Rattlers off to a striking start

MEAC Player of the Week Dylan Dillard
Courtesy of Nathaniel Price/ The Famuan

Florida A&M’s baseball team entered the 2015-2016 season with a goal of starting off the season stronger than they did last year. The last two seasons, they have had trend of finishing strong but not starting off well.

The trend of finishing the season strong earned them a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship title that they are looking to defend.

The Rattlers (11-5) are 16 games into the season and are on an eight-game winning streak thanks to some impressive offensive performances and consistent defense, they are also ranked No. 1 in the Southern Division. The streak is the longest since before the 2000 season.

Starting the season, FAMU had two players – second baseman Alec Wong and center fielder Willis McDaniel – receive MEAC honors for the first week.  Wong received Player of the Week honors and McDaniel received Rookie of the Week.

Head coach Jamey Shouppe’s goal for the team is to continue their momentum throughout the season and end as well as they have ended the last two years.

“We [the team] are happy,” he said. “We still feel like we left a couple of wins out on the field, but we’re happy to be 11-5. It’s a new mark in terms of wins this early in the season.”

Although they have started off strong, Shouppe does not want them to get complacent and be satisfied with the start, he wants them to come with a professional mindset.

“Hopefully our guys will come out with a business-like approach and not be satisfied and continue to get better,” Shouppe said.

Two more Rattlers – first baseman Dylan Dillard and pitcher Ricky Page – have recently been recognized by the MEAC. Dillard is the current Player of the Week and Page is the Pitcher of the Week.

Both players were recognized for their performances throughout the current win streak.

Dillard had three home runs, including a multi-home run game against Toledo, with two doubles and had 10 RBIs. He also had two games with four RBIs in four games.

He said that the honor is appreciated, but he is more focused on team achievements.

“The winning streak is probably the biggest thing, the Player of the Weeks will come and go, that’s just like a personal accolade” he said. “Playing as a team and playing how we’re playing right now is really special and hopefully we can keep that going.”

Page, the left-handed pitcher, threw a career-high eight scoreless innings in game two against

Bethune-Cookman and tied a career high with five strikeouts. Page gave up three hits and only walked one batter, while lowering his season earned run average to 2.31.

Dillard said that the message from coach Shouppe to the team is to keep it “business as usual.”

“He [Coach Shouppe] says not get our highs to high and our lows to low and be more even keel and go about our business as we have been.”

The Rattlers are scheduled to face Alabama State at 5 p.m. in Montgomery, Ala.