ESPNHS continues its search for the nation’s top high school baseball player, regardless of school year and based solely on on-field performance. Every two weeks, we’ll rank the nine players in order in The Starting Nine. And at the end of the season, whoever is in the top spot will be crowned The Diamond Gem, our award given to the nation’s most outstanding player.
We’re coming down to the wire in The Starting Nine and several players are making their case for the top of the order. Byron Buxton continues to shine on both the mound and at the plate, while Lance McCullers Jr. completed one of the more dominant pitching campaigns in recent memory.
Making the case to join the fray is Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) senior right-hander Ty Moore, who earlier this year helped lead the Monarchs to the USA Baseball H.S. Invitational crown.
The Starting Nine — May 24th Edition
Through games of May 21
1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Previous spot: No. 1
What he’s done: Buxton has strengthened his hold on the top spot and has led Appling County to the Class AA state finals in the process. He’s hitting .523 with a .639 on-base percentage, three homers and 31 RBIs and is 9-0 on the mound with a 1.78 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 67 innings. Appling County begins its state finals series against Pierce County (Blackshear, Ga.) on Saturday.
2. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
Previous spot: No. 2
What he’s done: McCullers’ squad fell to American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), in the Class 5A state semifinals. However, McCullers pitched strong in defeat, striking out nine in six innings without allowing a run. Overall, the potential first-round pick delivered a monster campaign, going 13-0 with a 0.18 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings. He allowed two earned runs on the year and opponents managed just a .106 average against him. McCullers also contributed two homers and 21 RBIs at the dish.
3. Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Previous Spot: No. 3
What he’s done: Calallen sits at No. 1 in this week’s POWERADE FAB 50 thanks in large part to the work of Mathisen on the mound and at the plate. In a sweep of Ray (Corpus Christi, Texas) in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals, Mathisen went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the first game and then pitched a shutout with eight strikeouts to clinch the series. Overall, he’s hitting .447 with 16 doubles, three homers and 40 RBIs and is 11-0 on the bump with a 1.08 ERA, seven saves and 86 strikeouts in 65 innings.
4. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
Previous spot: No. 4
What he’s done: Carter and his Columbus teammates will go for another state crown starting on Saturday against Ringgold (Ga.) in the Class AAA state finals series. Carter is hitting .326 with 14 homers and 31 RBIs and has been walked 25 times. He’s 11-2 on the mound with a 0.80 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 79 innings.
5. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
Previous Spot: No. 5
What he’s done: Cecchini sparked Barbe to its sixth state title with a 3-2 win over Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, La.) in the Class 5A state championship. Cecchini batted with .467 with a .566 on-base percentage during the postseason and finished the season hitting .413 with a .527 OBP, seven homers, 32 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider Cecchini used a wood bat for most of the year.
6. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Previous spot: No. 7
What he’s done: Hawkins is hitting .424 with a .569 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 37 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He’s 3-2 on the mound with a 0.99 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. Hawkins and FAB 50 No. 13 Carroll will take on FAB 50 No. 15 Sharyland (Mission, Texas) in the Class 5A regional semifinals on Saturday.
7. Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.)
Previous spot: No. 9
What he’s done: Hensley tossed a one-hitter and struck out 13 as Santa Fe defeated Stillwater (Okla.) 4-1 in the Class 6A state quarterfinals. Santa Fe fell to Broken Arrow (Okla.) in the state semis the next day. Hensley finished the year undefeated on the mound at 10-0 and struck out a school-record 111 batters in only 55.1 innings to go with a 1.51 ERA. He also hit .447 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs
8. Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Previous spot: On Deck
What he’s done: Gallo led Gorman to its seven consecutive state title while putting up astounding power numbers along the way. In 40 games, the potential first-round pick hit .509 with 21 homers and 80 RBIs. Gallo had four multi-homer outings, including a four-homer game against Clark (Las Vegas).
9. Ty Moore, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Previous Spot: Not ranked
What he’s done: Moore has been outstanding for the FAB 50 No. 7 Monarchs. He’s 11-1 on the mound with a 0.81 ERA ad 65 strikeouts in 60.1 innings, fanning 14 in a 3-1 win over Rio Mesa (Oxnard, Calif.) in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. He’s also hitting .415 with three homers and 23 RBIs.
No. 6 Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
Weickel had a strong year, going 12-1. But that one loss came in the Class 8A regional finals when then-FAB 50 No. 1 Olympia was upset by Spruce Creek (Port Orange, Fla.) 8-1.
No. 8 Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
The nation’s top left-hander was 8-3 with a 2.41 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 69.2 innings, but he struggled in his last regular-season start, allowing six runs in 3.2 innings in a loss to Loyola (Los Angeles).
C, Carl Albert (Midwest City, Okla.)
What he's done: Hawkins helped Carl Albert win its third state title in six years by hitting a solo shot in a 6-2 win over Claremore (Okla.) in the Class 5A state final. It was Hawkins' 28th homer of the season and 74th of his career. The Oklahoma recruit also hit .391 this season with 81 RBIs. Carl Albert is No. 19 in this week's FAB 50.