For the second straight night the No. 12 Gators (27-14/12-6 SEC) fell to an instate opponent. This time it was to the FAMU Rattlers (18-21/10-7 MEC) who used two home runs to power their way past the Gators in a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night.
“Congratulate Coach Shouppe, his staff and his players. They played good tonight,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They threw strikes, changed speeds, had some different looks, different angles; it kind of frustrated us, I think. They made one error, they didn’t give us much and they deserved to win.”
The managers are familiar. O’Sullivan and first-year FAMU head coach Jamey Shouppe faced off 33 times while both coaches were in the ACC. O’sullivan was an assistant at Clemson and Shouppe spent his time just down I-10 in Tallahassee. The two coaches spent time before the game catching up before what had been previously been a one-sided series.
Last season Florida tattooed the Rattlers 22-1 in their only meeting of the season. The year before, Florida treated the Rattlers to a 15-2 beat down.
Things started off as you would expect between a team that is No. 1 in the country in RPI versus a team that is ranked No. 251. Richie Martin drew a one-out walk and promptly took second base in the bottom of the first. Harrison Bader singled to right field to give Florida runners on the corners with just one out. Bader was caught stealing on a nice pickoff move from Rattler starter William Carrasco. Carrasco made the right decision with two outs to try and get Bader at second but his throw careened into the outfield allowing Martin to cross the plate.
FAMU responded with an absolute monster of a home run off of the bat of Ryan Kennedy in the top of the fourth inning. Justin Shafer came on in relief of starter A.J. Puk — who sat down all six batters he faced on the night — and gave up two runs over 2.1 innings of work.
Despite giving up an early run and a hit in the first inning, the FAMU pitching staff settled down, retiring the next 14 Gator bats they would face before Casey Turgeon was plunked in the bottom of the sixth inning. Turgeon would come around to score later in the inning on Bader’s second hit of the night.
The game was tied for exactly five batters before the Rattlers used the long ball once again to retake the lead. This time, Jeremy Barlow squared up a Ryan Harris offering, sending a line drive quickly into the bleachers in left field.
Florida would threaten in the bottom half of the inning but Richie Martin’s pop up to right field left the bases loaded to end the frame.
Harrison Bader led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a home run, his second of the season, and Florida would threaten in the eight but went quietly in the ninth.
Bader accounted for three of Florida’s six hits on the night and spoke after the game about approaching every contest — whether you’re playing FSU, FAMU or a SEC weekend series the same way.
“There’s nothing guaranteed in baseball,” Bader said. “Every day whether it’s Florida State or a smaller school, you have to play your absolute best. We didn’t play our best tonight. It’s unfortunate but we’re going to bounce back, be positive and move forward.”
Bader insisted that the Gators didn’t overlook their past two opponents but when asked if the team came to the ball park with the right attitude and mentality he could only shake his head saying, “I don’t know.”
Florida will look to bounce back this weekend when they host Missouri for a three game set at McKethan Stadium.