GREENSBORO, N.C. (Mar.30) – The Florida A&M Rattlers (10-16, 7-4 MEAC) won their 10th game of the season for the first time since 2011, as they defeated the North Carolina A&T Aggies, 11-7 in 10 innings in a highly-contest MEAC Southern Division series at War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro, N.C. With the win, the Rattlers also got their seventh conference win for the first time since 2009, when they won 10 conference games.
Head coach Jamey Shouppe wasn’t pleased with the Rattlers letting such a large lead slip, but saw other positives on the day. “This was the first time I’ve seen our team and grab the win. I’ve been preaching all year that we have to go and take wins, nobody is going to just give them to you,” Shouppe said.
The Rattlers scored in the first inning as center fielder Blake Quillin, who reached base on a single, moved around the bases to score on a NCAT error. The Aggies would fight back in the bottom of the first and get the run back as Luke Tendler, who finished the day 3-for-5, scored the first of two runs he would score on the day.
FAMU would add one more run in the second, before exploding for four runs in the top of the third inning, giving them a 6-1 lead. FAMU maintained that lead until the bottom of the seventh, where NCAT erupted for six runs, aided by FAMU errors. FAMU allowed three runners on base, by way of errors, walks and a batter hit by Quillin, before they scored the first run of the inning on a sacrifice fly. At the conclusion of the seventh, the Rattlers found themselves down 7-6.
Peter Jackson and Taylor Strauss, who played in a reserve role for FAMU, played valuable roles in the eventual comeback. Jackson singled in the eighth, and eventually scored after being moved over by a Strauss at-bat. After reaching first on a fielder’s choice, Strauss stole second base.
The role of the reserves didn’t go unnoticed by Shouppe.
“I like to see kids come in and perform when their number is called. It let’s me know that they weren’t in the dugout sleeping, but paying attention and mentally preparing to be inserted into the game. Strauss not only played solid ball, but did a good job on the bases today,” Shouppe said.
Sophomore Jordan Montague started the game on the mound for the Rattlers, tossing 5.0 innings of five-hit, one-run ball before being relieved by Quillin to start the sixth leading 6-1. Quillin threw a scoreless sixth but he and two relievers ran into trouble in the seventh when the Rattlers committed two errors, hit two batters and surrendered three hits, leading to six runs and a 7-6 deficit with two innings left to play.
But second baseman Kendal Weeks would perform masterfully in relief as he went 3.1 innings allowing just one hit To shut down the Aggies and help the Rattlers seal the series sweep.
“Frank (Schaeffer) has done an excellent job with our pitching staff," Shouppe said. "We continue to identify the strengths of our pitching staff, which allows us to better utilize them in roles where they can be successful. Today, we moved Jordie (Montague) into the starting rotation and he gave us five solid innings of work before reaching his pre-determined pitch count. Then, Kendal (Weeks) came in when we really needed it and shut the door giving us the opportunity to come back and win."
FAMU took advantage of Aggies' starter Mitchell McQueen, touching him up for 6 runs on 6 hits in 2.0 innings of work and reliever Justin Godette (0-3), who surrendered 4 runs on three hits over the final two innings and was charged with the loss.
FAMU returns to action Wednesday, hosting a non-conference game against Florida Gulf Coast at 1 p.m. at Moore-Kittles Field.
The Rattlers now remain in first place of the MEAC Southern Division, with a 7-4 conference record. They lead the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats by a half game, who own a 7-5 conference record. The Rattlers and Wildcats will go head-to-head in Daytona this weekend for a crucial conference three-game series, with Sunday’s finale to be broadcast on ESPNU.