JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It still takes some time saying it and getting used to it.
The Edward Waters baseball team is national champions.
The Tigers captured the Division II Black College World Series by taking down Kentucky State last weekend. While the 3-2 victory itself was massive, the soaking it all in as more and more people learned about the accomplishment has stretched out the celebration even further.
“It is still a whirlwind of nonstop and my phone just won’t stop,” said Tigers head coach Reginald Johnson II.
The Tigers have had a whirlwind of a season.
Outfielder Keilin Washington, who played at Trinity Christian, said it took some time for the team to find its rhythm.
“At the beginning of the season we were completely up in the air, and we felt like we knew exactly what our identity was,” Washington said. “Then, later in the season, it was like what are we doing out here.”
The Tigers started the year with a win, taking down Warner University. Then, the wheels came off a bit as the Tigers lost seven games in a row. With the season not going the way the Tigers had planned, they had no choice but to adapt their approach and get things heading in the right direction.
Tigers Infielder Payton Shubert said, “we were just trying to bounce back and play EWU baseball.”
The Tigers did just that, bouncing back and getting hot down the stretch. EWU wrapped up the regular season with a 24-24 record and felt confident going into the postseason.
“We definitely had a team that could be special, and I always thought that from the first time we stepped on campus,” Shubert said.
The Tigers’ first chance at postseason baseball didn’t go as planned. They dropped back-to-back games and were bounced from the Continental Athletic Conference tournament. But EWU’s year wasn’t over just yet.
“We knew we still had a shot,” Johnson said.
The Tigers earned an invite to the Black College World Series. Johnson said he told the team one simple thing.
“Boys, it’s win or go home,” Johnson said.
The Black College World Series was played in the Mongomery Biscuits stadium in Alabama.
“The atmosphere that they have being in a Double-A stadium and all of the fans that are there for each game,” Washington said.
The Tigers started with a win over Rust College, then took a loss to Florida Memorial University. After that loss, the Tigers rallied and put on a show the rest of the way.
“I tell my teammates all the time we are here to entertain,” Washington said. “We got fans out there so let’s go put on a show and that is exactly what we did.”
That show carried the Tigers all the way to the championship game against Kentucky State. The game was a nail-biter, with the Tigers getting a 3-2 win.
“The game was nerve-racking, but it was amazing,” Shubert said.
For seniors Washington and Shubert, you couldn’t have written a more perfect ending to their college baseball careers.
“I felt it last night finally sitting back in Jacksonville, knowing that was probably my last game being played,” Washington said. “But knowing I got that ring it is just a feeling that I will never be able to forget.”
The future is bright for the Tigers baseball program, which got big contributions from a handful of freshman players.
Johnson’s message to his team moving forward is simple.
“We got to come back and to it again,” he said. “To be continued. …”