The SIAC Baseball Tournament got off to a roaring start. The first day featured good hitting, strong pitching and superb defensive plays.
Miles College, a Christian Methodist Episcopal church supported school and the top ranked school in the prestigious HBCU baseball poll defeated Paine College from Augusta, Georgia, another school supported by the Christian Methodist Episcopal church 9-1.
Ironically, both schools are named for former Methodist Bishops. Paine is named for the white Bishop who oversaw the establishment of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Jackson, Tennessee in 1870. Also at that conference, Bishop Paine ordained Bishop Miles as one of the first Black Bishops as a Bishop of the CME Church.
What those church leaders began in 1870 was evident in yesterday’s matchup between Miles and Paine.
Xavier Burton went the distance for Miles College.After the game, the soft spoken Burton gave credit to the fine pitching performance put in by Paine College freshmen hurler, Chris McKenzie, for inspiring him to step his own game up.
“Their pitcher was keeping our hitters off balanced, so I knew I had to keep us in the ball game until the bats came around,” Burton said.
McKenzie, was simply superb through seven innings. The Atlanta native was not bothered by the fact he was facing the number one team in the country.
He too had a special reason to perform at the top of his game. It was the first collegiate game McKenzie’s father had ever seen him play.
“My dad can’t get to many of my games. He came today and I wanted to go out and pitch a good game in front of him,” the exhausted McKenzie said.
McKenzie worked seven innings, keeping the potent offense of Miles off balanced with an assortment of breaking pitches and a pin-point fastball on the lower outer half of the plate. He left the game trailing 3-1.
After McKenzie left the game, the Miles bats woke up and pounded out a 9-1 victory for Burton.
The host school, Albany State College, the number two ranked team in the HBCU National Baseball Poll, was successful in their match-up against Lane College, another one of the CME Church supported schools competing in the SIAC. For the record, Lane is named after Bishop Lane who was the Tennessee Bishop who spearheaded the establishment of the CME High School, when it became a college the name was changed to Lane College.
Lane had entered the tournament as a last minute substitution for LeMoyne-Owen, who was disqualified for failing to certify a player on their roster.
Clark-Atlanta University, organized by Georgia Baptist, defeated a very fine Kentucky State University team. Their next opponent is Albany.
In the final game of the day, Tuskegee University, the pride of the swift growing South, whose first classes were held in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, on July 4, 1881 in Tuskegee, defeated Coach James Randall’s Claflin University team, a United Methodist Church organized school, by the score of 10-3.
Tuskegee was led by an excellent pitched game from senior communication major Trey Nelson. The Atlanta native, kept Claflin batter’s off balance the entire game with an a new pitch he had been working with during his side sessions.
“I’ve been working with this new pitch on the sidelines. I felt confident all game that I could throw it where I wanted it to go and in any count,” Nelson said.
Depending on how the tournament goes this could have been Nelson’s last appearance on the mound for Tuskegee.
Nelson took a shutout into the ninth inning. He gave up three unearned runs when an error was committed in the outfield.
Next up for Tuskegee is number one Miles College.
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