By Jessica Gardner/ FAMU Sports Information Intern
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Mar. 9) – Florida A&M Baseball heads into conference play this weekend hoping to turn the season around. While the season did not get off to the start head coach Jamey Shouppe hoped for, he remains optimistic about the future.
“We have come nowhere near close to playing our best baseball yet. I know what good baseball looks like and what good teams look like and we have a decent team,” Shouppe said. “We have a much better team than what we have displayed so far.”
Pitching coach Bryan Henry reflected on the start of the season.
“We’ve seen some good things and we’ve seen some things we need to work on and correct,” Henry said. “That’s the good part of the non-conference schedule, we can take those things that we need to correct and start working on them now before the main part of our season, the conference part, starts up this weekend.
Henry said the pitching staff has to get better at attacking the strike zone, as they move forward in the season.
“We’ve walked too many guys as a whole as a pitching staff. We’ve really shown up in some games and in others we’ve been able to pitch out of the jams that we have created but it’s putting a lot of stressful pitches in our guys’ arms,” Henry said. “The games we’ve done well and won or given ourselves the chance to win are the games where we haven’t given the other team free passes. A big focus on the pitching staff right now is to come out and attack the strike zone a little more.”
Senior pitcher, Ryan Anderson, started the season in the starting rotation but going into conference play is taking a role in mid relief instead. Henry sees benefits in adjusting their pitching rotation, moving forward in the season.
“He’s (Ryan) such a competitor and hard worker. We felt like with his capabilities, and the sinker he has, that he would be a good late inning guy for us to keep the ball down and in the ballpark,” Henry said. “We’ve had a few home runs to start the year. We want to make the other team earn everything and get two or three hits to score a run, rather than one big home run. Having him pitch in the back end, we’re hoping will help us out.”
In addition to the adjustments the coaching staff is making defensively, offensive coach Anthony Robinson said the team has room for improvement at the plate as well. The team collectively is currently hitting .286 as a team. Robinson said the goal is to be batting above .300.
“Very high on our list is on base percentage. Getting on base and giving us a chance to do damage,” Robinson said.
“We’re going to have to do a better job earlier in the count. We also have to not be afraid to hit with two strikes and just have quality at bats. Hitting the ball hard and not giving the opposing team easy outs,” Robinson said. “We have to become better base runners as well and be able to advance in making the extra base when a fly ball is hit into the outfield.”
The team has spent a large portion of their time practicing in the batting cage prior to games and in practices to help them improve.
“Do the thinking in the cage, feel good in there and go out and execute on the field,” Robinson said
This weekend will open up conference play for FAMU baseball and Shouppe holds the same expectations for his team, as he held at the start of the season.
“I expect us to play good baseball. I’ve expected that all year long and I don’t see any reason why we are not capable of winning the regular season (title), winning the (MEAC) tournament and then going to the NCAA tournament. That’s been our expectation since I walked in here and that’s what it is going to be every year,” Shouppe said. “I have absolutely not seen any reason to think differently. We haven’t had the success we want but seldom do you in life. You have to just learn how to play through that. I think we’re going to be fine. I know these kids are much better than what we’ve played and I’m looking forward to starting conference play.”
The Rattlers will take the field this weekend for their first conference series match-up against Bethune-Cookman, Saturday at 1 p.m at Moore-Kittles Field.