NORFOLK, Va.- The slumbering giant of the North Carolina A&T offense has awakened.
The Aggies made another statement on Friday afternoon at Marty L. Miller Field against Norfolk State, conquering the Spartans 18-1.
"We've always known these guys can swing the bat. It looks like they're catching fire at the right time," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "We had to continue to swing the bat. We came out with the momentum it looks like from last game. And again we ended it early, so we save some pitching. We scored enough runs early to get our starting guy out of there."
A&T starter Brent Moore went only four innings a day after Thursday's starter Tyler Boone only pitched three innings in the Aggies 11-run win over Coppin State. It gives the Aggies the option of going back to their top three starters - Estarlin Paulino, Boone and or Moore - in some capacity before the tournament concludes.
"We're trying to keep as many guys as fresh as possible, and our offense has been picking us up these last two games," Sanchez said.
The Aggies were led offensively by junior left fielder Andre McKoy, who went 4-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored. Third baseman Luke Tendler and first baseman Kelvin Freeman each added three RBI to the mix. Freeman, catcher Stefan Jordan, designated hitter Brandon Wilkerson and shortstop Michael Radford each had two hits in the blowout.
"It's become contagious," said Sanchez. "The guys are playing a little more relaxed and swinging the bat. They're taking the pressure off themselves defensively when they go and swing the bat and score that many runs."
With the win, the Aggies will advance to face Delaware State on Saturday at approximately 3:30 p.m.
The Aggies will need to win two games on Saturday to advance to the championship game, and will have to win the next four in a row to claim the MEAC title, which they have not won since 2005.
"We've got to keep the momentum rolling. I think they've got confidence, they've got momentum and hopefully we can continue to roll with it," Sanchez said.
The Aggies took control of the game early with a five-run second inning. With one out and McKoy on first, Jordan doubled down the left field line. The speedy McKoy scored easily to put the Aggies' first run on the board.
Wilkerson then singled to left field to put runners on the corners for Radford. Radford hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring home Jordan for the second A&T run. Senior Carvell Copeland walked to keep the threat alive. Senior Marquis Riley was walked by NSU starter Justin Bhatti to load the bases with two out. Freeman brought two of those runners home with a single through the left side. NSU left fielder Tyon Ore made a throwing error, which allowed Riley to score from third, to put A&T ahead 5-0.
Wilkerson brought home a run on an RBI sac fly in the third inning to give A&T a 6-0 lead. The A&T offense kept rolling in the fourth, as the Aggies loaded the bases again. McKoy singled up the right side to bring home two runs and make it an 8-0 game.
After scoring five more runs in their half of the fifth, the Aggies called upon Jamal Clark to take the mound in the bottom half. He kept the Spartans hitless and extended their scoreless streak to 18 innings by pitching two scoreless innings. The Spartans finally scored in the bottom of the seventh, but were eliminated from the MEAC tournament by the Aggies for the fifth time in eight seasons.