SANTA ROSA BEACH — Austin Garofalo views Marion Military Institute (Alabama) as a rung on the ladder of his Division I baseball dreams.

Adam Richards views Birmingham-Southern College as a second home where he can flourish as a weekend starter.

Each in the midst of career years for South Walton, the teammates etched their collegiate futures Monday afternoon in the school's library with family, teammates, teachers and classmates looking on.

"I'm just excited to move forward and take the next step in life," said Garofalo, who will graduate South Walton with an associate degree.

Garofalo is on a tear at the plate this year, leading the fifth-ranked Seahawks in every major hitting category.

The 5-10, 170-pound shortstop ranks 10th in the country with 10 home runs and is batting .523 with a 1.123 slugging percentage and a 1.692 OPS. Garofalo's 25 runs, 23 RBI, 18 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases also lead the Seahawks, who are 13-4-1 and 8-0 in District 3-1A play.

Asked to describe Garofalo as a hitter, Richards called him "phenomenal."

"He's one of the best hitters I've ever seen," Richards doubled down.

The respect is mutual.

Garofalo called Richards, sporting a .89 ERA, a .99 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings, "a shutdown pitcher."

"He's not only a great teammate but a great guy who will do anything for this team to win," Garofalo added. "Alabama-Southern will be a great place for him to thrive."

The Seahawks are 6-1-1 when Richards is on the mound. He hopes Birmingham Southern has the same confidence in him.

"I hope to be a starter but they haven't told me yet," he said. "I just want to be competitive and play. I want to have good numbers in the stat book and have fun."

The 6-2 Richards, who will major in business, has a three-pitch arsenal of fastball, curveball and changeup. His out-pitch is his curve.

Boding well for his comfort in Birmingham is the fact that it's only a four-hire drive from family and friends on the Emerald Coast.

"I love that it's not too far away and education-wise it's a great school," said Richards, who has given up more than a run in just one appearance all year.

Garofalo, meanwhile, doesn't see Marion as a long-term home.

"Any school willing to offer you is a dream school, but I'll only be there one year," said Garofalo, who will major in sports management. "It's not a pride thing. Juco is great. It's just that I have a motivation inside to push myself and to be the best possible player I can be. This will be a good opportunity to get a year of college baseball in and then transfer to a Division I program."

Garofalo received offers from NWF State and the University of West Florida as well, but he committed early to Marion and kept his word.

With their signings out of the way, both Garofalo and Richards can focus solely on South Walton's postseason dreams.

"Our dreams are huge," Garofalo said. "It would be easy to become complacent at 8-0 in district and winning so many games outside of district. But our goal is to get better everyday. That way when we do face a team and our backs are against the wall, we'll be ready."