Santa Fe, GHS open seasons tonight

The high school softball and baseball seasons officially began on Monday, but the Santa Fe (Alachua) and Gainesville baseball teams will play their season openers tonight.

Santa Fe went 23-3 last year but was upset at home, 6-4, by Arnold (Panama City Beach) in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

“It’s always exciting to get a new season going,” said Santa Fe baseball coach Travis Yeckring, who guided the Raiders to their best regular season winning percentage in school history last year. “We have a group that I hope understands that last year has no effect on this year. Brand new group that has to form its own identity.”

After competing in 4A-District 2 last year with Suwannee (Live Oak), Clay (Green Cove Springs), Baker County (Glen St. Mary), and Ridgeview (Orange Park), the Raiders will be grouped with Class 4A state runner-up North Marion (Citra), Dunnellon, Palatka, Lake Weir (Ocala), and Eastside (Gainesville) in 4A-District 4.

Yeckring expects his team to compete for another district title, as twin brothers Devan Mitchum (.341 batting average, 15 RBI, 13-14 stolen bases) and Devante Mitchum (.324, 8-8 SB) return for their senior seasons.

Plus, pitchers Zane Starling (0.32 earned run average in 44.1 innings pitched with 10 walks and 54 strikeouts) and Conner Brown (3-1, 0.84 ERA) return. Devan (4-0, 1.75 ERA) and Devante (0-1, 2.62) also threw last year for a staff that finished with a 0.79 ERA.

“We feel good about our depth of arms and our athleticism,” Yeckring said. “The formula isn’t going to change for us, pound the strike zone, play fundamental defense, and scrap out runs offensively.”

Tonight at 7 p.m., Santa Fe will host the state runner-up Colts, their new district opponent who finished 21-9 last season.

Yeckring said this year’s team “will probably be defined by how well we handle adversity whenever that time comes.”

Starling, a University of North Florida commit, will get the start on the mound tonight against the Colts.

“Zane is a guy that, if he trusts his stuff, can get lots of outs,” Yeckring said. “We’ve stressed being a pitcher and not a ‘thrower’ up there, meaning having the ability to locate all three pitches and maintain composure.”

Starling’s velocity has jumped to the mid/upper 80’s.

“And he’s really worked hard on a slider so he will spin two different breaking balls,” Yeckring said.

Meanwhile, the Gainesville baseball team will host P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) tonight at 7 p.m. in the season opener for both teams.

GHS struggled last season with a record of 8-17, but the good news is that the Hurricanes only lost one senior (Jonathon Ramsey) from last year’s team.

“We’re excited to get going with the 2022 season here at Gainesville,” said Gainesville’s Chris Malphurs, who enters his sixth season as head coach of the Hurricanes. “We hosted a great week of preseason games with great crowds out at Tiny Talbot Field.

Malphurs, who led GHS to a 19-win season in his first year, is looking to get the Hurricanes back to the state playoffs.

He has an experienced group this year and feels the ‘Canes have a good chance to compete and be one of the best in the area and also in their district.

GHS will compete in Class 5A-District 3 with Columbia (Lake City), Middleburg, Orange Park, Ridgeview (Orange Park), and St. Augustine in 2022. They were in 5A-District 5 last season with Vanguard (Ocala), Belleview, Lecanto, Lake Minneola, and Springstead (Spring Hill).

Malphurs was encouraged that his team didn’t give up as the Hurricanes defeated Union County (Lake Butler) in nine innings in the preseason and also rallied to beat Chiefland by overcoming a 9-1 deficit to win.

“Our team has been exciting to watch throughout preseason camp and I think they’re looking forward to putting a team on the field that the Gainesville Hurricane community will be proud of,” he said.

Senior Andrew Pickles, who made seven appearances as a junior and had 17 strikeouts in 18.1 innings pitched, will get the start tonight against the Blue Wave.

Baseball 

Tuesday, Feb. 22

Bronson at Eastside (Gainesville), 6 p.m.

Trenton at Fort White, 6 p.m.

Dixie County (Cross City) at Union County (Lake Butler), 6 p.m.

Columbia (Lake City) at Sandalwood (Jacksonville), 6 p.m.

Dunnellon at Williston, 6:30 p.m.

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at Gainesville, 7 p.m.

North Marion (Citra) at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7 p.m.

Baker County (Glen St. Mary) at Bradford (Starke), 7 p.m.

Keystone Heights at Clay (Green Cove Springs), 7 p.m.

Crescent City at Hawthorne, 7 p.m.

Baldwin at Newberry, 7 p.m.

Oak Hall School (Gainesville) at Branford, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 23

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Hawthorne, 6 p.m.

Baldwin at Union County (Lake Butler), 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 24

Gainesville at Eastside (Gainesville), 6 p.m.

Dunnellon at Chiefland, 6:30 p.m.

West Port (Ocala) at Newberry, 7 p.m.

Lincoln (Tallahassee) at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7 p.m.

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at Bronson, 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 25

St. Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) at Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto), 6 p.m.

Columbia (Lake City) at Gainesville, 6 p.m.

Cedar Key at Bell, 6:30 p.m.

Suwannee (Live Oak) at West Nassau (Callahan), 7 p.m.

Orange Park at Bradford (Starke), 7 p.m.

Buchholz (Gainesville) at Belleview, 7 p.m.

Chiefland at Trenton, 7 p.m.

Branford at Bronson, 7 p.m.

Dixie County (Cross City) at Lafayette (Mayo), 7 p.m.

Keystone Heights at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7 p.m.

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