NCAA Tournament: Florida Tech Takes On Tampa At 8 p.m. In Alabama
By Florida Tech // May 14, 2015
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – In the midst of a special season, one that began with a program-best 17-0 start, the Florida Tech Panthers are back in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed in an incredibly loaded South Region field.
With play set to begin Thursday, the Panthers’ trek towards Cary, North Carolina opens up at 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET in a matchup with none other than Tampa.
Although a rewarding experience, the Panthers were quick to celebrate and regain focus after hearing their names called in last Sunday’s selection show.
“We anticipated things falling in our favor,” said head coach Greg Berkemeier.
“We felt like we had a good season, put together a good resume in terms of our schedule and with the teams we were able to beat. We felt like we earned our way in. It is very rewarding, but more than anything else, we’re focused on the task at hand and have to understand what we have in front of us.”
“We’ve obviously seen three of the teams in this region already. They’re all good clubs, and it’s going to be a good challenge for us. We’re going to have to play good baseball in order to come out this thing with a regional championship,” said Berkemeier.
Wrapping up the regular season with a collective .342 batting average, eighth in NCAA Division II, opposing pitchers won’t find many holes one through nine in the Panthers’ batting order.
Florida Tech features four All-Sunshine State Conference performers throughout its lineup, with the most notable being catcher Austin Allen.
A Tino Martinez Award Semifinalist for the nation’s Most Outstanding Player, Allen earned the league batting title after posting a remarkable .422 average to add to his 10 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Finishing just behind Allen in the race, leadoff hitter Reid Neal recorded a stellar .419 average of his own, and led the SSC with a .487 on-base percentage. In all, seven of the Panthers’ regulars are hitting at least .313.
With perhaps his most deep and talented club in eight seasons at Florida Tech, Berkemeier knows that this group will be a tough out come tournament time.
“Each team I’ve had has been special, and possessed different strengths,” he said.
“I feel like this club is very balanced, though, and is a bit more dynamic from a power standpoint. I feel like we have a good shot, it’ll just be interesting to see how we matchup.”
In a region that features five programs among the top-12 in D2 Baseball News’ latest rankings, there is no such thing as an easy out.
Garnering the No. 4 seed after completing the regular season with a noteworthy 36-11 record speaks volumes of the level of competition set to be on display in Livingston, Alabama this weekend.
On paper it appears the regional is making an attempt at replicating a pseudo SSC Tournament with Lynn, Nova Southeastern and Tampa in the mix.
Add in SIAC champion Albany State and a Tanner Rainey-led West Alabama team, and fireworks are sure to be seen at Tartt Field.
But first the Panthers must focus on Tampa.
The Spartans are in the NCAA Tournament field for the 16th consecutive season, and despite a bit of a “down” year by their standards, remain relatively loaded.
Tampa enters the week having finished first or second in the SSC in seven major offensive categories, topping the league in RBIs and slugging percentage.
In addition, the Spartans have an all-conference arm in Chase Sparkman who tossed a complete-game shutout against Florida Tech back on April 17.
“We’re very familiar with Tampa, and know how talented they are,” said Berkemeier.
“Historically, they’re a tremendous program. They’re used to coming to this event, so it’s going to be tough. We have to come ready to play.”
Paul Van Scott will broadcast all of Florida Tech’s games in the South Regional at FloridaTechSports.com/live
Tampa will provide a live video feed and live stats will be available courtesy of West Alabama.
Both links can be found at FloridaTechSports.com