With preseason games going on this week, we thought we would preview our Hillsborough County squads leading into the 2024 regular season. We’ll release previews on five teams a day leading up to our BIG 813Preps Top 15 Preseason Rankings on Sunday.

[Teams were selected in order of coaches’ response to our survey; then listed in alphabetic order]


Coach: Shawn Queen (1st season)
Last Year’s Record: 16-9
Outlook: Armwood’s 2023 season was its best in more than a decade, including a Saladino Bronze Tournament championship and district runner-up finish. Shawn Queen, who was a member of the last district championship Hawks team, takes over as the new head coach.

Armwood senior Matthew Hall.

Players to Watch: Senior Matthew Hall, RHP/IF (.327, 18 runs, 12 RBI; 4-0, 2.25 ERA on the mound); Camp College signee); senior Tyler Corns, RHP (3-0, 1.75 ERA); and sophomore Owen Leever, RHP (2-0, 1.02 ERA).

Our Take: The Hawks will be a young team, which we think is a good thing for a new coach trying to implement his philosophy. Armwood lost its top hitters Antonio Rodriguez and KJ Leshko to graduation, and Chase Conti, who had a huge two-way impact last season has transferred to Crest, so the Hawks will need a leader to step up. Our bet: Matthew Hall is already a veteran leader, stepping up big for this program. Hall has played in 68 varsity games at Armwood – he will be a key factor for the Hawks success. Regular Season Prediction: 8-12

East Bay

Coach: Rowland Ruiz (Second season)
Last Year’s Record: 4-17
Outlook: Coach Ruiz said the point of emphasis for the Indians this season is on avoiding giving up the “big inning,” which sank East Bay a few times last season. He’s also calling for his team to play with passion over emotion, and will look to returning seniors and the middle of his infield Andrew Gingrich and Bobby Hayes, and junior outfielder Rory Beauford to be key in setting the tone for his team. Newcomer senior RHP’s Mike Mowel and Brandon-transfer Marlon Garcia (East Georgia signee) will lead the rotation.

East Bay senior SS Bobby Hayes

Players to Watch: Rory Beauford, Jr, OF (.297, 22 RBI, 13 runs, eight doubles); Andrew Gingrich, Sr, 2B (18 runs, 13 BB, four doubles; Brewton Parker signee); Bobby Hayes, Sr, SS (10 runs, five stolen bases; Greensboro College signee).

Our Take: East Bay needs to take advantage of a favorable early season schedule, and pick up as many wins as they can before business picks up considerably in Game 10 vs Durant, kicking off a very tough run including district opponents Bloomingdale, Lennard and Plant City starting in late March. Regular Season Prediction: 7-15


Coach: Bryan Burgess (Fifth season)
Last Year’s Record: 9-15
Outlook: In comparison to previous seasons, 2023 was a bit of a mixed bag for Big Red. The Terriers battled offensively last season, averaging nearly five runs per game. Hillsborough went 4-3 in games decided by two runs or less – and did so without any significant senior production. This year, senior Antonio Davis will be a key part of the Terriers offense, as well as on the mound – where he will pair with Kyler Martin and Aiden Morales (18 K’s in 13+ innings last year), as the three righties will eat a lot of innings.

Hillsborough senior P/OF Antonio Davis

Players To Watch: Antonio Davis, Sr, RHP/OF (.329, 19 runs); Nelson Arbolaez, Sr, UT (22 RBI, three homers); Curtis Roberts, Jr, OF (.343, 13 runs, 10 RBI).

Our Take: Hillsborough was young last year, so we look to see growth from a team returning most of its starters from 2023. The competition in 6A-9 should make for a very fun district, where we think the Terriers could play spoiler come district tourney time. Quality starts on the mound will be crucial for a team that has shown it will support its pitcher(s) with runs. Regular Season Prediction: 13-10

Plant City

Coach: Michael Fryrear (12th season)
Last Year’s Record: 14-13 (region quarterfinalist)
Outlook: The Raiders started a little sluggish last season, but closed the regular season on a tear in 2023. A young team for The City this spring is hungry according to Fryrear, but there are some challenges ahead. Chief among them is the departure of all but one inning on the mound from last season – that being from now-sophomore righty Jake Carbaugh, who now partners with hard-throwing 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior RHP Wellington Hehn (FAMU signee) starting on the mound.

Plant City senior OF Colin Pellicer

Players to Watch: Colin Pellicer, Sr, OF (four leadoff homers, .289, 22 runs, 10 RBI, 18 stolen bases); Aiden Bean, Sr, C (returning starting catcher).

Our Take: Our Magic 8-Ball on the Raiders came up: “ask again later.” We anticipate PC to be a competitive team that the county’s top teams (most of whom have the Raiders on the schedule) should NOT take lightly. But there are a lot of new faces in key spots. Key returner Colin Pellicer creates havoc on the diamond and is six swipes away from the school’s career stolen base mark, and he’ll need to by the catalyst for Raider success. Regular Season Prediction: 12-13


Coach: Stephan Knight (Third season)
Last Year’s Record: 10-14
Outlook: The Spartans took a big step last season winning more games than Spoto had in the previous five seasons combined. Returning senior Peyton Nisy and Cullen Cairns will be leaders on the mound (the duo combined for 94 innings in ’23) and in the lineup. The Spartans had five losses last year decided by a run – flipping those types of games will go a long way toward turning a 10-win season into a .500+ season.

Spoto senior SS/RHP Peyton Nisy

Players to Watch: Peyton Nisy, Sr, SS/RHP (.260, 13 runs, 14 RBI; 41 K’s in 57+ innings); Cullen Cairns, Sr, 1B/RHP (13 runs, 13 RBI; 120 career strikeouts); D’Andre Woods, Sr, LHP/CF (transfer from Blake, who will factor in the starting rotation).

Our Take: Embrace the chip, relish the underdog status. Simply put: come district tournament time, Jesuit is likely taking the 5A-9 crown again; and Parrish Community returns a LOT of key players from a 19-8 season and region quarterfinal berth. But behind two senior arms that have accrued 243 innings over three years, we think Spoto can fight for a region spot. Regular Season Prediction: 13-12