Area stars, coaches in running for state honors

The balloting for Florida Mr. Baseball and Coach of the Year has begun.

Like softball, Class 1A leads the way.

The frontrunner for Class 1A Coach of the Year is Newberry's Mike Spina, who led the Panthers to their first baseball state title in program history.

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Newberry (25-1), which finished the season with a 19-game winning streak, came back from a 5-1 deficit to beat No. 1 Chipley, 7-5, for the Class 1A state title at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on May 20. 

Union County (Lake Butler) coach Travis Rimes and Chris Howard of Hamilton County (Jasper) were also nominated for 1A Coach of the Year.

Rimes led the Tigers to a No. 1 ranking during the season but lost to Howard and the Trojans in a regional final. Howard, who is expected to be the next head coach at Columbia (Lake City), lost to Newberry in the state semifinals.

Two Newberry players were nominated for 1A Player of the Year.

Senior pitcher Luke Ridley finished 7-0 with a 1.02 earned run average. He had 110 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched.

Ridley, who is committed to Parkland, tossed a one-hitter in the state semifinals. He finished with 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings in a 3-2 win against Hamilton County to send the Panthers to their first state title appearance since 1979.

“The kid can pitch,” Spina said. “He’s dangerous when he’s on the bump.”

Newberry pitcher Luke Ridley

Teammate Justen Crews, a Tallahassee Community College commit, was also nominated after batting .584 with 11 doubles, six home runs, 46 runs scored, and 29 RBI.

“He, in my opinion, is the most dangerous lead-off hitter I’ve seen,” Spina said.

Union County’s Tripp Davis was also among the nominees for 1A Player of the Year.

Davis went 7-2 on the mound for the Tigers with a 2.35 ERA. 

“Tripp really had a great year,” Rimes said. “He was our bulldog on the mound. He worked extremely hard this past fall getting his velocity up to 87. He really set the tone for us in a lot of the close wins early in the season.”

The senior also did damage with his bat.

Rimes described Davis as “a great two-strike approach having only eight strikeouts in 102 plate appearances.” He batted .350 and also led Union County with 26 RBI.

Williston senior P/OF Anthony Griffith was a nominee after finishing 4-3 with a 2.20 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. He also batted .268 with 18 runs scored and 14 RBI.

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) pitcher Levent Eldem was nominated in Class 2A after finishing 3-4 with a 2.53 ERA for the 2A-District 2 runner-up Eagles.

Keystone Heights’ INF Carsen O’Steen (.370 BA, 4 2B, 25 RS, 11 RBI) was nominated in 3A, along with Indians’ coach Alan Mattox after winning the 3A-District 3 title, as well as coach Rob Brunson of P.K. Yonge (Gainesville).

Travis Yeckring

In Class 4A, Suwannee (Live Oak) coach Justin Bruce and Santa Fe (Alachua) coach Travis Yeckring were nominated for Coach of the Year.

The list of nominees for 4A Player of the Year include INF Ryan LaNeave of Suwannee, who batted .407 with 12 doubles, and 23 runs scored, and pitcher Ryan Brown of Santa Fe, who was 10-1 with a 0.20 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched.

“He was special every time he took the ball and the caliber of teams he pitched against made it even more impressive,” noted Yeckring. “He could throw four pitches for strikes and locate his fastball to both sides of the plate, and he had advanced pitchability for his age. He finished 2nd in the state in ERA and tied for 4th in wins regardless of classification.”

And in Class 6A, Buchholz’s Caden Kresak (3-0, 0.73 ERA, 48 IP, 58Ks; .284 BA, 24 RS) and Bobcats’ coach Ron Brooks, who made the state playoffs and finished 18-7 this season, were nominees.

Once the classification winners are announced, sports reporters will vote for an overall Player of the Year, or Mr. Baseball, and the overall Coach of the Year amon the seven classifications.

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