The setup seemed good. Almost perfect.
The State College of Florida baseball team could avoid the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Tallahassee Community College, for possibly the entire FCSAA state tournament after TCC lost its opener Friday in shocking fashion to Hillsborough Community College.
But to do so, the Manatees, ranked second in the state poll, would have to hold up their end of the bargain by earning victories to stay in the winner's bracket.
That meant beginning opening day with a win over Seminole State College of Florida, a club SCF defeated twice in February.
But in one inning at Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium, the Manatees witnessed the Raiders reel off five runs before adding some insurance while SCF's bats couldn't produce enough as Seminole triumphed 6-3.
The loss means the Man
atees (41-12) will need to claw their way out of the loser's bracket, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday's against the loser of Friday's late game between Miami-Dade and Chipola.
On Friday, SCF took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an error when Seminole first baseman James Jean misplayed a grounder and Conner Oliver, who led off the frame with a walk, scored. Oliver was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two walks.
The lead was short-lived as the Raiders pounced for five runs off four hits, highlighted by A.C. Carter's three-run double.
SCF struck back for a run in the bottom of the fourth when Lakewood Ranch's Andrew McNett (2-for-5, three runs batted in) plated Braden River's Dalton Busby.
The offense, though, was stymied, mostly because of Kyle Andre's pitching.
The Raiders starter didn't generate monster numbers in his six innings of work, with just three strikeouts, three walks and seven hits allowed. But he only gave up two earned runs and kept SCF leadoff hitter Orlando Rivera off the base paths.
The Manatees offense starts with the sophomore second baseman. Rivera leads the team with 20 stolen bases. He didn't get going in an 0-for-4 day against Andre.
LSU-bound Connor Hale tallied a 3-for-5 performance at the plate, collecting three of SCF's 11 hits.
Despite the lackluster effort at the dish against Andre, the Manatees still had chances in the eighth and ninth innings to tie or win the game.
In the eighth, SCF loaded the bases with two outs and Hale batting. But Hale popped out on the infield.
Then in the ninth inning, the Manatees loaded the bases again. Raiders right-hander Reily Monkman escaped the jam unscathed when he struck out Andrew Widell and induced McNett into a fielder's choice groundout.