Staff ace and shortstop get Flagler in winning groove
By Devon Jeffreys
Photo by Glenn Judah
PHOTO CAPTION: Saints pitcher Brad Jackson delivers during a game vs. Bethel College.
Saints baseball team continues to show that they are a threat in the Florida Sun Conference this season and have a very good chance to make it to the NAIA World Series in their last NAIA season.
With a record of 16-12 overall and 6-3 in conference, the Saints are making their way up the FSC standings and have their sights set on a berth in the World Series. From Feb. 25 to March 10, the Saints reeled off a seven-game winning streak where everything was clicking.
“We put together a nice string of games defensively, offensively and very solid pitching,” Head Coach Dave Barnett said.
Since the beginning of the winning streak, the Saints have been keyed by strong pitching performances. A 9-4 loss to Warner Southern in the first game of a doubleheader left the Saints in danger of being swept in a crucial conference series.
In the nightcap, the Saints sent sophomore ace Wes Burgess to the hill and he delivered in a big way.
Burgess came out firing and needed just 62 pitches in recording a complete game four-hit shutout victory. The loss that night remains the only one first place Warner Southern has in conference play. The Saints followed with a victory over Bethel College and a three-game sweep of conference opponent Florida Memorial in Opa Locka.
Again it was Burgess who stepped to the hill for the second half of a doubleheader and he was even more masterful the second time around. Burgess carried a perfect game into the final inning and although it was broken up by a leadoff double, Burgess held on for a complete game, one hit shutout.
After receiving a no decision in a Saints victory on March 10, Burgess is 3-2 with a 2.29 earned run average and has put his rocky start to the year behind him.
“He’s been thinking about what he did last year and trying to go back to that,” teammate Glenn Kiture said of Burgess. “When he came out here he had a lot of pressure on him because he had the good year and he was supposed to be our big guy and he put too much on himself. Now he’s just coming out and pitching the way he can.”
Burgess’ 7-3 record and 3.40 ERA last season made him an easy choice as staff ace this year.
The pitching staff has not been the only thing leading the Saints. The offense put up 33 runs in the Florida Memorial series and have made it a lot easier on the pitchers.
Leading the offensive charge has been senior shortstop Randy Miller. Miller’s .452 average through March 11 is tops in the FSC and his 22 RBIs are second.
“Randy Miller has been on fire,” Barnett said. “He’s really tearing it up.”
The Saints will need to keep up the strong hitting as they head into a stretch of eight games in 12 days from March 14 to March 26. From there they turn their attention to a big conference series with Webber International and Embry-Riddle.
How the Saints fare over the next month will help decide where they will stand when regional competition rolls around.