You can always count on family and friends of the Ratter baseball team and Rattler diehard fans like me to show up for a Rattler game. What you don’t expect is to hear the MEAC Champion Rattler cheerleaders rooting the team on from the stands or see an organized Rattler baseball alumni squad presenting a check to the FAMU Foundation in between games. From the hill overseeing the rear of the stadium it was a festive occasion as Rattler fans tailgating shared good food and music.
The baseball team responded in resounding fashion out slugging the Bethune Cookman University Wildcats in route to a 15-3 win. FAMU would score in every inning. The aggressive play of the Rattler offense and the steady pitching, double plays (2), and home runs (2) in the first game silenced the bats and the voices of the Bethune Wildcats as they stared at the Rattlers almost in awe at how fast that first game got away. The Wildcats and their fans grew uncharacteristically quiet.Who would have thought that in winning their sixth game in a row the Rattlers would take the first game after only 7 innings of play because of the mercy run rule? Danny Rodriguez pitched six innings for the win. David Ogilvie pitched one inning in relief. German Hernandez took the loss for the Wildcats and was assisted by 2 other pitchers before the game was called.
The Rattler cheerleaders did not arrive in uniform. Except for the fact that they were are sitting together fans may not have noticed them. That they decided to cheer seemed spontaneous. It was in the second game that they got every one’s attention including the players, who were surprised by chants created just for them. The fans showed their appreciation by applauding after each cheer. The Rattler baseball team showed greater appreciation by taking game 2 in exciting fashion.
For most of game 2 both teams were stuck at two hits apiece. During that period Rattler pitcher Ricky Page seemed comfortable on the mound as he held the Wildcats at bay. For the eight innings that he pitched, the game remained 0-0. In the top of the 9th inning the Wildcats made the play that they must have thought would win the game. It was one out with runners on first and second. Wildcat center fielder Michael Cruz hit a single off of pitcher Kenny McDonald that landed in front of the Rattler center fielder. Speedster Demetrius Sims scored from second base to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. Rattler relievers Ryan Kopenski and Hunter Fillingim then shut down the Wildcats the rest of the inning holding them to that 1 point.
Still scoreless in the bottom of the 9th inning it was do or die for the Rattlers. They needed at least 1 run to tie the game and send it into extra innings or the game would be over (the game was scheduled for 7 innings, so technically they were already into extra innings). With one out shortstop AJ Elkins hit a single to land on first base. Freshman outfielder Willis McDaniel then hit a sacrifice bunt as prescribed by Rattler coach Jamey Shouppe to move Elkins to second base. At that point senior outfielder Peter Jackson stepped up to the plate.
Fans called out for Jackson to get a base hit to move Elkins into scoring position. He started by threatening to bunt. Then the count went to 1 ball and 2 strikes and coach Shouppe gave Jackson the green light to swing away. If you have never seen him in person Peter Jackson is slim and tall and does not have the look of a home run hitter. In fact, his first career home run was just this past Tuesday against Toledo. With two strikes Jackson was forced to protect against a strikeout by swinging at anything that was close. Undaunted by the situation he took a pitch and hit it with such authority that everyone knew from the moment he hit it that that it was going over the fence. Home run and RBI!! FAMU wins game 2 by a score of 2-1.
SUNDAY’S GAME THREE
On Sunday the Rattlers faced the Bethune Cookman Wildcats to finish out the series on a cloudy, but very pleasant day. While the Rattlers looked for consistency the Wildcats were hoping to steal at least one game before they left Tallahassee. Though the Rattlers won somewhat convincingly, neither team met their goal. In between innings 1 and 2 the Rattlers scored 5 runs, which was all they needed to finish the game with a 5-3 win. The and offensive and defensive intensity seemed to drop as the the Rattlers appeared satisfied with the lead. Meanwhile, the Wildcats had no answer for the Rattler pitching. Junior Chase Jarell pitched for 8 innings to earn the win. Hunter Fillingim closed out the game to seal the win.
The Rattlers next contest will be a single game on Wednesday in Montgomery, Alabama against Alabama State.