Our top players in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco counties for the 2019 season.
Pinellas Player of the Year: Christian Cairo, Sr., Calvary Christian
Why we picked him: A four-year starter for the Warriors, Cairo saved his best season for his senior year. A strong-armed shortstop, Cairo was dangerous at the plate. He hit .451 with six doubles, three triples and four home runs. Once he got on the bases, he was a nightmare for catchers. He stole 33 bases in 34 attempts. As the leadoff hitter, Cairo excelled at getting on base and allowing his team to score early runs.
Season highlight: Cairo was a big reason the Warriors won their second state title in three years. During the run to the championship, he had a big game in the region final against Orlando First Academy. He hit his fourth home run of the season and got two hits overall in the 8-1 win.
Did you know? As the son of former major-leaguer Miguel Cairo, Christian got to spend his summers in MLB locker rooms. He especially remembers hanging out with Darren Baker, the son of former Reds manager Dusty Baker. “Either before or after (the players) were done we would get to take (batting practice). I was beyond lucky.”
What’s next? Professional baseball. Cairo was drafted in the fourth round by Cleveland. He is part of Indians’ instructional camp and will be assigned to a short-season team soon.
Pinellas Pitcher of the Year: Nolan Hudi, Sr., Calvary Christian
Why we picked him: Hudi has been a dominant pitcher since he was a sophomore. Nothing changed this season. In just about every big game, the left-hander delivered. He went 11-1 with a 0.68 ERA. The lone loss came in relief and it was his only one in three years. Hudi struck out 107 batters in 61 ⅓ innings. He walked 11. He was named the Florida Dairy Farmer’s Class 4A state player of the year. In three years on the mound he was 34-1 and helped lead his team to state championships in 2017 and this season. “Nolan is one of the more special players that I’ve come across,” coach Greg Olsen said.
Season highlight: Yes, Hudi pitched in the Class 4A state semifinal against Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian. And, yes, he pitched a complete game in a 3-1 win. But he said his season highlight was actually the 8-1 win over Orlando First Academy in the region final. That was his last home game as a player for Calvary Christian. Although he didn’t pitch, or get a hit, he said it was memorable because his team was going back to the state tournament. “The highlight was celebrating my last home game at Calvary. It was definitely sad because it was my last game, but getting to Fort Myers is always what you want so knowing we were going again was an awesome feeling.”
Did you know? Hudi is very superstitious. Before each start he throws the same seven warmup pitches. And he has to draw the letters “RH” in the dirt behind the mound for deceased pitching coach Roy Halladay. He puts a cross in the top left of the initials. When he is on deck to hit, he must walk around the on-deck circle, then squat down, put the bat behind his head and walk to the plate the same way. “I just like having that routine.”
What’s next? Hudi is committed to TCU. He will report to campus July 7.
Hillsborough Pitcher of the Year: Parker Messick, Sr., Plant City
Why we picked him: Plant City had a season it will never forget, and Messick was a big reason why. The Raiders won the school’s first state baseball championship. As the ace, Messick got the ball in just about every big game. He threw 86 innings and went 11-1 with a 1.06 ERA. The left-hander had an explosive fastball and finished with 125 strikeouts. He allowed only one hit against Seminole in the region final to get to state. Against Hollywood McArthur in the state semifinal, he allowed only three hits in an 8-0 win. Messick was recently named the Florida Dairy Farmers’ Mr. Baseball for the best player in all nine classifications.
Season highlight: Messick played first base in his final game as a Raider, but it was memorable. Facing crosstown rival Strawberry Crest, Plant City pulled out a 3-1 win. It was also graduation night, so the seniors were at the game instead of receiving their diplomas. When the final out was made, Messick was one of the first players to join the celebration on the mound. “I’ll never, ever forget this.”
Did you know? Messick has a younger sister, Regan, who will be a senior in the upcoming school year. She used to play softball growing up but is not playing a sport in high school. She does, however, play the piano.
What’s next? Messick is in orientation at Florida State. He was not drafted, so he will play at least three years at FSU. A dual player at Plant City, he will be a pitcher for the Seminoles.
Hillsborough Player of the Year: Dylan Eskew, Sr., Sickles
Why we picked him: There was perhaps no better two-way player than Eskew this season. He was a slick fielding infielder when he wasn’t pitching. He hit .386 with 26 RBIs in 24 games played. He had seven doubles and a team-high six home runs. Then there was his pitching. He was 7-1 with a 0.46 ERA. The lone loss came against Plant in the district semifinal. He pitched a seven-inning no-hitter but lost 1-0. He had 87 strikeouts in 59 innings. Eskew was a four-year starter for the Gryphons. He was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 24th round of the MLB draft. “I gave everything I had this season.”
