BROOKSVILLE - Ever since he was a little kid, Chris Lake has felt a connection with Flagler College.
"When I was little I played a couple tournaments in St. Augustine," Lake said. "I loved the area. I drove by the sign a couple times when I was younger. I said 'Dad, what's that college?' He's like, 'Flagler.' It just clicked in my head when I was older."
On Tuesday, the Nature Coast senior pitcher/third baseman signed with the Division II Saints.
"It means everything to me," Lake said. "I've worked all my life for this. Just make my parents proud, that's the main reason.
"The coaches, they've been there a long time. I know it's been like 30 years. They just really welcomed me with open arms. I'm just really excited to go there."
Lake has spent most of the last two seasons playing varsity ball for the Sharks, pitching and playing third base.
This past spring the right-hander went 2-3 with a 4.20 earned run average on the mound, striking out 39 batters in 33.1 innings of work.
He also hit .347 with six doubles and a home run, driving in 13 runs and scoring 20 in 72 at-bats.
Flagler, though, wants him specifically for his pitching prowess.
"It's going to be weird going out there for the first time, 'Oh I don't have to go hit or anything before the game, field groundballs.' But it's what I love doing, so I can't wait to do it," Lake said.
"Possibly the first year I come out of the bullpen. Hopefully eventually I'll be a starter because I love starting."
Lake first appeared on Flagler's radar at a showcase event last year. He then went to a couple more showcases at Flagler and the lines of communication remained open.
Though he didn't receive any other offers, Lake had lightly considered a few other colleges. None of them compared to Flagler in his eyes.
The Saints, a member of the Peach Belt Conference, finished 24-22 in the spring. They've been a D-II program since 2007. Dave Barnett has served as head coach for 26 seasons, dating back to 1988.
Lake hasn't decided what he'll study while attending Flagler, but he does certainly have an idea of what he wants to do after college: play professionally.
A total of 34 Flagler players have gone on to the pros since 1982. Most recently, three Saints were drafted in 2012.
"I knew I wanted to go somewhere in baseball. I love doing it," Lake said. "Hopefully I make it to the next level after that. That's my dream."
However, he's not done with the Sharks yet. There remains his senior season, still a few months away.
"Just keep working hard, win, hopefully go far in the playoffs because we have a pretty good looking team this year," Lake said.
"Just do better than last year. That's been my goal ever since I started freshman year, just trying to do better every year. I want to win a district title this year."
He can strive to achieve that assured that he has a solid future on the diamond.
"It's like all the weight's off my shoulders," Lake said. "I don't have to panic if I'm going to the next level or anything. I get to play my game and relax."
By the numbers: Chris Lake
YR AP GS IP H R ER BB K W L ERA
2012 5 1 12.2 2 5 3 12 12 1 0 1.66
2013 10 6 33.1 34 28 20 12 39 2 3 4.20
Totals 15 7 46.0 36 33 23 24 51 3 3 3.50
YR GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI .AVG
2012 17 27 0 9 1 0 0 4 .333
2013 26 72 20 25 6 0 1 13 .347
Totals 43 99 20 34 7 0 1 17 .343