Gates’ traits lead mates to new fates, third POY honor

Three-time district champion and three-time Hernando County Player of the Year: Jonathan “J.P.” Gates of Nature Coast Technical. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

BASEBALL

Fourth-year Shark rewrites

NCT record book behind

40 hits, 10 HRs, 48 RBI

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Cooperstown, N.Y. is recognized as the home for professional baseball’s best of the best.

The Baseball Hall of Fame serves as a landmark site for fans of all ages of the American past time.

Jonathan Gates                                             Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

If there was prep baseball Hall of Fame locally, instead of admiring Gehrig, Ruth or even Clemente as you walk in, there’d be a bust – or at least a large likeness of perhaps Hernando County’s finest two-way player: Nature Coast Technical’s Jonathan Patrick or J.P. Gates.

The five-tool player did it all during the Sharks’ rise to the FHSAA Final Four this season.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Gates was widely credited for leading the Brooksville nine to a pair of Hernando County titles and back-to-back-to-back district crowns, its first-ever regional title and a coveted berth in the Class 5A Final Four in Fort Myers.

In between, Gates served as one of six starting seniors that helped produce a school record 15-1 home slate and a new single-season record of 26 wins.

Record breaker

Over the course of four prep seasons at the plate and on the bump, the Brooksville resident rewrote not only the NCT record book, but set new standards in the county.

The brown-tressed and hazel-eyed Gates led the Sharks this season in games played (31), at-bats (93), hits (40), extra-base hits (22), doubles (10), homers (10), RBI (48) and slugging percentage (.903).

He finished second on the club in runs scored (32) and batting average (.430).

Offensively, the breaded Gates led the county in games played, extra-base hits, round-trippers, RBI, and slugging percentage.

Jonathan Gates                      Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

On the bump, the southpaw was the top dog in the circuit in appearances (15), starts (14), complete games (6), innings pitched (80), strikeouts (135), wins (9), shutouts (3) and earned run average (1.05).

He captured a season-high six wins in a row before losing the state semifinal against Florida powerhouse Jacksonville-Bolles, 4-1.

Of the Sharks’ school-record six post-season triumphs, Gates was responsible for four.

In the classroom, Gates maintained a 3.0 overall grade point average.

He turned away Division I offers from the University of Florida and Florida State University to sign D-I with the University of Miami Hurricanes at Coral Gables.

Graduated from NCT as the school record holder in career games played (107), at-bats (331), hits (140), extra-base hits (70), runs batted in (153), batting average (.423), on-base percentage (.553) and slugging percentage (.894).

He departs the California Street campus as the school record holder in career appearances (49), starts (46), complete games (11), innings pitched (236.0), strikeouts (387), shutouts (5), wins (24), ERA (1.13), no-hitters (3), and perfect games (1).

For his efforts, area mentors voted Gates on to his third All-Hernando County all-star squad but most importantly, he was unanimously voted in as its three-time Player of the Year.

No one else has ever previously been named as a three-time POY.

Accolades pour in

Hernando County coaches embraced Gates’ selection.

“He batted OK as a freshman … Was able to knock in over 40+ RBI over the next three seasons,” shared his coach of the past four years NCT’s Frank Vitale. “People were pitching around him this year … He was still disciplined enough to take the walks … There were many “wow” moments … He hit the ball over our scoreboard this year … His perfect game against Central was something … Players like J.P. don’t come around often.

Frank Vitale                                                    Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“… His biggest asset? I knew we’d be in every game with him on the field,” emphasized Hernando County’s three-time Coach of the Year Vitale. “He’s not a one-dimensional player … He can hurt people in many different ways … He’s a very focused young man … The other kids know him and respect him … Biggest plus for us was having him on the mound once a week … I’m gonna miss that go-to guy on the mound … Offensively, how can we recoup 153 runs batted in?”

“Being selected as three-time Player of the Year says a lot … Honestly, he was carrying that ball club,” offered Springstead’s Shawn Laferty. “That shows you his importance to the team … It’s immeasurable what he did for that program … His strength? He knows the game of baseball … Great head on his shoulders.”

