St. Johns CD baseball team not looking back

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – There is no turning back. No life in the past. No regrets about the near failure of a state baseball championship. Not anymore.

St. Johns Country Day, the No. 1 team in News4JAX’s Super 6 baseball rankings, has turned the corner.

Players don’t talk about how things ended last year, a 5-3 loss to Sarasota’s Out-of-Door Academy in the Class 2A Championship.

This year’s mission is not about settling scores or getting revenge in any way. Players and coaches left the best season in program history in the rearview mirror and recite the company line – control what they can control – knowing that 2022 is potentially shaping up to be an even better year across the board.

The Spartans are the best team in the region for a reason. They’re on the national radar, as evidenced by a berth in the 16-team USA Baseball National High School Invitational Tournament in Cary, North Carolina next month. St. Johns is as talented as ever, with outfielder Jordan Taylor and left-handed pitcher Bradley Hodges among potential pro draft picks.

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“We really tried to put it behind us, you know, and kind of divide last season from this season. It was a totally different team,” Lucas said. “And there is nothing we can do to change the outcome of this match. It was a special season. And if you get too caught up in winning and losing, you won’t be a very happy person. It’s too much of a roller coaster ride in sports.

If anything at St. Johns, last year’s run was a bit more unfinished than this season.

The Spartans were 7-1, ranked the best team in the state in Class 2A by MaxPreps and on a six-game winning streak when the pandemic shut things down in 2020.

It turned 2021 into what felt like a continuation of a year with high expectations that came to an abrupt end.

“Last year was last year. I mean we really took what we learned last year and let it go because it’s a new year, a new team, a new us, a new plan for how we’re going to do things. So we can’t really control what happened last year, but we can control how we react to it. That’s so what we’re going to do.”

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In 10 games this year, the Spartans are 9-1 and are destroying their opponents. They were 8-2 after 10 games last season. Hodges (23 for 39, .590) has been spectacular, already smashing six home runs. He leads a roster that includes six players hitting .400 or better. On the mound, UNF signee Finn Howell (3-0, 0.40 ERA) and Hodges (4-0, 0.78 ERA) erase infractions. Howell is 14-1 in his career on the mound.

What is the difference this year for the Spartans?

“Well, we have very good players. I’m a very good coach when I have very good players and I’m lucky to have an exceptional squad,” said Lucas. “So this, this group of seniors that I had for a number of years. So culturally, we’re probably as good as we’ve ever been. Not that it’s bad, but you learn something every season and you kind of take it. And this group of seniors that I have is very special. So they hold all these guys responsible.

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Lucas said if there was any talk of a disappointment last year, it was all about the details. It’s always about details and never about a specific game. Did they make enough swings in the cages? Have they had enough work in the infield? Have the players done enough in the weight room?

“We thought we worked hard last year, but it’s like tripled this year,” Howell said. “So just how we work. How much effort we put into the practice.

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