The window on the Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.
Senior right-handed pitcher/centerfielder, Millard West (Omaha)
2012 Team record: 29-8 (Class A)
2012 Team standing: Lost Class A state tournament games to Lincoln Northeast, 3-1, and Lincoln East, 7-6
2012 Batting average: .413
2012 RBI: 40
2012 Runs: 32
2012 W-L record: 8-1
2012 ERA: 1.62
2012 Strikeouts: 76
Academics: A-minus average
Collegiate destination: Kansas State University
How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Owned a 5.9-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 40 RBI and 32 runs scored generated 2.1 runs per game. Suffered an arm injury in the district final prior to the state tournament. No. 185 ranked RHP in Class of 2012 as rated by Perfect Game USA. 2012 Preseason Second Team All-Central Region selection as named by Perfect Game USA. 2011 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars invitee. 2011 First Team All-Nebraska selection as named by the Omaha World-Herald. 2011 First Team Super-State selection as named by the Lincoln Journal Star.
Sophomore outfielder/catcher/right-handed pitcher, Norris (Firth)
2012 Team record: 28-6 (Class B)
2012 Team standing: Lost Class B state championship to Lincoln Pius X, 2-1
2012 Batting average: .453
2012 RBI: 18
2012 Runs: 27
2012 W-L-S record: 1-0-6
2012 ERA: 1.60
2012 Strikeouts: 22
Academics: B-plus average
Collegiate destination: Undecided
How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Produced a .567 on-base percentage and an .811 slugging percentage. Owned a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. No. 21 ranked prospect in Class of 2014 as rated by Perfect Game USA. 2012 Underclassmen Preseason Second Team All-American as named by Perfect Game USA. 2011 USA Baseball 16U National Team Trials invitee. 2011 Class B First Team All-State selection as named by the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star.
Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.
Kevin Connolly: Senior outfielder, Creighton Prep (Omaha, Neb.)
Matt Jones: Senior pitcher/first baseman, Gretna (Neb.)
Matt Warren: Senior pitcher, Skutt Catholic (Omaha, Neb.)
Brayden Young: Junior pitcher, Southwest (Lincoln, Neb.)
Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.