By STEVE JACKSON
No more boys baseball for the five South Shore high schools this season. Like the old Brooklyn Dodgers, all five are shouting, “Wait ‘til next year!”
East Bay joined the other four ousted teams by losing last Tuesday in the first round of Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs. Coach Cody Crouse’s Indians’ bats were mostly silenced 4-0 by the St. Petersburg Green Devils after both teams drew a first round bye in 6A-D10. East Bay could only scratch out four hits as the Green Devils’ Connor Crosby hurled a complete game.
Regionals start this week without any South Shore representation. Champs and runner-ups from throughout the state will compete for the state finals in Ft. Myers, starting May 19.
Last week Bloomingdale beat St. Pete 3-2 to advance in 6A-D10. Lennard and Riverview both fell in 7A-D8, which sees advances by Riverview Sarasota and Durant after the Rams won 10-0. In 5A-D8, Sumner and Spoto are out with Auburndale beating Brandon 6-1 and both advancing.
East Bay ends with three straight losses, dropping its overall record to 15-9. The Indians were a senior-laden squad and face a huge task to rebuild next season. Top returnees include four proven pitchers, three juniors and one soph, from this season. Coach Crouse will be pleased with the return of the three juniors, Tanner Elizondo, Ben Postic and Manny Dooley, all two-game winners. Also, soph Andrew Pierce, who went 3-0, will be back on the bump. However, the Indians lose a large contingent of seniors, including top hitter Jeremy Galen and his .443 batting average with 11 RBIs. Other 2021 graduates taking some offensive firepower with them are Riley Linne, Hans Walker, Deshaun Manual, Alek Mangual and 3-0 pitcher Nate Jackson.
Over at Riverview, the 12-12 Sharks graduate four top hitters, including Kipp Kochera, who compiled a 2-2 mound record. Coach Jason Smith also bids farewell and thanks to Caden Santucci, Noland Lalond and Christian Tavarez. Coach Smith will look to re-build behind sensational soph Farah Castillo, who hit .397, and junior Nate Hook, a 4-5 pitcher.
Meanwhile, in the corral at Ruskin, Coach Victor Martinez sees a few seniors leaving but also welcomes back a cadre of proven underclassmen for the 9-13 Longhorns. Departing are plate producers Jaylin Tose and Luis Rivera with John McCool among top seniors leaving from the pitching staff. Going into his second season, Martinez expects a few returning pieces with valuable experience, including hitters Logan Covey and Alex Brazer. A pair of outstanding pitchers, soph Jack Mueller and freshman lefty Zack Bird, will also return.
Spoto struggled all year under Coach Mike Boyd in 5A-D8. But the Spartans have a few shining underclassmen with good potential to help improve this season’s 2-19 worksheet. Spoto loses multi-sport athlete senior Jonathan Dinova, who was dependable on the mound and at the dish. But it is a pair of freshmen that has the Spoto faithful excited. Peyton Nise not only went 1-0 on the mound, he compiled a .259 batting average. The other half of the frosh highlight video was pitcher Cullen Cairns, who was also 1-0 and showed greater potential.
That leaves the senior-less Sumner Stingrays. In Coach Kennedy Duran’s inaugural season, the Rays won three and lost 15 in 5A-D8. Coach Duran anticipates the return of most of his players, plus a few additions to help improve that mark. Some of the nucleus of the Rays will be junior Joe Cabrales who hit .317 and also handled some pitching chores. Behind the plate, freshman Garret Morgan is a real find. The frosh hit .308. Other stalwarts expected to contribute again include soph Theo Nudd and junior Jayden Brown.