Clark Atlanta Sports Information
Just four years ago, Clark Atlanta University baseball only had one win.
But a team that stayed together, played hard and focused on getting better just concluded a 2018 season in which they set a team record for wins, qualified for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoffs for the first time and was just a few breaks from going far in the championships.
It’s a season that head coach Kentaus “K.C.” Carter and his team are proud of, though ready to build on.
“We had a successful season,” Carter said. “At the beginning of the season, we hit a couple of rough patches. Either we were hitting the ball well, but not playing good defense, or we were playing good defense and not hitting the ball well. But we always had discussions in which we said that this was a marathon, not a sprint.”
The Panthers lost five of their first six games before taking two-of-three from Kentucky State in early February and then winning four straight later in the month. Then they lost 11 of their next 12 games. Then a close loss against a good Shorter team from the Gulf South Conference showed Carter’s team that they were capable and had what they needed to win baseball games.
“From there you just saw a change in the team,” Carter said. “I saw a change in the guys and their attitude.”
“We stayed the course,” he said. “We played a tough schedule early in the season. But we continued to work and practiced to get better in each aspect of the game until it finally came together for us at the end.”
Flipping their beginning of the season, the Panthers finished the regular season by winning six of their last seven games, taking series over Atlanta University Center rival Morehouse College and Lane College.
The most important thing was for the first time since the SIAC went to the current format of the top four teams in each division reaching the postseason, CAU qualified.
“Our backs were against the wall,” Carter said. “We needed to win to secure one of our goals for the season. We controlled our destiny and were playing with a sense of urgency. We needed to win to reach the playoffs and that was the motivating factor.”
CAU defeated Kentucky State, but narrowly lost to eventual champion Albany State in an intense and tight 8-7 game. A quick turnaround losers’ bracket game against Claflin proved too much as the Panthers’ season ended with a loss.
But the season was historic one for CAU. The Panthers finished with 18 wins, the most ever in a season, along with CAU qualifying for the playoffs for the first time.
Carter credited his entire group of hard-working Panthers, but singled out seniors Arias Smith, Raphael Andrades, Jamari Randle and Shahir Gates for coming up big when CAU needed it. Smith, who became part of the program at the same time Carter joined CAU, was around when the team won only one game, but has been part of win increases each year since then.
Randle literally went through the wall for his team during the tournament, injuring his face after running into a wall to make a catch. Gates was crucial on the mound and in the field throughout the season, while Andrades was on fire during the tournament, going 12-for-14 at the plate in three games. Andrades, who was named to the All-Tournament team, hit two home runs, had a triple, and three doubles, drove in seven run, and scored seven times.
While he is losing a special group of seniors, Carter said the program is now poised for much better things.
“We have something to build on for the future,” he said. “We have 15 guys returning, which is a stepping stone to get us where we need to be. We had a taste of success, but we didn’t finish like we wanted to. But moving forward, we know what we can do to win a championship. We know what it’s going to take.”