SCF to battle Baltimore Orioles on Friday, use own pitchers

jdill@bradenton.comMarch 29, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The State College of Florida's baseball program has a rich history.

The Manatees gained national attention in 2009 with a victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, which boasted a lineup full of minor leaguers, such as current star Andrew McCutchen.

Then came last year. SCF was searching to continue its long tradition of playing an exhibition game against a major league club after the series with the Pirates dissolved.

The Baltimore Orioles stepped up to fill the void. But because of a plethora of injuries on SCF's pitching staff, the game became a controlled scrimmage.

So SCF's 2-1 victory was a bit misleading.

SCF will use its own pitchers for Friday's game, which is slated for a 2 p.m. start at Ed Smith Stadium, and first-year coach Tim Hill II said he expects to have eight pitchers available.

"It's something we all look forward to," Hill II said. "We're really appreciative of the Orioles for giving us this opportunity. And a lot of our guys, it's their goal to play professional baseball. And to be able to play the guys that have reached the pinnacle is certainly a highlight for everybody."

The unique aspect of the meeting is that SCF is the only junior college that plays a major league team in an exhibition game each year, Hill II said.

"That's an honor for us," Hill II said. "It started with the Pirates, and we did that for several years with them. And we're glad that the Orioles have given us a chance to do it."

The game helps in the recruiting process for SCF, which has signed roughly 200 players to pro contracts, with about 25 reaching the major-league level during the program's illustrious history.

And the game comes at a perfect time for both parties. The Orioles are ending their spring in Sarasota, while SCF is firmly entrenched in Suncoast Conference action.

The Manatees' hitters will use wood bats, an adjustment from the aluminum they use in college play.

But a bigger adjustment for batting is the vast improvement they'll see from the mound.

"You're talking the best baseball players in the world at the major league level," Hill II said. "For us, a chance to be on the field with those guys is really neat. Definitely the experience, the talent level, those guys are polished in their command. ... the velocity, everything. Every once in awhile, we'll see guys with some decent velocity, too, here in the junior-college ranks. But the polished product that those guys are, for being so good and doing for as long as they have, that's definitely a factor as well."

Baltimore closer Jim Johnson attended classes at SCF last year, but there isn't any talk yet about whether Orioles manager Buck Showalter will let him throw for the Manatees in Friday's game.

"Buck Showalter was awesome toward us last year," Hill II said. "Our guys couldn't stop talking about it. When we finished that game, I know all of our guys were huge Orioles fans. They treated us so well. Coach Showalter came over and shook everybody's hand, and he was just a class act. And we were really excited about it."

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