College Sports

SCF baseball | Devon Raftery cool under pressure for Manatees in win over HCC

BRADENTON -- With State College of Florida's lead trimmed to one, head coach Tim Hill called on freshman Devon Raftery.

The closer was in a pressure situation, right where the right-hander thrives.

"When it's a closer game, I zone out. I focus more," said Raftery, who leads the state with 11 saves. "I'm better under pressure than I am with trying to be relaxed, because then my focus goes off."

Raftery finished off the eighth inning, before SCF's offense provided several insurance runs in Saturday's 12-6 victory over Hillsbor

ough Community College at Robert C. Wynn Field.

The Manatees (28-13-1, 10-5 Suncoast Conference) completed a sweep of HCC and remained atop the conference standings.

While Raftery polished off the victory on the mound, it was SCF's offense that clicked in two big run-producing innings.

The Manatees plated four runs in the third inning, before a five-run bottom of the eighth salted the contest away.

Several SCF batters contributed multi-hit games, including Omar Garcia (2-for-4, two walks, run, stolen base, three RBIs), Orlando Rivera (2-for-5, walk, run, two stolen bases), Conner Hale (3-for-5, double, RBI, run) and Lakewood Ranch product Andrew McNett (2-for-5, run, stolen base).

Former Manatee High standout Tyler Rocklein also chipped in three RBIs with a double and two sacrifice flies.

SCF's triumph capped a perfect week during which the Manatees went 4-0 against Suncoast Conference opponents.

"We've been swinging the bats the last four or five games," Hill said. "I'm really pleased with that. And everybody is stepping up. We were basically in a team slump, so to speak, but everybody the last four or five ballgames has been swinging the bat pretty good."

The Manatees blasted HCC starter Tyler Alexander for seven runs in the first three innings, before the Hawks (21-19, 7-9) chipped back with two runs each in the fifth and eighth frames to get within 7-6.

Former Lakewood Ranch High standout Josh Russell, who threw 22/3 scoreless relief innings prior to HCC hitter Trevor Freeman's two-run homer in the eighth, retired the next two hitters before giving way to Raftery.

Raftery, who led Deltona High to the Class 6A state title game last season, was making his first appearance since Monday night's 12-inning victory over Polk State College, because he threw 85 pitches in relief.

"It was kind of hard to get back into the groove," Raftery said. "That was my first time being down in the bullpen since Monday. This game, I was just coasting, trying to hit spots. Just pick and get my pitches where they needed to be."

If Saturday was the softer version of Raftery's stuff due to the layoff, then hitters across the state should worry when his arsenal is back to full strength.

He set down all four batters he faced, striking out one.

"Coming into the Polk series, he had four or five innings and up to 85 pitches," Hill said. "We had to shut him down and kind of took his groove away. Hopefully, coming into (Saturday) and getting that extra boost with the runs in the ninth, will get him back into next week."

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