LAKELAND, Fla. (May 4, 2017) – On February 24, Tallahassee Community College's baseball team sat at 7-10. On March 24, the Eagles dropped their fifth straight game to open Panhandle Conference play.
Today, those numbers are merely footnotes to a season that experienced a remarkable turnaround over the final six weeks, one that will continue on Friday with a date against the State College of Florida (1 p.m., FCSAA YouTube Channel) in the main bracket of the NJCAA Gulf District/FCSAA State Tournament at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
Win or lose, Tallahassee will play on Saturday. A win puts the Eagles into a 10 a.m. game vs. Miami Dade College while a loss would send them into the loser's bracket opposite the loser of Chipola College and St. Johns River State College.
Tallahassee (28-23), ranked 10th in the final Region 8 Baseball Coaches' Poll, won 12 of 19 league games after the 0-5 start and beat Northwest Florida State College, 11-5, on the final day of the regular season to capture the Panhandle Conference's Wild Card berth. The next day, the Eagles came from behind to send their Wild Card game against Daytona State College to extra innings then won, 10-8, in ten innings to extend their season to the 10-team, double-elimination tournament in Lakeland.
Now comes a meeting with Tallahassee's postseason nemesis, the seventh-ranked Manatees.
Friday will mark the Eagles' tenth appearance in the FCSAA Tournament, and fourth time in the last seven trips to face SCF. Tallahassee has dropped its last three postseason meetings against the Manatees, including an 11-3 loss in the opening round in 2014.
That was Tallahassee's most recent appearance in the tournament, also made possible by the soon-to-be-defunct Wild Card bid.
While Tallahassee has yet to name a starting pitcher, the Manatees are expected to go with one of two talented sophomores – lefty Brendon Little (4-3, 2.39 ERA, 124 K) or right-hander Jackson Tetreault (4-5, 2.54 ERA, 96 K), who beat the Eagles in February and start a five-game skid, including one more vs. SCF, that resulted in the 7-10 start.
That was a Tallahassee squad, however, who was trying to find itself following an early string of season-ending injuries to its top two catchers – Casey Cribb and Bret Maxwell – and closer Christian Dearman.
The Eagles righted the ship behind the emergence of two first-team all-Panhandle Conference performers – leadoff hitter Jordan Curtis and pitcher Derick Garcia. Curtis is batting .368 and is sixth nationally with 34 stolen bases while Garcia's 2.08 ERA would rank eighth in Region 8 if he weren't 3.1 innings shy of the minimum innings required.