North Suncoast Player of the Year: J.P. Gates, Sr., Nature Coast
Gates changes games. Even when he was not pitching, he was still in the middle of the lineup and playing first base. He was pitched to carefully but still had good power numbers. "He's one of those players we're going to remember around here for a long time," Hernando coach Tim Sims said.
A dual threat, Gates hit .430 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and a team-high 48 RBIs. On the mound, he was 9-2 with a 1.05 ERA and had 135 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched. He helped the Sharks win three straight district titles and advance to the state tournament for the first time.
Gates grew up playing youth-league games against future Fivay pitcher Gunnar Hoglund and Mitchell pitcher Jakob Mattos. "Those guys used to take me deep all the time," Gates said. "I was actually scared of Gunnar."
Gates drew plenty of MLB scouts but went undrafted in June. He has a scholarship to Miami.
North Suncoast Pitcher of the Year: Gunnar Hoglund, Sr., Fivay
Here's all you need to know about Hoglund: 105 strikeouts, two walks. And those walks came in the last game of the season against Hernando. He also hit .385 with four home runs.
Hoglund could have played high school baseball just about anywhere. He attended Dayspring Academy in Port Richey and played for the Falcons because they were his zoned school. He said he thought about changing schools after yet another coaching change before his senior year, but opted to stay.
He was a big reason they won a school-record 17 games. In his four years as a starting pitcher, Hoglund recorded 310 strikeouts and 30 walks. He never walked more than 10 batters in a season.
He was selected 36th overall in the draft by the Pirates, turning down a scholarship offer from Mississippi to sign. "It's a dream come true," Hoglund said.
Hillsborough Player of the Year: Connor Scott, Sr., Plant
Though hampered by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss eight games, Scott still played in 20 games and showed why he was the best player in the area. He hit .526 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. He also threw 23 innings before the injury and was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and had 28 strikeouts.
Scott was drafted 13th overall in the first round by the Marlins and signed with the club. He also had a scholarship to Florida. Scott has made an impact for the Panthers since his freshman year. "He's probably the best all-around athlete we've had here," coach Dennis Braun said.
Scott grew up both a Rays and Marlins fan. He said Derek Jeter, the current Marlins CEO, was one of his idols. "It couldn't have gone any better," Scott said the day after he was drafted. "Hopefully, we'll bring a World Series back to Florida."
Hillsborough Pitcher of the Year: Franco Aleman, Sr., Alonso
Aleman was 9-1 with a 0.58 ERA in 12 starts. He had 106 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched and only six walks. The Ravens went 14-14 this season, and Aleman won nine of those games. He had two shutout wins and did not give up a run in seven innings pitched in the Class 9A region quarterfinal against Vero Beach, a 1-0 loss in 11 innings.
"He's got a tremendous work ethic," said coach Landy Faedo, who has had several top-notch pitchers in his program the past few years, including Jordan Butler and his son, Alex. "He's the first one at the field and the last one to leave. There's no shortcuts.''
The 6-foot-6 Aleman, who came over from Cuba with his family at age 11, was drafted in the 38th round by the Braves. But he will honor his commitment to Florida International. "I was offered less than I was asking for so I decided to go to school and become a first-rounder in three years like (Alex) Faedo did," Aleman said.
Pinellas Player of the Year: Matheu Nelson, Sr., Calvary Christian
The big bat in the middle of a very good lineup, Nelson hit .465 with five home runs, 14 doubles and 45 RBIs. He was a senior leader on a team that won 60 straight games before losing in the Class 4A state final to Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian. He also was a solid defensive catcher, with a near flawless .996 fielding percentage. He also showed some speed with seven stolen bases.
"I think he's the best catcher in the state, if not the country," coach Greg Olsen said.
Nelson said this year's highlights were beating Venice 1-0 on freshman Tommy White's home run and beating Northside Christian in extra innings on a Nolan Hudi single that scored Nelson from second. Then there was the region final at Ocala Trinity Catholic that was delayed three hours by rain and needed airboats to dry the field.
Nelson was drafted in the 39th round by the Phillies. He opted to go to FSU and is already enrolled and taking classes. He will be a member of coach Mike Martin's 40th and final team at the school. "I really wanted to play for Coach Martin and Mike Martin Jr.," Nelson said.
Pinellas Pitcher of the Year: Nolan Hudi, Jr., Calvary Christian
Hudi went 13-0 as the Warriors' ace. He pitched 80 innings, had 119 strikeouts and a 0.44 ERA. In the season's biggest games, Hudi was on the mound. He was the winning pitcher in the district semifinal, the region semifinal, region final and state semifinal.
He credits pitching coach Mike Smith and senior catcher Matheu Nelson as big influences. But he was especially inspired by former pitching coach Roy Halladay, who died in a November plane crash.
"He has no idea the influence he had in just one year with us," Hudi said. "I think about him every time I'm on the mound. I write his name in the dirt behind the mound. If it gets smudged up, I'll write it again. If there's a big situation, I'll touch it with my hand to get inspiration."
Hudi is committed to Texas Christian. He is playing summer travel ball, then will shut it down in the fall to let his body heal.
Coach of the Year: Greg Olsen, Calvary Christian
After a perfect 30-0 season in 2017, the Warriors were clearly the team to beat. They won 30 straight again, with the lone loss coming in the state final against Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian. The 60 straight wins are a state record. The Warriors also overcame the emotional loss of assistant coach Roy Halladay.
