LAKELAND -- The end of the state tournament came much more quickly and lacked a celebratory dogpile this season for the State College of Florida baseball team.
The defending champion Manatees dropped an 8-5 decision to Lake Sumter Community College on Sunday morning at Joker Marchant Stadium in the loser’s bracket of the FCSAA/NJCAA Gulf District Tournament.
The Lakers scored four runs in the first inning off SCF starter Jeremy Strawn and led the entire game.
Coupled with Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Broward College, Sunday’s defeat eliminates SCF, ending its season at 33-20.
Last season, the Manatees won their first state championship since 2002, piling up at the pitcher’s mound after the final out, on the way to the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
But this year’s team came under repeated criticism from veteran head coach Tim Hill for not keeping its focus on baseball, despite carrying a record similar to last year’s squad.
Hill was unavailable for comment Sunday.
Brad Dantzler led the SCF offense Sunday by going 2-for-4 with a home run and three runs batted in. Brandon Patterson added two hits and two RBIs.
The Manatees cut their deficit to 5-3 in the fifth inning before Lake Sumter pulled away for good.