High hopes mean steep climb for baseball

After finishing fifth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference a year ago, Head Baseball Coach Joe Durant and the Rattlers team envision a much better finish in the MEAC ranks this season. “We always go into the season feeling as if we have a great chance to finish first,” Durant said. “We have a young team this year, but if we stay healthy we are going to shock a lot of people.” When the official preseason MEAC polls were released earlier in the month, Florida A&M University was projected to finish in third place, behind last year’s conference champion North Carolina A&T, and in-state rival Bethune Cookman. Despite a tough loss in the opening game of a two-game series against Mercer College last weekend, Durant has managed to pick out some bright spots that he said might lead to success in this weekend’s upcoming series at Moore-Kittles Field. “(Sophomore Infielder) Allen Decambra and (Junior Outfielder) Anthony Mazzeo are both hitting the ball well right now,” Durant said. “We’re going to move Allen into the starting lineup as a DH (Designated Hitter) in hopes that he can provide a spark to our batting order.”In order to meet the high expectations of the preseason ranking and the lofty goals set by Durant, the team will have to overcome adversity and bring their ‘A’ game each week. Sophomore pitcher/outfielder Mike Tavernier, who was named to the Freshman All-American team after his exceptional performance last season, has been ruled ineligible for the upcoming season. Also facing eligibility issues is sophomore pitcher/infielder Cirilo Manego. Appeals have been filed on behalf of both players, but their return date remains unknown.This leaves the Rattlers with a young starting lineup that has plenty of talent, but lacks experience. “We finally have established a starting pitching rotation,” Durant said. “These guys are young and talented, but none of them have Division I playing experience.” This means that other players will have to step up. Infielders Chris Lee and Reggie Murray, the team’s only seniors, will have to provide leadership to this young club. Lee is coming off of back surgery from last season will have to play his way back into shape with the depth issues that the team is facing. With all of this, however, Durant and the Rattler baseball team are looking forward to exceeding expectations.