the Class 5A region finals. He walked only 20 batters while holding opponents to a .203 batting average and earning an 8-3 record.
Most impressive accomplishment: Lawson was at his best in big games. He shut out Crystal River in the district semifinals and allowed one unearned run at Ridgewood in the region quarterfinals. He battled Tavares well on the road in the region semifinals, allowing only two earned runs to help his team escape with a 3-2 victory. Hernando was 2-0 against the mighty Bulldogs when Lawson pitched but lost the district title game to Tavares when Lawson wasn’t on the mound.
Did you know? Lawson stays busy with baseball during the school year and on the FTB Mizuno summer team. Away from the field, Lawson’s favorite movie is The Fast and the Furious. Lawson enjoys fast cars and drives a 2004 Ford Mustang.
Future plans: Lawson received interest from more than a dozen major-college programs before committing to play at USF as a 2013 recruit. A strong math student, Lawson plans to study business while playing for the Bulls. If professional baseball doesn’t work out, Lawson said he wants to work at a business firm. “I like those kinds of atmospheres,” Lawson said.
Coach of the year: Joe Neale, Pasco
The longtime Pirates assistant inherited a volatile situation and a divided dugout without coach Ricky Giles. But Neale repaired the roster and rallied his team into the playoffs. Pasco won 11 of its next 15 games — including a seven-run comeback against Wesley Chapel in the district semifinal.
P Brad Hencke, Sr., Land O’Lakes: University of Tampa-bound lefty was Pasco County’s top pitcher with a 1.43 ERA and 76 strikeouts.
P Garrett Kriston, Sr., Mitchell: Mustangs’ top pitcher had a county-low 1.21 ERA with 63 Ks to help his team win the county’s spring break title.
P Ryan Kopenski, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Lefty ace was among the North Suncoast’s top talents with an 8-3 record and 1.58 ERA.
P Tanner Koch, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin: His 1.45 ERA and 50 strikeouts helped the Hurricanes reach the playoffs.
C Cobi Johnson, So., Mitchell: One of the Mustangs’ top hitters with a .416 average and threw out 14 of 18 would-be base stealers.
INF Adam Arrowood, Jr., Ridgewood: Led the Rams with a .438 average to help them earn their first district championship since 2005.
INF Dylan Harris, Jr., Land O’Lakes: All-conference selection was the Gators’ leader with a .412 batting average while stealing 13 bases.
INF Lane Stancil, So., Pasco: All-SAC choice was a .474 hitter with 23 RBIs — plus a 1.34 ERA on the mound — before an illness sidelined him late in the year.
INF Tommy Peterson, Sr., River Ridge: USF recruit slugged .612 and batted in 22 runs while carrying a .388 batting average.
OF Brandon Brosher, Jr., Springstead: Eagles’ basher blasted four home runs and six doubles while boasting a .407 batting average and .551 on-base percentage.
OF Trey Dudley-Giles, Sr., Pasco: UMass football recruit swiped 17 bases while batting .400 and sending the Pirates to the playoffs with a walkoff walk.
OF Zack Drury, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Bulls’ top hitter (.406 average, 25 RBIs) also had a 2.35 ERA on the mound.
DH Jake Johnson, Jr., Hernando: Leopards’ backstop was solid defensively while boasting a .437 batting average and knocking in 22 runs.
UTIL Christian Arroyo, Jr., Hernando: District player of the year was a standout shortstop; already committed to the University of Florida.
P Joseph Hloska, Jr., Ridgewood
P Cam Hokanson, Sr., River Ridge
P Cameron Stoltz, Sr., Sunlake
P Joseph Siegfried, Sr., Springstead
C Matt Plourde, Jr., Pasco
INF Robert McCabe, Sr., Ridgewood
INF Ty Cooler, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin
INF Ryan Nicoll, Jr., Springstead
INF Chris Zichy, Sr., Wesley Chapel
OF Zach White, Sr., Wesley Chapel
OF Jose Alonzo, Sr., Nature Coast
OF Jr. Carr, Sr., Zephyrhills
DH Jason Heinrich, Fr., River Ridge
UTIL Tommy Tambasco, Sr., Nature Coast
Anclote: Alex Lupo, Michael Ferraro; Bishop McLaughlin: Austin Ferlita, Josh Falk; Central: Zack Taylor, Jason Santiago; Fivay: T.J. Niles, Andrew Meyer, Jarred Mattos; Gulf: Marshall Stitt; Hernando: Brandon Gemmiti, Trae Ratliff; Hudson: Tyler Burgan; Land O’Lakes: Pat Soril, Austin Conner, Zachary Whitaker, Ryan Wall; Mitchell: Eddie Goscicki, P.J. Dejesus; Nature Coast: Vito Tambasco; Pasco: AJ Rainaldi, Mikey Wilson, Robbie Hanlon; Ridgewood: Joey Macaluso, Tim Osborne, Eddie Davies; River Ridge: Mike Unger, Devon Woodward; Springstead: Jimmy Diven; Sunlake: Austin Warner; Wesley Chapel: Keegan Tanner, Chase Ingram; Wiregrass Ranch: Michael Barrone, Alex Goebel, Mike Campoamor; Zephyrhills: Blake Roberts, Fernando Paz