ATLANTA —Florida A&M, coming off a stirring Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, displayed confidence and poise heading into its first NCAA Regional baseball tournament since 2015.
The Rattlers began their bid for a national championship against No.6 ranked Georgia Tech in front of a sold-out crowd here. FAMU came into Atlanta to prove it deserved to be there just as Coach Jamey Shouppe said. However, costly mistakes and patience at the plate by Tech led to the Rattlers losing 13-2 in their tournament opener on Friday night.
“I know it may not have looked like it by the way we played, but there’s only two teams in the history of FAMU baseball that can say they earned the right to be in a regional, and we’re proud to say that we are one of those two teams,” Shouppe said.
FAMU pitcher Kyle Coleman was the star for the Rattlers in the MEAC tournament and could have been the star Friday as he threw for five innings, as he racked up 129 total pitches. This speaks to Tech being patient at the plate and not forcing swings.
“The first couple of innings my control wasn’t there. It’s no excuse, but the first time being in an atmosphere like that, I was just trying to calm my nerves and get through the innings. After settling down and figuring out what I was doing wrong, I was able to give my team a chance,” Coleman said.
Tech played a gritty game as the Yellow Jackets collected 15 singles but didn’t record an extra base hit. This is a problem, not for the Yellow Jackets but for FAMU. The four unforced errors as well as a lack of consistency on the mound hurt the Rattlers when they desperately needed to apply pressure to the Tech offense.
“I would say that kind of speaks toward what we do as a team – we see pitches, we grind at bats and we try to get on base any way possible,” said Georgia Tech first baseman Tristan English. “Today it was a lot of walks and singles – give credit to their pitcher, they throw a lot of pitches right down the middle for us to punish, but credit to our hitters and myself for sticking to our game plan."
Although Tech was able to jump out to an early 5-0 lead, FAMU came back strong in the fifth inning when catcher Bret Maxwell hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring in Willis McDaniel. Then a perfectly placed bunt by shortstop Ryan Coscarella down the first base line brought in Seyjuan Lawrence for the Rattlers’ second run.
Heading into the sixth FAMU had regained its confidence and made this into a game against the nationally ranked Yellow Jackets. However, Georgia Tech took all hope away from FAMU fans as they put on a clinic at the plate in the seventh. A five-run inning dashed the Rattlers’ hopes of a comeback. Tech jumped out to a late 10-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh and would eventually increase that lead to 13-2 to win the game.
FAMU’s season is not over yet. The Rattlers still have a chance as they take on Coastal Carolina in the elimination game.
Coastal Carolina lost to Auburn 16-7 tin Friday’s first game here.
FAMU goes against Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m. today at Russ Chandler Stadium. If the Rattlers live by their regular season motto of grit and execution, there is no reason they can’t advance to Sunday in the double-elimination regional.