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HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings

Hillsborough County's Pitcher of the Year CJ Van Eyk, of Steinbrenner, poses for a portrait on the field at Alonso High School on Wednesday afternoon, June 1, 2016 in Tampa.
Hillsborough County's Pitcher of the Year CJ Van Eyk, of Steinbrenner, poses for a portrait on the field at Alonso High School on Wednesday afternoon, June 1, 2016 in Tampa. ZACK WITTMAN | Times
Published Feb. 21, 2017

1. Steinbrenner

This week: Tuesday at Robinson, Thursday vs. Sickles, Saturday vs. Middleton

Scoop: The defending Class 8A state champions are again loaded with talent. Top talent CJ Van Eyk, a Florida State commit, is back. With an ace like Van Eyk, the Warriors are in any game he pitches. Patrick Morris, who was 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA last season, is a solid No. 2. He also hit .376. Cam Coakley and Dave Crawford are other key returners. And it also helped getting Tampa Catholic transfers Jordan and Tyler Lala.

2. Jesuit

This week: Thursday vs. Middleton, Saturday vs. Venice

Scoop: The Tigers are always talented. No different this year. Senior catcher Garrett Sheppard is committed to Coastal Carolina. Outfielder Duncan Hunter is signed with Jacksonville. RHP Price Sartor is committed to Cornell, and RHP Jeff Hakanson is committed to UCF. Throw in junior shortstop McGuire Weaver (FSU commit), OF Joel Brewer (FIU commit) and RHP Jack Anderson (FSU), and Jesuit will be a handful. Venice game on Saturday is a good test.

3. Alonso

This week: Tuesday vs. Hillsborough, Thursday at Newsome

Scoop: The Ravens have Jordan Butler, who can hit (.406, four homers in 2016) and pitch (11-1, 0.55 ERA). And around him there's junior OF Ryan Drumheller, senior INF Jose Ciccarello and senior INF Jared DeSantolo all hit over .300 last season. Alonso won 24 games last season and had a nice preseason win over East Lake.

4. East Lake

This week: Wednesday at Lakeland, Thursday at Auburndale

Scoop: The Eagles have talent and experience. There are 10 seniors, led by starting pitcher Conor Churchill. Senior Jake Sessa hit .418 last season and is also a left-handed pitcher. Juniors Nic Daniels, who is committed to FIU, and Jon Kostansis will contribute on the mound and in the field. Senior Seth Cabelles returns at catcher. Expect many others to step up this season.

5. Northside Christian

This week: Tuesday vs. Shorecrest, Friday vs. Bradenton St. Stephen's

Scoop: The Mustangs won 24 games last season with a very young team. They are still relatively young and should be even better. Cory Yawn will likely move into a starting role after getting five saves in 20.2 innings last season. He also hit .477 and plays a solid shortstop. Sophomore Colton Olasin hit .392 as a freshman. Junior Jonathan Alonso hit .365 last season and junior Brendan Tracy hit .300. The Mustangs were batting .327 as a team last season with a lineup of mostly sophomores and juniors.

6. Berkeley Prep

This week: Friday at Carrollwood Day, Saturday at Lakeland McKeel

Scoop: The Bucs went to the Class 4A state semifinals last season, and there's no reason they can't make a return trip. Senior shortstop Spencer Myers is the top field player and junior LHP Julian Bosnic is one of the best pitchers in the area. Berkeley must find a replacement for Casey Keller, who threw 70.1 innings last season.

7. Nature Coast

This week: Tuesday vs. Fivay, Friday vs. Hernando

Scoop: The Sharks won 20 games last season and some of the key players are back. Jonathan Gates is one of the best players in the area, and he is only a junior. He hit .486 as a sophomore and was 6-0 with a 0.56 ERA. Senior Ryan Lotito was 5-1 last season, so the pitching staff is strong. If the Sharks can hit, they will be tough to beat.

