This past Friday, a pair of Santa Fe (Alachua) baseball players signed to play at the next level.
Zane Starling signed with the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and will play for the Division-I Ospreys.
“I loved the coaching staff,” Starling said. “I also loved the atmosphere and just the school as a whole. It’s a special opportunity that not many get. It means a lot that I get to keep living my dream that I’ve had since I was young.”
Dalton Dampier signed with Thomas University, an NAIA school in Thomasville, Georgia.
“Loved the small-town atmosphere,” he said. “The coaches welcomed me since day one and made it feel like home. This opportunity means everything to me. I’ve been working towards this for a long time, but I know there’s still more work to be done.”
Starling and Dampier caught the attention of their respective schools during their sophomore seasons when the Raiders (23-3) won the 4A-District 2 title with a 14-game winning streak and another eight wins in a row heading into the state playoffs.
“I am so incredibly proud of them,” said Santa Fe baseball coach Travis Yeckring. “They’ve earned it through their hard work both athletically and academically. Those schools are not only getting really talented baseball players but also some outstanding young men. I know they will represent themselves and our program very well at the next level.”
Starling, who missed 16 games due to an elbow injury last year, was a Mainstreet Daily News All-Area first team selection as a sophomore after finishing 5-0 with a 0.32 earned run average. He also had three shutouts with 54 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 44 1/3 innings.
“Zane is ridiculously talented,” Yeckring said. “He can play anywhere on the field and makes everything he does look easy. UNF is getting a special right arm and a guy that is willing to be coached and make adjustments to get even better. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him throwing on Friday nights for them one day, the sky’s the limit.”
Despite being injured last year, Starling still stuck out 27 and earned a save in 15.1 innings of work.
“We’re happy to have him healthy this year and expect him to take the ball once a week and play shortstop when he’s not pitching,” Yeckring said.
Dampier, who batted .274 with 10 RBI and 12 runs scored as a sophomore, is expected to be an everyday center fielder and pitch in some capacity for the Raiders in 2023.
“Damp is a bulldog,” said Yeckring, who said Dampier has the mentality you love for a closer. “He’s the first guy to the field and he shuts the lights off in the cages when he leaves. He’s a great example of what a relentless, consistent, work ethic looks like for our younger guys. He can hit from both sides of the plate and makes it look easy tracking balls down in the outfield.”
Last year, Santa Fe won 20 games and repeated as district champs (4A-District 4) while advancing to the state playoffs before falling to Clay (Green Cove Springs), 12-9, in 10 innings in the Region 4-4A quarterfinals.
“I think the obvious goal is to make the Final 4 and get a ring but more importantly I want to leave a positive impact on this program and be someone that underclassmen can look up to,” Dampier said.
Now that he’s healthy, Starling has high hopes his senior season.
“My expectations this year are to win a district championship, regional championship, and state championship,” Starling said. “We have the team to do it and we will outwork everyone that’s on our schedule.”