Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Sports

Fivay's Gunnar Hoglund set to play on national stage

BRANDON — The Major League Baseball draft is still two years away for him, so Gunnar Hoglund isn't stressing over it.

But in the not far-fetched case that his baseball talent is sufficient to get Hoglund to that level, next week could turn out to be important.

Hoglund, a junior who plays for Fivay High School, has been selected to play in the Area Code Underclass Games Aug. 10-12 in Long Beach, Calif. Only the nation's best rising sophomores and juniors get considered for the tournament, which will be attended by scouts from all 30 MLB squads.

Four major league teams gathered up the talent, with Hoglund to play on the Washington Nationals club. He earned a spot in the invite-only tourney with an impressive June tryout for the Nationals at their Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

"I was nervous, yeah," he said. "You see all those radar guns, and you see Cleveland Indians and stuff like that. But I felt good about it. I was throwing hard."

That he can do. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and growing, Hoglund consistently hits in the upper 80s and every now and then ramps it up to 91-92 mph.

The University of Mississippi is fully aware of Hoglund's abilities. After taking a tour of numerous high-profile schools, and getting offers from just about every one, Hoglund has verbally committed to Ole Miss.

And how's this for talent? The Rebels have told Hoglund they won't restrict him to pitching.

"Until they say I have to pick one, I want to be both a hitter and a pitcher," he said. "I take pride in both. Probably I'd say I'm a better pitcher, but if I'm in a groove I can hit pretty good too."

His father would disagree — on the order of skills.

"I like to think of him as a hitter," Tom Hoglund said. "I think he sells himself short, but I think he's got unbelievable power. He's got a great eye, and I say go as long as you can go until they make you pick one.

"I think at 9, 10, 11 years old that there wasn't a better hitter in the country."

Rob Ciaravino, a former Countryside High coach and founder of the Hitting Academy, still helps train Hoglund at the new Brandon facility and can attest. Hoglund played for his AAU Team Florida from ages 10-12.

"For those three years, I think our record was 202-3," Ciaravino said. "And he was arguably our best pitcher.

"His velocity can hit 92 and he spots his second and third pitches (curve, change) very well. He's always been good at keeping hitters off-balance."

He did it all as a sophomore for Fivay, leading the Falcons in RBIs and strikeouts, going 4-3 for a team that finished 6-17. Hoglund attends Dayspring Academy, but since it has no sporting teams, he's allowed to play high school ball at Fivay.

Hoglund was the second-leading scorer on the Falcons' basketball team, which can expect to add the AAU level services of one 14-year-old Hunter Hoglund this season. (For the curious, a third brother is named Conner, with wife, Nichole, vetoing Tom on his name choice, Fisher).

So is the Hudson kid ready for the big stage next week? Hoglund is expecting to throw three innings in the Nationals' second game, and of course he wants to make his way to the plate as well.

"I want to get everybody out. I don't want to allow any big hit, or anything really to happen. And I want to show my velocity, hit 90," he said.

And if the pros are convinced he's worth a high-round pick in a couple of years?

"If it works out, if I go high enough to get a good amount of money, then I'll go pro," Hoglund said. "But if not, then I'm fine with going to college. I love the town of Oxford; it's unique. I'm not really a big-city kid."

 
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