Big fourth inning puts FAMU back on track

After seeing a six-game winning streak end in extra innings Monday night against Maine, Rattlers coach Joe Durant wondered if his team had reverted to its earlier bad habits and losing ways.

“I was having doubts if we could play with teams like this. They proved me wrong,” Durant said.

FAMU’s lineup, bottled up for most of Monday’s opener, exploded in a 10 run fourth inning Tuesday afternoon, salvaging a series split with a 14-3 victory over the Black Bears at Moore-Kittles Field. Averaging over nine runs a game during its winning streak, the Rattlers (11-15) returned to form, pounding out 16 hits, five for extra bases.

Scott Holmes, held hitless Monday night, led the way, going 2 for 4 with a double and 4 RBIs. Every starter in the FAMU lineup had a hit, with Manuel Quinones and Morris Scott homering.

Starting pitcher Mike Connell turned in a complete game, striking out seven. Connell scattered nine hits and walked four for his second win of the year.

“This is the first outing where I’ve had all four of my pitches working,” Connell said. “Usually, you only expect two or three to work, but I had confidence in all four.”

Ahead 3-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, FAMU methodically pieced together its back-breaking rally.

After singles by Ben Morgan and Quinones, centerfielder Frank Scott walked to load the bases. Nick Parker laced a single to right off losing pitcher Greg Creek, scoring Morgan and Quinones. Taking second on Mike Ross’ error, Parker scored on Holmes’ subsequent two-run single to right.

Vince Palmer’s RBI double down the left field line chased Creek. Designated hitter Chris Batsch greeted new pitcher Aaron Smith with a RBI single to left. Morgan and Morris Scott added RBI singles, and Frank Scott’s RBI groundout to the mound pushed the lead to 13-1.

Durant mused afterwards about Baseball America’s prediction that FAMU would only win 11 games this year.

“We’ve won 11 games, and there’s still 27 left to play,” Durant said. “I’m going to call them tomorrow and tell them so.”

Maine pitching coach Scott Friedholm said the Black Bears (8-2) simply ran out of gas after playing 10 games in the last 11 days in an extended Southern road trip..

“You can’t let one loss ruin a trip,” Friedholm said. “We had a feeling one game this trip would get away from us. We just didn’t expect it would be this bad.”

The Black Bears took advantage of a botched double play and withstood a furious FAMU ninth inning rally to win 9-8 in 10 innings Monday night. Maine hitters touched up Rattlers’ starter Mike Sills for seven runs, as FAMU pitchers allowed 10 walks and hit three batters. Catcher Donnie Von Dolteren made repeated saves in the dirt, keeping the game close.

With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the third, Maine rallied for four runs on a missed exchange at second base. Joe Drapeau banged a one-out single to left and Aaron Izaryk walked.

Designated hitter Matt Reynolds hit what appeared to be an inning ending double play grounder to Parker. Parker fielded the ball cleanly, but flipped the ball past Holmes, leaving the bases loaded. Durant shook his head after the game, at a loss to explain the mix-up.

“He (Holmes) said the throw was wide. I don’t know. We get that play and we’re out of the inning,” Durant said.

The next batter up, shortstop Mark Reichley, drilled a two-run double down the left field line and Jesse Carlton followed with a two-run single up the middle.

FAMU battled back in the ninth, tying the game when Reichley booted Palmer’s grounder, allowing Frank Scott to score. Maine regained the lead in the top of the 10th on Izaryk’s RBI double and held on for the win. Winning pitcher Ryan Harris got Chris Branning to fly to center to end the game.