Manatees hoping to earn spot in JUCO
The first Alpine Bank Junior College World Series qualifying tournament begins today with some usual suspects and some not-so-familiar names.
The State College of Florida may look like a new program, but it’s not.
In fact, the Manatees, formerly the Manatee Community College Lancers, have a long history of success. This weekend, State College of Florida will attempt to win a Florida Community College Activities Association record 10th title.
The school changed its name last summer and changed its mascot from the Lancers to the Manatees to recognize its long lineage of athletic success, according to the school website.
“We’re getting used to it,” coach Tim Hill said. “It was a shocker for me. I’ve been here since 1978. When we’re recruiting we say we’re Manatee and changed our name. It’s the same type of program with different colors.”
The school changed its name because it now offers a four-year degree in certain programs, such as nursing, but the athletic programs will continue to compete in the NJCAA for the foreseeable future.
The 13th-ranked Manatees (33-12) won the Suncoast Conference title and open the FCCAA/Gulf District tournament today against St. Johns River Community College (28-22).
The Manatees are competing in the FCCAA tournament for the 15th consecutive year, but are looking to qualify for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for the first time since 2002.
State College of Florida came close to qualifying for the World Series a couple of times since then, reaching the state final.
This year, the Manatees won the conference title behind their pitching staff.
Starters Alex Burgos, Josh Lucas and Josh Renfro have all signed with NCAA Division I programs or have been drafted.
State College of Florida is one of five nationally ranked teams in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament.
The champion and first World Series qualifier will be decided Monday.
Last year’s FCCAA champion, No. 17 Santa Fe (Fla.) Community College (26-14) won the Mid-Florida Conference title and opens the tournament against No. 23 Miami-Dade College (34-11).
The Panhandle Conference champion, No. 8 Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College (40-10), plays St. Petersburg College (35-19) and the Southern Conference champion, No. 9 Palm Beach State College (35-13), plays Chipola College (26-23).
“Gulf Coast has a strong No. 1 and 2 pitcher in (Andrew) Morris and (Cam) Greathouse,” Hill said. “They are legit. (The Commodores) have a guy that will probably be the state player of the year in Bryce Lane. They are playing really well. Chipola is coming on as well, like Santa Fe did last year.”
The Alabama Community College Conference tournament begins Saturday. Shelton State (Ala.) Community College (30-21) won the North Division title and is looking for its fourth consecutive JUCO appearance. Second-ranked Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College (41-6) won the South Division title. Both teams received a first-round bye.
The ACCC, which is also the Southeastern District, has its title game May 13.
The Southwestern District (west Texas/New Mexico), Central District (Kansas) and Southern District (east Texas) tournaments start May 15.
The remaining five qualifiers will be determined May 20-24.