JACKSONVILLE, FL – FAMU came up just short on Tuesday night as they fell 6-5 to the North Florida Ospreys (23-13). Florida A&M (17-15, 7-5 MEAC) fought hard, but in the end, it was errors once again that prevented the Rattlers from coming out in front.
Just after the Rattlers took a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth, an error in the home half of the inning allowed UNF to tie the game. After a leadoff double and a strikeout, an error by the FAMU infield placed runners on first and third with one out. The next batter plated the runner from third with a groundout to second base, which should have ended the inning.
It appeared that Florida A&M was going to regain the lead as they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth, but a double play allowed UNF to escape trouble. With one out, Kaycee Reese singled to left and Octavien Moyer followed with a hit-by-pitch. Garrett Wilkinson was called on to pinch-hit for Russell Rauh and worked a walk to load the bases for the leadoff man, Ty Russ. Russ jumped all over the first pitch he saw from UNF reliever Matt Naylor, but hit it right at the shortstop for an easy double play.
North Florida won in walk off fashion in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out RBI double by Mac Wilson. After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, Hunter Fillingim struck out the third batter on a breaking ball in the dirt, but the ball got away from Javon Byrd, allowing James Fitzpatrick to reach first base. Wilson then delivered the game winning hit just a few feet inside the left field line, scoring pinch-runner Dalton Board all the way from first, for a final score of 6-5.
An error in the bottom of the first inning also cost Florida A&M a run, and helped North Florida take an early 3-0 lead. After two infield singles, both runners came around to score on a wild pitch by Dylan Carlson. Alex Merritt then reached on an error and scored on an RBI single to center field by Wes Weeks, putting the Ospreys out front.
North Florida threatened to blow the game open in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with one out on three free passes from Florida A&M reliever Josh Wilson, but Jamie Grant stranded all three runners after getting a pop up in foul territory and a fly out to right field to work out of the jam.
Willis McDaniel’s RBI groundout in the top of the fourth inning cut the deficit to 3-1. Brian Davis reached on an error, then Ben Ellzey was hit by a pitch. Aubrey McCarty advanced both runners with a groundout to shortstop, then McDaniel drove in Davis from third for the Rattlers’ first run.
Alex Merritt extended the North Florida lead back to three in the bottom of the fourth inning with an RBI single to right field off Grant, scoring Patrick Ervin from second.
Florida A&M battled back to tie the game at 4-4 with three runs on four hits in the top of the sixth inning. Ty Russ got things started with a double down the right field line past the diving first baseman. After Brian Davis singled up the middle, Ben Ellzey drove in Russ from third with a single through the left side. Aubrey McCarty added a single to load the bases, then Willis McDaniel plated Davis with an RBI fielder’s choice. McDaniel then stole second base, eliminating the double play possibility, and Dallas Oliver tied the game with an RBI groundout to third, scoring Ellzey.
Brian Davis smoked a leadoff double to left center in the top of the eighth inning, then came around to score on a wild pitch to give the Rattlers a 5-4 lead, but FAMU was unable to hold on as UNF scored in the eighth and ninth to earn the walk-off victory.
Davis was the lone Rattler with multiple hits, finishing 2-for-4 with a double and three runs scored. Ty Russ contributed with his second double of the season and scored a run, while Willis McDaniel had a hit and two RBI.
Thomas Nicoll pitched well for the Rattlers in his first appearance since April 1st, throwing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts while only allowing one hit.
Hunter Fillingim (3-2) suffered his second loss in as many appearances after pitching 1.2, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits.
Matt Naylor (2-2) picked up the win for the Ospreys after pitching two thirds of an inning in the top of the ninth.
Florida A&M will return to action this Friday, April 14th as they host Southern Division rival Bethune-Cookman at 5:00 PM at Moore-Kittles Field. On Saturday, the two teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 PM.
As always, fans can follow Rattler Baseball on Twitter @BaseballFAMU and on Facebook.