Winning ball games and doing well are nice goals to have in sports.
But on the junior college level, the goal, as St. Johns River State College baseball coach and athletic director Ross Jones said, is development.
“If you are doing the development part right, then the wins happen,” Jones said. “Baseball is a game of skill. There’s a huge difference between talent and skill. Talent an help you win some games, but skill will help you win championships. That’s the difference. Obviously, if you are doing the skill right, the wins take care of itself.”
And it’s that skill and development that will help nine St. Johns River players from this past season move on to the next level as all have signed to play at four-year colleges starting next year.
Kerry Carpenter, who was named to the Mid-Florida Conference first team, and pitcher Jaison Heard, will continue to play at Virginia Tech next year, while second baseman Joey Bellini, another first-team member of the All-Mid-Florida Conference team, will play at Cincinnati. A third member of the first team, pitcher Jagger McCoy, will play next year at Jacksonville University.
Matt Marini, an All-Mid-Florida Conference second-team choice, is moving on to pitch at the University of South Florida. Also moving on after finishing their careers as Vikings are pitchers Austin Parsley, going on to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and Zach Blankenship, moving on to Valdosta State in Georgia, first baseman Jimmy Goldsmith, who will play at Radford in Virginia, and outfielder Joe Gunn, who takes his talents to Penn State.
Another sophomore on the team, Pablo Cedeno, an infielder and catcher who hit .275 with three home runs, 23 RBI and 22 runs scored, will walk on to the University of Central Florida as he is going there on academic scholarship, according to Jones.
Then again, getting baseball players to move on to a four-year school has been a success for Jones, especially the last three years.
“Last year, we had 16 out of 16 players play at a four-year school and the year before that, we went 15 out of 15 with players move on to a four-year school,” Jones said. “When you look back at our first few years with the program (Jones started at SJRSC in 2009), we were getting guys to play at smaller four-year programs and there’s nothing wrong with that, but now, we’ve got kids to play at bigger universities, like Hunter Alexander at Alabama where he played two years at shortstop, and Nathaniel Lowe at Mississippi State, where he was at first base. The important thing is to able to show things to guys and tell them, ‘This is where our kids go – to schools like Missouri, Coastal Carolina, USF, Mississippi State and Alabama.”
Carpenter hit .433 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, while scoring 51 runs for the Vikings this spring. Bellini hit .377 with three home runs and 25 RBI and 43 runs scored. Gunn hit .235 with a home run and 18 RBI with 27 runs scored. Goldsmith, who missed time with a broken wrist, hit .361 with seven home runs and 27 RBI with 26 runs scored.
On the mound, Marini finished with a 3.55 earned-run average with 15 walks and 51 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings, while compiling a 5-2 record with a save. McCoy was 1-1 with four saves and a 1.85 ERA with seven walks and 51 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. Blankenship was 2-1 with a 5.92 ERA, walking 12 and striking out 28 in 24 1/3 innings. Heard was 3-5 with 60 strikeouts with 64 1/3 innings and 20 walks with a 4.90 ERA. And Parsley was 1-0 with a 5.71 ERA. He had seven walks and 21 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings.
The Vikings finished 32-18 and were third in the Mid-Florida Conference, losing a conference opening-round playoff game with Lake-Sumter, marking the first time the Vikings missed the state tournament since 2012.