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Sante Fe Baseball Looks for Win in Season Opener

The Sante Fe Saints Baseball team looks for its first win of the season in the home opener on Friday, January 27th. Led by Coach Johnny Wiggs in his seventeenth season as head coach, the Saints try to bounce back after a disappointing 2022 season.

Looking Back on Last Season

Coach Wiggs described the 2022 season as a “down year” to Steve Russel on Sports Scene with Steve Russel. The Saints finished the season with a 15-15 record in conference play and 27-24 overall. Although finishing the season a little over .500, the Saints fell short of the state playoff for the first time since the 2014 season. Strong hitters Tyler Shelnut and Gabriel Esquivel, who both tied the school record with nineteen home runs, contributed to a strong offense for the Saints. With both hitters not returning to Sante Fe’s roster, Coach Wiggs recognizes he has some big shoes to fill. With zero everyday starters returning from last year’s roster, this season provides a blank slate with new opportunities.

Optimism for the 2023 Season

With the lack of last season’s returning starters, Coach Wiggs is relying on hungry freshmen, sophomores and transfer athletes. Although there is a possible lack on the offensive front with the loss of Shelnut and Esquivel, Coach Wiggs feels confident in his roster’s defensive skills. Coach Wiggs’ enthusiasm about his defense was prominent on WRUF’s Sports Scene with Steve Russel.

I thought this is one of our best, especially infields, that I’ve had in a long time.

With a mix of transfers and returning pitchers, Coach Wiggs envisions the transfers will bring experience while the returners will bring the heat on the mound.

This year, the Saints’ conference has been reduced which means more competitive play and an increase in games against their conference opponents. This conference reduction doesn’t completely wipe out non-conference play. The Saints will play non-conference games up until March. The last month of the season against mostly conference opponents determines the Saints post-season plans. Because the non-conference games don’t affect the postseason, Coach Wiggs and his staff have more freedom in the early season. They can experiment with the lineup and find what works best for their team for the postseason.

The most important goal for the Saints is to find their identity as a team.

Looking Ahead

The Saints take on TNXL Academy at home at 2 p.m. on Friday, January 27. After the opener is a four-game road stretch. They return to play Lake-Sumter State College at home at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 3.

About Izzy McGarvey

Izzy McGarvey is a second-year journalism major at the University of Florida. She is specializing in sports and media.

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