DURHAM – The North Carolina A&T softball team clinched a spot in the 2013 MEAC Softball Championship Tournament on Saturday with two huge wins, 1-0 and 5-3, over archrival N.C. Central at Parkwood Park.
The Aggies improved to 9-32 overall and 7-7 in the MEAC. The other two teams the Aggies were in a three-way battle with for the fourth and final tournament berth out of the MEAC Southern Division – Savannah State and S.C. State – did not play on Saturday.
The two teams will play one another in a noon doubleheader on Sunday in Savannah, Ga. The Savannah State Tigers are 5-7 in the conference, while the S.C. State Bulldogs are 4-7. If there is a sweep in the series, the team that was swept, will be eliminated from tournament contention. If the Tigers or the Bulldogs win two out of three from one another, the Aggies would still earn the berth.
How did the Aggies get there? They won a 1-0 game when it counted most and a two-run RBI single by Game 2 starter Shelby Snyder made the difference in Game 2.
Game 1 A&T starter Ashira Dobison reversed her fortunes on Saturday. After losing her last two starts 1-0 to Appalachian State and Elon respectively, Dobison was finally rewarded for her stellar pitching as of late. She pitched a complete-game four-hit shutout with no walks and two strikeouts. The Aggies then used small ball to give her all the support she needed. In the sixth inning, a Tranea Jones single was followed by Haley Snyder sacrifice bunt. After pinch hitter Tiffany Macklin struck out for the second out, Alejandra Barcenas roped a single to right field to score Jones.
The Eagles (4-43, 2-10) put a scare in the Aggies in the seventh, however. Tiphani Jackson led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. But pinch hitter Regina Davis popped out to Barcenas at shortstop and Angelique Perricelli followed with a pinch-hit fly out to center field to end the game.
Dobison is 3-3 in her last six starts with a 1.72 ERA. Jones went 2-for-2 in Game 1 and 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in Game 2.
Jones was a part of a decisive second inning that will send the Aggies to Ormond Beach, Fla., for the MEAC tournament, May 9-11. Two consecutive infield singles surrendered to Dominique Smith and Detavia Kenan was followed by Raven Smith being hit by pitch to load the bases with no outs. N.C. Central catcher Emerie Germ then let a Bianka Molina pitch escape her for a passed ball, allowing Dominique Smith to score. Junior catcher Sabrina Edmonds walked to reload the bases after Haley Snyder struck out.
But Jones earned the Aggies third infield single of the inning to score Kenan. Shelby Snyder then helped her own cause by hitting a two-run RBI single that scored Jones and Edmonds. Raven Smith made it 5-0 on the play as the throw attempt to third in an effort to throw out Shelby Snyder failed.
The Eagles would score three runs off of Shelby Snyder in the fourth before reliever Janika May took care of things. She struck out Markell Wylie to end the fourth. May then got herself out of a jam in the fifth as the Eagles had runners and third and second with two outs. She got Jackson to groundout to end the threat.
May also overcame an error by her defense in the sixth and survived another threat in the seventh as the Eagles put the winning run at the plate following an error by A&T’s Barcenas and a double by Camille Hampton with only one out. Head coach Mamie Jones stuck with her freshman on the mound and she came up big, as Molina lined out and Jackson struck out to end the game. Kenan contributed by going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
The two teams will play series finale noon Sunday.