8. Bishop McLaughlin

This week: Tuesday at Springstead, Friday at Cambridge Christian

Scoop: Head coach Jeff Swymer has had good teams in the recent past, and this is likely another one. Top hitters Dillon Morton and Paul Coumoulos are back, as is pitcher Dominic Diaz. There were some losses due to graduation, namely Carson Ragsdale, but the Hurricanes appear to have plenty of depth.

9. Calvary Christian

This week: Tuesday vs. Largo, Thursday vs. Pinellas Park, Friday vs. Palm Harbor University

Scoop: The Warriors are loaded with field players and got a boost in the pitching staff with East Lake transfer Nolan Hudi. Junior centerfielder Eric Kennedy is already committed to Alabama. Senior infielder and pitcher Graham Hoffman is a USF commit. Junior catcher Matheu Nelson is committed to Florida State and sophomore infielder Christian Cairo, the son of former Tampa Bay Ray Miguel Cairo, is committed to LSU. There should be plenty of offense at Calvary this season. They did lose LHP Collin Booten to Indian Rocks Christian.

10. Mitchell

This week: Tuesday vs. Wiregrass Ranch, Thursday vs. Wesley Chapel

Scoop: The Mustangs should be able to pitch this season. Mitchell, which won 22 games, played 195 innings last season, and it returns pitchers who threw 174 of those innings. Junior Jakob Mattos is the top player, with 61.1 innings pitched as a sophomore and 70 strikeouts. Seniors Tyler Edling and Blake Parry each threw more than 30 innings last season. If Mitchell can find some offense it should be a good season.

11. Hillsborough

This week: Tuesday at Alonso, Thursday at Gaither

Scoop: The Terriers are always competitive and this season should be no different. Senior Tim Elko will be a difficult out after hitting .434 with 13 doubles as a junior. Fellow senior Nick Romano wasn't bad either, with a .362 average. Seniors Patrick Puentes and Jarrod Cande are the top two pitchers. Terriers start off with two tough games.

12. Land O'Lakes

This week: Wednesday vs. Hudson, Thursday vs. Weeki Wachee

Scoop: The Gators were a 20 win team last season and that could happen again this year. Senior McCabe Sargent is an all-around player who hit .384 and was also 7-0 with a 0.47 ERA. They must replace top pitcher Kirby Osborn, but the Gators have enough talent to figure it out.

13. King

This week: Tuesday at Tampa Bay Tech, Thursday vs. Plant

Scoop: The Lions weren't an explosive offense last season but this year they've already scored 26 runs in two preseason games. Granted, it doesn't count, but it's encouraging. Justice Thompson returns after hitting .338 last year. Fellow junior Jamarcus Lyons was also a .300 hitter. Senior Luke Drummond threw the most innings last season (51.1) and is back.

14. Countryside

This week: Tuesday vs. Dixie Hollins, Thursday vs. Tarpon Springs, Friday vs. Clearwater Central Catholic

Scoop: First-year coach Shawn Brown, who was previously at Largo, takes over a young and deep team. Brown said two-thirds of his roster is underclassmen. Top returners are outfielder/pitcher Matt Adams, senior pitcher Austin Matthews and junior outfielder/pitcher Tanner Baker.

15. Durant

This week: Wednesday at Plant City

Scoop: Any high school team with a bona fide ace can go far, and the Cougars have an ace in Jonah Scolaro. The senior left-hander was 8-4 with a 1.23 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 68.1 innings as a junior. Seniors Colyn White and Brien Johnston will provide depth on the mound. Finding offense may be the challenge after the top three hitters graduated.

16. Indian Rocks Christian

This week: Tuesday vs. Dunedin (Georgiadis tournament), Thursday-Friday Georgiadis tournament

Scoop: If teams are built around pitching, then the Golden Eagles should be just fine. Seniors Oakley Albinson, Aaron Ackerman and Calvary Christian transfer Collin Booten give IRC a good three-man rotation. Albinson had 60 strikeouts in 39 innings last season. Ackerman had 49 Ks in 55 innings and Booten was 9-2 with a 1.29 ERA last season. Parker Farris is the top hitter. He hit .402 with 16 RBI last season.