P Jakob Mattos, Sr., Mitchell: Was 10-1 with a 2.51 ERA. Pitched 67 innings to lead the staff and had 82 strikeouts. Also tough out at the plate (.372, 21 RBIs).
P Jack Anderson, Sr., Jesuit: FSU commit was drafted in 36th round by the Yankees. Tigers ace was 5-2 with a 1.26 ERA in 55 ⅔ innings pitched.
P Brock Fagler, Sr., Plant: Relied on heavily, especially after Connor Scott was lost on the mound with a hamstring injury. Threw 75 innings and had 103 strikeouts. Was 6-3 with a 1.59 ERA.
P Tyler Vogel, Jr., Dunedin: A strike thrower who helped pitch the Falcons to the region final. Was 6-3 with a 1.58 ERA in 66 ⅔ innings pitched.
C Danny Gutcher, Sr., Gaither: USF commit hit .390 with 14 RBIs, five doubles and five triples. Did not make an error behind the plate in 23 games played.
INF Connor Morgan, So., Hernando: Had a breakout season, hitting .489 with 34 RBIs, 10 doubles and four home runs.
INF Addison Barger, Sr., King: Drafted in the sixth round by the Blue Jays and signed. Hit .354 with a team-high 22 RBIs.
INF Justin Bench, Sr., Calvary Christian: Mississippi commit was good at the plate and even better at second base. Hit .391 with 31 RBIs and six doubles.
INF Corey Yawn, Sr., Northside Christian: Moved to third base and didn't skip a beat. Hit .353 with six homers. Also used as a shutdown relief pitcher, he had a 1.11 ERA in 19 innings pitched.
OF Eric Kennedy, Sr., Calvary Christian: Texas commit is a speedy outfielder who can hit it all over the field. Had a .426 average with six doubles, three triples and two home runs.
OF Thomas Delfel, Sr., Fivay: Had a .471 average with 25 RBIs. That included five doubles, three triples and two home runs.
OF Robby Martin, Sr., Jefferson: Key piece of the Dragons' first state title. Martin, who was selected in the 38th round by the Marlins, hit .457 with 23 RBIs. Also used as a reliever and had a 0.95 ERA in 22 innings.
DH Dillon Besnier, Jr., Riverview: A big year at the plate for Besnier, who was an outfielder. Hit .429 with 27 RBIs and seven doubles.
Util Dylan Eskew, Jr., Sickles: Had a monster season, hitting .465 with 29 RBIs and four home runs. Also pitched 65 innings and was 9-2 with a 1.83 ERA.
P Jack Jasiak, Jr., Springstead
P Gabe Partridge, Sr., Carrollwood Day
P Nate Campbell, Sr., Boca Ciega
P Mike Dominguez, Jr., Jefferson
C Derick Stager, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin
INF Christian Cairo, Jr., Calvary Christian
INF Justin Koehler, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin
INF McGuire Weaver, Sr., Jesuit
INF Javy Hernandez, Jr., Leto
OF Zach Funkhouser, Sr., Nature Coast
OF Hunter Mink, Jr., Palm Harbor University
OF A.J. Mathis, Sr., Jefferson
DH Brandon Frangione, Sr., Nature Coast
Util Cam Diaz, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin
P Mitch Farris, Jr., Palm Harbor University
P Michael Reagan, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic
P Ryan Ricardo, Sr., Land O'Lakes
P Jackson Short, Sr., Hernando
C Luca Tresh, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic
INF Lake Fisher, Jr., Dunedin
INF Fernando Muniz, Sr., Leto
INF Kevin Tomas, Sr., Springstead
INF Zach Henderson, Sr., Mitchell
OF Brian Baughman, Jr. Wharton
OF Dontae Mitchell, Jr., Lakewood
OF Jordan Garcia, Sr., Mitchell
DH Parker Farris, Sr., Indian Rocks Christian
Util Ryan Slater, Sr., East Lake
Berkeley Prep: Sam Bennett
Bishop McLaughlin: Hunter Gillespie
Bloomingdale: Dominic Gonnella
Boca Ciega: Lazaro Rodriguez
Calvary Christian: Tommy White, Sam Gordon
Carrollwood Day: Rodrigo Montenegro, Frank Furey
Central: Tyler Adler
Countryside: Tanner Baker
Dunedin: Chris Johnson
Fivay: Avery Schaub
Gaither: Orlando Arevalo
Hernando: Anthony Urso, Dylan DuPhily
Jefferson: Oscar Galvez, Charlie Welch
Jesuit: Javi Baldor
King: Justice Thompson
Lakewood: Anthony Melendez
Land O'Lakes: Nick Jennings, Edgar Vasquez
Leto: Jackson Alvord, Christian Suarez
Mitchell: Kyle Murphy
Nature Coast: Brandon Riera, Brennan Cross, Jonathan McMath
Northeast: Lucas Smith, Brad Myers
Northside Christian: Brendan Tracy, Jonathan Alonso
Palm Harbor University: Ryan Laheney, Tanner Mink
Pasco: Garrett Hester
Plant City: Parker Messick
St. Petersburg: Kyle Kramer
Seminole: Connor Berry
Steinbrenner: Jordan Lala
Strawberry Crest: Damien Torres
Wesley Chapel: Colton Bierly
Zephyrhills: Drew Brown