Even with the Rattlers staked to a comfortable lead in the opening game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, coach Joe Durant said he never considered lifting starter Andy Pace for a reliever.
“Pace is a bulldog,” Durant said. “You’d have to fight Pace to take him out of the ballgame.”
Pace shook off a rocky first inning against Savannah State to pitch FAMU’s first complete game of the year as the Rattlers swept the Tigers 16-5, 6-4 at Moore-Kittles Field. In snapping a six-game losing streak, FAMU (4-7) won for the first time since taking two of three from Mercer on the season’s opening weekend.
Savannah State (12-3) tacked three runs on the board in the top of the first inning.
After a Nick Parker throwing error allowed Tigers leadoff hitter Brandon Pope to reach base, shortstop Denis Brewer jumped on a Pace pitch, cranking it over the right center field fence for a two-run homer.
The next hitter, left fielder Thomas Lonnon, lofted a fly ball to center. Rattler center fielder Montrey Coleman lost the ball in the mid-afternoon sun, scoring Lamar Leverett and putting the Tigers on top 3-0.
FAMU responded in the second with six runs. With two outs and the bases loaded, Rattlers third baseman Alcides Segui lined an 0-2 pitch over Brewer’s head into left center, scoring Coleman and Ben Morgan. Consecutive run-scoring singles by Parker and Frank Scott pushed FAMU into the lead for good.
“Luckily, we stayed in the ballgame,” Segui said. “We just turned it on in the second inning, like we know we can.” Segui went 3 for 4, driving in three runs from the number eight spot in the lineup.
As Pace cruised along, keeping Savannah State off-balance with a sharp breaking ball and a live inside fastball, FAMU kept tacking on runs. The Tigers’ defense helped the Rattlers’ cause –they committed five errors in each game.
Vince Palmer led off the fourth inning with a towering, wind-blown shot over the left field fence. Another RBI single from Segui, followed by a Parker sacrifice fly and Scott’s steal of home put FAMU ahead 12-3.
Pace scattered nine hits and struck out seven in picking up his second win of the year.
“I felt like I loosened up as the game went on,” Pace said. “I had better control.”
In the nightcap, Savannah State battled back from a 4-2 deficit, tying the score in the top of the sixth.
Terrance Dorsey, relieving FAMU starter Levron Sarauw, gave up a hard single up the middle to Leverett. Ashley Sims bounced a slow roller to Parker, who threw the ball into left field attempting to turn a 4-6-3 double play.
After Robert Settle’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, Thomas Lonnon pulled a Dorsey fastball in his eyes down the left field line for a two-run double. Dorsey bore down, striking out Brewer and inducing Tigers catcher Ken Shreve to foul out to third baseman Morris Scott.
In the bottom of the inning, Rattler left fielder James Ammons hit a fly ball to right.
Right fielder Sims appeared to close on the ball, but ultimately lost it in the lights at the last second. Ammons stopped at second, then moved up on losing pitcher Angel Garcia’s wild pitch. Donnie Von Dolteren hit a sacrifice fly to left just deep enough to score Ammons, jolting FAMU back into the lead.
Lefthander A.J. Patrick came on in the top of the seventh, closing out Savannah State in order for his first save.
Tigers head coach Jamie Rigdon didn’t stick around for the close finish.
In the bottom of the fourth, Rigdon charged out of the dugout, yelling obscenities at the second base umpire. Garcia was called for Savannah State’s fourth balk of the night for failing to come to a complete stop.
Enraged, Rigdon rushed the umpire, ripping his jacket and gloves off in the process. Rigdon said the umpire had instigated the outburst with comments made during a conference earlier in the evening.
“The umpire had said some unprofessional things about the team and the coaching staff,” Rigdon said. “He made a couple of unprofessional comments that had nothing to do with baseball.”
Rigdon declined to elaborate on those comments. The umpiring crew was unavailable for comment.