SPRING ALL-AREA: Shelnut named LCR's Baseball Player of the Year
Tyler Shelnut takes no days off.
The high school season may be over but baseball continues for the young phenom as he’s in the midst of summer league now. The rising junior made great strides last summer, and it was evident during his sophomore campaign at Fort White.
Shelnut dominated both on the mound and at the plate. He finished the year with a team-best .426 batting average while also notching 69 strikeouts. He carried the Indians to 13 wins with his strong performances as a starting pitcher and shortstop. His consistency and versatility was enough to earn him the Lake City Reporter’s Baseball Player of the Year.
“Well, you don’t play for (awards) but you just play hard and do what you can,” he said.
Shelnut has turned heads at Fort White since his arrival last year. After a breakout freshman season, the standout utility player only improved that summer, enough to gain the attention of University of Florida. The UF commit played like a future Gator this past season – scoring runs, striking out batters, anything he could to get a win.
“Probably his biggest area (of improvement) was his offense,” Fort White coach Rick Julius said of Shelnut. “I think he was battling like .250 his freshman year and he batted .400 this year. So we put him in the leadoff spot because his on-base percentage really got up. That was probably his biggest improvement: offense.”
As one of the team’s leaders, Shelnut anchored the Indians throughout the year before an early exit, losing 2-1 against P.K. Yonge in the District 5 tournament. A tough loss for the tribe, a squad that had potential to win their first title since 2014.
“We had the talent,” he said. “We had the talent we needed to win it. We just didn’t come together at the right time. We were so evenly matched, with five (district) teams that were 6-6, so really anybody in that district could’ve won it…Everybody was so evenly matched, a lot of good teams got knocked out in the first round. I believe we had what it takes to win that district championship. It just didn’t come together at the right time. Not all cylinders were clicking in that last game.”
Shelnut is back this summer playing for his travel club, Gatorball. He recently competed in the Perfect Game National Championship showcase near Atlanta this past weekend. Shelnut plans to give his arm a rest for the remainder of summer league while polishing his skills at the plate and infield. The Fort White star hopes playing year-round will continue to pay off in the long run of his baseball career.
“Professional teams will start to take a peek at him,” Julius added. “With his size and improvement, he’ll (see) wither they think he needs to go to play college ball or if he might be ready for pro ball.”
In the meantime, Shelnut says he’s focused on improving and winning ballgames. After falling short of a district title in his first two high school seasons, the UF commit will return to fall ball season set on bringing the hardware back to Fort White. Shelnut remains confident that the Indians can accomplish their longtime goal before he hangs up his high school cleats.
“If nothing more, hopefully we can help the other guys get better and help them do something they want. Maybe a personal goal for them, not just for me, I’d like help them get better as players and as people. So we can go out into our lives and careers – maybe learn something they can carry on from playing baseball at Fort White.”
Parker was one of the team’s leaders in 2018. The senior starred in the outfield and pitched for the Indians. He hit .349 with six doubles, two triples, 12 RBIs for 13-11 Indians.
Sosa was a senior leader who started at third base for the tribe. He led Fort White to 13 wins with his big bat, hitting .345 with five doubles, one triple, 16 RBIs in 2018.
Steinruck started in center field. The senior ended the year with a .310 batting average along with seven doubles, 12 RBIs, 11 stolen bases & .990 fielding percentage.
Krieghauser was a go-to pitcher for the Tigers. The senior finished with a 2.87 ERA, 66 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched for the 4-time district champions.
Love was an ace on the mound for the Tigers. The senior standout batted .305 with six doubles, 13 RBIs; 5-5 as pitcher, 2.15 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched.