Fifth Anniversary Of The “Fenway Finale”

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NCAADI/MEAC/Baseball

 

Florida A&M Sports Information

 

Five years ago this weekend, Florida A&M University head coach Jamey Shouppe and his baseball team would engage in a dominant and historic weekend. Coming off a mid-week game where they outhit the Auburn Tigers 11-4 in a disappointing 3-2 loss, the potent Rattler baseball team headed to Boston for a three-game series against North Carolina Central to determine first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).

The teams squared off for two games at the Boston Red Sox AAA Pawtucket, R.I. facility and played the final game in historic Fenway Park in Boston. It would mark the first time an HBCU conference game was played at a Major League Baseball (MLB) venue.

The event was part of the first ever Historically Black College and Universities Legacy Weekend Celebration put on by the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Area Church League, Inc. In addition to the games being played, other events over the weekend included a reception on Thursday, a debate hosted by Harvard University on Friday, April 24, and a college career fair hosted by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday, April 25.

The opening ceremonies to the weekend were held at Jim Rice Park, a community park in Boston. Boston’s newly-appointed police chief William G. Gross threw out the first pitch as the Rattlers and Eagles hosted a youth camp prior to the first game. Gross was the first black Chief of Police and has since been elevated to Boston’s first black Police Commissioner.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum, voice of the Marching “100” Joe Bullard, FAMU Board of Trustees Spurgeon McWilliams, M.D. and Rufus Montgomery, Sr. Associate Athletic Director Angela Suggs and Interim Director of Athletics Dwayne Robinson all accompanied the Rattlers to Boston.

The game was broadcasted live on the New England Sports Network (NESN), the same network that broadcasts games for the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and Boston Red Sox. Red Sox great Jim Rice attended the game and expressed his pleasure in seeing so many black players in a sport where their presence is declining.

In the historic game, the Rattlers fell behind early. Catcher Jeremy Barlow hit a double off the Green Monster to spark an amazing comeback. Relief pitcher Brandon Fleming came in and shut down the Eagle offense. Senior third baseman Ryan Kennedy sent a shot over the Green Monster to give the Rattlers the lead for good. In the end, the Rattlers would emerge with the 9-4 win and first place in the MEAC.

The Rattlers clinched the MEAC Southern Division the following week, propelling them into the MEAC tourney on a hot streak. FAMU would win the MEAC Tournament in Salisbury, Md. earning their first outright entry into the NCAA Regional Tournament. It was the first time in FAMU history that a team made it to the full field of the NCAA tournament.

Coach Joseph Durant and his Rattlers of 1994 won the MEAC tournament and earned a play-in bid to the NCAA tournament. At the time, the MEAC was not an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament.Years later the NCAA restructured the tournament allowing the MEAC champion an automatic bid into the full field of the tournament.

 

Florida A&M Completes Sweep of North Carolina Central

BOSTON – The Florida A&M University baseball team moved into first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Southern Division after completing the sweep over North Carolina Central, 9-4, on Saturday at Fenway Park.

The Rattlers scored six runs over the final four innings and Ryan Kennedy’s two-run home run over the Green Monster in the eighth inning sealed the win. The FAMU bullpen held NCCU scoreless and with just three hits over the final 3.2 innings.

Alec Wong led the offense, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Michael Birdsong added a 2-for-4 day at the plate.

Rattler relief pitcher Brandon Fleming earned the win after pitching 2.2 scoreless innings with two hits and a season-high four strikeouts. Starting pitcher Ryan Anderson pitched 5.1 innings and allowed four runs on five hits with four walks and one strikeout.

NCCU jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind Christian Triplett’s two-run home run over the Green Monster. Ronald Thompson led off with a walk and Triplett blasted a two-run shot down the left line that was just fair.

The Rattlers grabbed their first lead, at 3-2, with three runs in the bottom of the second inning.

Jeremy Barlow doubled off the Monster while Peter Jackson and Jared Walker drew back-to-back to load the bases with two outs. Wong tied the game with a two-run single to right field and Walker broke the tie as he scored on a passed ball.

Florida A&M pushed its lead to 4-2 with a single run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Marlon Gibbs doubled to the gap in left center, with one out, and was awarded third on a balk. After Ryan Kennedy walked, AJ Elkins brought home Gibbs with a sacrifice fly to left.

North Carolina Central tied the game at 4 with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning.

Triplett cut the FAMU lead to 4-3 as he led off the inning with his second home run of the game over the Monster. Eric Kimber quickly followed with a double to right and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Kovalcik. Trevor Theissen tied the game as he plated Kimber with an RBI single to right. Theissen stole second and took third on the errant throw as Barlow tried to catch Theissen stealing second. Fleming came on in relief and struck out the next two batters to keep the game tied.

FAMU broke the game open with three runs in the sixth to grab a 7-4 advantage.

Jackson walked to start the home half of the sixth and went to second on a sacrifice bunt from Walker. Wong’s single to left would put runners on the corners with one out and Wong moved to second on a wild pitch. Another wild pitch allowed Jackson to score from third and Wong to advanced to third. Still with one out, Gibbs walked to put runners on the corners as NCCU went to the bullpen. After the pitching change, Gibbs stole second. Wong scored on a passed ball and Gibbs came in to score on a wild pitch. Kennedy’s two-run home run into the second row of the Green Monster, in the eighth inning, put the game away.

NCCU reliever Kyle Shields suffered the loss after allowing the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. Shields only recorded one out with one walk. Starter Devin Sweet lasted 4.2 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits with five walks and one strikeout.

 

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