Photos courtesy of Nancy Nahas.

The defending 6A state champion Bloomingdale Bulls have stayed busy this off-season with a record five players signing to play at the next level. On May 11, the program made history, winning its first state title. The Bulls defeated Fleming Island High School 5-1 in the FHSAA Class 6A State Championship at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Now, they set a different record in terms of number of signees in a class.

Shortstop Colby Shelton signed with the University of Alabama. He was a key player during the Bulls’ championship run, as the team’s best hitter in a stacked lineup, batting in the middle of the order. He led Bloomingdale with a .405 batting average, five home runs and 24 runs batted in. He plans on majoring in business. Shelton might have a tough decision to make if he gets selected in the upcoming MLB draft over the summer.

“It’s a dream come true, just all the hard work that pays off over the long 12-year journey that it is when you start playing T-ball as a kid,” said Shelton. “It’s really exciting that I achieved my goal and I’m moving on to another chapter in life after high school.”

The Bulls’ ace pitcher, Jack Owens, signed to play at Stetson University. Owens led his team to a win in the state semifinal against Dwyer High School to reach the state championship. He led the Bulls with an 8-2 record and a 1.04 ERA. Owens liked Stetson because it’s a smaller school where he felt he could adapt better. He is undecided on his major as of right now.

“It’s a huge feeling honestly. I didn’t really think I was really good at baseball probably until I was a freshman in high school—so at that stage, it’s kind of like ‘let’s get to work,’” said Owens. “It was a lot of hours, a lot of days at practice, and for me to just get to this place makes me really happy. It’s not just for me, but for the other four guys up on that stage that really worked hard.”

Outfielder Drake Harman signed with Santa Fe College. He was a key cog in the lineup for the Bulls last season batting leadoff and playing great defense. He batted .402 with 37 hits, 12 runs batted in and a home run, with a .966 fielding percentage. He wants to major in sports management. It hasn’t always been easy for the senior outfielder.

“It’s been an up-and-down road that started off a little rough,” said Harman. “I didn’t know where baseball was going to take me at first. I stuck to the sport, even through ups and downs, and it took me to where I am today. Just getting the relief off of my shoulders by signing to Santa Fe is amazing. My teammates and coaches always believed in me and helped me get to where I am today.”

Plant transfer pitcher Stephen Montgomery signed with Iowa Western. He hopes to bring a boost to the Bulls’ pitching staff that lost a couple of key players due to graduation. He will not only pitch but also play right field and bat in the lineup as well. He plans on majoring either in sports management or sports marketing. His ultimate goal is to get drafted by a major league team.

“Ever since my freshman year when I saw the seniors sign, it felt like it was such a long time away; within a blink of an eye, I’m here signing and it’s a great feeling.”

Pitcher Chase Chappell signed to play at Santa Fe College. Chappell was one of many heroes in the 5-1 state championship win over Fleming Island High School. He was called upon in relief of senior Florida International University signee David Eckaus in the fourth inning, where he promptly got out of a jam with runners on first and second with no outs and an inherited 2-0 count. He recorded the last 12 outs to preserve his team’s victory. He plans on majoring in criminal justice, and he is happy to join fellow Bull Drake Harman at Santa Fe.

“It’s really eye-opening, because I see all of our teammates, especially the five of us and everybody at Bloomingdale, put in all the hard work in everything that we do here to accomplish getting to that next level,” said Chappell.

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.