Manatees earn 1st berth to JUCO World Series

The environment at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series offers baseball players the feel of being in the big leagues for 10 days.

Each year, the State College of Florida baseball players see evidence and hear stories about the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

This year, the Manatees will get to see it first-hand.

State College of Florida, formerly Manatee Community College, became the first team to qualify for the 53rd annual national championship tournament Monday after defeating Miami-Dade (Fla.) College 8-1 for the Gulf District title in Lakeland, Fla. The JUCO World Series is May 29-June 5 at Suplizio Field.

“Every year this is what we play for,” State College coach Tim Hill said. “We show (the players) as much paraphernalia as we can about Grand Junction. We tell them it’s the best experience you’ll have.

“Most of these kids won’t make the major leagues, but it’s like being a major leaguer for 10 days.”

It is the program’s 13th Florida Community College Athletics Association title and 10th JUCO World Series appearance. It is State College’s first World Series appearance since the school changed its name last year and first since 2002.

The 13th-ranked Manatees (37-13) defeated Miami-Dade in the championship game after losing 12-4 on Sunday to the Sharks (38-13) in the double-elimination tournament.

“Miami went through all their pitching,” Hill said. “We were rested and had all of our pitching ready to go. We saved our middle relievers and closer for today.

“The first kid they threw today threw the day before. He threw more than 200 pitches the last two days. We wore him down.”

State College pitcher Alex Burgos limited Miami-Dade to one run (zero earned) on 10 hits, two walks and struck out nine in a complete game. The freshman left-hander (13-1) was selected the tournament’s outstanding pitcher and made the All-Gulf District team.

“Alex was outstanding again today,” Hill said. “We felt confident with him throwing.

“He’s been the man all year long. When he throws, we play a little bit better. He stepped up big time today. He comes back on three days rest. He was up for the occasion.”

Burgos was 2-0 with a 0.52 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 15 hits allowed in the tournament. He pitched the Manatees to victory in their first tournament game and the championship game.

The next World Series qualifier will come out of the Southeastern District (Alabama).

The Southeastern District tournament started Saturday and is on schedule to determine a champion by Thursday. Six teams remain in the tournament including Shelton State Community College, which has qualified the past three years.

The Southern District (Texas), Southwestern District (Texas, New Mexico) and Central District (Kansas) tournaments begin Saturday.


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