Northwest Florida and Chipola set for state baseball tournament

Our area will be well represented when the Juco State Baseball Tournament begins Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.

Coach Doug Martin and his Raiders of Northwest Florida head down at the Panhandle Champs, 40-10 overall, a 19-5 league mark.

Coach Jeff Johnson and his Chipola squad goes to State as runners up, 33-17 and 18-6.

Both teams heading south tomorrow, Raiders open Friday at one eastern against Manatee, the Indians open Friday night against Miami Dade.

Those Indians coming off splitting two non-conference games with teams out of Jacksonville and Louisiana Friday and Sunday respectively, so when they get to Lakeland they won't be coming off a two week break without playing.

"Well I just think that you want to keep playing," coach Johnson says "you want to stay hot. You want your hitters seeing some live pitching. you want your pitchers working against batters and holding runners and learning how to field their position, playing the game the right way. We don't give up free bases. You know baseball's a thing of momentum and I think you can't not go and be sharp and play all of a sudden with a two week break. It's something we do every year, schedule games during this time."

Chipola with 11 wins in its last 13 games, including the two over the weekend. Even with a team that's playing well, and coming off two extra games, repeating at State will be anything but easy, says the Chipola coach.

"You know the state of Florida always has really good talent. You look on TV in Major League Baseball every night, six to eight to ten of them played (Juco baseball) in our Florida league. Many times that many in the Panhandle Conference as well. It's going to be a tough tournament. It's a war of attrition down there. It's hot, you've got to play five straight days. A lot of things can turn against you. You've got to persevere, and work through the hard times. And hopefully this team's got the attitude and the mental capabilities to do that."

The Indians load up and head south around 10:30 Wednesday.