Originally created 03/20/00

Savannah St. breaks record for wins



SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Jamie Rigdon didn't even try to avoid it.

But, as the Savannah State baseball coach said, nothing was going to spoil the Tigers' record-setting day. And Rigdon, originally from Augusta, wasn't about to dodge the Super Bowl-style Gatorade shower in the seconds after his team broke the NCAA record for consecutive wins in a season Sunday.

"I (said) I didn't mind if they dump the water cooler on me, just let me know when it was coming," the third-year coach said. "After 35 wins, they could have come by and punched me. Aside from my three kids being born, this is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me. It's unbelievable, incomprehensible."

Savannah State calmly and confidently swept a doubleheader from Maryland Eastern Shore, winning for the 34th and 35th time this season. The victories tied and broke the all-divisions record of 34 consecutive wins, set by Texas in the 1977 season and tied by Florida Atlantic a year ago.

The Tigers won the opener, 5-0, before blowing out Eastern Shore in the nightcap, 24-2.

More than 100 Savannah State fans packed the Tiger Field bleachers for the game, and most stayed around for an impromptu barbecue and cookout following the doubleheader sweep.

"This is pretty great because a few weeks ago, we really didn't think much about the record because nobody was going to know about it," said pitcher Ricardo Castillo. "Now, everybody knows about it and we're getting recognized a little more. Everybody knows what Savannah State baseball is."

Despite all the pomp and circumstance, it seemed like just another day at the ballpark for the undefeated Tigers on the field.

It started when Castillo, a freshman hurler, threw a one-hitter, his third of the season, in the opener.

And it continued in Game 2, when Rigdon fretted for 10 minutes over a failed squeeze bunt with a 10-run lead.

Savannah State ran a four-inning track meet around the Tiger Field bases in the nightcap, and Brett Higgins hit a home run, his 16th in 35 games, and missed another when it hooked foul just shy of the right-field pole.

"Until we put all those runs up in the second game, this was without a doubt the most pressure we've faced," Rigdon said. "But these guys, they just keep fighting. They've been that way all year."

The Tigers held a brief and subdued post-game celebration -- aside from Rigdon's soaking. Ineligible for postseason tournaments because of the program's pending move to Division I from Division II, Savannah State's players ate hamburgers and lamented on the near future.

"I don't know what our next goal is," Higgins said. "I guess it's to extend it as far as we can so it'll be tough for somebody to catch us."