Austin Dennis brought a versatility to Rockledge High any baseball coach would covet.
“It’s the skill set, that he goes 100 percent all the time and has that intellect,” Raiders coach Greg Clayborne said. “That combination is just deadly.”
He put it together to produce the FLORIDA TODAY 2015 Baseball Player of the Year.
Dennis hit .440, drove in 17 runs, stole 14 bases, walked 19 times and struck out just six times in 91 at-bats. As a pitcher, he was 5-1, allowed seven earned runs in 40 innings, struck out 60 and walked 12. His earned run average was 1.23.
Not only was he one of the most versatile players in Brevard County, but he also excelled at all of it. Rockledge benefited from his abilities as a shortstop, a lead-off hitter and as a pitcher.
“That was the whole key with him,” Clayborne said. “We’re going to have to use three kids to replace him, and none of them are going to be as good as him. Whoever it is will not be as good as Austin was.”
Against Tampa Jesuit last spring, which Dennis called “definitely my best game of the year, and possibly the best game of my life,” he pitched a complete-game shutout, struck out 10 and hit a home run. In the postseason upset of Archbishop McCarthy the year before, he drove in the winning run and came on in relief to pitch two innings and collect the win.
Clayborne was particularly complimentary of Dennis’ intellectual abilities as a student of the game.
“He’s going to be a great coach once his playing days are over, if that’s what he wants.”
Bearing that out is Dennis’ selection to the FACA Academic All-State team, the only choice from Brevard County.
And typical of Rockledge players, he was fundamentally strong.
“I came up through Rockledge Little League, and we had a lot of success,” he said. “I was coached by my dad, and we did fundamentals all the time.”
There is more baseball to play before any coaching career. Dennis is a freshman at Middle Tennessee, already making an impact in the program. In the Blue-White scrimmages to end the fall season, he is 8-of-14 at the plate.
Sam Crocker, Senior, Merritt Island
Ryan McKay, Senior, Satellite
Drew Parrish, Junior, Rockledge
Trevor Payne, Junior, Rockledge
Austin Dennis, Senior, Rockledge
Ryan Lang, Senior, Merritt Island
Chris Nall, Senior, Cocoa Beach
Zak Wilson, Senior, Eau Gallie
Cooper Christiano, Senior, Melbourne
Tony Jenkins, Sophomore, Holy Trinity
Jackson Muldowney, Junior, Merritt Island
Kevin Clanton, Sophomore, Rockledge
Austin Nickle, Junior, Melbourne CC
Tracy Biggs, Holy Trinity
Chandellor Benton, Eau Gallie; Blake Beyel, Cocoa; Tyler DeClerq, Rockledge; R.J. Diaz, Holy Trinity; Chad LeBlanc, Space Coast; David Lubas, Titusville; Anthony Martinez, Viera; Chris Matthias, Sr., Merritt Island; Joc Perry, Holy Trinity; Mark Potter, MCC; Chris Reynolds, Titusville; A.J. Shields, Cocoa Beach.
Mat Affeld, Titusville; Zack Armour, Cocoa; Alex Brait, Viera; Tyler Douglas, Bayside; Austin Fischer, Palm Bay; Michael Hall, Rockledge; Jordan Kaplan, Holy Trinity; Brady Martello, Rockledge; Dale McGoohan, Satellite; Alec Neal, Viera; Christian Robinson, Viera; P.J. Robinson, Viera.
All-Cape Coast Conference
Zak Wilson, Eau Gallie; Ryan McKay, Satellite; Drew Parrish, Rockledge; Blake Beyel, Cocoa; Sam Crocker, Merritt Island; Austin Dennis, Rockledge; Ryan Lang, Merritt Island; Tyler Declerq, Rockledge; Tyler Douglas, Bayside; Chris Matthias, Merritt Island; Cooper Christiano, Melbourne; Mason Denaburg, Merritt Island; Austin Fischer, Palm Bay; Chris Nall, Cocoa Beach; Trevor Payne, Rockledge; A.J. Shields, Cocoa Beach; Tanner Laventure, Bayside; Brady Martello, Rockledge; Chris Reynolds, Titusville.