Head Coach Joe Durant needed medical attention after Saturday’s nightcap thriller against Norfolk State.
“I think I pulled a calf muscle jumping up and celebrating,” said a wincing, limping Durant after Nick Parker raced home from second with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of FAMU’s 5-4 win.
With the win, the Rattlers salvaged a split of the doubleheader. FAMU (16-17 overall, 3-5 MEAC) lost game one 3-2, with Mike Sills (1-4) taking the loss despite a strong six strikeout, complete game outing.
Parker started the ninth with a sharp single to left off losing pitcher Alfred Corbin (0-1). Ben Morgan followed with a high chopper over Corbin’s head. Shortstop Edwin Garcia had to wait on the ball, and Morgan beat the throw to first for an infield hit.
Following Chris Branning’s popout, right fielder Montrey Coleman beat out an infield single to short. Garcia went to first with the throw.
While first baseman Abdullah Hicks held the ball momentarily, Parker never stopped running, rounding third and sliding under catcher Cameron Jones’ tag.
“Coach is always talking about trying to make plays,” Parker said. “That’s all I was trying to do.”
Norfolk State raced out to a 4-0 first inning lead off starter Andy Pace. Pace pitched scoreless ball the rest of the way, scattering seven hits and striking out eight over eight innings. Harvell Harris worked the ninth and picked up his first win of the year.
Shut down for most of game two by Spartans’ middle reliever Eugene Goodson and his overpowering fastball, the Rattler offense finally ignited in the bottom of the seventh.
Behind 4-2, Durant opted for a couple of pinch hitters to jumpstart his struggling lineup. Parker, batting for James Ammons, worked Goodson for a leadoff walk on a borderline 3-2 pitch.
After looking at five straight pitches, Morgan jumped on a high Goodson fastball, blasting a two-run homer deep and to the left of the 410 sign in dead center field. Relegated to pinch hitting duties due to an arm injury, Morgan said he sat on Goodson’s fastball.
“My third base coach (Derrick Richardson) told me to relax, think fastball, clear my hips and go through the zone,” Morgan said about his first homer of the year. “It’s a lot easier to hit when coaches have confidence in you.”
Shortstop Scott Holmes chipped in with three hits and two RBIs. The victory was FAMU’s first extra inning victory at home this season, after losing three previous cliffhangers.
Coach Marty Miller rued the fact his Norfolk State team allowed FAMU back in the game.
“I’m happy about the win (in the opening game), but I’m not happy about the way we played the second game,” Miller said. “We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t do it. Still, those were two good ballgames.”
The Spartans notched their first conference win in the opener.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the sixth, Norfolk State started a one-out rally. After Hicks reached on an infield single off Morris Scott’s chest, designated hitter Joshua Melvin golfed a low Sills’ changeup over the left field wall to tie the score.
Goodson doubled off the top of the wall with two outs and his brother Greg followed with a RBI single to left to give the Spartans their first lead.
Andrew Renshaw (3-5) shut down the Rattlers’ batting order, scattering six hits and allowing only one earned run in a complete game victory.
“He hit his spots. He had a pretty good curveball,” said FAMU third baseman Alcides Segui. “He pitched a good game. Then again, so did our pitcher.”
The top of FAMU’s lineup went 1 for 12., with only Holmes ekeing out a first inning single.
Left fielder Miguel Quinones and Ammons, hitting in the eight and nine spots, each had two hits and a RBI.
Pending the outcome of Sunday’s series finale, which occurred after the FAMUAN went to press, the Rattlers stand 9-3 on their current 13-game homestand.
FAMU travels to Troy State Tuesday for a single game, then goes on the road to face conference rival North Carolina A & T in a three-game series this weekend.
Bethune-Cookman currently sits atop the MEAC standings with a 6-0 record in league play.
While acknowledging the importance of a good conference record, Durant said the MEAC tournament was a wide-open affair. He noted Norfolk State’s run a year ago, when the last place Spartans charged to the tournament final.
Durant bristled at FAMU’s failure to get up for the visiting Spartans.
“We thought Norfolk State was gonna’ sit there and let us beat them,” Durant said.
Mike Connell, fresh off a 13 strikeout shutout win over North Carolina A & T, started for FAMU on Sunday.