Darton infielder Ventavis Jerger will sign with Florida A&M next week and become the latest Cav to take his talents to a Division I school. (David Mann/Darton State College)
ALBANY — One after another, Darton State College baseball coach Scot Hemmings started naming players from his sophomore class.
Pitchers, outfielders, infielders — even catcher Payton Mann, who was redshirted last year and hasn’t seen a second of game time in the regular season.
“They are all getting a lot of attention,” said Hemmings, referring to the dozens of four-year colleges that are kicking down his door to recruit his players.
Next week, three of those players will officially sign with four-year schools and turn their verbal commitments into the latest scholarships accepted out of the Darton program since Hemmings took over two years ago.
Infielder Ventavis Jerger will sign with Division I FAMU, left-handed pitcher John Harman will sign with Division I Western Kentucky and Mann will sign with Division II West Georgia.
“We want guys to come into our program and develop,” Hemmings said. “We don’t have too many transfers. It’s kind of a cliché, but it’s a two-year process we put them through, and if they stick with the plan we have been very successful moving guys on.”
Jerger became first-year FAMU coach Jamey Shouppe’s premiere signing this offseason and one that he built his incoming class around, and Jerger, a Tallahassee native, said Shouppe’s presence was part of what is bringing him back home.
“He is really into his players and he helps them out a lot,” Jerger told The Tallahassee Democrat. “He is eager to win and he is up front as far as how he is going to make it to try and surprise the world. I’m really looking forward to that.
“I’m very excited to be coming back to Tallahassee to play in front of my peers.”
Jerger, who was clocked in the 60-yard dash this fall at an amazing 6.26, has the speed to turn into an elite college player, and Hemmings said a handful of professional scouts are showing serious interest in him.
“He was kind of an unknown kid, and now he is getting attention from Division-I schools and professional scouts,” Hemmings told The Democrat. “If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. I’m just proud to be able to sit here and watch it.”
Harman, a Carrollton native, will be joining the Western Kentucky pitching staff the same season the Hilltoppers are scheduled to join Conference USA, one of the nation’s top baseball conferences.
“This is a huge opportunity for John,” Hemmings said. “They have an unbelievable facility, and their coaching staff is excellent. He feels very comfortable there.”
Harman, who saw his fastball gain about 8 mph in the past year and now can reach 90, will be the Friday night starter for the Hilltoppers, Hemmings said.
“John is really the leader of our pitching staff,” Hemmings said. “He has taken that role and has taken freshmen under his wing this year and showed them the ropes. He is a phenomenal pitcher and a phenomenal human being. All you have to do is hang out with him for five minutes, and you will know what I am talking about.”
Mann, a former Tift County star, was forced to redshirt last season behind star catchers Tripp Calhoun and Davis Knapp but has shined in fall games recently.
“West Georgia came in a couple of weeks ago and saw him play and offered him a scholarship,” Hemmings said. “It was just an intra-squad scrimmage that day, but he was like 4-for-4 with a big home run and threw out a couple of base runners.”
Jerger, Harman and Mann can officially sign their scholarships Wednesday.