If nothing else, North Carolina A&T baseball coach Keith Shumate wants folks in the Upstate to know one thing when his team hits the field in this weekend's NCAA Regional: Regardless of how big the odds, they're not going to be in awe and they're not planning on rolling over.
However, the Aggies have to take that type of attitude every single time they take to the field just because of where their program is. N.C. A&T's baseball team will never be confused with the likes of Clemson.
"I think when the tournament is over, any fan will notice that we play hard, we don't back down from anybody and we believe in baseball," Shumate said. "We're going to play baseball. We're not going to look at uniforms."
Realistically, that's about the only way the No. 4-seed Aggies (27-25) will stand a chance against No. 1-seed Clemson (39-21) in the 7 p.m. meeting Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. They can't get caught up in all the hype of who they're playing in their very first NCAA Tournament.
"What we do is we strip the uniform off; melt the uniform off to where we're just playing baseball," Shumate said. "So, you'll hear us rhetorically ask all year long, ‘Who are we playing today?' And everybody will yell at the same time, ‘Baseball.' We can't go in here and play Clemson. We just surround ourselves with thoughts about the game. We don't talk about uniforms. We tell the guys to don't believe the paper because on paper you're going to lose this game."
Of course, it's not out of the realm of possibility that N.C. A&T can beat the heavily favored Tigers. In baseball, it's much more likely for a lesser team to beat a talented one on any given day.
All that has to happen is for the starting pitcher for the Aggies, which has yet to be determined, to get hot or for Clemson's starter, Stephen Farris, to be off. Throw in a few errors and next thing you know, N.C. A&T has pulled off the upset.
"We really only deal in what we can control," Shumate said. "What we've done because of the staff situation, we've basically taken away all the extras. We don't do a lot of scouting. We don't look at the internet a whole lot. We just try to manage our time. And while we're out here, whether it's two hours or three and a half hours in each game, we're going to make the most of it. We're going to try to play the same way, whether we're up 10 or down 10 or tied up. I don't think you'll see any knees shaking."
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