Florida Memorial University baseball coach Florentino Burgos won’t be asking for any advice from his in-state rival the first weekend in February. Nor will Edward Waters College head coach Reginald Johnson contact Burgos as a friendly gesture. The Lions and Tigers will renew and likely end their HBCU baseball rivalry preparing to play their scheduled 2021 three-game series February 5th and 6th in Jacksonville, Florida.
Some might think the regular-season series rivalry might not mean much to the teams.
This rivalry has the competitiveness and adrenaline for each team to play its best baseball.
The Edward Waters-Florida Memorial rivalry reminds us of north versus south from a recruiting standpoint. EWC gets most of players from north Florida and Florida Memorial gets most of the guys from Miami. It’s a big rivalry with tradition and it always goes back and forth.
When the Tigers and Lions face off on the baseball diamond, it always feels a little different. It’s a rivalry that includes bragging rights and upsets.
During the 2018 season, Florida Memorial was ranked No. 1 in the week one Black College Nines (BCN) HBCU baseball small school top 10 poll. The week two poll had Edward Waters in the No. 1 spot leapfrogging FMU, which slipped to No. 5 after a four-game losing streak.
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.
As the headline read “No. 5 Florida Memorial Upsets No. 1 Edward Waters“. Florida Memorial put together enough big plays to earn a marquee win over No. 1 Edward Waters. It marked the Lions’ first win over the top-ranked HBCU team in the nation in school history.
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.
This is a tremendous opportunity to reignite one of HBCU baseball oldest rivalries. 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. Coach Johnson stated “we’re looking forward to the competitive rivalry, we are ready to go”.
The two teams where scheduled to extend the rivalry last season before Covid-19 shut down the college sporting world.
Having covered college baseball heading into my 20th season and attending the Edward Waters-Florida Memorial rivalry for five straight years, to me it’s one of the best rivalries in Florida.
A few years ago when Florida Memorial received votes in the NAIA Top 25 coaches poll in 2018 and twice defeated EWC, the atmosphere in those two games was as good or better than anything I’ve ever seen. The energy in the crowd and the energy on the field makes the rivalry one of the best in all of HBCU small school baseball.
Edward Waters holds a 7-5 edge in victories in the last five years.
Coach Burgos of Florida Memorial stated, “Edward Waters is a very competitive team that is always ready to play when we get together. Coach Johnson does a great job with getting his team ready to play. I’ve been in this rivalry since 2017, every game has been highly competitive. I would expect nothing less when we go up the road to open up the season.”
The rivalry could all come to an end after this season as Edward Waters College moves from its present NAIA level to NCAA Division II, joining the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) for the 2021-2022 academic year. We’ll have to see what future scheduling holds.