Hillsborough High star earns top award

Published August 13, 2006

Hillsborough senior pitcher/outfielder Michael Burgess, who helped lead the Terriers to the Class 5A state title game in the spring, was named the Aflac National High School Player of the Year late Friday.

Burgess was named recipient of the honor at a dinner Friday evening in San Diego, where he competed Saturday in the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic. As a result, Burgess received the Jackie Robinson Award, given to the nation's top rising senior player. Robinson's widow, Rachel, presented Burgess the award.

"There's no doubt he definitely deserved it," said Terriers coach Pat Russo, who accompanied Burgess to San Diego. "(His senior year) could be something even I've never experienced as a coach."

As a junior, Burgess hit over .500 with 12 home runs, 48 RBIs and 24 stolen bases for the Terriers, who won 30 games, district and region titles, and the Saladino Tournament.

The first two winners of the Aflac honor - Justin Upton and Cody Johnson - were first-round picks in the major league draft the following year.

LIONS BOUND FOR COLLEGE: Six players from King's 2006 district championship baseball team have signed with small colleges, coach Jim Macaluso announced.

Outfielder Alex Fernandez has signed with Division II Eckerd College, right-handed pitcher Dustin Merrell has signed with Polk Community College, and outfielder Ryan Lavrusky will attend Division III Waynesburg (Pa.) College.

Three others - pitcher/first baseman Joe Cole, shortstop Branden Blake and catcher John Dougherty - have signed with Mineral Area College, a Juco program in Park Hills, Mo.

Cole (first team) and Merrell (honorable mention) were members of the Times' 2006 All-Hillsborough County team.

The Lions finished 18-8, advancing to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.