County baseball MVP shares the ‘Love’
Another season. Another Love.
Avery Love, a recent graduate of Yulee High School, is following in brother Nick’s shoes. The pair are back-to-back most valuable players on the all-Nassau County baseball team.
His brother earned the honors his senior season last year, and Love garnered the title for his senior season in the spring.
“He struggled a little early, and then really came on as the season went on,” said Fred Matricardi, head baseball coach at Yulee. “He beat some good teams.”
Including Bishop Kenny.
“At the plate, he’s a kid that can hit,” Matricardi said. “We played him at first the year before, so we kind of bounce him back and forth.”
Love led the Hornets in home runs, RBIs and stolen bases.
“He can run for a big guy,” Matricardi said. “Nobody thinks he’s very athletic. He’s 6-3 or 6-4 and has long strides. We would steal with him when nobody was thinking.”
Love went 3-5 on the mound, boasting a 1.68 earned run average and more than 70 strikeouts in 45 innings. At bat, he hit .290 with a pair of home runs and 20 RBIs.
“He was a two-way guy for us,” Matricardi said. “He pitched in all our big games. He threw really well.”
Love started playing at a very early age.
“At 3 years old, I was on the ball field,” he said.
Since then, he and his brother have been teammates.
“I really didn’t play much when I was younger, because I was on his team,” Love said. “I was on the older team. But I was there, I did my time and I did the work.”
And, they cheered each other on – sort of.
“Competitive is not even the word,” Love said. “We would fight. He kind of taught me, and I look up to him since he’s older.”
Love will become a teammate of his older brother once again this year. The pair will both be playing at Jacksonville University.
“He’ll pitch in college,” Matricardi said.
Love said he considered other schools.
“I didn’t really know if I wanted to be with him, but then we talked about it after I got an offer from JU, and I was like, ‘Yeah. I have to be there.’ I committed my junior year, midway. I went on my visit with Nick. They offered him, and they offered me.”
Playing for the Hornets had its ups and downs for Love over the last four years. He grew up in Callahan and transferred to Yulee freshman year.
“I knew the coach from Callahan, and he came over here,” Love said.
Love was injured his junior year.
“As soon as we got through the spring season, I went to a JU camp,” he said. “Just trying to be the big man and trying to throw, I threw too early.
“I had to go to practice, and the only thing I could do was hit and watch.”
He made up for lost time his senior season.
“It was pretty hard. We lost a lot of players last year,” Love said. “We were young. We had a really hard schedule, so that made it difficult on us. I just did what I could to keep us in ballgames. Some got out of hand, but some were really close. It works out that way sometimes. I had a harsh outing against Bolles. It was awful. Three home runs hit off me. That’s never happened to me before in my life.”
He still relishes the win over rival Bishop Kenny.
“Won pretty big against Bishop Kenny,” Love said. “That was a big memory. That was awesome for me to do that.”
Love’s go-to pitch is the fast ball.
“I have some velocity on it, and I can blow it by some people,” he said. “I can work it all around the zone. The change-up kind of blows everyone away because it moves so much. It’s kind of a special pitch for me. It’s really hard to learn, so it’s an accomplishment that I have it so early.”
Love was clocked at 91 mph against Bolles in the playoffs, his personal best.
“Before last season, it was 87,” he said.
Love is enrolled in the honors program at JU, where he received a full ride to play baseball.
“They had a pretty decent year,” Love said of his new team. “They made a little bit of a run. They were one game away from the championship. This year, we’re going to be loaded. We’re going to be pretty good.”
The 2019 all-Nassau County baseball team includes:
Avery Love, senior pitcher and infielder, Yulee. He was 3-5 on the mound with a 1.68 earned run average and 70 strikeouts in 45 innings. He led the team in home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. He hit .290 with two homers and 20 RBIs.
Christian Nobles, senior shortstop, West Nassau. Nobles hit .284 in his final year with the Warriors. He hit 12 RBIs, scored 17 runs and stole seven bases.
Reece Wade, senior first baseman, Hilliard. Wade had a .342 batting average with 14 RBIs, five doubles, one triple and one home run for the Flashes.
Aidan Sweatt, junior infielder, Fernandina Beach. The shortstop hit .357 with nine RBIs and a triple. He returns to the all-county team.
Dylan Rader, senior utility
infielder, Yulee. He hit .356 with 10 RBIs, despite missing 10 games because of an injury.
Bobby Jacobs, junior pitcher, West Nassau. Jacobs had four wins and one loss in 48.3 innings for the Warriors. He had a 1.59 ERA with 34 strikeouts. At the plate, he had a .327 batting average with 49 at-bats and five RBIs.
Tyler Clem, senior pitcher and outfielder, Yulee. He went 2-4 on the mound with a 1.48 ERA. At the plate, he hit .278 for Yulee. He will play baseball at St. Andrews.
Sam Gray, junior center fielder, Fernandina Beach He hit .306 with 19 hits, 12 RBIs, four doubles and a triple.
Austin James, junior first baseman, West Nassau. James’ batting average was .207 in 58 at-bats with 14 RBIs and five doubles.
Caleb Goltz, junior first baseman, Fernandina Beach. He hit .323 with 21 hits, 10 RBIs, four doubles and a triple.
Honorable mention: Bo Hodges, Hilliard; Clay Bass, Jordan Rosepiler, Conner Nobles, Cameron Kersey, Justin James and Kolby Dybalski, West Nassau; Gabe Mathews, Hunter Ramsey, Noah Harter, Andrew Ayers and Bryant Cullen, Ferna-ndina Beach; Tyler Green, Yulee.