The Santa Fe Saints’ baseball team kicks off its 2019 campaign on Friday when they play the Hillsborough Community College Hawks in Tampa.
How Good Can The Saints Be?
The Saints head into this season with an impressive amount of momentum. Last year, the team went 39-11 overall with a 19-5 record in the Mid-Florida Conference. But Santa Fe could only manage a third-place finish in the state tournament after getting knocked off by Chipola College.
The hope is that the Saints can build off the success of 2018, but they seemingly face an uphill battle, coming in at No. 12 out of 20 teams in the NJCAA preseason poll.
A strong fall season (14-1-2) shows that this team may be better than its ranking indicates. Santa Fe’s only loss in the preseason was to the Florida Gators in a 6-5 decision.
Head coach Johnny Wiggs is entering his 13th season as Santa Fe head coach. He is asking a young but talented team to defend a Mid-Florida conference title. Three to be exact, as the team goes for its fourth conference title in a row in 2019.
How The Roster Shapes Up
Although Santa Fe lost key players in freshman Andrew Eyster, who transferred to South Carolina, and Devin Hemenway, who decided to take his talents to Florida, the team still brings back plenty of firepower from 2018.
The bats will have plenty of pop with Brock Edge (.409), Cade Westbrook (.397) and Garrett Mathes (.391) all back. They will look to improve on those already stellar numbers.
A local product, Kyler Marquis from Gainesville High School, will be thrown to the fire early, expecting to occupy the starting role at either shortstop or second base to begin the season.
The pitching staff expects to be the strength of the team with Donovan Benoit – a Tennessee transfer – and Michael Paul – a returning starter – anchoring the starting rotation.
Transfers Conner Churchill (Florida) and Emanuel Fernandez (Mississippi) are two arms that will be relied upon heavily. Newcomer Brooks Walton, a pitcher from Buchholz High School, will also be in the mix early for the Saints.
Coach Wiggs and company will face off with Georgia State College at home on Saturday to begin a doubleheader at noon. Later in the week, Tallahassee Community College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will also visit Santa Fe.