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Spartans baseball top area target

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/69

ORANGE PARK - Former University of Alabama legend football coach Nick Saban once quipped that a preseason number one ranking is not as good as it seems because the only place to go is down. For St. …

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Spartans baseball top area target


Posted

ORANGE PARK - Former University of Alabama legend football coach Nick Saban once quipped that a preseason number one ranking is not as good as it seems because the only place to go is down.

For St. Johns Country Day School baseball, that epic forecast is a bit of the intrigue for the 2024 baseball season as area teams start to crank up with preseason games this week and regular season games next.
"The plan is to win that final game," said St. Johns senior Kody Daneault, a .500 hitter according to Spartan coach Tom Lucas. "That's our focus."
For Lucas, who lost 5-2 in the Class 2A championship game to Lakeland Christian, ironically, the same school that ended the St. Johns girls soccer team's 11-title streak last year, the roster for 2024 is loaded with some batting firepower and a wicked fast senior pitcher that hit some 95-97 miles per hour clockings in a Saturday team scrimmage amidst a cadre of national baseball scouts with radar guns.
"I don't think so much that they have a chip on their shoulders because we lost that game and the one two years ago, but I think they think mostly that they would like to get beat playing their best," said Lucas, who also lost 5-3 two years ago to Out-of-Door Academy in the Class 2A final. "Twice that we got there and we haven't played our best in the final game."
On the Spartan's starting rotation, Lucas has the unenviable task of melding a team of 10 college signees to grab that championship trophy in May.
"Ten signees this year and a lot of talent," said Lucas. "Between the University of North Florida and Flagler College, we have a bunch of guys going to both schools."
Lucas' roster has top-tier names on it like Kyle Boylston, Daneault, Jack Ensell, Connor O' Steen, Trevor Bradley, Kolt Myers, James Gilson, Collin Briggs and Seth Alford as a senior strong list, but the latest addition is a senior pitcher, Schyuler Sandford, from Bartram Trail.
"He was a homeschooler the past three years and played at Bartram Trail and has been ranked number two in the country," said Lucas. "He's been around 95-97 miles per hour on the mound so far."
At Saturday's scrimmage, Sandford was wowing scouts with his speed as Lucas' strong batting lineup challenged the hurler.
"Our bats will be strong led by Daneault, Boylston of course, with Myers with Seth Alford and George to follow," said Lucas. "We got probably eight in a row that can crush the boys. Hunter Rodgers, a sophomore, will take over at catcher so George can play first base."
Lucas mentioned that former Spartan Brad Hodges, who played for Virginia in the College World Series last year, will be in the area with a series of games at the Jax College Baseball Classic on Feb. 23-24 at 121 Financial Ballpark (Home of Jumbo Shrimp) with Virginia set to play Wichita State at 2 p.m. on Fri. Feb. 23 and Iowa on Sat., Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. Virginia will end the tourney with a Sunday game against Auburn at 4 p.m.