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Prose and Kohn

Spring sports athletes from Sarasota take their cuts

These players have started their seasons on fire at the NCAA level.

Former Sailor Ben McCabe is now a senior catcher at UCF.
Former Sailor Ben McCabe is now a senior catcher at UCF.
Courtesy photo
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Spring always feels like the shortest season. 

Not only because of the heat — there's no real difference between early April and mid-June here, it seems — but because there's so much going on. Fans (and reporters) barely have a chance to settle in before things hit the two-month mark, as many sports have. How have NCAA softball teams managed to play 35 games already? I'll never know. 

What I do know is that it's time for a mid-season check-in on how our NCAA athletes are doing. I'm glad this recurring column has resonated with many of you — I appreciate the emails — and I'm happy to be your hub for this sort of information. As is always the case, it was difficult to include having strong seasons here. I guess the Sarasota area's athletes, as the kids say these days, are just "built different." 

All stats below are as of April 4. 

Cal junior Angela Szabo (third from left) rowed for Sarasota Crew and is now on the Golden Bears' varsity 8+ boat.
File photo
Angela Szabo, University of California-Berkeley women's rowing

Szabo, a junior who rowed with Sarasota Crew, has started the 2023 season in the No. 8 seat on Cal's varsity 8+ boat after a few seasons in the second varsity 8+ boat. Szabo and Cal — which is ranked No. 7 in the country as a team — started their season with a sixth-place finish in the varsity 8+ (6:43.51) at the competitive San Diego Crew Classic on April 2. 

Jaasiel Torres, University of North Florida men's track and field

Torres, a former two-time state high jump champion at Sarasota High, is a senior with the Ospreys. He's still got the juice: Torres finished third in the high jump (6 feet, 8 inches) at the 2023 Pepsi Florida Relays, held March 31-April 1 at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The jump was not quite equal to his personal outdoor record of 6 feet, 9.75 inches, but he could get there by the end of the season: with track and field having one of the last NCAA championships (June 7-10 in Austin, Texas), Torres has approximately two months to be at his best. 

Devyn Flaherty, Florida State University softball

Flaherty, a model of consistency, just keeps on producing. The preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference junior infielder is hitting .310 with six doubles, one triple and 12 RBIs through 35 games. There's likely something of a power surge coming, too: Flaherty averages 4.7 home runs per season, but has zero so far in 2023. That is bad news for any teams she faces in the second half of the season. 

Former Sailors pitcher Conner Whittaker is a sophomore at Florida State.
Courtesy photo
Conner Whittaker and David Barrett, Florida State University baseball

I'm grouping these former Sarasota High pitchers together since they have had similar seasons. Barrett, a junior, has made 13 appearances for the 'Noles while Whittaker, a sophomore, has made 10 (one start). Whittaker holds the innings edge 34.2 to 13.2 while Barrett's ERA of 4.61 is just under Whittaker's of 4.67. Those numbers are actually on the better end of the Seminoles staff; Florida State holds a 5.55 team ERA, one reason for their 12-15 record. If I had to guess, I'd say the former Sailors are too talented to hold those so-so numbers for long; look for a turnaround to begin before the season's end on May 20. 

MJ McMahon, University of Utah men's lacrosse

The former Cardinal Mooney star has started all nine of Utah's games in 2023. McMahon, a junior, has five goals and 13 total points, tied for sixth on the Utes. An even bigger breakout could be on the way: after posting a .408 shooting percentage in 2022, McMahon is shooting just .238 in 2023 — an uncharacteristically low percentage. The law of averages suggests that should turn around in short order, and more goals will come with it. The Utes have been doing just fine with McMahon playing how he is, however: they knocked off No. 10 Jacksonville 18-15 on March 31. 

Wyatt Plattner, who attended Cardinal Mooney High, is now a freshman at the University of Cincinnati.
File photo
Wyatt Plattner, University of Cincinnati men's golf

Plattner, a freshman out of Cardinal Mooney High, has picked up where he left the Bearcats' fall season. Plattner holds an average round of 72.65 through eight events. His best event was the Dorado Beach Collegiate, held Feb. 26-28 at the TPC Dorado Beach Resort and Club Sugarcane Course in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Plattner shot a 209 at the event and tied for 16th overall. The Bearcats won the event. 

Shelli DiPuma, University of Central Florida softball

DiPuma, a freshman, has seen action in 10 games for the Knights despite her inexperience. She has mostly been used as a pinch hitter, and she's done well in that regard. In seven plate appearances, DiPuma has walked three times, and got her first career hit on an RBI single March 22 against Arizona State. The hit came in UCF pitcher Grace Jewell's first career no-hitter, so DiPuma has already been part of UCF history. Using her this much shows a lot of trust, so big things are likely in store for the former Riverview High Ram. 

Ben McCabe, University of Central Florida baseball

Like Flaherty, McCabe, a Knights senior, has been remarkably consistent during his time at the NCAA level. But it appears that he's saved his best for last. McCabe, a catcher, is hitting .394 through 28 games, with 11 home runs, eight doubles and 23 RBIs (good for a 1.263 OPS). He also holds a .986 fielding percentage with 26 defensive assists — now just one shy of 100 for his career. If he keeps that up, I won't be surprised to see him taken in the MLB Draft come July.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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