Underdog Eagles ready for postseason opener

Head coach Patti Townsend speaks with her team following a game against Pensacola State. (Photo courtesy of Michael Schwarz)
Head coach Patti Townsend speaks with her team following a game against Pensacola State. (Photo courtesy of Michael Schwarz)

VERO BEACH, Fla. (April 28, 2016) – On paper, Tallahassee Community College's opening round game in the NJCAA District/FCSAA State Softball Tournament against Indian River State College (1:30 p.m. Friday, FCSAA Sports Channel) looks a bit unbalanced. 

Tallahassee enters as the No. 4 seed from the Panhandle Conference while Indian River State won the Southern Conference Championship. The Eagles come in with a .500 record (21-21) while the Pioneers boast a gaudy 44-9 record. Tallahassee is unranked; Indian River State is No. 3 in the Region 8 Softball Coaches' Poll and No. 4 nationally.

But this is not exactly uncharted territory for the Eagles and head coach Patti Townsend.

Just last year, Tallahassee entered as the PC's No. 4 seed and, after losing its first game, won four straight, knocked out NJCAA No. 2 College of Central Florida in the process, and brought home a fourth-place finish in the re-vamped 16-team tournament, where the final two teams advance to the NJCAA Division I Softball Championship.

But it's the 2008 and 2011 seasons that Townsend can lean on to show this year's squad that anything is possible in postseason play. Both times, Tallahassee entered the tournament as the fourth seed from the Panhandle and in both instances, the Eagles walked away with a championship trophy and a berth to the national tournament.

Tallahassee has its work cut out in order to deliver a repeat performance. In addition to Indian River State, the field includes NJCAA No. 2 Central Florida, No. 3 Northwest Florida State College and No. 11 Florida SouthWestern State College.

A return to mid-season form will give the Eagles their best shot at playing deep into the three-day event. From March 20-31, Tallahassee won six straight games, including doubleheader sweeps of Pensacola State College and Darton (Ga.) State College, the latter, on March 29, representing the last time the Eagles took both games from an opponent.

After winning game one against Gulf Coast State College on March 31, a game two loss began a string of eight losses in nine games to close the season, but it didn't prevent the Eagles from qualifying for postseason play for the eleventh time in the last 12 years under Townsend.

Win or lose, Tallahassee will play a second game at 6:30 p.m. Friday against either No. 6 State College of Florida or No. 7 Seminole State College. The game will be carried live on the FCSAA Sports Channel.