Senior Steven Howie reaped the rewards of being named Sunshine Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 1996 by signing with Pasco-Hernando Community College on Tuesday.
The Land O'Lakes right-handed starter went 8-2 and posted a 2.21 earned-run average last year. He also set a school record by striking out 100 batters (Mike Ankers struck out 92 in 1985).
"We just liked his mechanics," said PHCC coach Steve Winterling, who offered the athletic scholarship to Howie. "He's got a chance to get even better. We need somebody of that stature. Even though he's not throwing 87 or 88 (miles per hour), we see that down the road for him as he gets bigger and stronger."
Howie, who also was an offensive and defensive lineman for the Gators football team, is 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds.
"It's time to learn and go to the next level," said Howie, who maintains a 3.0 grade-point average.
This spring has not proven to be quite as successful as last year. Howie has struggled somewhat, but he improved to 2-4 after Thursday's 5-2 win over Hernando. He struck out 12 and walked three in that game.
"He had a rough start, but I think that'll be good for him," Gators coach Calvin Baisley said. "You want to see how a kid handles adversity. He just kept working and he got himself straightened out."
Howie was called up to the varsity for a brief stint as a sophomore. He won his only decision, 3-2 over Zephyrhills, in which he allowed just three hits.
Baisley left Howie on the junior varsity squad for most of that season, he said, because the Gators had three solid starters in Mike Brunet, Matt Newcomer and Scott Feltner.
PHCC assistant coach Steve Mumaw got an extra look at Howie last year. Mumaw replaced former Zephyrhills varsity baseball coach Craig Milburn last spring, but returned to PHCC this fall.
Howie will be the second Gators pitcher produced by the Conquistadores in the past two seasons. Brunet, a 1995 graduate, pitches at PHCC. Howie could take one of the spots that became available after the departure of second-year pitchers Brunet, Ryan Snellings and Kris Parrish.
Howie, who starts tonight against Auburndale in the Blue Devil Classic at Winter Haven, anchors a strong pitching staff that includes Brad Baisley and Matt McCleary.