Tim Sims

“He does his talking on the field … One of the best high school baseball players to come out of Hernando County,” declared Hernando High’s Tim Sims. “On what stands out? His composure. He’s a baseball player, he conducts himself as a pro every day … We look forward to the next chapter of his life.”

“He’s dominated the county for three seasons … He’s a special player,” stressed Weeki Wachee’s Patrick McHugh. “He did it at the plate and on the mound … Exceptional athlete who could pitch, but he’s also someone who could change the game with one swing.”

Al Sorrentino Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“It’s pretty obvious … J.P. dominated the county,” emphasized Central’s Al Sorrentino. “He took his play to another level against us … As well as a he did against us, I’m gonna ask him for a donation when he cashes in his first pro paycheck … In his last four starts against us, he no-hit us three times and threw a perfect game … I think what stands out is his work ethic … You don’t get that good by just showing up … He’s a good young man, he never showed his butt against us.”

Gates’ reaction

Upon hearing the news, Gates composed his thoughts.

Jonathan Gates

“Being picked as Player f the Year for a third time is amazing,” shared the 18-year-old Gates. “It’s nice being recognized. I’ve got to credit Coach Vitale and all my teammates. They were like my brothers.”

Rewinding his biggest games in 2018, “Beating Hernando in districts was special. It allowed us to play Bishop Moore at the house,” explained Gates. “We had lost a heart breaker the year before. This time they had to come here and we really wanted to win. We knew they’d be cocky, but we felt good because now they were on our turf.”

Recapping his senior accomplishments, “I started the season a little off. Guys were throwing a lot more off-speed against me. A lot of guys weren’t pitching to me, they were pitching around me,” recalled Gates.

“Early on, I was adjusting. As the season progressed, I focused more and more on my hitting. I did a lot better job of timing up some pitches,” he said.

On what he was most proud of, “As a senior, going 15-1 at home was crazy. Individually, the homer and RBI records were huge accomplishments,” beamed Gates. “All I was trying to do was keep rallies going.

“…The RBI record (153) is pretty cool because I hit the ball all over the park.”

Nature Coast’s Jonathan Gates. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Rewinding his mound efforts, “I felt great. It’s not like I threw a bunch of innings prior to my senior year. As I got older, I got more mature.”

On losing in the state semis, “When Funk (Zach Funkhouser) led off with a hit, I thought, ‘We got this.’ But we didn’t score.

“I thought their (Bolles’) intensity and ours was different. We were tight, they were loose. Them being at this level before helped.

“… I only gave up five hits. They (Bolles) hit a couple balls hard,” he recalled. “But I didn’t accomplish what I wanted.”

Jonathan “J.P.” Gates

Gates 101

J.P. was born in Key West, as the oldest of two sons to Jonathan and Jennifer Gates.

The Gates family has called Brooksville home for the past 13 years, or since relocating from Conch Country.

Gates debuted in Spring Hill Dixie Baseball at 6 and played two seasons before broadening his skill set on the local travel ball circuit.

Originally a centerfielder, Gates switched to first base.

The left-handed Gates began pitching prior to turning 10.

On his approach at the plate, he’s simply trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched.

When he’s on the bump, there’s a sense he’s the King of the Hill.

“I feel the team has the most confidence in me when I’m pitching,” admitted Gates. “Typically, I get four of my five pitches over for strikes. I throw a two-seam and four-seam fastball and a slider that runs into right-handed batters.”

Gates didn’t always excel on the diamond.

Challenger K-8 Navigators
Brett Teitelman

In middle school at Challenger K-8, he played quarterback, safety, cornerback and outside linebacker as a sixth- and seventh-grader for the Navigators under Brett Teitelman.

In hoops (he still has a basketball hoop at home), he served as a point guard for three seasons for Challenger K-8.

In recreational soccer, he switched from striker to goalkeeper.

As a freshman at NCT, he broke in batting .284 with 21 hits in 22 games, featuring 11 extra-base hits and 17 runs batted in.

On the hill, he fanned 40 batters in 39 innings going 2-4.

