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Eye on POY: Illinois baseball

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.

Kyle Funkhouser

Senior Right-handed Pitcher, Oak Forest High (Oak Forest, IL)

2012 Team record: 24-6

2012 Team standing: Plays Olympia Fields in Regional Final, May 26

2012 W-L record: 9-1

2012 ERA: 0.71

2012 Strikeouts: 90

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: Louisville

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: First Team All-State; Conference Player of the Year; Rawlings/Perfect Game First Team All-Region.

Corey Ray

Junior Center Fielder, Simeon Career Academy (Chicago, IL)

2012 Team record: 28-7

2012 Team standing: Plays University in Regional Final, May 26

2012 Batting average: .446

2012 RBI: 43

2012 Runs: 43

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: Louisville

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: First Team Underclass All-American; First Team All-State; First Team All-City.

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 Ross: Senior Shortstop, Niles West High (Skokie, IL)

Brett Lilek: Senior Pitcher, Marian Catholic High (Chicago Heights, IL)

Ryne Roper: Junior Shortstop, Harrisburg High (Harrisburg, IL)

Jack Landwehr: Senior Third Baseman/Pitcher, Mt. Prospect High (Mt. Prospect, IL)

Tyler Leffler: Senior Pitcher/Shortstop, Benton High (Benton, IL)

Alex Young: Senior Pitcher/Outfielder, Carmel Catholic High (Mundelein, IL)

Bryce Only: Junior Third Baseman, Huntley High (Huntley, IL)

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.