17. Gaither

This week: Tuesday vs. Wharton, Thursday vs. Hillsborough

Scoop: The Cowboys won the Class 7A state championship last season, so they deserve some respect. Senior Jose Cadenas played a big role last season after hitting .398 and coming up with some big hits in the playoffs. No reason to think he won't be a tough out this season. Junior Chipper Holland hit .346 last season. And Senior Kenny Rodriguez and junior Danny Gutcher each hit .333 in 2016. The pitching staff must replace Gavin Gillespie.

18. Riverview

This week: Tuesday at Brandon, Thursday vs. East Bay

Scoop: The senior class looks pretty good for the Sharks, who were 16-9 last season. Freddy Tarnok (.362), Garrett Thompson (.320) and Tyler Roschfska (.315) all return to the lineup. Finding a replacement for top pitcher Jordan Leasure will be the key.

19. Seminole

This week: Tuesday vs. Lakewood (Georgiadis tournament), Thursday-Friday at Georgiadis tournament.

Scoop: Pitching should be a strength and any team with good pitching has a chance. Left-handers Alex Raymonds and Andrew Mills each threw over 40 innings last season and will likely throw more this season. Finding runs will be crucial.

20. Plant City

This week: Tuesday at Plant, Thursday vs. Durant

Scoop: The Raiders are in a tough district, which includes Durant, Riverview, Bloomingdale and East Bay. But there should be enough talent to compete. Sophomore J.J. Gonzalez hit .333 as a freshman and should lead an offense that has some pop. Pitching is key in this district, and Plant City lost three key arms. Sophomore Parker Messick (2-2, 1.44 ERA) is the top returner. Thursday's game will be an early-season indication of where the Raiders are.

21. Clearwater Central Catholic

This week: Tuesday at IMG Academy, Friday at Countryside

Scoop: The Marauders were a little down last season and they are in a very hard district that includes Berkeley Prep, Calvary Christian and Tampa Catholic, but don't count CCC out. Veteran coach Todd Vaughan believes seniors Michael Bessell, Chase Arnold and Michael Paul will have big years, along with junior catcher Luca Tresh. Paul is a hard-throwing right-hander who should be the ace of the staff.

22. Osceola

This week: Wednesday Georgiadis tournament second round

Scoop: The Warriors started the regular season on Monday with a 4-1 loss to a good Inspiration Academy. Senior Jeremy Adams should be one of the top hitters as well as the ace of the staff. Junior Tanner Connolly should be the No. 2 pitcher. Offensively, senior catcher A.J. Rivera and senior 1B/DH Tyler Cottle will be in the middle of the lineup.

23. Springstead

This week: Tuesday vs. Bishop McLaughlin, Friday vs. Citrus

Scoop: The Eagles won 20 games last season and have some key players back. Senior Luke Laferty hit .375 last season. Senior Johnny Oliveira is also a .300 hitter who returns. Springstead did lose its top two pitchers, Miguel Martinez and Noah Siem.

24. Dunedin

This week: Tuesday vs. Indian Rocks Christian (Georgiadis tournament), Thursday-Friday at Georgiadis tournament

Scoop: The Falcons advanced to the Class 6A region finals last season with a young team. Seniors Alex Sexton and Justin Rodriguez are experienced field players. Senior RHP Chris Hunter should take over for Colton Widdows as the team's ace. Sophomore 3B/RHP Lake Fisher is getting a look from Miami, and junior RHP Josh Collett is getting Division I looks according to coach Ron Sexton.

25. Palm Harbor University

This week: Thursday at Sarasota Riverview, Friday at Calvary Christian

Scoop: The Hurricanes graduated 12 seniors from last year's 18-12 team. But veteran coach Tom Hilbert believes his young team has talent, especially the sophomore class. Andrew Booth is one of those sophomores and should pitch a bulk of the innings.

On the bubble: Palm Harbor University, Plant, Sunlake, Boca Ciega, St. Petersburg Catholic, Northeast, Hernando, Brandon