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]

Cambridge Christian

Coach: John DiBenedetto (First season)
Last Year’s Record: 15-9
Outlook: Former Academy at the Lakes and Brandon skipper John DiBenedetto takes the helm for the Lancers after spending a few years at Florida Southern, and has some work to do as Cambridge had a deep senior class last year. DiBenedetto will have a nice keystone to build around in junior C/3B Brody Bellomo – who might have had the best breakout season last year, batting .465, with 12 doubles, four triples, three homers, 21 RBI and 33 runs scored.

Cambridge junior C/3B Brody Bellomo

Players to Watch: Will Snider, So, RHP (15 runs, 11 RBI; 11 K’s in 12 2/3 ip); PJ Blair, Sr, SS (10 RBI, 10 runs; projected closer); Will Snider, Soph, P (15 runs, 11 RBI; 10 mound appearances).

Our Take: We had a blast covering our final regular season game last year as the Lancers erased an eight-run, sixth-inning deficit at Brooks DeBartolo, keyed by a monster game from Bellomo. It’s a young team (12 underclassmen), and we don’t know too much about the Lancers pitching staff. But are excited to see the action in Class 2A-10 and where the Lancers will stack up against Seffner Christian, CDS, SLAM and the rest. Regular Season Prediction: 14-11


Coach: Dane Moore (Second season)
Last Year’s Record: 6-20
Outlook: In his second season as head coach at his alma mater, Dane Moore has a young Patriots group (just three seniors), but there is some experience returning to the team from last season. Moore said the team is focused on a winning record and doubling its win total from last season. Juniors Bryce and Brayden Nanns had solid seasons at the plate last year, and Ryan Doxater (who missed last season with an injury) will factor in significantly on the mound this season.

Freedom junior 1B Bryce Nanns

Players to Watch: Bryce Nanns, Jr, 1B (.333, 17 runs); Connor Cress, Soph, CF (20 hits, six RBI, eight stolen bases); Brayden Nanns, Jr, OF (17 hits, 13 runs, seven RBI).

Our Take: Both of the goals Moore expressed to us seem very possible for Freedom. We see double-digit win potential on the schedule. The key here to have a short memory and not let losses compound – runs of five- and eight-straight losses in 2023 – sophomores like Cress and Liam Harris need to take the next steps forward, as well as newcomers like Cade Hoffman (senior, middle infield transfer from Brooks DeBartolo) and David Simpkins (freshman pitcher) looking to make an impact immediately. Regular Season Prediction: 9-16


Coach: Jim Macaluso (49th season)
Last Year’s Record: 6-19
Outlook: King struggled out of the gate last season dropping its first five games, before a 2-1 pool play showing in the Saladino Silver Division pool round and a spot in the championship game. The Lions have a solid senior class including lefty slugger Jayden Hill, Riverview transfer Anthony Lara, and senior pitcher Enrique Fernandez heading the rotation.

King senior OF Jayden Hill

Players to Watch: Jayden Hill, Sr, OF (.323, 15 runs, 12 RBI; FAMU signee); Nico Brown, Jr, IF (.317, 13 runs, 11 RBI); Nicholas Brown, Soph, C (.292, eight RBI).

Our Take: We’re looking for King to have a bounce-back season after two tough years in a row in the W-L column. Class 4A-District 10 likely runs through Jefferson again this season, and Robinson will be a contender, but the Lions could play possible spoiler if the team finds a rhythm on the mound. Regular Season Prediction: 13-12


Coach: Alex Barron (Fifth season)
Last Year’s Record: 11-14 (region quarterfinalist)
Outlook: Lots of youth around the diamond for the Knights, but Robinson seems to relish the underdog side of things. Coach Barron is excited about the addition of senior RHP Konnor “Mooch” Lilly, an Air Force commit, who moved here from Virginia and will head the rotation.

Robinson junior C Brady Capps

Players to Watch: Brady Capps, Jr, C (returning starting catcher); Samuel Hyman, So. RHP/3B (14 hits, seven RBI; projected as the late-inning pitcher).

Our Take: Looking at last season’s record, we feel like Robinson won all the games the SHOULD have won, with a few toss-up games that didn’t go the Knights way. The focus S.O.G. this spring needs to be working on getting better in the regular season – not focus on the record – and push the 4A-District 10 favorite, Jefferson come district tournament time. Regular Season Prediction: 13-12

Seffner Christian

Coach: Sal Giardina (Eighth season)
Last Year’s Record: 17-6 (Region quarterfinalist)
Outlook: The Crusaders lost eight players from last season’s district championship team (three-straight for SCA), but don’t expect Seffner Christian to struggle. Reigning FACA District 15 2A Player of the Year and All-813Preps first teamer Ethan Duncan (.417, 26 runs, 17 RBI; 7-2, 1.62 ERA, 64 K’s; committed to Lakeland CC in Ohio) returns for his senior season and leads a group of talented upperclassmen. The Crusaders aren’t messing around, welcoming last season’s 2A state champs Lakeland Christian on opening night.

Seffner senior CF Addy Scott

Players to Watch: Garrett Morgan, Sr, C (.365, 22 RBI, two homers); Addy Scott, Sr, CF (.274, 15 runs, 14 RBI, six doubles; Coastal Alabama signee); Colin Patten, Sr, 2B (.361, 16 runs, 11 RBI)

Our Take: Duncan, Scott and Morgan are T-R-O-U-B-L-E – these dudes flat-out rake. The Crusaders lost eight seniors from last year and have built a very strong schedule – including playing in the Saladino Silver Bracket in March – but we’re still looking for a deep post-season run from Seffner Christian this year. Regular Season Prediction: 18-5