College Sports

Pirates deliver lumps, lessons to Manatees

BRADENTON -- State College of Florida’s veteran head coach, Tim Hill, said his team’s annual exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates is about having fun.

“It’s more than a level,” said Hill about the difference in talent between his team and major leaguers. “It’s about two or three levels removed from us. ... We’re not supposed to beat them.”

It was a lopsided outcome -- Pittsburgh won 21-1 -- but playing the Pirates gives SCF the chance to learn from professional players while building toward the junior college grind -- ultimately trying to capture the Juco World Series held in Grand Junction, Colo.

Pitcher Nick Goody didn’t throw against the Pirates, but he got a chance to bat. It’s something he doesn’t do during the regular season.

“All those guys have good stuff; that’s obviously why they’re there,” Goody said.

And although Friday’s contest at McKechnie Field featured several Pittsburgh minor-leaguers, the unique experience wasn’t lost on sophomore B.J. Zimmerman.

He said Hill told the players they are the only junior college team to face a major league franchise during spring training.

Meanwhile, former Manatee High standout Josh Clemen started on the mound for the Manatees.

It marked his second start in 2011, albeit against much stiffer opposition. Clemen said he played on McKechnie Field during his prep career, but the larger crowd was something new.

“My first three batters, I wasn’t around the plate,” he said. “But I had good stuff (Friday). I felt good out there.”

SCF pitchers Goody and Clemen said the Pittsburgh hurlers’ approach is what caught their eye.

“They’re just so smooth,” Clemen said. “Everything seemed so easy. So I definitely took a lot away from that.”

The exhibition game also offered a chance for the SCF hitters to use wooden bats. The Manatees use aluminium bats during their games.

“The new bats that we got are supposed to be more like wood bats,” Zimmerman said. “But with wood, you got to hit it on the barrel in order for it to go. If you get jammed, it’s a broken bat and it’s usually an out.”

Zimmerman said the plate discipline the Pirates showed is something SCF could emulate.

But for now, the Manatees will look to learn from the experience against the Pirates as the Suncoast Conference schedule looms next week.

SCF begins its conference slate on Wednesday at Polk State College, before the second game of the three-game series returns to Manatee County on Friday at Robert C. Wynn Field.