The hardware just keeps rolling in for Free State High junior pitcher Cody Kukuk.
Already the recipient of the Class 6A state player of the year and Sunflower League player of the year awards for the 2010 season, Kukuk learned Wednesday he’d been named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in the state — the highest state-wide honor bestowed upon a prep player.
“I knew I got nominated for it, but I didn’t really think a junior would get it,” said Kukuk, who is already committed to play baseball at Kansas University. “I’m very honored, and hopefully I can live up to it (next year).”
The 6-foot-4 left-hander stood out this spring by doing a little bit of everything for the Firebirds, who finished fourth in last weekend’s Class 6A state tournament at KU’s Hoglund Ballpark.
In addition to going 9-0 with a 0.92 earned-run average as the team’s top pitcher, Kukuk tallied team-highs in batting average (.354) home runs (eight) and RBIs (35) for the Firebirds, a season Free State coach Mike Hill agreed was one of the most memorable in recent city history.
“Typically, when you see a player who excels at the 6A level, it’s because he’s dominant in one facet of the game — a great hitter, great pitcher, great defensively,” Hill said. “In Cody’s case, he’s all three.”
Last year’s Gatorade player of the year winner, Garrett Gould of Maize, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of last year’s major-league draft, and Kukuk, who many believe could be a potential draft pick following his senior season, will be looking to conclude his career next spring as a back-to-back winner of the award.
“I’m going to have to try to live up to that expectation next year,” Kukuk said. “So I’m going to work real hard this summer, just keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully it will work out.”
Kukuk was one of five city players to be named to the Class 6A all-state roster.
Free State pitcher Colin Toalson was named first-team all-state as a closer, while Lawrence High pitcher Albert Minnis and Free State outfielder Connor Stremel and designated hitter Tim Lewis were second-team selections.
In addition, Kukuk (outfield and pitcher), Lewis (designated hitter), Minnis (pitcher) and Toalson (closer) were named first-team All-Sunflower League. Second-team selections included Stremel (outfield) and Lawrence High’s Landon Moseley (shortstop).