For seven years, Jeff Gordon and Trevor Mallory have anticipated this moment. Behind the tandem, the Lakewood Spartans our strong favorites to win the Pinellas County Conference baseball title this year.
The pair have been waiting, playing and hoping for this occasion.
Mallory, a lanky 6-foot-6 junior, starred on the football field as a backup quarterback to Tommy Carter and alternated at wide receiver.
He also helped guide the Spartans to their first Pinellas County Conference basketball crown and will lead them into district play this week.
But the gifted athlete is just buying time on the gridiron and on the court.
"I play football and basketball just for the fun of it and to have something to do during the off-season," said Mallory, who is expected to be the Spartans' starting quarterback next season.
"All that play just keeps me busy until baseball starts. I can't wait to get out there with Jeff and the boys."
Gordon, a 5-foot-11 senior, was Lakewood's placekicker last fall and has been patiently waiting for Mallory to join him on the diamond.
"We started on the diamond together," said Gordon, who is a four-year starter for the Spartans. "And this is where we want to end it together."
Seven years ago the duo formed a partnership playing for the Baypoint Little League all-star team. Together, they dominated the opposition, and set aside some goals.
"This is the culmination for me," said Gordon, who is a hard-thowing right-hander and has outstanding command of his pitches. "Trevor and I have been together for a long time and we've always had one another to lean on."
The Lakewood duo have shared positions through their respective Little League playing days and for two years in high school. They have alternated between shortstop and pitching.
"We depend on each other," said Mallory, who is regarded by many scouts already to be a first-round pick next year. "We both love to play baseball and always lift one another up."
Lakewood coach Mike Jacobs plans to take advantage of his strong duo.
"With Trevor and Jeff we certainly have the talent to win the PCC and do well in the districts," said Jacobs, who is in his 20th season at Lakewood. "Trevor has incredible speed and Jeff has uncanny control."
Besides being strong pitchers, Gordon and Mallory are offensive threats and have plenty of range at shortstop.
Other keys for the Spartans will be the addition of Carter, outfielder Mike Hurm, third baseman David Pence and second baseman Dave Bosko. The Spartans have a solid lineup and Carter gives them added speed.
Despite the strength of the Spartans this year, they could be affected by the absence of Mallory at the beginning of the season.
Mallory will miss the first few games because the Spartans' basketball team is involved in the districts.
"Everyone wants Lakewood and Trevor to do well," Jacobs said. "But the quicker we can get him out here the stronger we will be."
If the Spartans slip early, Dixie Hollins will be right there to contend with them. The Rebels are loaded this year.
Leading Dixie Hollins is catcher Brad Gay. Gay is considered an outstanding prospect and is one of the best catchers in the state.
Marty Schnitzler and Brian Williard also give the Rebels a strong pitching combination. Sleeper teams to watch out for will be East Lake, Dunedin and Northeast.
The Eagles have plenty of young talent and junior Paul Reynolds is one of the top shortstops in the county.
Northeast could be tough with the development of junior left-hander Kurt King.
Dunedin is young but coach Greg Nichols always finds a way to win. A lot of pressure falls on junior hurler Ryan Griffin for the Falcons. Griffin is one of the top hurlers in the county.
The season starts on Monday with eight teams playing in the preseason baseball tournament at Seminole and at the Englebert Complex in Dunedin.