Who will be this year’s Mr. Baseball?
Next week the Florida Dairy Farmers will announce their classification winners, which will help determine this year’s Mr. Baseball and Coach of the Year.
This Friday, June 3, is the deadline for the media to submit their votes for the best baseball player and coach in Florida among the seven classifications.
A pair of University of Florida commits, Cade Kirkland of Class 3A state runner-up Berkeley Prep (Tampa) and Yoel Tejeda of 3A state champion North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek), are among the nominees in Class 3A.
But there are also a pair of FSU commits (in Class 7A), a South Carolina commit (6A), Alabama commit Max Williams of 4A Clay (Green Cove Springs), and a Mississippi State and Vanderbilt commit in Class 2A, who are also in the running for the top overall baseball player in the Sunshine State
Locally, there are several players and coaches in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area who were nominated.
Hayden Gustavson of Columbia (Lake City) is among the nominees in Class 5A after helping lead the Tigers (22-9) to their first final four in program history.
The junior catcher played in all 31 games for the Tigers and batted .372 with a team-leading 27 runs batted in. He also led his team with 14 doubles.
His coach, Chris Howard, was also nominated after leading Columbia to the state semifinals in his first year as head coach. Columbia advanced to Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers after a wild come-from-behind win against Lincoln (Tallahassee) in the region final.
Pitcher/first baseman Matthew Gill had a sensational senior season for Suwannee (Live Oak), which was ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A heading into the state semifinals.
Gill led the Bulldogs (24-5), who lost to eventual state champion Island Coast in the 4A state semifinals, with a .453 batting average, 43 hits, and 12 doubles. He tied for the team lead with 30 RBI.
His coach, Justin Bruce, is a nominee for the 4A Coach of the Year.
Pitcher Dylan Evans of Santa Fe (Alachua) is also among the list of nominees after leading the Raiders (20-7) to the 4A-District 4 title, before falling to Clay, 12-9, in 10 innings in the regional quarterfinals.
In 14 appearances, the junior was 9-0 on the mound with a 2.04 earned run average with 44 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 50 innings pitched.
The best batting average in the area belonged to P.K. Yonge’s (Gainesville) Andrew Dawson, who was nominated in Class 3A.
Despite appearing in just 16 games, the senior pitcher/infielder led the Blue Wave (12-6) in several offensive categories including batting average (.681), hits (32), doubles (11), RBI (20), and on base percentage (.727).
Dawson (4-1) also led the pitching staff with a 1.25 ERA.
There were a handful of area nominees in Class 1A as Fort White and Dixie County (Cross City) both made their first state semifinal appearances in program history.
Fort White junior outfielder Tucker Hardee (.431 BA, 15 runs, 16 RBI, 3 doubles, 4 triples, 2 HR) and head coach Rick Julius were nominated after helping lead the Indians to a 16-7 record, before falling 4-1 in the 1A state semifinals to eventual state champion Holmes County (Bonifay).
Dixie County senior pitcher/outfielder Kolton Hunt (5-3, 1.81 ERA, 54 IP, 69 strikeouts; .318 BA, 12 runs, 8 RBI) and second-year head coach Shannon Smith were nominated too.
The Bears (13-10), who were guests on “The Prep Zone” sports show a couple of weeks ago, lost to then-No. 1 Bozeman (Panama City), 8-4, in the Class 1A state semifinals at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on May 18.