By Michael Morrell/Special to FAMU Athletics
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – First year head coach Jamey Shouppe earned his first big signature win as Florida A&M (18-21, 10-7 MEAC) used two two-run home runs by Ryan Kennedy and Jeremy Barlow to defeat No. 6 Florida (27-15, 12-6 SEC) 4-3 on Wednesday evening at McKethan Stadium. The win was the first for the Rattlers over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 4 Miami 2-1 in 1980 in Tallahassee. It also marks the first win in program history over Florida for Florida A&M, 19 games, dating back to 1980.
Barlow led the FAMU offense going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI while the Rattler bullpen continued its success. Brandon Fleming (3-3) came in to pitch in the fourth inning and only allowed one run over the next three innings with two strikeouts for the win. Starter William Carrasco opened with three strong innings only allowing one unearned run with one hit and two strikeouts, while Kendal Weeks pitched the final 2 1/3 innings for his first save of the season.
Florida scored first with an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning. Richie Martin walked with one out, stole second and moved up a base on a flare to right from Harrison Bader. Starting pitcher Carrasco tried to catch Bader stealing second but an errant throw allowed Martin to score from third for the 1-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, Kennedy’s seventh home run of the season, a two-run blast over the fence in left, put Florida A&M up 2-1. Bennie Robinson walked on four pitches to lead off the inning and stole second with no outs. Marlon Gibbs laid down a nice sac bunt to advance Robinson to third before Kennedy’s shot put the Rattlers on the board.
UF tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth on an RBI single from Bader. Casey Turgeon was hit-by-pitch to start the home half of the inning for Florida and moved all the way to third on a high chopper from Martin back to the pitcher. Martin was tagged out by Fleming on the play.
The Rattlers regained the lead for good at 4-2 in the seventh on Barlow’s two-run home run. Just as it happened to the Gators in the last half inning, Michael Birdsong was hit-by-pitch to start the Rattler seventh inning. Jared Walker who has missed the last nine games with a hand injury came in to pinch run for Birdsong. Walker stole second and was pushed to third on Ryan Hutson’s sac bunt to watch Barlow’s home run sail into the bleachers in left field.
The seventh inning got a little dicey for the Rattlers. Cameron Sims came in for relief of John Marcus Roberts following back-to-back one-out singles by the Gators that put runners at first and second. Sims pitched Sternagel to fly out to center but hit Turgeon to load the bases with two outs. With the bases loaded, Weeks moved from second to pitch in relief of Sims and caused Martin to fly out on the very first pitch, holding the FAMU lead at 4-2
Bader’s solo home run in the eighth for the Gators cut the Rattler lead to 4-3. Zack Powers later tripled to center with two outs but Peter Alonso flew out to right to end the inning and the scoring threat for UF.
Florida reliever Shaun Anderson (0-1) suffered the loss for the Gators after giving up the go ahead run in the fourth inning.
Florida A&M returns to MEAC action this weekend with a key conference series against North Carolina Central (15-25-1, 10-9 MEAC) in Durham, NC. The Rattlers and Eagles will play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 26, as game times are scheduled for 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. The series finale will be on Sunday at 1:00 pm.
As always, fans can follow Rattler Baseball on Twitter @FAMUAthletics and live stats will be available via www.FAMUAthletics.com.