The Florida A & M University Rattlers Baseball team broke even in their double-header against Bethune Cookman University at Moore-Kittles field on Saturday.
The Rattlers started the game with a great pitching performance. Pitcher,Ricky Paige, stepped on the mound ready to play with an immediate strike-out.
Head coach Jamey Shouppe acknowledged the great beginning to the game, and gave some insight on his philosophy for a good defensive performance.
“Paige was able to get us a good start,” Shouppe said. “Baseball is easier when pitchers get off the mound quickly and batters are able to get into a rhythm.”
FAMU scored at the bottom of the second inning after Brian Davis hit a double down first base to score the first run of the game taking a 1-0 lead.
Pitching won the game for the Rattlers, but it also caused a major issue. Ricky Paige made an errant throw first base resulting in a two-base throwing error, which allowed the Wildcats to take the lead 2-1.
The game was delayed in the top of the third inning with a 1-1 count, for two hours and 17 minutes due to inclement weather.
After play resumed, The Rattlers answered with a run in the bottom of the third inning to tie the game 2-2. Ryan Kennedy hit his fourth home run of the season in the bottom of the fifth making the game winning hit and advancing the Rattlers with a score of 3-2.
Freshman, relief pitcher, Cleveland Westbrook finished the game out strong at the top of the seventh inning after pitching well to close out the game.
Westbrook said that when he knew he would be on the mound, he had to be the best thing on the field. He felt that he had something to prove being a freshman.
“I went in trusting myself,” Westbrook said. “I knew that my defense would back me up because they are incredibly great. Therefore, I had to follow through with I had because everybody looks at me as the underdog being a freshman.”
Westbrook only allowed one base runner, the first batter he faced that reached on an error, over the final 4.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
Coach Shouppe was proud of the way his freshman pitcher exhibited poise at a young age.
“Cleveland threw extremely well,” Shouppe said. “He is great for a freshman, especially playing against a rivalry team. I was very proud of him.”
The Rattlers escaped the Wildcats with a 3-2 win.
The Rattlers fall to Bethune Cookman in the closing game of the three-game series at Moore-Kittles field on Saturday.
Even though the Rattlers played good defense, only allowing a total of three hits, it just wasn’t enough.
Head coach Jamey Shouppe took nothing away from the WildCats giving them all the credit for earning the series victory.
“I have to tip my hat off to Bethune Cookman,” Shouppe said. “They did a lot with a little, getting only three hits but being able to get enough runs to win the baseball game.”
The second game took a different route for the Rattlers. They did not come out playing as aggressive at the start of the game. But, they were able to eventually pick up their momentum.
The Rattlers successfully defended a squeeze bunt attempt (fielder's choice) with one out in the top of the seventh inning. With two outs, BCU hit the ball right to starting pitcher Ryan Anderson, for the 3rd out of the inning.
At the bottom of the seventh inning, there was a batter interference call on Alec Wong, on a passed ball that would have advanced second base runner Jared Walker to third base. Wong eventually advanced to first base with a walk.
AJ Elkins hit a fly out to centerfield and with two outs, batter Marlon Gibbs, walked which loaded the bases for Ryan Kennedy. On a 3-2 count, Kennedy struck out.
Jared Walker, the 5-foot-11 outfielder, had a pretty impressive day. Walker went 3-7 with a double and an RBI.
Walker, exhibited a team first attitude while commenting on his performance.
“I do it all for the team,” Walker said. “I never take my accomplishments personally because I do what my team needs me to do.”
The Rattlers changed pitchers at the top of the eighth inning inserting Brandon Fleming for Ryan Anderson.
The Wildcats scored an additional run on a throwing error from Kennedy to Birdsong for a 2-0 lead, with only one out.
FAMU loaded the bases for a double play opportunity, which resulted in FAMU walking in a run and the pitcher was changed immediately after. Marcus Roberts retired the side for the top of the 8th inning.
At the bottom of the 8th inning, Michael Birdsong hit a two run homer,his fourth home run of the season, after Davis advanced to 1st base on a walk. Barlow followed with a single to left field. Peter Jackson and Jared Walker struck out on pitches, and Wong flew out to CF to end the inning.
At the bottom of the ninth, the Rattlers needed at least one more run with the score being 3-2. AJ led off with a fly-out to left field. Marlon Gibbs was able to ground out to 2nd base followed by Ryan Kennedy singling to 3rd base. Davis hit a ground ball to 2nd base to end the game.
Coach Shouppe was proud of his teams never say die attitude.
“We did not execute particularly well,” Shouppe said. “But, I can say that we fought as we always do.”
The Rattlers will host their final home game of the season against North Florida on Wednesday, April 8th at Moore-Kittles Field, first pitch is scheduled for 5:00 PM.