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 centerfielder, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens)
2012 Team record: 21-6 (Class 6A)
2012 Team standing: Did not qualify for Class 6A state tournament
2012 Batting average: .603
2012 RBI: 34
2012 Runs: 42
Academics: B average
Collegiate destination: University of Miami
How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Produced a .667 on-base percentage and .977 slugging percentage. No. 11 ranked prospect in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS. 2011 USA Baseball Player of the Year. 2011 USA Baseball 18U National Team Most Valuable Player (Pan American Games gold medalist). 2011 All-American as named by Perfect Game and Louisville Slugger. 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic participant.
Lance McCullers Jr.
Senior right-handed pitcher/shortstop, Jesuit (Tampa)
2012 Team record: 28-2 (Class 5A)
2012 Team standing: Lost Class 5A state semifinal to American Heritage, 3-0 (8 inn.)
2012 W-L record: 13-0
2012 ERA: 0.18
2012 Strikeouts: 140
2012 Batting average: .280
2012 RBI: 21
2012 Runs: 27
Academics: B average
Collegiate destination: University of Florida
How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Allowed only two earned runs in 77.1 innings pitched. Owned a 4.7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. No. 15 ranked prospect in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS. 2011 Jackie Robinson Award winner. 2011 All-American as named by ESPNHS, Baseball America, Perfect Game, MaxPreps and Louisville Slugger. 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic participant. 2011 Under Armour All-America Game participant. 2011 Class 4A Player of the Year as named by the Florida Dairy Farmers Association. 2010 USA Baseball 18U National Team member.
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.
Zach Eflin: Senior right-handed pitcher, Paul J. Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.)
Nick Travieso: Senior right-handed pitcher, Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.)
Walker Weickel: Senior right-handed pitcher, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
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.