Softball at HBCU tournament searching for first win

Amaya Gainer makes play against Texas Tech. Photo courtesy: Ashley Bryan

The Florida A&M softball team is looking to turn things around this weekend at the HBCU Classic Tournament in Montgomery, Alabama. The Rattlers are 0-10 this season after competing in two tournaments in Tallahassee and at Troy University in Alabama.

This weekend’s tournament includes Tennessee State, Alcorn State, Grambling State and Southern University. This time last season, a struggling FAMU softball team found its footing and went undefeated in the tournament. 

Head coach Camise Patterson hopes the HBCU tournament can be a turning point like last year.

“We know that all four of these games are games we can dominate,” Patterson said.

 The Rattlers are the only team in the tournament without a win. However, the program has played significantly higher competition, going up against multiple programs that competed in the NCAA tournament last year. One of those teams was Florida State, which made it to Oklahoma City and lost in the Women’s College World Series Finals to Oklahoma. 

Patterson says that getting her team to switch their mentality from playing Top 25 programs to ones that are more on their level is crucial for their success this weekend. 

“We’re no longer playing this top 25 teams,” Patterson said. “So, knowing that these teams are evenly matched and that we’re better than some of these teams, especially on paper, we’re going to make sure our team knows that these are winnable games.”

Patterson also says that scoring early and often will set their team up for success in this tournament. Over the past several games, opposing programs have dealt that same hand to the Rattlers. 

Opposing offenses have scored 96 runs against the Rattlers this season, with opponents scoring at least eight runs in all 10 games. The Rattlers are batting just under .200 with only 12 extra-base hits and a .506 OPS. 

There is also a gap in offensive production that accounts for the lack of runs scored this season. Fifth-year senior Nyomi Jones, Tatianna Davis and Amaya Gainer, as a collective, are batting .339 this season.

Patterson says that the striking difference in offensive stats is something that she expected. She says she wanted the lineup to feature multiple players at the start of the season. Now two weeks in, Patterson says she is working towards producing a set lineup. With more at-bats for players she thinks can become mainstays in the lineup, Patterson believes her players will become more comfortable at the plate, and the overall offensive will improve. 

“Going into this weekend, hopefully, we are able to have more of a set, solid lineup and see some of our batting averages and on-base percentages and some of those statistical numbers go up,” Patterson said. 

Graduate assistant Jane’a Mobley, a former Rattler, says that trusting the process and not stressing over a game or an at-bat is advice she imparts to the players amidst the Rattlers’ struggles. 

“You’re not going to always produce as well as you want to,” Mobley said. “So you just have to trust the work that you put in.”

The Rattlers open the HBCU Class Tournament with a doubleheader against Tennessee State and Alcorn State beginning today at 5 p.m. The Rattlers will play another doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m., against Grambling State and Southern.

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