Chipola Fall Classic showcases future college players, 2020 Indians

MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - If you forget, a quick look at the jerseys and placards around Chipola's baseball stadium serve as a reminder of excellent players who have called the college home.

Pitchers and catchers took the field Sunday morning, with position players in the spotlight Saturday.

The Indians' Fall Classic held Friday through Sunday may have served as a glimpse of future talent who names will appear there or elsewhere in the region.

Before junior college teams take the diamond, high school stars show their stuff in front of coaches and scouts.

"Having 75 to 100 college and pro scouts here gives them an opportunity to be seen, whereas sometimes they won't be seen," Chipola head coach and athletic director Jeff Johnson said. "Doing it in conjunction with a junior college tournament really gets some high profile people in here. Most of them are in the southeast. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, a few Mississippi kids, but we let them sign up and come on their own."

Local representatives hail from Altha, Blountstown, Franklin, Holmes, Liberty, Mosley, Niceville, Port St. Joe, Rutherford, Sneads, South Walton, and Walton.

The tournament featured eight games over three days, with Panhandle Conference teams (Chipola, Gulf Coast, Pensacola, Northwest Florida, Tallahassee) plus Polk State, Wallace-Dothan and St. Johns River.

A handful of players once featured in the showcase took the field collegiately, including Marianna alumnus Cameron Gray, pitching against St. Johns River on Sunday.

The games are normal baseball games, sped along with five batters per inning, but they serve as live action experience and a valuable introduction to a new team.

"It gives you an opportunity to see what you've got on your team," Johnson added. "We'll start our coaching part of it here in the next week. The first couple weeks, we're just letting them play and work, giving these kids a chance to show what they've got. Why did we sign you? The next phase for us, we'll start our fundamental part. I'll start teaching, coaching, and seeing who can do things the right way."

The Indians are reigning state champions, coming off national championship appearances in 2017 and 2018.