Johnny Wiggs Coaches Sante Fe Baseball's Historic Start to Season. Credit Gabriella Whisler/Sante Fe College

Coach Johnny Wiggs Reflects on Historic Start to Season as Conference Play Begins Soon

By Izzy McGarvey and Regan Roberts

Coach Johnny Wiggs is in his seventeenth year as baseball head coach for the Sante Fe Saints and has recently led them to their best start in program history. The Saints sit at a comfortable 21-1 as conference play approaches quickly, starting on March 8th. They are currently on a seven-game win streak and most recently defeated the St. Petersburg Titans in both games of a doubleheader.

Early Success

It’s no secret that the Saints have been dominating recently. With twenty wins and only one loss, the Saints look almost unstoppable. Coach Wiggs attributes this early success to a number of factors. The defense has proved strong as his boys’ fielding has only seemed to have improved as the season progresses. The Saints’ fielding percentage sits at .971, number one in the state. The pitching staff has recorded 139 strikeouts on the season, and starting pitchers have been solid. The Saints offense has a batting average of .322 and a slugging percentage of .495 and is able to cover for the pitching staff when things don’t go the way they want on the mound.

I always say good teams, or teams that win a lot of games like we’ve done — sometimes when you don’t pitch, you hit. When you don’t hit, you pitch. So we’ve really been able to mix and match pretty well.

Strong Up the Middle

Although leadership can come easily to a 21-1 team, Wiggs emphasized two players who the team looks up to, Hunter Keen and Jahlani Rogers. Starting second baseman and leadoff hitter Keen and starting centerfielder Rogers have both had dominant offensive seasons so far with .356 and .390 batting averages, respectively. Rogers’ commanding offense doesn’t go without notice as he was recently named the FCSAA/NJCAA Region 8 Player of the Week a mere two weeks ago.

Coach Wiggs described Rogers as a leader with a calm demeanor and experience (as he played his two previous seasons at FGCU). In the words of Coach Wiggs:

Sometimes, you like leaders who are sometimes boisterous. A lot of times the best leaders are the guys that just have calm demeanors and lead by example.

Conference Play Approaching

Mid-Florida Conference play begins on March 8th for the Saints. Coach Wiggs would argue that’s where their season really starts and foresees some changes coming for the team.

The End Result

Even with the Saints’ strong start to the season, conference play is a brand new beginning. Coach Wiggs recognizes the importance of his team keeping their momentum to forward their goal: the playoffs.

…People won’t remember twenty-one and one. But they’ll remember if you win a state championship, you win your conference or you go to Junior College World Series, those kinds of things. So I try to keep our guys humble and by telling them that regularly and telling them we’re trying to seek for improvement.

Constantly finding ways to improve fuels Coach Wiggs’ coaching philosophy. He keeps his players humble and hopes they learn from every bad play, error and loss. His end result is finishing the season strong. Even though the Saints have started the season the best in program history, Wiggs knows how well you start is not as important as how you finish.

This is a special team. But as I tell them, it won’t be special unless we finish the season.

The Saints look to continue their dominant season at Florida State College on Monday. Their season schedule can be found here.

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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