Edward Waters Hosts Rival Florida Memorial in 2023 Season Opening Matchup

The last time the Tigers of Edward Waters University and the Florida Memorial University Lions played each other was a winner-take-all semifinal game during last season’s Black College World Series (BCWS). With Edward Waters’ win over Florida Memorial, the rematch is set between these two storied rivals.

The Tigers punched their ticket to the Black College World Series last season with a 9-8 win over the Lions advancing to the championship game and eventually became the national title holder.

Florida Memorial will get a shot at revenge with Edward Waters, as the two in-state arch-rivals open their 2023 season the weekend of February 3-4 with three-game opening series doubleheader beginning Friday and concluding Saturday with a nine-inning affair at J.P. Small Memorial Stadium, home of Edward Waters baseball and Negro League Museum in Jacksonville, Florida.

Since the start of this rivalry, both programs have played their regular season games like they’re competing for an HBCU Baseball championship.

Last season, Florida Memorial won five of the seven games they played. Florida Memorial won two of three games from the Tigers in Jacksonville, swept EWU in Miami, won the second round matchup in the BCWS, before the Tigers returned the favor in Montgomery including winning the NAIA Bracket championship on its way to winning the Black College World Series.

The two teams were ranked in Black College Nines’ (BCN) 2022 Top 10 small school poll. Both teams are ranked in the 2023 preseason Top 10. Edward Waters is No. 1 and Florida Memorial is No. 4 in the BCN Baseball preseason Top 10 ranking. Generally, both teams have beaten up on each other the last eight seasons with Florida Memorial holding a slight edge.

Both teams have split the last 21 games dating back to February 9, 2015. The Lions have the longest winning streak at four games from 4/13/2016 – 4/20/2016. In 2016, Edward Waters finished the regular season 31-13 overall, with a 12-2 record in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC).

Florida Memorial’s tough conference schedule includes five members in the SUN Conference that are either ranked in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll or receiving votes and receive postseason play in the NAIA National Tournament. Last season, both the Tigers and the Lions competed in back-to-back Black College World Series, the site of the 2023 national event.

During the 2018 season, Florida Memorial upset top-ranked Edward Waters in double header action topping the Tigers in game one 3-1, then held on for a 2-1 win in game two ending EWC eight game winning streak. The caption read: No. 5 Florida Memorial Upsets No. 1 Edward Waters.

Coming into the game, Florida Memorial was ranked No. 1 in the Week 1 (March 13, 2018) first poll in Black College Nines (BCN) HBCU Baseball small school Top 10 ranking of the season. The latest (BCN) poll Week 2 (April 3, 2018) had Edward Waters in the No. 1 spot leapfrogging FMU who slipped to No. 5 after a four-game losing streak.

During that series, Florida Memorial put together enough big plays to earn a marquee 3-1 win over No. 1 Edward Waters. It was the Lions’ first win over the top-ranked team in the nation in program history.

In 2023, both teams have a tough conference and non-conference schedule.

Edward Waters transitioned to the NCAA Division II and is now a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). After a remarkable finish to the 2022 season, where the Edward Waters Tigers were crowned the 2022 World Series Champions, the Tigers returned this fall only losing 3 key players from their national title winning team.

This year’s team has strong leadership lead by senior shortstop Payton Shubert with 4 home runs, 40 runs batted in and junior catcher Anthony Roman with 10 doubles and 25 runs batted in. With having most of the team returning, EWU supercharged its roster by reeling in some top ranked freshmen and transfers, bolstering a returning core that was already well stocked with talent.

This fall, head Coach Reginald Johnson has addressed the Tigers’ pitching staff. The addition of transfers Dywane Maduro and Carson Hurst along with first-year pitchers, Sebatian Velez and Jeremyah Matinez, EWU has the needed pitching depth.

This team is better than last season national title team. Besides Shubert and Roman, key returners include catcher John Nobles with 20 runs driven in last season, Infielder Daiton Pass with a .313 batting average and 20 RBI, outfielders Daquarius Thompkins, .313, 1 home run, 30 RBI, and Isaiah Montes, RHP Alexander Davila, 3-3, 59 strikeouts, RHP William Valenti, 7-2, 56 Ks, RHP Cameron Chastain, and LHP Austin James with a 2-1 record and 27 strikeouts. Key newcomers include INF/RHP Dywane Maduro, RHP Carson Hurst, INF/RHP Sebastian Velez, and OF Jacob Rowe.

Florida Memorial is looking forward to the 2023 baseball season with a veteran returning roster. The Lions added a few big pieces to the lineup that will make an impact. Veterans will continue to be a force on the defensive side.

On the mound all three starters from last season will return, along with some key bullpen mates, returning RHP Samuel Briceno, RHP Jamal Johnson and RHP JJ Baez. Head coach Tito Burgos stated the team worked hard in fall practice and is hopeful that the pitching staff will show gains this coming spring.

This fall the team focused on details, finding things to take their game to the next level. They are coming into this season with a humble, motivated and dedicated attitude. The Lions are excited for what’s to come and it’s going to be a great season.

Key returners are outfielder Jalen Young with a .347 batting average, 2 HR, 27 RBI, infielders Luis Ruiz  with a.363 BA 2 HR, 20 RBI and Ulises Rodriguez with a .340 BA, 27 RBI, Nathan Harris, 2 HR, 31 RBI, RHP Max Charnin with a 6-4 record, 57 Ks, RHP Juan Hernandez, 5-6, 37 Ks and RHP William Hiciano with a 2-3 record, 23Ks, RHP Samuel Briceno, RHP Jamal Johnson, RHP JJ Baez, Aubrey Yarbrough, Ricky Alvarez, LHP Mateo Ferguson, LHP Diego Coss. Key newcomers include Levis Aguila CA, Albert Míreles OF, Genesis Nuñez INF, Ivan Zombrano Utility.

Florida Memorial swept longtime rival Edward Waters in its 2015 season home opener. Will history repeat itself or can Edward Waters defeat its biggest foe on opening day?

This series should have national implication for both teams. The first HBCU Baseball rankings out March 7th.

This rivalry has the competitiveness and adrenaline for each team to play its best baseball.

When the Tigers and Lions face off, it’s a rivalry that includes bragging rights and upsets. At one time, both programs were members of the Florida Sun Conference. Florida Memorial was a charter member in 1992. Edward Waters joined in 2006 then move to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) after the 2009–2010 season, and now is a NCAA DII program.

This is a tremendous opportunity to keep one of HBCU baseball oldest rivalries intact. Anytime you bring two baseball teams on the field with that history, it will excite both student-athletes and fans, and will certainly be a great battle on the field.

Last year after Edward Waters defeated Florida Memorial in the bracket championship game in the Black College World Series. Both teams we’re exchanging unpleasantries after the game on the field. I thought we were going to have a brawl. I spoke to coach Burgos about that recently, and we shared a laugh, he stated his players wanted to get to know the Edward Waters players a little bit better.

The rivalry continues!.

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