“I’m speechless after the season we had,” smiled Gates. “I remember the way we started as freshmen. When we were sophomores is when we started to win games and turn Nature Coast into a baseball school.”

After continuing to play for his FTB (Florida Travel Ball) team guided by Julian Figuero during the off-season, he elevated his game behind a breakout season.

In 2016 on the bump, he started 11 times with two complete games.

He tossed 62.0 innings and fanned a county-best 98 batters against 20 walks, a nearly 5:1 ratio in punch outs to free passes.

Gates finished 6-0 with a circuit-best 0.56 earned run average.

Opposing hitters hit a miniscule .124. In facing 243 batters, no one tripled or homered off Gates.

With his glove on the mound or at first base, Gates handled 77 chances without an error.

Jonathan Gates Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

At the plate, Gates was a terror. He paced the Sharks in hitting (.486), on-base percentage (.581) and slugging percentage (.864) behind a county-high 36 hits in 74 at-bats.

Gates raked a county-high 19 extra-base hits and led the circuit in doubles (14) and home runs (4), and runs batted in (43).

Besides finishing third in the circuit in runs scored (28), he stole 17 bases in 17 attempts.

His one shutout was a dandy, a no-hitter in the 5A-7 semifinal to expunge defending champion Central at Emerson Field, 2-0.

The season concluded with the Sharks capturing its first Hernando County crown. It served as the program’s first since 2009, its first-ever district championship and matched Springstead in victories finishing 20-5.

“That first district championship I remember really well,” declared Gates. “Hernando came ready to play. We were at their place. But we came out and battled with them. It’s like we walked in with targets on our backs.

“One of the reasons we’ve been able to continue getting better was we improved defensively especially in the infield along third base, shortstop and second base.”

J.P. Gates and catcher Brandon Riera celebrate after besting Bishop Moore in Brooksville . Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

His battery mate, Brandon Riera holds a special place in his heart.

“What Riera did over four years is mind blowing,“ noted Gates. “He’s one of my best friends. In a pitcher-catcher relationship, trust is huge. I knew that if I could throw it, he’d block it.”

Looking ahead

Despite the graduation losses of eight seniors, Gates doesn’t believe the program will fold up any time soon.

“We graduated some great players,” acknowledged Gates, “But our freshman class has a lot of good kids. Our JV team beat Bishop McLaughlin.”

On what Gates will miss most, “It’s our competitiveness,“ he responded. “We could switch gears from being friends to being ready to play in a heartbeat.

“… I’ve gotta thank Jared (Crawford). He was our designated rabbit,“ smiled Gates. “I have to thank him for running the bases for me, so I could sit down and have a breather.”

By the Numbers:

NCT’s Jonathan “J.P.” Gates (2015-18)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Jonathan Gates                                                                                Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YR

 

YR

 

GP

 

AB

 

R

 

H

 

2B

 

3B

 

HR

 

RBI

 

.AVG

2015

9

22

74

9

21

8

2

1

17

.284

2016

10

25

74

28

36

14

1

4

43

.486

2017

11

29

90

27

43

9

0

10

45

.478

2018

12

31

93

32

40

9

2

10

48

.430

 

TOT

 

107

 

331

 

96

 

140

 

40

 

5

 

25

 

153

 

.423

By the Numbers: NCT’s Jonathan “J.P.” Gates

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Jonathan Gates
Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YR

 

AP

 

GS

 

CG

 

IP

 

H

 

R

 

ER

 

BB

 

KO

 

SO

 

W

 

L

 

ERA

2015

9

9

2

39.0

37

25

16

17

40

0

2

4

2.87

2016

13

11

2

62.0

27

12

3

20

98

1

6

0

0.56

2017

12

12

1

55.0

28

19

7

26

114

1

7

1

0.89

2018

15

14

6

80.0

30

17

12

25

135

3

9

2

1.05

 

TOT

 

49

 

465

 

11

 

236.0

 

122

 

73

 

38

 

88

 

387

 

5

 

24

 

6

 

1.13

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven × = thirty five