TAMPA — To reach the baseball region semifinals, a team effort is needed. And as seven county teams play for the right to advance to the region championship, some unsung heroes have emerged. We take a look at those players whose contributions shouldn't go unnoticed.
Early this season, Armwood coach Mike Wrenn asked senior Kristian Calibuso to move from shortstop to third base.
"He took it with a smile," Wrenn said. "He's definitely one of our leaders. He's always staying on guys, which makes a coach's job a little easier. He leads by example."
Calibuso's 2008 season was cut short after he injured his knee in a car accident. This year, he has given Armwood everything: a steady glove, .313 average, 16 RBIs and a team-leading 14 stolen bases. In the district semifinal, Calibuso put the game out of reach with a towering three-run homer to straightaway centerfield.
Heading into Brandon's Saladino Tournament title defense last month, coach Matt Stallbaumer knew he'd have to depend on some untested arms. He turned to his 160-pound freshman No. 9 hitter for a boost.
Toney has given Brandon a spark on the mound, going 5-1 with a save and a 1.77 ERA in eight appearances. When he's not pitching, Toney is one of Brandon's top three outfielders.
"He's been a mainstay for us," Stallbaumer said. "He's given us a lot, when you need a guy to compete and throw strikes in an important game or when you need to move a guy over."
When slugging first baseman Preston Tucker left for UF after last season, it left a huge void at first and in the heart of the Panthers' lineup. Coach Dennis Braun turned to junior Stan Rowe, who he believes is better in the field than Tucker was as a junior.
Now the 6-foot-3 Rowe is hitting .377, second on the team, and has 19 RBIs. Recently he has given the Panthers' lineup some much-needed pop. All four of his homers have been in Plant's past seven games.
"I had a sit-down with him and told him he needs to know that he's a big guy," Braun said. "I don't know if that kind of clicked, but he's gained a lot of confidence at the plate."
It's difficult to pick which of Jesuit's four senior stars is the Tigers' true MVP. But take note of one fact. With Lockwood in the lineup, the Tigers won their first 23 games. Once he went down with an ankle, injury Jesuit limped into the region tournament with a 2-2 record.
And when Lockwood, a USF recruit, returned, the Tigers beat defending Class 5A champ Dunedin. When he's in the lineup, he has done it all for Jesuit. In 23 games, Lockwood is hitting .387 with nine doubles, a triple, five homers, 26 RBIs and has 14 stolen bases and 29 runs scored.
Out at Alonso, the pitchers get a lot of the credit, and rightfully so. But from Tommy Toledo to Alex Panteliodis to Ray Delphey to Thomas Dorminy, there has been one constant, and that's the guy behind the plate.
Pendleton, who will play at UT next year, has been one of the senior leaders of a Ravens team that always remains steady and calm on the field. Pendleton also is Alonso's top run producer; his 30 RBIs lead a team that boasts four players with at least 25 RBIs.
Heading into the season, Cowboys coach Frank Permuy had an open casting call for pitchers. He had none.
Now the Gaither pitching staff holds one of this season's best stories. Junior Dylan Hathcock threw just two innings last year — and had a 14.00 ERA to boot — but Permuy made him a closer. He leads the county with 10 saves in 21 appearances.
"You never see him lose composure," Permuy said. "He wants the ball in his hands, and that's what you want to see in that situation."
It's difficult to call a sophomore a leader, but Lancers coach Rick Shears doesn't hesitate to use that word when talking about Widell.
Last season, Widell was Cambridge's starting third baseman by necessity. He made just two errors there. This year, he's the starting catcher.
"He's stepped right in there without missing a beat," Shears said. "And his presence speaks for itself."
Widell is hitting .333 and is second on the team in extra-base hits with 10 (he has five doubles and five triples). In the past three games, Widell is 8-for-11 with two doubles, three triples and five RBIs.