By JOSH HYBER
A routine afternoon taking batting practice and fielding groundballs turned into the opportunity of a lifetime for Northwest Florida State shortstop Mike Salvatore.
As the Raiders practiced at FSU's Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee on their way to the FCSAA tournament in Vero Beach, the stadium's security cameras rolled on the team's practice.
Technically Seminoles' coaches couldn't watch the Raiders practice, but that didn't stop them from watching the film and seeing Salvatore's skills.
"It just goes to show, you never know who's watching," Raiders' skipper Doug Martin said. "And along with the play he had for us for two years, he got an offer."
The Ewing, New Jersey native was one of 10 Raiders to sign with four-year colleges this spring, an impressive group that includes right-handed pitchers Cameron Sanders (LSU) and J.J. Montgomery (Central Florida), a trio of University of New Orleans signees and Fort Walton Beach alum Joe Guidry.
"One of the things we sell players is using us as a stepping stone to get to a four-year school with an opportunity to play," Martin said. "These guys are going to step right in with an opportunity.
"I'm just proud of all these players for reaching their goal."
Salvatore, in a team-high 191 at-bats, hit .277 and led the team in hits (53), runs (39) and stolen bases (12).
Sanders — who has a chance of being chosen in next week's MLB Draft — will see his childhood dream realized and attend LSU. The Thibodaux, Louisiana native appeared in 15 games for the Raiders this past season and went 6-3 with a 2.89 ERA. He threw 59 strikeouts, good for a 12.16 K/9IP clip.
"Coming out of high school he just quite wasn't ready," Martin said. "But LSU kept an eye on him for the two years he was here, he improved his school work and improved as a baseball player, and now he's got the opportunity he's always dreamed of."
As a group, the 10 Raiders went 73-34 (.682).
"We will promote and sell this group and their achievements and what they were able to accomplish and then move on to potentially the next group of Raiders we try to recruit," Martin said. "We'll tell them that they can do the same thing if they choose to come to our program."
John Barr, University of New Orleans: The right hander appeared in a team-high 21 games for the Raiders and went 5-4 with three saves and a 3.40 ERA. He had 41 strikeouts and allowed just one home run in 39 2/3 innings.
Eric Orze, University of New Orleans: The right hander appeared in 15 games for the Raiders (12 starts) and went 4-4 with a 5.18 ERA. He had 61 strikeouts and allowed just three home runs in 66 innings.
Brayson Smith, University of New Orleans: The right hander appeared in 15 games for the Raiders (13 starts) and went 5-3 with a 3.56 ERA. He had 83 strikeouts and allowed just two home runs in 65 2/3 innings.
Jarrett Montgomery, University of Central Florida: The right hander, who Martin said has a chance of being taken in this month's MLB Draft, appeared in 13 games for the Raiders and went 8-2 (a team-high in wins) with a team-high 1.87 ERA. He was second on the team with 82 strikeouts and allowed just three home runs in 82 innings.
Ross Goforth, Valdosta State: The first baseman hit .262 and led the Raiders in both home runs (10) and RBI (32). Eight of his 32 hits were doubles.
Jake Corso, Georgia State: The first baseman hit for a team-leading .326 average to go with four home runs, 31 RBI (second on the team), nine doubles (tied for second) and 22 walks (second). On March 22, he hit a walk off against No. 1 Chipola to cap a seven-run comeback.
Bryant Harris Jr., University of West Florida: The outfielder hit .275 with five doubles and 19 RBI. He also walked 18 times.
Joe Guidry, Spring Hill College: The Fort Walton Beach graduate — who went from a walk-on to a scholarship player with the Raiders — will play for the Mobile school.