Season highlight: Eskew had several big games on the mound. He started the season by throwing a five-inning no-hitter against Robinson in a 10-0 win. He struck out 11 in six innings pitched in a regular-season 3-0 win over district rival Plant. He struck out 12 in six innings in a win over Leto. And then there was the no-hitter that he lost 1-0 against Plant.
Did you know? Sports is in the family. His father, Marc, was the Sickles head coach in his freshman year. He was recently named the head baseball coach at Bishop McLaughlin. His older sister, Megin, was a pitcher and third baseman on the Sickles softball team. A 2013 graduate, she played college softball at the University of Tampa and is currently an assistant softball coach at Sickles.
What’s next? Eskew has been in negotiations with the Diamondbacks but will likely play at the University of Miami, according to Marc Eskew. He will focus solely on pitching in college.
North Suncoast Pitcher of the Year: Jack Jasiak, Sr., Springstead
Why we picked him: A right-hander with an above-average fastball, Jasiak was tough on hitters this season. He struck out 113 in 62 innings pitched, nearly two strikeouts per inning. He had only five walks. He went 7-1 for the Eagles and pitched in their biggest games. Jasiak had five complete games and three shutouts. A dual threat, he also hit .378 and drove in 22 runs. He will be a pitcher in college. Jasiak has started for the Eagles since his sophomore year. He was 21-5 as a starter and never hit under .300. “He’s a great young man as well,” coach Shawn Laferty said.
Season highlight: The best pitchers come through in the biggest games. In the district semifinal, in which the Eagles had to win to advance to the region tournament, Jasiak threw five innings and scattered three hits in a lopsided 14-0 win. He also pitched in the region quarterfinal against North Marion and did not give up a hit in four innings pitched. But he was relieved due to a future pitching tryout with the Phillies a few days later. The Eagles ended up losing 4-1.
Did you know? Jasiak was selected to play in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Game in May in Lakeland. He was joined by teammate Jiovel Lantigua. They were the only Hernando County players invited.
What’s next? Jasiak is committed to USF and will pitch for the Bulls in the upcoming season.
North Suncoast Player of the Year: Jackson Miller, Jr., Mitchell
Why we picked him: Miller was a top player for the Mustangs last season and performed even better this year. He hit .464 with 32 RBIs, both tops on the team. He had nine doubles, three triples and two home runs. But he was just as good as a pitcher. He threw 63 innings and was 9-1 with a 0.67 ERA. He had 81 strikeouts and only walked 10. He is already on the radar of many professional scouts and he is sure to attract plenty of them during his games next season.
Season highlight: In Class 7A, District 10, Northeast is Mitchell’s biggest rival. In the first game against the Vikings in the regular season, Miller came through with six shutout innings pitched in a 3-0 win. In the district semifinal against Clearwater, Miller struck out 10 to ensure a spot in the region tournament.
Did you know? Miller did not pitch as a freshman and wasn’t the team’s ace until this season. He is 12-2 in two seasons as a starter. His batting average has gone up every season, from .368 as a freshman, to .374 as a sophomore, then over .400 this season.
What’s next? Miller is committed to Wake Forest, but that won’t happen until next summer. This summer he was selected to participate in the Prospect Development Pipeline League at IMG Academy in Bradenton. The prestigious league is open to 80 of the top high school prospects in the 2020 MLB draft.
Coach of the Year: Mike Fryrear, Plant City
The Raiders not only won 30 games, but they won the school’s first state baseball championship. Until this season, they hadn’t even won a district championship since 1968. The Raiders won 16 games last year and didn’t reach regionals. They ended this season by winning 18 straight games. Fryrear was able to mold an experienced group with six seniors and several younger players into state champions.
P Camden Minacci, Jr., Jesuit: In his first year as the ace, this Wake Forest commit did not disappoint. He went 12-1 with a 1.12 ERA in 62 ⅔ innings pitched. He won the state semifinal against Miami Springs..
P Alex Marshall, Sr., Strawberry Crest: The Chargers don’t make a run to the Class 8A state final without Marshall. He pitched 70 ⅓ innings and had a 1.89 ERA. Didn’t complete many games, but kept his team in every one. Committed to South Florida CC.
P Nick Jennings, Sr., Land O’Lakes: Was named the Suncoast Athletic Conference East Division player of the year. As one of the Gators’ top pitchers, the Saint Leo commit went 7-2 with a 1.78 ERA. Struck out 90 in 51 innings.
P Christian Suarez, Sr., Leto: The right-hander has been the Falcons’ top pitcher for the past two years. He was 9-4 this season with a 1.77 ERA. Had 104 strikeouts in 75 innings. Committed to Stetson.
