ASU’s ‘Rat’ on verge of 600 wins – or is he?|[3/25/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 25, 2005

According to a press release from Alcorn State University, head baseball coach Willie “Rat” McGowan could be going for his 600th career win when the Braves take on Jackson State in a series that begins today in Lorman.

That may be news to McGowan, however. The 33-year coaching veteran says he is unsure about his exact win total.

“Somehow, this came up two years ago with a different guy in the sports information department. I hate for bad information to get out because it makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing,” McGowan said. “I actually thought I had more wins than 600 after last year. But there were some forfeits in that total and I saw where the NCAA doesn’t count forfeit wins.”

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What is certain for McGowan is that this season’s Braves are 10-6 and own a 6-3 mark in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Another thing he is sure of is the overall perception of baseball in the SWAC.

“I really think what is helping our conference is the upgrading of the facilities,” McGowan said. “Grambling has built a new facility, along with Southern and Mississippi Valley. We’re in the process of getting a new one built here at Alcorn.

“I know for sure, things are better now than they used to be,” he said. The new ASU ballpark is slated to be finished in time for the 2006 season.

According to the press release, McGowan’s record entering this season was 589-569-6. With 10 wins this season, that makes 599 going into the Jackson State series.

Ironically, the most wins in any season has been 24. There’s a reason for that, he says.

“I just didn’t schedule that many games for baseball because of football,” McGowan said. “For many years, I was the defensive coordinator and I would work football in the spring along with baseball. A lot of times, we scheduled just 25 games.”

Just like the new facilities being built, schedule-making has also been upgraded. Alcorn played 42 games last spring, going 20-22.

“We’ve been playing 45-to-50 games for the past several years,” McGowan said. “Last season I had one of my best highlights when we won the Easter Tournament at Louisiana Tech. We had all the SWAC schools there and we beat everybody.”

With more games and better facilities, the SWAC teams are getting better players.

“One of the big bragging things for us is that we’ve had back-to-back No. 1 draft picks come from our league. The Weeks kid at Southern really helped get scouts looking at our conference.”

McGowan says he keeps an eye on the talent in the Vicksburg area and made a bid last spring to sign Vicksburg High pitcher James Jackson.

“We came up there to recruit the left-hander but he was a non-qualifier. We like Vicksburg. Me and (Valley State’s Doug) Shanks played a game up there three years ago,” he said.