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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014 3 years ago

Coming up clutch

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

SARASOTA — With his baseball cap tugged down to shade his eyes from the sun, Mason Dancer leaned up against the fence at Ed Smith Stadium and looked around in appreciation.

In a matter of moments, chants of “Mason, Mason, Mason,” began to reverberate through the stadium. Dancer glanced up and began grinning from ear to ear.

It was 2007, and a then 11-year-old Dancer was watching the Sarasota High baseball team in the middle of its state championship season.

As Sarasota first baseman Mason Johnson made his way to the plate with the roar of the crowd behind him, Dancer decided that one day those chants from the Sarasota faithful would be for him.

“Hearing them chant my name throughout the stadium — that was the coolest thing ever as a little kid,” Dancer says with a laugh.

Seven years later, Dancer is living out his dream on the diamond as the Sailors starting first baseman.

Dancer started out playing third base as a freshman before transitioning to first base full-time as a junior.

The two-year varsity starter has been an integral part of the Sailors defense that has only allowed 12 runs this season en route to a perfect 12-0 season.

The Sailors, who have six shutouts on the season, are now ranked No. 9 in the MaxPreps top 25 national high school baseball rankings, after rallying to defeat nationally ranked Venice 4-2 in nine innings March 21.

Sarasota advanced to the regional semifinals last season before falling to Venice 3-0. With 10 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Sailors are focused on taking each game as it comes because, when it’s all said and done, perfection only means something if it comes with a state championship ring attached.

“We really came together and have a (great) mindset,” Dancer says. “We’re just trying to take care of business. Our real focus is getting better each day to prepare for the end of the season.”

As one of nine seniors, Dancer and his teammates made it a point to come together following their season-ending loss to Venice last season and look to the future. Dancer knew what the team was capable of as long as its members stuck together.

“We’ve got a special team this year,” Dancer says. “There’s no pressure. Every time we step onto the field we have a job to do. Our focus is on the job (at hand).”

The Sailors are off to an impressive start, thanks in large part to Dancer, who is having his best season at the plate. Dancer is batting .536 with three doubles, a triple, 10 RBIs and 10 runs scored. He also has yet to commit an error in the field.

“All the extra hard work that our coaches do with us has been great,” Dancer says. “I just try to keep working hard because there’s always someone else (waiting to contend).

“I’m just trying to be more relaxed at the plate and go up with a purpose and an approach,” Dancer says. “I just try to be aggressive and ready to hit as soon as I step in the box.”

“He’s a well-rounded young man, and he’s had a great career,” coach Clyde Metcalf says. “He’s come into his own this year, and he’s having an incredible offensive year. He’s always been stellar at first base and he’s really good defensively.

“But as well as he does on the baseball field, he’s an even better person,” Metcalf says. “He’s a humble young man.”

Sarasota already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Class 7A-District 10 tournament, which begins April 22. But a district title is only the first step on what Dancer, who is in the middle of his final season on the diamond after opting not to play collegiate baseball and instead focus on academics at the University of Florida, hopes will be an amazing journey for the Sailors.

“We set a goal as a team to win a state championship,” Dancer says. “That’s our goal, and I feel like we’re getting better each and every day.

“Last year we set that goal and, unfortunately, we didn’t accomplish it,” Dancer says. “We took it with us into the offseason, and we want it now more than ever.”

10 - The number of runs Dancer has both scored and driven in so far this season.

.536 - Dancer’s batting average so far this season.

0 - The number of losses the Sarasota High baseball team has suffered this season.

2 - The number of years Dancer has been a varsity starter.

2007 - The year the Sarasota High baseball team last won a state championship.

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].


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