The 2022-2023 high school season is over, which fills me with a mix of emotions.
It's always nice to be done with the rush of a sports season for a few months each summer, but by the end of it, I'll be yearning for the hustle and bustle of high school sports once again.
Before I leave this past season behind, I wanted to put together an under-the-radar list for some exceptional athletes who emerged during the spring sports season.
There are plenty of athletes who deserve recognition out there. But these are the ones who caught my eye for one reason or another. Most of them played on teams that struggled. To me, a strong statistical season that occurs in the middle of a tough team season has some extra spice on it. It means that the player in question didn't give in, didn't stop pushing, even when they could have and no one would notice (or blame them).
Here's the players who deserved some attention this spring season.
Mykelah Davis, Lakewood Ranch High flag football
Most of East County's flag football attention has fallen on Braden River High's program in recent seasons due to the Pirates' dominance, but that does not mean people should overlook what Mykelah Davis has been doing at Lakewood Ranch High.
Davis, a senior running back, had 76 carries for 802 yards (10.55 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns while adding 22 catches for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Her efforts helped lead the Mustangs to an 8-6 record.
On May 22, she was named the All-Manatee County Co-Offensive Player of the Year alongside Braden River junior quarterback Cydnee Brooks.
Jayden Probasco, Lakewood Ranch High boys lacrosse
While junior attacker Lucas Anthony was scoring a lot of goals for the Mustangs boys lacrosse team, someone had to be protecting the other net. That someone was senior Jayden Probasco, and he did an admirable job.
Probasco held a .633 save percentage in 2023, which ranked 14th overall in Class 2A. He did so while facing 392 shots, a higher number than 10 of the 14 goalkeepers in front of him on the save percentage list. In the high-scoring world of lacrosse, Probasco was as close to a brick wall as you can find at the high school level.
Unfortunately for Probasco, the sheer volume of shots he faced meant he gave up more than he'd probably like, and the Mustangs finished 7-9. But that was a defensive problem. Probasco held tall.
Emma Arrigo, The Out-of-Door Academy girls lacrosse
After a resurgent 2022 season that saw the ODA girls lacrosse team finish 15-2, the team struggled in 2023, going 4-13, thanks to the departure of multiple key players. That didn't stop junior Emma Arrigo from trying her best to pull the team together.
Arrigo finished the 2023 season with 53 goals (3.8 goals per game) and nine assists. Only two other Thunder players, sophomores Ellie Hierholzer (35) and McKenna Larkin (10), had double-digit goal totals. It was not an easy season, but Arrigo made the best of it.
Rhys Klein, Braden River High baseball
The Braden River High baseball program finished 12-12 in 2023, but it has a promising pitcher to lean on next season.
Sophomore Rhys Klein finished 2023 with a 2-3 record and a 3.31 ERA in 42.1 innings, but his underlying numbers are better than his surface numbers, which are bogged down by one March 21 game against Sarasota High in which he allowed 10 earned runs — half of his season total.
If that game is treated like an aberration and taken out of the equation, Klein's overall numbers look sharp: 39.1 innings pitched and a 1.79 ERA. He even proved that he could rebound against Sarasota, holding the Sailors to two earned runs over 5.2 innings the next time he faced them. It bodes well for his outlook in 2024 and beyond.
Jake Karam, Braden River High boys weightlifting
Junior weightlifter Jake Karam did not quite medal at the FHSAA Class 2A state meet, held April 14-15 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, in the 154-pound division, but he came close.
Karam finished fourth in his weight class at the meet, finished with a total lift of 515 pounds in the Traditional category. Karam was also fifth in the Olympic weightlifting category, with a total lift of 445 pounds.
Olivia Carr, Lakewood Ranch High softball
It is strange to include a Mustangs softball player on a list like this one, as the team is usually getting a lot of attention this time of year. They won state titles in 2021 and 2022. But in a season where Lakewood Ranch finished 16-11 and failed to win its district tournament, freshman Olivia Carr showed that there's still plenty of talent in the Mustangs' pipeline.
Carr, a pitcher, gave the Lakewood Ranch staff confidence to rest junior ace Ella Dodge when necessary. Carr pitched 60.1 innings to Dodge's 91.2 and held her own, earning a 1.39 ERA with 68 strikeouts and just 19 walks. Her play should give the Mustangs a nice 1-2 punch at pitcher again in 2024.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.