The Rattlers roll to a 7-2 win in the opener of the 2nd annual Garr-Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic
On Friday, February 25th (2022), the 2nd annual Ralph Garr-Bill Lucas Classic opens play at Coolray Field (the home of the Gwinnett Stripers, the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves). Building on the success of the inaugural year, the weekend series features the alma maters of Garr and Lucas, Grambling State University and Florida A&M University (FAMU).
Both players are not only in the Atlanta Braves' Hall of Fame, but have made (and still are making) contributions to the game and beyond. Garr, a former National League Batting Champion, along with the late Lucas (who is the first African-American to be a Major League Baseball General Manager [as he serves this role with the Atlanta Braves until his passing in 1979]), combined with the efforts of the late Henry "Hank" Aaron, are credited with rebuilding and revamping the Braves' minor league system.
Entering tonight's play, the Grambling State Tigers (2-1 overall) and FAMU Rattlers (2-3 overall) are looking to make an early season mark before they enter the gauntlet of their respective conference play (the SWAC and MEAC respectively).
Prior to the first pitch (7pm EST), both James Cooper (Grambling's head coach) and Jamey Shouppe (FAMU's head coach) speak with us on their goals for the series, season, and what makes their HBCU's special institutions of higher learning:
Game highlights (FAMU 7, Grambling State 2)
In the top of the 1st inning, FAMU chases Grambling starter Shemar Page. An RBI triple by Joseph Pierini (the Rattlers second baseman) and a miscue leading to a double for Adam Haidermota gives the Rattlers a 2-0 lead. A passed ball in the top of the 4th inning would plate 2 baserunners, making it a 4-0 lead.
Kaylon Mack's RBI single in the bottom of the 4th off FAMU starter DJ Wilkinson would get the Tigers back in the game (4-1).
The Rattlers would get some traction in the top of the 6th inning as they get runners on first and second (base) to force Page (5.2 innings pitched/9 strikeouts and 4 walks/5 hits and 5 runs allowed) from the game. Consecutive hit batters by the Tigers' Malik Adbul would load the bases and subsequently "hit in" another run, giving FAMU a 5-1 lead. Grambling's LaMarcus Jones' RBI single would cut the deficit to 5-2.
FAMU would add a run in the 7th inning (Will Brown's RBI single) and the 9th (Evan Badger's RBI double) to make it a 7-2 game and earn the win in the first game of the series. Wilkson's pitching (5 innings pitched/8 strikeouts and 1 walk/4 hits and 1 run allowed) along with taking advantage of 4 Grambling State errors are keys in capturing the first game of the series.
The series resumes on Saturday, February 26th. The series concludes in grand style, as it's a doubleheader (the first game is a 3pm first pitch affair, and the concluding game of series starts 45 minutes after the first game is over).
For FAMU, it's setting the tone for the series (as they need to win one more game to win the series).
For Grambling State, it's a new day.
And yes, they'll run it back doubleheader style.
Notes: All video and photography captured by Andrew Snorton.
Video (in order of appearance): Grambling coach James Cooper and FAMU coach Jamey Shouppe, along with the performance by Trey Daniels, the welcome to Ralph Garr and the son/family of the late Bill Lucas, and pre-game talk with Fred McGriff (who throws the ceremonial first pitch). To view the entire playlist, click HERE.
Photo grid: The top row (left to right) features Rattlers' second baseman Joseph Pierini (who gets a RBI triple in his pictured at bat), the Grambling Tigers warming up, and the Grambling home jerseys (as they are the home team for the opening game.
The second row (left to right) features FAMU during warmups, a tool of the trade (baseball/player's glove), and the Heavy Hitters (the Atlanta Braves' drum corp) during pregame.
The third row (left to right) features Braves' HOF'er and Grambling alum Ralph Garr, both coaches meeting with the umpires to share their lineup cards, and former Brave Fred McGriff after throwing the first (ceremonial) pitch.
The fourth row (left to right) shows the Rattlers celebrating scoring their first run of the game (they'd put up 7 in tonight's game), FAMU's Grant Rowell at the plate, and Grambling's Jarficur Parker getting ready to hit (he would go 3 for 5).
The fifth row (left to right) includes Rattlers' starter (and winning pitcher) DJ Wilkinson, a Grambling player at bat, and Ralph Garr with Bill Lucas, Jr during the early game recognition.