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Baseball: Fernandez makes most of Forsyth County senior showcase
West Forsyth senior Jake Fernandez scores a run Thursday during the Forsyth County senior showcase at South Forsyth High School. - photo by David Roberts

Jake Fernandez didn't wait long to make an impact Thursday at the annual Forsyth County senior showcase. 

Fernandez sent the first pitch he saw from North Gwinnett senior Alec Smith into the outfield grass. He took second on a single by Forsyth Central senior Noah Bissette, then sped around third and raced home after an RBI single by South Forsyth senior Dylan Carter to score the game's first run. 

The showcase is designed to get uncommitted baseball players in front of college coaches and scouts. For a group of seniors who lost their sophomore season to COVID-19 two years ago, it could make all the difference.

"I'm talking to a lot of schools," said Fernandez, a senior at West Forsyth. "I have one offer from a JUCO school. I've been getting around to a lot of schools. It's just one offer, but I've been talking to a lot of schools."

Fernandez is one of 31 players who participated in the event. Players came from Forsyth Central, Denmark, North Forsyth, South Forsyth, West Forsyth, Buford, Cambridge, Milton and North Gwinnett to take batting practice and a brief infield/outfield drill before the 5 1/2-inning scrimmage.

Fernandez was one of five West players, including AJ Rodriguez, Eric Koehler, Donny Garmon and Brady Poppe.

"Usually at showcases, I just try to focus and not really worry about being nervous and try to get excited. But here, I was with everybody I know," Fernandez said. "I just really try to have fun. I swiped a bag off of my friend who was pitching [and] I struck out a teammate, so that was fun. Just competing overall is just fun."

Rodriguez struck out a pair of batters in his lone inning of work, as did South Forsyth senior Dylan Quintilio. 

Denmark senior Jake Myers reached base twice on a single and a hit-by-pitch, while North Forsyth senior Hayden Brown threw out a runner from behind home plate and later scored a run after fellow North Forsyth senior Trystan Davis' RBI groundout.

South Forsyth head coach Russ Bayer runs the event and said the showcase is in its 10th year.

Each player had a chance to take three rounds of batting practice before the scrimmage, with players taking the opportunity to show their power or practice situational hitting.

Each inning featured a different defensive configuration, as players rotated positions throughout the scrimmage. 

For Fernandez, that meant starting the game at shortstop — his natural position — with a quick inning of relief on the mound. 

Fernandez struck out one teammate, but Poppe reached base and used the opportunity to run on his West teammate. Poppe swiped second base, and he had third base stolen too, but a foul ball forced him back to second. 

Poppe later scored on an RBI single by Bissette, who went 2-for-2.

Fernandez knows a thing or two about pitching. His brother, Luke Fernandez, is one of the county's top pitchers and is committed to Oklahoma State.

Jake Fernandez admits that adds pressure to being uncommitted, but he prides himself on his defensive prowess, and he said he worked hard on his hitting during the offseason. 

"The hardest thing about it is that he's committed and I'm not," Jake Fernandez said. "It's hard, because I know he's a phenomenal, out-of-this-world pitcher. He's fantastic, but I'm better than him. I'm really good defensively and I'm going to be really, really good hitting-wise — I've been in the cages a lot. So, I'm just trying to work on my weaknesses and hopefully an offer will pop up."