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Eye on POY: Virginia baseball

The window on the Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Nathan Kirby

Senior left-handed pitcher, James River (Midlothian, Va.)

2012 Team record: 15-5 (Group AAA)

2012 Team standing: Group AAA state tournament begins on June 5

2012 W-L record: 7-1

2012 ERA: 1.31

2012 Strikeouts: 63

2012 Batting average: .444

2012 RBI: 11

2012 Runs: 9

Academics: A-minus average

Collegiate destination: University of Virginia

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Owns a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio while striking out 1.5 batters per inning. No. 33 ranked prospect in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS. 2012 Dominion District Co-Player of the Year. 2012 Preseason Second Team All-American as named by Perfect Game USA. 2012 Preseason First Team All-State selection as named by ESPNHS. 2011 East Coast Professional Showcase participant. 2011 Perfect Game USA National Showcase participant. 2011 Preseason Underclassmen Third Team All-American as named by Perfect Game USA. 2010 Preseason Underclassmen Honorable Mention All-American as named by Perfect Game USA. 2010 Junior National Showcase participant.

Luke Lowery

Senior catcher, Cosby (Midlothian, Va.)

2012 Team record: 16-4 (Group AAA)

2012 Team standing: Group AAA state tournament begins on June 5

2012 Batting average: .475

2012 RBI: 17

2012 Runs: 20

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: East Carolina University

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Producing a .597 on-base percentage and .771 slugging percentage. Owns a .981 fielding percentage. 2012 Dominion District Co-Player of the Year. 2012 Preseason First Team All-Region selection as named by Perfect Game USA. 2012 Preseason First Team All-State selection as named by ESPNHS. 2011 East Coast Professional Showcase participant. 2011 Perfect Game USA National Showcase participant. 2011 Preseason Underclassmen Third Team All-American as named by Perfect Game USA. 2011 Second Team All-State selection; 2010 Junior National Showcase participant.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Trevor Clifton: Junior right-handed pitcher, Heritage (Newport News, Va.)

Josh Henderson: Senior outfielder, First Baptist Christian (Suffolk, Va.)

Andy McGuire: Junior shortstop/right-handed pitcher, James Madison (Vienna, Va.)

Jack Wynkoop: Senior LHP/1B, Cape Henry Collegiate School (Virginia Beach, Va.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.