Florida A&M bats peaked at the right time during the MEAC Baseball tournament. Those bats propelled the Rattlers to a conference championship with two crushing consecutive game wins and a postseason berth in Atlanta, Georgia for the Atlanta Regional, hosted by Georgia Tech.
FAMU is the #4 seed in the regional and will play Georgia Tech in its first game at 7 p.m. on Friday. The other two teams in the regional are Coastal Carolina and Auburn. This season marks the first time since 2015 that the Rattlers will participate the NCAA tournament.
While previewing the weekend pitching staff, don’t count on the Rattlers to run into trouble this weekend in Atlanta with the pitching staff.
Right-hander Kyle Coleman (6-5) is tapped as the starter for Friday’s game versus Georgia Tech.
In his last start, Coleman threw a complete game 8-1 win in the clinching conference championship game against Norfolk State striking out nine batters, pitching like his usual self. He has recorded 77 strikeouts for the season.
Pitchers don’t always get the run support they need to put a W in the Win column and in the early part of the season, pitching kept the Rattlers in games.
Head coach Jamey Shouppe stated before the start of the season that “Florida A&M is extremely excited about the team they will put on the field this season. After losing 13 seniors last year, including top five hitters, there will be a lot of new faces on the field this season. Different from previous years, the pitching staff could end up being the strength of this years squad.”
In three exhibition games this past fall, the pitching staff boasted a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings and held opponents to a .168 average while striking out 39 and walking 12. A big strength of the staff was the bullpen.
Since the start of the season, Rattler pitching has answered the call. In 59 games, both starters and relievers have struck out 355 batters with a really decent 5.31 earned run average for the season. They have also been a good fielding team.
Besides Coleman, Josh Hancock with a 4.47 ERA and 56 strikeouts and Josh Barr with 39 strikeouts have established themselves as go to guys.
Both JUCO transfers Colemen and Hancock are 6′ 7″ and throw hard.
Coach Shouppe, is in his sixth season at the helm of the Florida A&M baseball.
Hired away from nearby Florida State prior to the 2014 season, Shouppe knows that baseball isn’t the time for throwing the freshest arms out of the bullpen. It’s the time for throwing the right arms out of the bullpen.
The Atlanta Regional will be Shouppe’s 25th overall regional. Two as a player at Florida State from 1981-1982, 21 as an assistant at FSU from 1990-2011 and 2 at FAMU in 2015 and 2019.
In 25 years of coaching at the collegiate ranks, Shouppe will stick with what works, even if it means pitching a player who might’ve worked an inning or two the day before. Especially and desperately needed in a tight situation, he’ll surely think about turning to someone he trusts rather than someone who is fresh and hasn’t pitched in a while.
Sophomore Jeremiah McCollum, (6-2) with a 3.13 earned run average with 11 saves 32 strikeouts, Morgan Mendez (4-1) with a 3.29 ERA and one save with 50 Ks, Jamie Grant (2-2) with 30 strikeouts and Josh Wilson with 24 strikeouts, all have entered games as the main relief pitchers for Florida A&M.
McCollum, Black College Nines HBCU Pitcher of the Year, in his last outing in the MEAC championship game allowed no hits and no runs in closing the door on the Spartans while picking up the 5-4 win which forced a winner take all game that the Rattlers eventually won.
Shouppe and his pitching staff will manage the regional differently than it did during the regular season. That’s why McCollum and Grant can spot start if needed. Tommy Benn and Chris Clark, if they prove that they can consistently throw strikes and get outs, those are the pitchers Shouppe trusts the most. Those are the ones who have to carry the load in the Regionals.
How will pitching hold up in the regionals? Coach Shouppe stated “well it’s obvious that we would not have won the MEAC tournament had it not been for our arms. Our pitchers did an outstanding job. They pitched as well as they have all season.”
Was there any improvement during the season? “In the second half, I saw a lot of improvement not only our pitching, we had quality at bats. Our rotation has been set for the second half of the season with Colemen our Friday guy, Hankcock as our Saturday starter and Barr as our Sunday guy. We will start with that rotation in the course of this tournement as well.”
What will be your pitching approach to Georgia Tech? “We have to keep the ball down. Georgia Tech is definitely a hitters ball park. That is pretty obvious by the number of home runs they have hit as a team. Most of Tech’s home runs come from their top three guys. One has more than 20 and the other two have double digit homers mainly at home, so we got to keep the ball down. The only thing that concerns me going into this tournament is how the ball carries in this ball park. My days at Florida State, I called a few games in this park and the ball always carries especially to right and right center fields, so that’s concerning. We pitch well, we are not a strikeout squad. Our team we don’t average a strikeout per inning like a lot of clubs do. We pitch and play pretty good defence so we will see what happens and go with what we have done all year long, go out and expect our guy’s to play well and we will play in front of a home crowd in Georgia Tech, a sold out crowd. It will be exciting for our guys and we will not try to do something we have not done all season. Hopefully we will play well enough for a chance to win.”