Hillsborough baseball preview

Alonso’s Alex Faedo, a Florida commit, claims a 94 mph fastball in his pitching repertoire.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Alonso’s Alex Faedo, a Florida commit, claims a 94 mph fastball in his pitching repertoire.

TAMPA — He's one of the Tampa Bay area's biggest prospects, but Alex Faedo shrugs off the very mention of that notion.

Maybe its because the reserved right-hander, who has been sidelined with a toe injury, doesn't want to jinx himself before even throwing his first pitch for Alonso this season. Or maybe it's because until recently, the University of Florida commit wasn't even sure what his future in baseball could be.

But the 6-foot-5 senior, who sat the bench and kept score just three years ago as the Ravens won their last state championship, is beginning to figure all that out. And now he's not only on the brink of ushering in a bright future for himself, but bringing the Ravens back to recent glory days.

Alex has mastered three pitches, including a fastball that's been clocked at 94 mph. But Landy Faedo, Alex's father and 12th-year coach at Alonso, said his son matured late physically.

It wasn't until just last year that Landy realized his son had something special.

"I didn't want to overuse him because of growth plates and tendons and muscles," Landy said of Alex's junior season. "But I'd bring him in for two or three innings, and he'd just shut teams down."

Alex had started just one game on the mound as a sophomore, but his coach decided to give him another shot at the starting role March 12, 2013, for a Saladino Tournament game against Plant City.

The Ravens won 7-1. But the biggest takeaway of the day was Alex's 17-strikeout performance, a Saladino Tournament record.

"The game went by so fast," Alex recalled. "I was so in tune with the game, I didn't even know what was going on."

With that, Alex had earned his spot as Alonso's starter. And for the rest of the year, he didn't disappoint, finishing with an 8-2 record and a 1.15 ERA in 55.1 innings, including a five-inning no hitter against Chamberlain.

Growing up, Alex didn't pitch much, spending most of his time at first base. Now that he's found his niche on the diamond, however, the right-hander couldn't be happier. That goes for his teammates, too, who have enjoyed watching Alex come into his own.

"He was always good, but he was never at the status he is now, where he could get drafted," senior shortstop Wyatt Reid said. "He's gotten to where he's almost unhittable around here."

Alex took unofficial visits all over the state before settling on the Gators in August. And though it's possible he could be looking at a potential professional opportunity before even setting foot in Gainesville, Alex said he hasn't given much thought about what he'll do if he's drafted come June.

Instead, he's just focused on and getting Alonso to the playoffs — a place it hasn't been since Jose Fernandez, a Miami Marlin and last year's National League Rookie of the Year, led the Ravens to the 6A state championship in 2011.

As for the attention he's getting personally? Just like his presence on the mound, his father says, Alex stays cool.

"It's nice, but I don't really care that much," he said. "I just do my thing."

Times' super 7

Records through Thursday

1. Jesuit (4-0): The Tigers made the 5A state semifinals last year and could make yet another playoff run with 10 of its 23 players committed to Division I programs.

2. Steinbrenner (3-0): With heavy hitters Cole Gordon and Alex Hanson returning, are primed for another playoff run. They started things off right with a 27-1 win against Middleton in the season opener.

3. Tampa Catholic (3-0): The Crusaders have started the season off strong with three big wins, one against a King team fresh from last year's state semifinal finish.

4. Durant (2-0): The Cougars graduated just four players from last year's state champion runnerup team, but that includes second-round draft pick Tyler Danish.

5. King (4-1): The Lions went 25-4 last year, losing 2-0 to Mosley in the state semifinals. But more than a third of that team — including the top three hitters — graduated, leaving some questions for how the Lions will rebound.

6. Alonso (3-0): The Ravens haven't made the playoffs since their 2011 state championship season, but with a shaken up district and Alex Faedo on the mound, Alonso could be back in contention.

7. Tampa Prep (5-0): A young Tampa Prep team made a region final run last season, so with another year under their belts, the Terrapins could have the potential to make another.

In the conversation: Cambridge Christian (1-4), Plant (1-2), Brandon (2-1), Bloomingdale (2-1), Leto (2-0)

Players to watch

P Logan Crouse, Jr., Bloomingdale: The 6-foot-6 right-hander, a Florida State commit, posted a 1.15 ERA in 48.2 innings of work for the Bulls. Crouse could see more time on the mound as brother Cody, a senior pitcher last year, graduated and signed with Florida International.

P Alex Faedo, Sr., Alonso: Faedo, a Florida commit, posted a 1.14 ERA last year during the Ravens' 16-9 season. Son of coach Landy Faedo, the Louisville Slugger second-team All-American right-hander had 17 strikeouts in a single game against Plant City last March and a five-inning no-hitter against Chamberlain.

UTIL Levi Gilcrease, Sr., Sickles: Gilcrease, a USF commit, played for Cambridge Christian last season, posting a team-high .493 batting average, 19 stolen bases, and 18 extra-base hits. Gilcrease also pitched 16.2 innings, finishing with an 0.84 ERA.

DH Cole Gordon, Sr., Steinbrenner: The Mississippi State commit hit .422 last season, with 33 RBIs and seven home runs. He also plays first base.

OF Alex Hanson, Sr., Steinbrenner: The 5-foot-10 Warrior helped Steinbrenner win its first district baseball title last season, hitting a team-high .464 and recording 33 RBIs, tied for second on the squad. He has committed to play at Eastern Michigan.

INF, Luke Heyer, Sr., Durant: Heyer helped lead Durant to the state championship game with a .381 batting average — second on the team after current minor-leaguer Tyler Danish — recording 32 hits, 18 RBIs and five doubles.

P Tyler House, Sr., Cambridge Christian: The 5-foot-11 Lancer hit .383 in Cambridge Christian's final four campaign last season, and Tuesday he threw a five-inning perfect game in the Lancers' 10-0 win against Victory Christian.

OF Diamond Johnson, Sr., Hillsborough: A four-year starter for the Terriers, the St. Pete College signee hit .328 last season and had team-high totals in runs scored (25) hits (22) and extra-base hits (eight).

C Luis Medina, So., Tampa Prep: One of the top catchers in the area, Medina led the Terrapins as a freshman with a .461 batting average and a .988 fielding percentage.

P Ronnie Ramirez, Jr., Jesuit: Ramirez, who transferred from Plant in 2012, is a Florida State commit who is typically used as a closer. Last season he pitched 21.2 innings of relief, allowing no earned runs and recording four saves. He also has four hits in eight at-bats so far this season.

OF Kyle Tucker, Jr., Plant: The Florida commit led Hillsborough County last season with a .556 batting average, adding 26 RBIs and nine home runs. Tucker also pitched 10 innings, posting a 2.10 ERA.

Hillsborough baseball preview 02/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2014 9:40pm]

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