Raiders head to Lakeland in advance of Juco State baseball tournament

NICEVILLE, FL (WJHG/WECP) The trip to the Juco State Tournament is on for the Raider sof Northwest Florida. Coach Doug Martin and his team loading up the bus Wednesday to head south to Lakeland for the tournament which begins Friday.

Martin's squad heads to State as the Panhandle Champs, a 40-10 overall mark and a 19-5 league record. A dominant number in a very tough conference.

I spoke with coach Martin after his team's workout at FSU Wednesday afternoon, while they continued the bus ride to Lakeland. He told me he and the rest of the team are enjoying the trip already, and it's a fun experience they have all earned with the work they put in before and during this season!

"You know the kids are excited...because school is over." Martin told me. "The exams have taken place, they're done with their tests. So it's almost like being a pro player in the sense that the only thing you have to worry about is baseball. And not having to get up and go to class and all that good stuff. So it's the best time of the year and certainly a reward for a successful season."

As for heading south as the Panhandle Champ, with 19 league wins and 40 wins overall, well that brings to bear a certain confidence level heading south. And confidence, the coach says, is very important this time of year!

"Well it's a big factor. They need to know that if they play as well as they can, they've got a good chance to compete. That's what we've been talking to them about the last couple of weeks. You know our season in the Panhandle was over a couple of weeks ago, so you had a little down-time. You have to remind them that our best is very good. So we're trying to be able to get these guys to be the best version of them this week. And if we can do that, then we'll match up against anybody."

The Raiders open Friday at one eastern in the double elimination, 8 team event against Manatee. This the program's 11th trip to State and 4th time in the last five years. In 2015 they won State and National Championships under coach Martin.