The Florida A&M baseball team will begin their 2011 campaign Friday Feb. 18 when the team travels to Jackson, Miss. for the second annual Jackson State University Tournament.
The team will play four games in three days. They will compete against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Prairie View A&M and tournament host, Jackson State in the competition.
The tournament will give a sneak peek at the team’s progress as it begins it’s the season under new head coach Brett Richardson, who believes the team has improved since last season.
“We have come a long way from then until now but how much remains to be seen,” Richardson said. “We’ve worked hard, gotten stronger physically and hopefully mentally. We won’t know how much until this weekend.”
The JSU tournament will be the first chance for the Rattlers to showcase their skills under Richardson, who was given the position after the university parted ways with coach Robert Lucas after last year’s disappointing season when the Rattlers finished 10-29.
Although the season as yet to begin, some players can already see a difference in this years squad.
“This team has come real far, and the season hasn’t even started. I feel like we have already accomplished something,” said Scott Sheplak, a junior outfielder from Tampa. “There are no individuals this year, just a team. We all have the same goals which are to win and be there for each other.”
Players see the tournament as an opportunity to gain momentum as the season starts as well as an opportunity to make a statement.
“These first four games are important, especially after last season,” said Daniel Lee, a junior pitcher from Tampa. “Winning the tournament will make a statement and set the pace for this season.”
The game plan for Rattler victory is simple according to Richardson.
“If we pitch well, play defense and put the ball in play we will comeback with a win,” Richardson said.
After the tournament, the team will travel back to Tallahassee to prepare for its first home game of the season when the Rattlers play host to Mercer University on Feb. 23.