TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Rattlers were unable to clinch a spot in the MEAC Tournament on Sunday afternoon as Florida A&M (24-23, 12-9 MEAC) fell 14-7 to North Carolina Central (22-27, 12-11 MEAC) at Moore-Kittles Field. The Eagles scored early and often and kept their postseason hopes alive by tallying 14 hits on the afternoon to down the Rattlers for the fourth time this season.
North Carolina Central had control of the game from start-to-finish. The Eagles scored in the top of the first after three of the first four batters singled to open the game. NCCU added two runs in the second with the help of two FAMU errors, before scoring three runs in both the fourth and sixth innings to take a 9-0 lead.
The Florida A&M pitching staff didn't help their own cause as they surrendered 11 walks and three hit-by-pitches on the afternoon.
JoJo Durden (2-6) took the loss for Florida A&M after allowing six runs (four earned) on six hits in 3.1 innings.
Landon Fraley (4-2) shutout the Rattlers through five innings and allowed just four hits to earn the win for the Eagles.
Dallas Oliver extended his hitting streak to 15 games after finishing the afternoon 2-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Brian Davis (2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI) also swung the bat well for Florida A&M.
How it Happened
The Eagles took an early lead in the top of the first, but JoJo Durden avoided the big inning and stranded the bases loaded. Three of the first four Central batters singled to start the game. Carter Williams led off the game with a high chopper single to second base and came around to score on Ellington Hopkins RBI single to left center, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
North Carolina Central took advantage of two, two-out errors in the top of the second to score two runs and extend the lead to 3-0. With runners on first and second and two outs a fielding error allowed the first run to score. The next batter reached on an infield single, but a throwing error to first allowed another NCCU runner to come around to score.
Ellington Hopkins gave the Eagles a 6-0 lead with a three-run home run to right field in the top of the fourth inning – his first of the season.
NCCU added three more runs on two hits in the top of the sixth inning, making the score 9-0. After back-to-back walks from Josh Wilson to open the frame, Jamie Grant took over the pitching duties for the Rattlers. After a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners to scoring position, Jake Raby drove them in with a single to left center. After another walk and a single, Andrew Valichka drove in the final run with a bases loaded sacrifice fly.
Florida A&M pushed across their first run of the day in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Rattlers scored without recording a hit in the inning as Kodi Russ reached on a strikeout-wild pitch, and walks to Brian Davis, Garrett Wilkinson, and Russell Rauh brought him in, making the score 9-1.
The Rattlers scored another run in the bottom of the seventh to make the score 9-2. Oliver worked a leadoff walk and came around to score on Davis' two-out double down the left field line.
After a single and a double to start the eighth, Valichka drove in a run with his second sacrifice fly for the Eagles.
FAMU scored three runs on an RBI single by Oliver and a two-RBI single by Davis in the home half of the eighth, cutting the deficit to 10-5.
The Eagles scored four runs on four hits in the top of the ninth to push the lead to 14-5. Raby drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly and Zach Michalski added a two-run double before the final run came in on a wild pitch.
Florida A&M scratched across two runs on two hits in the bottom of the ninth. Malachi Mitchell led off with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Mitchell then stole third and scored on another throwing error. Kaycee Reese worked a walk and scored on Javon Byrd's triple to center field for a final score of 14-7.
What's Up Next
The Rattlers will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina for a three-game series with North Carolina A&T. In order to ensure a place in the upcoming MEAC Tournament the Rattlers must take two games from the Aggies who are currently in first place in the MEAC Southern Division.
The two clubs will play a doubleheader on Friday at 1:00 PM and a single game on Saturday at 1:00 PM at War Memorial Stadium.
As always, fans can follow Rattlers' Baseball on Twitter @BaseballFAMU and on Facebook.