The Road to Enid Begins: PHSC Hosts 4-Team Conference Tournament
This afternoon, the 7-game sprint that is the Sun Lakes Conference Tournament will kick off with the opening round of the 2023 tournament.
This year’s tournament will feature new additions in the form of South Florida State College and St. Johns River State College, both of whom moved from D-1 to D-2 Region 8 play this past offseason.
They will be joined by two teams that have seen a glimpse of the four-team tournament style: Palm Beach State and Pasco-Hernando State College, which both punched their tickets to the tournament last year.
This season will be the second consecutive year that PHSC is hosting the event since it has been formed into a double elimination style tournament, having hosted it in 2022.
While the Bobcats weren’t able to secure what would have been their 4th straight D-2 Region 8 title last season, falling to Florida State College of Jacksonville, who went all the way to the College World Series, they are bringing a quite formidable group here into the 2023 showdown.
With that being said, let’s take a brief look at the four teams that will be competing for a shot at getting one step closer to Enid.
#4: South Florida State College
South Florida State comes into the tournament as the 4th seed; however, they feature a lineup that will be tough to deal with against these other pitching staffs.
The team finished the year two games over.500, completing the regular season with almost even records at home and on the road.
Although numbers-wise the pitching ERA is high, this team has some power bats that are scoring runs in sophmores Brylan West and Pedro Moreno, both of whom are hitting north of.300 and have double-digit home run numbers.
Offense may be their key here in their tournament and could cause fits that can make them interesting in the opening matchup versus Pasco-Hernando State.
#3: Palm Beach State College
Palm Beach State may arguably be the hottest team coming into the weekend, currently sitting on a 4-game winning streak.
After an early exit in last year’s tournament, Palm Beach State will be looking to rebound in their second year as a member of the Sun Lakes Conference after moving out of D-1-level play.
As is the case with all the teams in the tournament, Palm Beach State’s offensive producers are prevalent and very similar to those of the Tampa Bay Rays, spread around as the eight batters in their lineup have an AVG above.300 is an impressive stat, to say the least.
Similar to South Florida State, however, their pitching numbers are high in terms of ERA, putting them in a similar position to where they are an offensive-producing team.
#2 St. Johns River State College
St. Johns River State comes in as the 2-seed in the tournament in their first year and the #13 ranked team in NJCAA Division 2, getting barely beat out by the top seeded Pasco-Hernando State, but they are looking to be one of the potential favorites in this year’s tournament.
Featuring many of their D-1 players from last season, the Vikings are coming in with a chip on their shoulder after being knocked out of the opportunity to host by PHSC.
The Vikings were hot at home, but a 14-12 road record does glare.
With that said, this Vikings squad is arguably the best all-around team in the tournament, boasting a solid pitching staff and a formidable lineup that has 63 homers on the year.
The big key in this is PHSC, as although they took care of business against the other two teams in the tournament in the regular season, PHSC gave St. John’s trouble, going 1-5 against the Bobcats.
#1: Pasco-Hernando State College
The Bobcats are coming in hot.
Although the team has had its ups and downs, the Bobcats are coming off a victory over St. John’s last week to clinch hosting this tournament.
Not only that, but this team sits 8th ranked in the NJCAA Division 2 rankings, putting them in a spot as not only a team that could win the conference but a team that could make a World Series run this year.
The team features a formidable offense, with first-year Bobcat Kohl Robertson holding a.500 OBP and 10 homers, which leads the team, and Aiden Corn, whose hitting is above.400.
Beyond the offense, the team has relied on 3B Georgia State commit Chay Yeager, who has been very effective on the mound this season, and Davian Garcia, who holds a sub-2.00 ERA on the year.
PHSC is another team that is all-around built well, and the team will be looking to rewrite the script after being put behind the 8-ball last year with an early loss to ASA Miami in last year’s tournament, which resulted in them playing an extra game to battle for the conference crown.