They were sophomores when Ridgewood made its run to the 2002 state championship game, and on Friday, Rams stars Aaron McLamar and John Servidio opened their senior seasons by signing with St. Pete College and Polk County Community College, respectively.
"I've been looking forward to this forever," said Servidio, a senior outfielder seeking to be part of the first class of Rams to make the playoffs four seasons in a row.
Practice opened Monday, and both players said they were glad to have their college futures figured out, allowing them to enjoy the season ahead. Rams coach Larry Beets said their time in the orange and blue has gone too quickly.
"With kids like this, you'd like to redshirt them for another year, keep them around," Beets said.
Servidio, a varsity fixture since late in his freshman season, was one of the county's leading hitters last spring, finishing second in hits (34), third in batting average (.407), tied for third in home runs (4) and fourth in RBI (23).
He already holds a few odd places in Rams history, setting the school record for grand slams with two his sophomore year, then getting the mark for triples (three) last season. His second slam in 2002 came against Tarpon Springs in the district tournament, starting the Rams on their playoff run.
McLamar, entering his fourth season as the Rams' starting third baseman, hit .338 last season with 26 hits and two home runs, finishing third on the team with 18 RBIs.
He's the fourth Ridgewood player to sign with St. Pete in the past six years, following fellow Rams stars Ronny Wiemer, Tom MacLane and Chris Way. Coach Dave Pano said he has come to trust the fundamentals and character of any player who comes out of Beets' program.
"When those kids come in, they're well-prepared for college and the grind of a college program," he said. "They're tough kids, and they're not going to succumb to any kind of pressure."
Pano said McLamar will fill one of his biggest holes next season, be it at third base or first, and said McLamar has the strong bat expected at those positions.
"I'm a hitting guy. I like guys that swing the bat," he said. "Just the way he swings the bat was the biggest thing. We've had a lot of good hitters who have gone on to the pro ranks and good four-year schools, and he'll fit in there with that."
Their signings push the total to six players from Ridgewood's 2002 team that will play in college, joining pitchers Ronnie Lowe (Pasco-Hernando Community College), Richie Hittel (Saint Leo) and Matt Laliberte (Hillsborough Community College). Catcher Josh Le'Roy, who played for Ridgewood until transferring to Mitchell last summer, signed in the fall to play at South Florida.