The Albany State Golden Rams (28-16) defeated the Kentucky State Thoroughbreds to win the 2018 SIAC Baseball Championship. Coming into the tournament Albany State was ranked third in the Black College Nines Poll of small HBCUs.
On their way to the conference championship, Albany State knocked off Miles College, the number one ranked team in the Black College Nines Poll, by a score of 8-3.
The loss sent Miles to the loser’s bracket where they met a determined Kentucky State team (21-22),that had lossed a one run game (8-7) to Clark-Atlanta University before winning a thrilling one run game (5-4) against Tuskegee University.
The Kentucky State-Tuskegee game was marred by ugly language being hurled at the umpires by Tuskegee fans. There were shouts of racism and name calling. Tournament officials called the Albany Police Department to escort the umpires to their cars.
“The talk of racism made me feel kind of bad,” said Rob Henry, coach of the Kentucky State team.
“I’m white, but I probably have the most diverse team in the conference. It is about fifty-fifty white and black. I’m doing the best I can to prepare these kids to play baseball and race does not have anything to do with it,” Coach Henry said.
“I was hurt by what I heard,” Coach Henry mused.
Back to baseball.
On Sunday afternoon, under a picture perfect blue sky, Coach Henry had more to worry about than the taint Tuskegee tried to place on his team’s victory to earn the right to face Albany State.
He had run out of pitchers.
“Pitching is the number one problem in HBCU baseball,” Henry said.
“I only have three scholarships a year for baseball, so it is hard to get good pitching without the resources. All HBCUs have the same problem,” Henry said after the game.
Henry only had one pitcher left who had not worked in the tournament, Kevin Givhan, who had worked a total of six innings all year. He came into the game with an earned run average over 21.
The big hearted Givhan gave it a good old college try for his team. But the lack of work during the season showed. He was rusty. He hit the first batter he faced and by the time Kentucky State had recorded the first out, 27 minutes into the game, Albany State had sent 13 batters to the plate, 12 of them had scored.
Albany batted for 35 minutes in the top of the first inning.
Kentucky State had reached the finals on the strength of heavy hitting from Brandon Story, Cameron Starks, Adren Thompson, Jordan Ransom and Jay Poullard.
But senior right hander Tyler Wilcher(5-3), the Golden Rams third starter, was on top of his game. He kept the potent bats of Kentucky State at bay throughout the game.
“Going out there with a 12 run lead in the first innings made me feel good. This is not only a great win for our program, but a great win for the community,” Wilcher said after the game.
“Looks like we will be playing in Tampa in the regionals against Florida Memorial. We beat them twice this season,” Albany State Coach Scott Hemmings said.
Harold Michael Harvey, a former outfielder at Tuskegee University in the 1970s, is an attorney, author, publisher, board member of the Atlanta Metro RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program and contributing reporter for Black College Nines