C Brock Wilken, Jr., Bloomingdale: This was not the player pitchers wanted to face. Wake Forest commit hit .468 and had 12 home runs, which ranked second in the state. Certain to be a high draft pick after his senior year.
INF Lake Fisher, Sr., Dunedin: A top defensive player at third base, Fisher played a big role in helping the Falcons get to the state final. Hit .340 with five home runs and 10 doubles. Committed to Eastern Florida State.
INF Cole Cothren, Jr., Plant City: One of the top hitters on a team full of hitters. Cothren had a .467 average for the state champ Raiders. He drove in 20 runs and played a solid first base.
INF Ethan Frasca, Sr., Land O’Lakes: Had a very productive season for the Gators. Hit .375 with 25 RBIs and smacked three home runs. Committed to South Carolina-Union.
INF Tommy White, So., Calvary Christian: One of those players people stop to watch when at bat. Had big hits all season and finished with a .426 average. Had 13 doubles and four home runs.
OF Sam Gordon, Jr., Calvary Christian: Another key figure in the Warriors’ state championship run. Hit .422 and had 18 RBIs and three home runs.
OF BJ Graham, So., Jesuit: Graham was a pest all season and especially good at the state tournament. Had two hits and two runs scored in the semifinal against Miami Springs and had two more hits in the final win over Dunedin. Finished with a .357 average.
OF Terence Doston, Sr., Hillsborough: A dual-sport athlete, Doston was a bright spot for the Terriers as a senior. Hit .373 with five triples and stole 12 bases. Signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
DH Tyler Dowdy, Jr., Plant City: Dowdy was steady all season, but was especially good in the postseason. He hit two long home runs against Hollywood McArthur in the state semifinal and had two RBIs in a 3-1 win over Strawberry Crest in the state final. Ended with a .368 average.
Util Ryan Slater, Jr., East Lake: Florida commit had a breakout season both on the mound and at the plate. He hit .357 with 18 RBIs. As a starter, he was 9-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 71 strikeouts.
P Tyler Vogel, Sr., Dunedin
P Mike Dominguez, Sr., Jefferson
P Cooper Nelson, Jr., East Lake
P Justin Koehler, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin
C Derick Stager, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin
INF Blake Wright, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic
INF Ray Sass, Sr., Dunedin
INF Cole Russo, So., Jesuit
INF Dakota Harris, Jr., Land O’Lakes
OF Mitch Farris, Sr., Palm Harbor University
OF Renzo Gonzalez, So., Alonso
OF Logan Ganoe, Sr., River Ridge
DH Jiovel Lantigua, Sr., Springstead
Util Carson Lashley, Sr., Hernando
P Corey Braun, So., Osceola
P Marrick Aske, Sr., Hernando
P Jonathan McMath, Jr., Nature Coast
P Hunter Mink, Sr., Palm Harbor University
C Pierce Chambers, Jr., Calvary Christian
INF Zach Ehrhard, So., Wharton
INF Brendan Herrick, Sr., Riverview
INF Mason Miller, Jr., Mitchell
INF Dylan DuPhily, So., Hernando
OF Lucas Ismaili, Jr., East Lake
OF Austin Coultas, So., Wesley Chapel
OF Kyle Murphy, Jr., Mitchell
DH Josh Pigozzo, Jr., East Lake
Util Chase Centala, Jr., Sickles
Alonso: Sam Drumheller; Berkeley Prep: Ian Brown, Cade Kurland; Bishop McLaughlin: Hunter Gillespie, Bloomingdale: Bryce Hazzard; Calvary Christian: Josh Emerson, Vince Smith; Clearwater Central Catholic: Anthony Bennetti; Cypress Creek: Matt Snyder; Dunedin: Tristan Morton; Durant: Ahmad Fitts; East Lake: Parker Opie; Fivay: J.J. Erazo-Hernandez; Gaither: Frank Perez; Hernando: Broc Valdez; Jesuit: Bennett Lee, Henry Politz; Lakewood: Scott Germak, Dontae Mitchell; Land O’Lakes: Patrick Groark; Lennard: Yaziel Nunez; Mitchell: Adam Bingham, Keaton Howard, Kyle Lang; Nature Coast: Chase Davis; Northeast: Brad Myers, Nate Moeller, Kai Hudson; Plant City: Cade Shissler, Jarod Wingo; River Ridge: Devin Henwood; Riverview: MacAllister Jorgensenn; St. Petersburg: Connor Crosby, Tyler Long, Jackson Burke; Springstead: Jake Miller; Strawberry Crest: Tanner Kelley; Seminole: Seth Parker; Sunlake: Dawson Place; Weeki Wachee: Chris Perdomo; Wesley Chapel: Ethan Jones; Wharton: Brian Baughman