- May 25, 2023
The end is nigh.
After softball finishes in the next few days or weeks — Sarasota High (21-4) is still alive as of May 15 — and the Florida High School Athletic Association's track and field championships are held this week in Jacksonville at the University of North Florida, the spring high school sports season will be over, and thus, so will the 2022-2023 high school season.
This time of year always fills me with a mix of emotions. It's always nice to be done with the rush of a season for a few months each summer, but by the end of it, I'll be yearning for the hustle and bustle of high school sports once again. Before I take a breath and check out on high school sports, though, I wanted to put together a final under-the-radar list for the spring sports season.
Like always, these players are not the only ones who deserve recognition and haven't received it (to this point, anyway). There are plenty out there. But these are the ones that caught my eye for one reason or another. Most of them played on teams that struggled. To me, a strong statistical season that occurs in the middle of a tough team season has some extra spice on it. It means that the player in question didn't give in, didn't stop pushing, even when they could have and no one would notice (or blame them).
Here's the players that earned my attention this spring season.
The Rams had a disappointing season by their recent standards, finishing with a 9-17 record, but junior pitcher William St. Onge did work whenever he took the mound. St. Onge pitched 29.2 innings, tied with sophomore Caden Sladek for the team lead, and had a 2.12 ERA. The details get even more interesting: St. Onge had a batting average against of just .205.
There's room for him to improve in 2024, too. St. Onge allowed 25 walks, nearly one per inning, which occasionally got him into trouble when he otherwise would not have been. If he can clean up the accuracy a bit, he has a chance at a huge 2024 season.
The Cougars had the epitome of an all-or-nothing season. The team finished 4-8, and all but two of those games were decided by 10 runs or more, including all four wins. So when they were good, they were quite good, and when they weren't, well, it was the opposite.
Junior infielder Madison Duncan was a steadying force in that chaos, playing like the exact type of player these columns are designed to highlight: the "if you don't know, now you know" players, as the late, great Biggie Smalls would say.
Duncan finished the season hitting a whopping .700 at the plate. That mark is good for seventh-best in Florida, according to MaxPreps data. Duncan also had five doubles, two triples and 17 RBIs.
So, if you don't know, now you know.
I'm an easy mark. If I see a goaltender attempt to score a goal — in any sport — I give them extra points in my mind.
Cardinal Mooney junior goaltender Jacob Brown not only attempted to score multiple times this season, he succeeded: on April 21 against Saint Stephen's Episcopal in the Class 1A regional quarterfinals, Brown netted one in a 19-6 win. Yes, he scored in a playoff game. You have to respect it.
But Brown is also a good goalie in a traditional sense. Mooney allowed just 175 goals in 2023, and Brown was a big part of that.
Yes, I'm awarding this one to an entire team, but the Tornadoes deserve the love. Since I took on this beat in 2016, the Tornadoes tennis program hasn't had much success, including in 2022, when they finished fifth out of seven teams in their Class 2A district tournament.
The 2023 season showed signs of things changing. The team went 9-9, a big improvement on its recent history, and took second place at its district tournament. Junior Mia Dickey, who held a 15-4 individual record, reached the No. 1 singles finals before losing to Lemon Bay High sophomore Parker Zautcke (6-0, 6-2). Dicky also reached the No. 1 doubles finals with senior Lesa Snipes-Williams but lost to Zautcke and junior Rosey Lowder (6-3, 2-6, 1-0 (10-40)).
Props to the Tornadoes for fighting through the hard times and finding some success. It could be nothing but up from here.
Talk about running an offense.
Sailors sophomore Ava Kozicky was involved in 67 of the team's 129 goals in 2023; that's 52% of the offensive output. Kozicky's goal total of 60 is tied for 56th in Florida, but her average of 4 goals per game is higher than many of the players ahead of her on the goals list, so efficiency-wise, Kozicky was easily a top-40 player in the state.
On an inexperienced Sailors team, Kozicky still found a way to play her game. And with two more years of high school lacrosse to go, massive results could be in her future.
Weightlifting generally does not get as much publicity as other sports this time of year, but when an athlete performs well at a state meet, it deserves some space.
Rams senior Dabian Reitz finished second at the FHSAA state meet, held April 14-15 in Lakeland, in the Class 3A 139-pound traditional weight class with a total score of 535 pounds. Ending a high school career with a silver medal is always something to celebrate.