Aggies Split to Open Conference Play
DURHAM (March 10, 2017) – North Carolina A&T fought off a North Carolina Central comeback to take Game 1 of a Friday doubleheader at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, 8-6 in their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener. Defensive mishaps cost the Aggies in a 10-7 loss in Game 2. The two teams will play the rubber game of the three-game series Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., at the DBAP.
Sophomore right fielder Dawnonven Smith had a superb Friday, going a combined 4-for-7 with four runs scored and a triple over the two-game tilt. Junior catcher Adan Ordonez had a big Game 1 as he went 2-for-5 with three RBI. Redshirt sophomore third baseman A.J. Hunt had a 2-for-5 Game 1 with two RBI and a run scored. Junior Brandon Melendez also had two hits.
The split puts N.C. A&T at 9-5 overall and 1-1 in the MEAC.N.C. A&T jumped out to an early lead over the Eagles as a two-run home run by Hunt in the first inning was the catalyst for a three-run Aggies first inning. The Aggies scored again in the second off an RBI sacrifice fly from Greg White. In the third, Ordonez homered to give the Aggies a 5-1 lead. Junior designated hitter Forest Kimbrell made it 6-2 in the fifth when he singled through the left side to score Hunt who hit a one-out triple to center field.
But the Eagles began to rally against junior starter Marcello Betances (RHP) in the sixth inning. Two errors in the inning were harmful to the Aggies. A dropped fly ball cost the Aggies an out and an additional runner. That mistake reverberated with the Aggies leading 6-4 with two outs in the fifth. A fielding error allowed two more runs to score as the Eagles tied the game at 6. The sixth inning was Betances’ last. He gave up six runs, three earned, eight walks and struck out five during his stint.
N.C. A&T head coach Ben Hall then turned to what has been his reliable bullpen and the Eagles were shutdown from there. Junior right-hander K.J. McAlister came on to pitch the seventh. He gave up a two-out single, but escaped the inning after only throwing nine pitches. McAlister walked the first batter he faced in the eighth, leading the Aggies to go with junior right-hander Noah Dyals. Dylas eventually got Evan Holland to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Aggies gave Dyals the lead going into the home ninth.
White opened the visitor’s ninth with a double off reliever Jeff Hagen. The Eagles then turned to Justice Sampson. Sampson gave up an infield single to junior Milton Rivera. With runners on the corner, Ordonez drove both men home with a two-run RBI double to right-center field as the Aggies took an 8-6 lead.
Dyals opened the ninth on a little shaky ground. He hit Mitch McCray with a 1-2 pitch to put the tying run at the plate. That tying run didn’t last long there as Dyals got Zach Michalski to hit into a double play to put the Aggies one out away from their fifth straight win. Jake Raby made that happen with a groundout to first. Dyals (1-0) got the win while Hagen (0-1) took the loss. Dyals has not given up a run this season in 6.1 innings pitched. McAlister has not surrendered a run in five pitching appearances this season.
North Carolina A&T had a little rougher time defensively in Game 2. After falling behind 3-0 in the first inning of a seven-inning game, the Aggies fought back quickly. Senior Kyle Clary’s RBI single in the second scored Smith who reached on a single and advanced to second on a groundout. Two batters later with the bases loaded, junior Myles Sowell brought home another run with an RBI single to cut the Eagles lead to 3-2. In the third, N.C. A&T tied the score at 3 on an RBI single from Clary again.
A big NCCU third inning that included five runs, five hits and three errors shifted the momentum, however. A fielding error at second put runners on first and third for Conrad Kovalcik. Kovalcik’s infield single scored one run and put runners on first and second for Holland. Holland picked up another infield single for the Eagles to load the bases. McCrary cleared the bases with an RBI single that turned into two more runs on a throwing error to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead. An RBI sac fly to right by Raby scored the final run of the inning.
The Aggies did rally in the fifth. With the bases loaded, senior Timothy Ravare singled to left field to score Ordonez. With the bases still loaded, Sowell earned a seven-pitch walk to not only force in a run, but ball four also resulted in a wild pitch allowing another run to cut NCCU’s lead to 8-6.
But it was not enough. Sampson came on in the seventh with the Eagles leading 9-6. He walked Ravare but pinch-hitter Keenan Herring hit into a double play. After Sowell walked, White hit into a force play to end the game. NCCU starter London Fraley (2-0) got the win, while junior right-hander Josh Bottenfield (2-2) took the loss. The save went to Sampson. The Eagles are 8-6 overall and 1-1 in the MEAC after the Friday doubleheader.