When it comes to producing state baseball champions, our neighbors in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties have bragging rights tied up until, oh, 2020. Fine, knock the North Suncoast for its dearth of title banners, just don't say the area doesn't produce fine collegians. This season, in particular, has featured some astonishing performances — at the college and junior college levels — by players with local ties. The most impressive ones we've discovered:
Brandon Decker (Gulf)
South Florida CC
According to National Junior College Athletic Association stats, Decker, a sophomore leftfielder, ranked sixth nationally this past season in home runs (20) and 20th in RBIs (67). Those monstrous totals lead us to think Decker, a transfer from Embry-Riddle, has played his last college game. He now shapes up as a big-league draft prospect.
John Servidio (Ridgewood)
The senior year Servidio just completed might top this list. A rightfielder, he hit .366 and led the Division II Bucs in homers (14), RBIs (69) and triples (four). A second-team all-Sunshine State Conference and all-South Region pick, he finished one RBI short of the school record. Keep an eye out for his name on Day 2 of the upcoming draft.
Geoff Parker (Zephyrhills)
Our list isn't confined to the small-college level. A Seminoles freshman right-hander, Parker posted a 6-1 mark and 3.48 ERA in the regular season, ranking fourth on the team with 46 strikeouts. Oh yeah, his team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Robbie Shields (Pasco),
The fact Shields' team didn't get a postseason bid only slightly tarnishes the sophomore shortstop's otherwise strong season (.348, nine homers, 36 RBIs), which earned him second-team all-Sunshine State Conference honors.
Jon Koenigsfeld (Ridgewood)
A Blazers junior shortstop, Koenigsfeld led his team in average (.349), runs (48) and hits (74) en route to second-team all-Gulf South Conference honors. He displayed flashes of power (two homers, 36 RBIs) for a club that finished 36-18-1 and narrowly missed out on a postseason berth.
Kyle Hobbs (Pasco)
The Lions junior centerfielder posted a team-best batting average (.377), hitting six homers and finishing 9-for-10 in stolen-base attempts.
Ricky Howroyd (Land O'Lakes)
A sophomore catcher, Howroyd finished fifth among Florida junior college players in batting average (.439) and 10th in RBIs (55).
Joey Knight can be reached at (813) 226-3350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.