After a record breaking season in 2016, the Florida A&M baseball team has begun its preparation for the new year.
With five games scheduled this fall, head coach Jamey Shouppe plans to use the time as an evaluation period.
"Fall ball is what it is. It doesn't count toward our record so we play everybody we can and try to evaluate some guys in certain situations," Shouppe said.
FAMU hosted Gulf State College Tuesday afternoon and played 19 different players in total. "We've got some talent but we've got a long way to go to get that talent ready to play," Shouppe said.
FAMU finished the 2016 regular season with a 31-21 record, securing its first 30 win season since 2003 and second since 1980. The rattlers also managed to go 19-5 in the MEAC, setting a record for most conference wins in team history.
"We had a record year last season but we didn't get to the postseason,"Shouppe said. "We're going to build on what we did right last year and work to get better."
A dynamic offense that placed FAMU in the top 10 of three different categories (On base percentage, batting average, and runs scored a game) during the 2016 season was not enough to secure a position in the NCAA regional tournament. Shouppe believes an improvement in pitching is necessary for the 2017 season, which could ultimately be a deciding factor on whether the Rattlers make the postseason or not.
"We've gotta get better on the hill if we're going to go to the postseason," Shouppe said. "Pitching is where we look to make most improvements on, and what we're really concentrating on to take this team to the next level."
Coach Shouppe and the team plan on using their absence from the postseason as motivation moving into the spring.
“Coach reminds us all the time that the postseason is our ultimate goal,” junior infielder, Brian Davis said. “Everyday at practice we build and work on things we didn't do last year so we can improve this year.”
Sophomore outfielder Willis McDaniel echoed the team's goal “We’re just trying to compete everyday to put us in a position to win a ring this year.”
The Rattlers look to be in good hands under Shouppes’ leadership. Since his hiring in 2013, FAMU has improved every season in conference play and his 80 wins in his first three seasons are more than any other baseball coach in school history."The NCAA tournament is what it's all about, our goal is to push our guys so we can make the postseason for the second time in school history," Shouppe said.
FAMU will continue its preparation for the spring with another fall game against Gulf State next Tuesday, October 18th with First pitch set for 5:00 pm.