The exodus of so many seniors from last year has given underclassmen greater opportunities to play this season. These young baseball players are skipping the age-old rites of passage like never before, forgoing pine-splintered apprenticeships and making immediate impacts.
And the biggest impact is coming from sophomores.
Here are six sophomores who are among the best in Pinellas County, regardless of classification, and have helped their teams stay among the elite.
Andrew Brodbeck, Countryside: The infielder has given the Cougars' offense plenty of oomph, hitting .412, which ranks second on the team.
Mike Clarkson, Dunedin: He first showed signs of greatness in the preseason tournament by keeping powerful Plant off-balance through much of the game. Now Clarkson is one of the most dependable pitchers on a staff that lost two starters to graduation. "Clarkson has great stuff and is going to be one of the best pitchers in the county in two years," Falcons coach Tom Hilbert said.
Taylor Layner, Osceola: He has the stats to make the case for being the county's best all-around player so far this season. The left-hander is 4-0 on the mound with 44 strikeouts and a 0.72 ERA. At the plate, he is hitting .449 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. Those numbers are a big reason the Warriors are off to a 13-1 start.
Justin Tedder, St. Petersburg Catholic: He leads the team in hitting at .405 with 15 RBIs. And he is 4-1 on the mound with 37 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA. Against district rival Clearwater Central Catholic, Tedder threw a four-hit shutout for the win.
Casey Turgeon, Dunedin: The lone returning starter from last year's Class 5A state championship team, Turgeon already has become one of the county's top hitters. The second baseman ranks in the top 10 in the county in hitting (.438) and is second in home runs (four). And the bigger the game, the better he performs. Two weeks ago, he hit a two-run homer to ignite a six-run first inning en route to a win over rival East Lake.
Sawyer Wilson, Countryside: One of the Cougars' most consistent starters, Wilson is 2-1 with 21 strikeouts and a 1.88 ERA. His biggest performance came in a district game against Mitchell in which he outdueled Patrick Schuster.