The Spring Term is halfway over, and springtime athletics are in full swing at Seminole State College of Florida. All three Raider teams are in action and gaining momentum for the second half of the season, which includes the Mid-Florida Conference (MFC) slate for baseball and softball and regional championship preparations for women’s golf.
On the diamond, the Raiders are off to one of their hottest starts in recent memory heading into the conference schedule. Seminole State’s baseball team (20-9, 4-3 MFC) has the best overall record in the conference, and the Raiders are in prime position to snag one of the top two slots in the conference and a trip to the Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA) state tournament.
It’s still early in the conference schedule, but Seminole State looks strong. The Raiders have won 14 of their last 17 games, including an 11-game winning streak that lasted from mid-February nearly through Spring Break. Within the MFC, they took two out of three games each against Florida State College-Jacksonville and four-time defending MFC champion Santa Fe College.
“The guys have been playing hard and doing a really good job of execution,” says Chris Hayes, head baseball coach. “They’re comfortable in close ballgames, and that’s very encouraging. We've gotten great effort out of the pitching staff to keep us in games. They give us a chance every time we go out and play.”
Hayes is impressed with the way the team has maintained pace and composure, scoring big when it needs to and keeping cool under pressure in close, defensive games.
“We're off to a good start this year, and so far we’re doing well in conference play,” Hayes says. “But there's still a long way to go.”
In spite of the target on Seminole State softball’s back, the defending state champions are beginning to look like strong contenders to repeat.
Since a sluggish 6-7 start, the Lady Raiders have broken off a 16-6 run that brings their overall record to 22-13. That turnaround puts the team just half a game off the mark set at this point last season, which saw Seminole State softball bring home its first-ever state championship.
“Going into the season, we had a lot of kids with no game experience, so it’s taken them a bit of time to gain confidence,” says Raider Head Coach Courtney Miller. “We lost a lot of leadership from last year’s team, so there were a lot of question marks, but we’ve had some nice surprises and the pitching staff has held up really well.”
Coach Miller expects the MFC to be more competitive top-to-bottom than last year, but with the Lady Raiders hitting their stride just in time for conference play, the second half of the season could set the tone for a strong postseason run.
“It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the season goes,” Miller says. “The team is young, but they’re growing fast. They feel they're never out of a game.”
The Lady Raiders have been hitting the links since the Fall Term, but with only one tournament to go before the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 8 Qualifier, Seminole State is hitting the home stretch. Even so, this team is tough to pin down.
“This has been both a year of greatness and a year of mediocrity,” says Christa Teno, Seminole State’s women’s golf coach. “The middle of both semesters was tough for us, but there were flashes of excellence throughout the year.”
After winning the NJCAA Region 8 championship last season and earning national runner-up honors, the Raiders have a lot to live up to during the postseason. If a few things break the right way, they could end this season with similar results.
Seminole State is currently ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA, just behind Region 8 foe Daytona State. The Lady Raiders earned their fourth-ever overall tournament victory at the World Golf Village Invitational in February, shooting two consecutive team rounds of 296 – a program record. And all seven golfers are ranked individually in the top 35 in the NJCAA by strokes per round, including two in the top 10.
If they can play up to their proven ability, any team in the country would have trouble beating the Lady Raiders.
“We haven’t been consistent, but when we’re good, we’re really good,” says Teno. “These kids have greatness written all over them.”
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