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Prose and Kohn

Sarasota alumni set to dominate spring sports season

Former Cardinal Mooney High attacker MJ McMahon is a star at the University of Utah.
Former Cardinal Mooney High attacker MJ McMahon is a star at the University of Utah.
Courtesy photo
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Of all the seasons, Sarasota athletes seem to bloom most often in the spring, especially once they graduate high school and go off on their own. 

Here's a rundown of some of those athletes who have a chance at big things in 2024. 

Vaun Brown, San Francisco Giants baseball

Sarasota High baseball grad Vaun Brown is a member of the San Francisco Giants organization, ending the 2023 season with the AA-level Richmond Flying Squirrels. (Minor league baseball team names remain wonderful.) The right-handed Brown, an outfielder, had a breakout 2022 season in which he hit .346 with an OPS — on-base percentage plus slugging percentage — of 1.060, which is a high mark and a sign of an all-around stellar hitter. Brown then regressed a bit in Richmond last year, hitting just .246 with a .752 OPS — not a disaster, but not the type of numbers that rocketed him up organizational prospect rankings, either. 

Still, Brown ended the 2023 season ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the Giants system. Brown, 25, is on the older end of the prospect spectrum. He's running out of time to develop his technical skills, but he has fully developed physical skills. If he shows the Giants that he can return to his 2022 form, or even close to it, Brown could make his MLB debut this season.

Devyn Flaherty, Florida State University softball
Former Riverview Rams softball player Devyn Flaherty is a star shortstop at FSU.
Courtesy image

Flaherty, the former Riverview High infielder, is in her senior season with the Seminoles, looking to cap off a successful career with another run to the Women's College World Series. 

Flaherty has been named to either the All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team or Second Team each of the last three seasons. Don't expect her senior season to be any different. Through 13 games, Flaherty is holding a .395 on-base percentage, seven RBIs and boasts a .974 fielding percentage. Her play has helped the 'Noles to an 11-3 start as of Feb. 27. 

Madison Binkley and McKenna Flaherty, Florida State University beach volleyball

Binkley, a redshirt sophomore, and Flaherty, the sophomore sister of Devyn Flaherty, both play for the Seminoles' beach volleyball program. If you did not know Florida State had a beach volleyball program, start learning: The Seminoles were the NCAA Championship runners-up in 2016, 2018 and 2022. 

Neither Binkley nor Flaherty got much playing time last season — at least, as far as I can tell; beach volleyball is not a stat-oriented sport — but both appear to be in the program's plans for 2024. Binkley teamed with junior Skyler Germann for a win over a pair from the University of North Florida on Feb. 23. Binkley and Germann's win, which came down to a 16-14 third set, clinched the overall match for the Seminoles. Florida State is now 3-0 as of Feb. 27. 

MJ McMahon, University of Utah men's lacrosse

McMahon, the former Cardinal Mooney High standout, is in his final college season with the Utes. He's been one of the most productive players in program history. As of Feb. 27, McMahon ranks fourth all-time at Utah in career points (81) and goals (49), and is second in assists (32). 

While the Utes' program has only existed since 2019, McMahon's ranks are proof of how he's helped to carry the team on offense since his arrival. Last season, McMahon and the Utes won the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament for the first time, taking down Air Force Academy 11-9 in the process. A repeat performance — and perhaps even an NCAA tournament win or two — would be a fitting cap to his career. 

Karson Ligon, Mississippi State University baseball

Ligon, a right-handed pitcher and a Riverview High grad, started his career with two years at the University of Miami before transferring to Mississippi State during the offseason. Ligon, now a junior, held a 3-2 record and a 4.90 ERA last season with the Hurricanes. 

His first few appearances with the Bulldogs have not gone well. Ligon has allowed four runs in four innings, though he also has five strikeouts, which tells me his issues are command-based and not stuff-based. If Ligon can iron out those issues, he can still have a successful season in the Southeastern Conference. 

Alec Miller, University of Florida men's track and field

Miller won a silver medal in the 1,600-meter race (4:13.50) at the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 4A track and field championships in 2022, as a junior at Sarasota High. He's now competing for the Gators as a freshman, and though it is rare for first-year athletes to make an impact in track and field right away, Miller has put together some good performances. 

To wit: Miller finished 12th overall in the 800-meter run (2:02.13) at the McFerrin-12 Degree Invitational, an indoor track event held in College Station, Texas, on Jan. 14. It was a personal record for Miller. 

Wyatt Plattner, University of Nevada-Las Vegas men's golf

After one season at the University of Cincinnati, former Cardinal Mooney High golfer Wyatt Plattner transferred to UNLV, where he has consistently found himself in the scoring lineup early in the 2024 season. 

Plattner has had mixed results with the Rebels, but put together a good final round of the John Burns Intercollegiate tournament, held Feb. 15-17 on the Ocean course of Hokuala Kauai resort in Kauai, Hawaii. Plattner shot a two-under-par 70, a performance which helped the Rebels to a sixth-place overall finish. As of Feb. 27, Plattner is nine over par and tied for 67th going into the final round of the Southern Highlands Collegiate event at Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas. 



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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