Hillsborough County player of the year is Alonso's three-time MVP and the key to the Ravens' first state tournament appearance.
By MIKE READLING
Published June 4, 2004
TAMPA - For three years Michael Harley has been Alonso's leader.
He was the MVP of the Ravens inaugural team in 2002 when he led the squad in hitting.
He was there last season as a junior, when he established himself as one of the best pitchers in the county and was again MVP.
And he was there this season, when he helped lead the Ravens to their first state tournament appearance, recorded the Ravens' highest batting average, compiled the team's best pitching record and, that's right, was named MVP.
It is that kind of consistency that Alonso coach Landy Faedo thinks about when you ask him to describe Harley.
"He gave us a chance to win every game he was in and he put the numbers up every year," Faedo said.
It's also that type of consistency that propelled Harley to the forefront of a deep group of Hillsborough County pitchers and led to his being named the Times player of the year.
Consistency has been Harley's strongest suit since he began at Alonso as a sophomore.
When he arrived on campus for the first time, the baseball field was a sand lot and his team was young. He finished the season 1-7 but his ERA was 1.10.
This season he entered the state tournament with a 9-1 record, a 1.21 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 81 innings. He was pitching the biggest game of his life in the biggest venue he'd ever pitched in and in front of a huge home crowd.
In typical Harley fashion, you could never tell.
"His demeanor was the same," Faedo said. "He, and the rest of the team, approached it like it was any other game."
In many ways it was like any other game for the University of Tampa-bound senior who has been celebrating his graduation with a vacation in Mexico.
He held Nova hitless into the fifth inning, allowed only two hits in seven-plus innings and struck out seven. The only bad part was that Nova managed to score twice and ruin what was otherwise an outstanding outing by winning 2-1.
Harley wasn't just a defensive force, however.
He led the team in hitting two out of three years, including this season when he hit .342. He drove in 22 and, in a fitting end to his career, recorded the only extra-base hit for either team in the state semifinal when he ripped a double at Legends Field.
Faedo referred to Harley as an Alonso alum - words that still don't sound right - but knows Graduation Day wasn't the last time his leading player will set foot on Alonso's campus.
"Michael has been a good baseball player for three years," Faedo said. "But he's a good person, too. He's the kind of individual you want. An individual you can rely on, who's going to come through no matter if it's baseball or life. I know Michael will stay in touch and help out this program in the future."