Amazing Rattlers look to make noise in NCAA tournament
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Coming back to win four straight games to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship is amazing enough just thinking that FAMU’s baseball team will be playing in the NCAA regional tournament.
It’s even more mind-boggling thinking that this is the same team that started the season 0-6. On top of that, they were 0-7 in the middle of the season.
Now coach Jamey Shouppe is preparing the same bunch to face even tougher competition. They found out their destination Monday but Shouppe said he is expecting his team’s best effort.
The formula for success, said Shouppe, is simple.
“We have to grind out good at-bats because we are not that talented offensively,” he said. “If we can grind out good at-bats I like our chances to play good baseball. Anything can happen during the post season. We just hope you play good baseball.”
The Rattlers also will have to get the same kind of effort that they got from players like pitcher Kyle Coleman and third baseman Kacee Reese in the MEAC tournament.
To do more than just settling for making it to the NCAA tournament, the Rattlers also will have to keep the same mindset they had when they faced elimination, Coleman said.
“We just didn’t have an excuse,” he said. “We just went out and played baseball.”
Every player to a man would agree with Reese on what they need to do more than anything else to make a good showing.
“We just have to execute,” said Reese, a product of Rickards High School who batted .455 in Daytona. “They (opposing teams) are going to have better talent, but it’s just a matter of how well we can deal with adversity when things don’t go our way.”
That the Rattlers managed to capture a berth for to their second trip to the regional tournament in five years is beyond even the most faithful fans.
Even Shouppe has been trying to find words to describe what he witnessed at Jackie Robinson Stadium two weekends ago in Daytona. The clincher was the Rattlers’ 5-4 and 8-1 victories over Norfolk State on the same day.
They had staves off elimination in two previous games after beating Delaware State 13-3 in the opener of the MEAC tournament.
“To be able to win four games in a row, you can’t expect that,” Shouppe said. “You just expect and hope that they respond and play well and make it competitive.”
Shouppe attributed the conference title win to the team believing in their motto “Grind to Greatness.” However, there were a few exceptional players and timely hitting that got them through.
In addition to leading the team in batting, Reese also scored six runs and also drove in six.
“I was seeing the ball well throughout the whole tournament,” said Reese, who credited his teammates for fighting through the elimination games. “I was staying loose (and) wasn’t swinging at everything.
“Every pitcher I faced, I made the guy work for the pitch that I liked. I executed by swing well enough to get the job done.”
Since the conference title win, Shouppe has been trying to keep his players loose. He’s gone as far as faking a hip injury to get his players to laugh.
Shouppe showed up at a practice with his hand in his pocket, acting as if he were in pain. As he got to the players, he pulled his hand from his pocket, sporting a MEAC championship ring on one finger.
“I guess it’s just from carrying this (ring) around,” he said, with the intention of offering some humor and inspiration. “I said, ‘you guys are going to have this in about a year. I was just trying to keep it positive for the guys.”