ATLANTA —Coming off a loss to Georgia Tech in its NCAA Regional Tournament opener Friday night, Florida A&M was hoping to grab a win and continue a championship season when the Rattlers faced Coastal Carolina here Saturday afternoon.
Both teams started slow but a three-run third inning from Coastal set the tone for the rest of the game. Coastal went on to win 9-4 and end the Rattlers’ historic season.
“It would be remiss for me to not say that this is historic for us, this is only our second regional. We need to make this a commonplace event. We hope to do that and continue to build this program,” FAMU coach Jamey Shouppe said.
This was one of those games where the boxscore didn’t tell the entire story. Even though Carolina was the clear winner, there were times when FAMU gave fans hope for a comeback.
In the fourth inning the lead-off hitter for FAMU, Willis McDaniel, hit a home run into left center that barely made it over as it bounced off the fence. As McDaniel rounded the bases you could see the glimmer of hope across the faces of Rattler fans, but that power did not translate to the rest of the team.
“We didn’t have the consecutive hits that we needed. We had hits every now and then, but when we had that big opportunity, we lost it,” Octavien Moyer said.
Despite FAMU out-hitting Carolina 13-11, Coastal was able to accumulate several extra base hits and two home runs from Parker Chavers and Jake Wright.
“We knew what was put in front of us, and today we had to attack Florida A&M. We know that if we come tight and try to do too much, we’re not going to win that way. We just try to be loose and have fun,” CCU shortstop Scott McKeon said.
FAMU for only the second time in school history advanced to the NCAA Regional baseball tournament. The Rattlers were rightfully disappointed by the outcome of their two contests, but the team still has hopes for a successful season next year.
The Rattlers will be losing pivotal seniors such as Kaycee Reece and Brett Maxwell, but Shouppe is still hopeful that with new and young recruits plus the return of veteran leaders like Moyer that they can still be the best team in the MEAC.
“You’ve got to get the right guys who come in and buy into what you’re trying to do and buy into your system like these guys did to my left (Reece, Maxwell and Moyer),” Shouppe said. “I think power today was the difference in the ballgame as much as anything you saw. We look to and have recruited some guys and signed some guys that have the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark with a little more frequency.”
The Rattlers ended their season as MEAC champions and as a No. 4-seed in the NCAA Atlanta Regional for the national championship. Even though the Rattlers are not eligible for postseason play next season because of NCAA sanctions, the acquisition of power on the mound and at the plate could still make them arguably the best team in the MEAC next season.