WINTER HAVEN — For the third time in its history, Polk State College Baseball — ranked No. 1 in Florida — will compete in the state tournament, taking on Northwest Florida State on Thursday, May 3, at 10 a.m., at Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium. (tournament bracket)
Tickets are available at the gate; tournament passes are $25, day passes are $10. Fans may also watch the Eagles live at psblive.com.
Polk State heads into the matchup as the top-ranked team in the Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA) Baseball Coaches' Poll and the No. 6 team in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Poll. Polk State is on a nine-game winning streak and has won 15 of its last 16 games.
This is the first time Polk State is ranked No. 1 in the state heading into the state tournament. Northwest Florida is ranked at No. 7.
In a mid-April victory over Hillsborough Community College, Polk State clinched its second consecutive Suncoast Conference Championship and the top seed in the state matchup.
Head Coach Al Corbeil said the squad's strong arms will be a huge asset against Northwest Florida. Alec Asher, who has a 10-1 season record, leads the state with 100 strikeouts, and has an ERA of 1.33, anchors Polk's pitching staff. He is also Suncoast Conference Pitcher of the Year.
"We've been throwing well," Corbeil said.
Of course, one player or one aspect of the game is not enough to bring home the victory. The overall chemistry of the team is what will make the biggest difference, Corbeil said.
"This is just a tight-knit group," he said.
Asher agreed that team's ability to work together is what will carry them.
"Our ability to focus and play like we have been playing all season is what's going to help us win. We can't come out and think we are in the World Series. We have to treat every game like it's a normal game and we will be fine," said Asher.
For Corbeil and crew, the FCSAA/NJCAA Gulf District Baseball Tournament represents unfinished business. After winning the Suncoast Conference Championship last year, the Eagles finished third in the state tournament. The Eagles and the Northwest Florida State Raiders met twice in last season's state tournament — with each team winning one game.
Polk State Baseball has one state title to its name, earned in 1992 under Bing Tyus, who is now the College's athletic director. In the 1992 matchup, the College was unranked.
Heading into Thursday's game, Tyus said Polk State has what it needs to bring another state trophy home.
"I would like to see us peak late and walk out as champs," he said.