SAVANNAH, GA – Sloppy defensive play and a 10-run inning cost the Rattlers on Sunday afternoon at Tiger Field as they fell 16-11 to Savannah State in the series finale. Florida A&M (21-18, 11-7 MEAC) committed six errors in the contest, leading to eight unearned runs for Savannah State (11-27, 2-13 MEAC).
For two and a half innings it was all FAMU as the Rattlers took an early lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI double to left field by Ben Ellzey. Octavien Moyer led off with a hit by pitch and advanced to second on a single to center by Brian Davis. With two outs, Ellzey doubled for the fourth time this year to give the Rattlers an early 1-0 advantage.
Florida A&M added to the lead with three runs on two hits and an error in the top of the second inning. Dallas Oliver led off with a single up the middle. After Russell Rauh reached on an error, Moyer singled to left to score Oliver. Aubrey McCarty then walked to load the bases and Willis McDaniel brought in another run with a fielder’s choice. Brian Davis was hit by a pitch to load the bases once again, then Ellzey worked a walk to cap off the scoring and put FAMU out in front 4-0.
Things fell apart for the Rattlers in a nightmare half inning in the bottom of the second as the Tigers scored 10 runs on six hits and three errors and sent 16 hitters to the plate to jump out to a 10-4 lead. Bernard Barnes had two hits and three RBI in the inning, while Bryce Luken and Daryl Harper each contributed with a hit and two RBI.
Florida A&M starting pitcher JoJo Durden (2-4) exited after facing seven batters in the top of the second inning without recording an out. Durden allowed seven runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks in just one inning of work.
The Rattlers scored a run in the top of the third to cut the deficit to 10-5 on a fielder’s choice by McCarty with the bases loaded, but Savannah State responded with two unearned runs in the home half of the inning, making the score 12-5.
FAMU scored two runs on four hits and one error in the top of the fourth to make the score 12-7. With two outs Wilkinson doubled to right center and later came around to score on a throwing error by the shortstop on a single by Oliver. After a single by Kaycee Reese, Javon Byrd drove in his first run of the year with a single to left for the final run of the frame.
For the second consecutive inning, Savannah State answered with two runs of their own, extending their lead to 14-7.
The Tigers scored two more runs on one hit in the bottom of the sixth off Rattler reliever Danny Rodriguez to push their lead to 16-7.
Florida A&M tried to make things interesting in the top of the eighth as they scored three runs and had the bases loaded, but Savannah State worked out of trouble. The Rattlers added a single run in the top of the ninth for a final score of 16-11.
Florida A&M recorded double digit hits for the third consecutive game and walked 12 times in the contest, but stranded 16 runners on base in the loss.
Ben Ellzey and Dallas Oliver were bright spots for the Rattlers offensively. Ellzey was 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored, two RBI, and three walks, while Dallas Oliver had his third consecutive multi-hit performance, finishing 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.
With the series win FAMU remains in second place in the MEAC Southern Division trailing only North Carolina A&T.
The Rattlers do not have a midweek game this week and will return to action at Moore-Kittles Field on Saturday, April 29th for a doubleheader against Jackson State beginning at 1:00 PM.
As always, fans can follow Rattler Baseball on Twitter @BaseballFAMU and on Facebook.