Bradenton. FL – The sun is shining, the field is ready, and another season of State College of Florida baseball is around the corner. Expectations are high, as the Manatees not only expect to compete for a state title – they expect to compete for a national title as well. Pundits are high on the Manatees' chances, as recent publications have the Manatees nationally ranked and expect several players off this year's club to be drafted in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The Manatees roster is loaded with talent. Returning sophomores Jaren Shelby, Austin James, and Brock Bell bring experience, and depth, to the lineup. Shelby, might be one of the most improved players returning from last year's squad. NCAA Division-I transfers Anthony Gonnella and CJ Alexander offer tremendous power to the middle-of-the-order. Aaron Greenfield, a center-fielder from the University of North Carolina, was reportedly "great" during scrimmages this past fall. Freshman Josh Crouch looks to have the inside track on the starting catcher position and coach Tim Hill II seems excited about the freshman's solid "catch and throw" skills behind the plate. On the pitching side, the Manatees return sophomore Logan Lyle – who has committed to play at USF – and Brock Bell, who in addition to his duties at first-base, will have prominent role at the back-end of the SCF bullpen. Transfers from the University of North Carolina, Rebbie Peto and Zach Attainese, offer a blend of experience and upside to the Manatees' pitching staff. Transfer Andrew Jones, a 6'4" right-hander from FAU, is expected to be an anchor on this year's pitching staff after he posted a 2.53 ERA as a Freshman for the Owls. Highly-ranked freshman Hunter Purdue should be able to contribute right away. At the fall break, SCF landed transfers Nate Gillen and Chris Holcomb from FGCU and the University of Alabama to round out an impressive pitching staff.
Coach Tim Hill II returns for his sixth season as SCF's manager after spending 14 years as an assistant coach with the program. Coach Hill has high expectations for the upcoming season, "I'm optimistic – as I believe any coach should be at this time of the year…We have a good group of returners… Shelby and James – we'll rely on them a lot". Hill also has high hopes for the three transfers from the University of North Carolina (Greenfield, Peto, and Zach Attainese) as well as the three transfers that the club picked up at the Christmas break, "John Shields (a shortstop) has a great bat…very athletic." The only problem with the 2018 Manatee team is figuring out how to deploy playing time to all of these talented players, "Brock Bell, John Pichman, and Bryce Hulett…it's going to be tough to get all three at-bats at first-base…but, all three pitch as well…Brock Bell – he's a competitor, he'll provide us with some thump at the back of the 'pen."
The 2018 season starts on Friday January 26, at 6 pm versus Gulf Coast State College. Schedule highlights include a visit from nationally ranked program Santa Fe College on April 9. Chipola College, defending JUCO National Champions, will play the Manatees in a neutral site game on April 23. March 5 officially kicks off the Suncoast Conference schedule when the Manatees visit Florida Southwestern, the home conference opener will be two days later, March 7, at home against Florida Southwestern.