Norman Slam Lifts Aggies Past Charlotte
CHARLOTTE (April 11, 2017) – North Carolina A&T got a big boost going into a big Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference three-game baseball series with North Carolina Central this weekend. Sophomore Jarrett Norman hit a massive 374-foot grand slam to left-center field on Tuesday to help propel the Aggies to a 12-6 win over the Charlotte 49ers at Hayes Stadium. The win gives the Aggies (17-14) the two-game season sweep over the 49ers (17-16) after the Aggies defeated Charlotte 6-5 on March 7 at War Memorial Stadium. Including this season, the two in-state foes have faced each other twice in a season six times with this season marking the first time the Aggies won both.
“You want to go out and beat some of the top programs and Charlotte is one of those programs,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “Their RPI is up there so for us to come down here and end up getting them twice on the year is big lift for us. It’s all about the growth of your program.”
Hall said the win was especially satisfying after the Aggies last outing. Despite taking two out of three from Florida A&M in Tallassee last weekend, the Aggies lost 10-0 to the Rattlers on Sunday. Hall and his staff saw fatigue as part of the problem. Coming off a string of three-game series where they play three times in two days, Hall decided to rest some starters on Tuesday against the 49ers.
Sophomore outfielder Dawnoven Smith, therefore, got the start in right field on Tuesday and led the Aggies by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Four other Aggies had multiple-hit games as Norman, senior Kyle Clary, junior Myles Sowell and sophomore Jason King had two hits apiece. Smith, Clary, Norman and Melendez scored two runs apiece for the Aggies. King, who was making his fifth start of the season, also drove in a run. Milton Rivera returned to the starting lineup and got a hit and senior Keenan Herring served as the designated hitter.
“You know at some point in a long, drag-out series you’re going to need subs,” said Hall. “You want to know if you put some fresh bodies in there, they're ready to produce. We’ve got to get those guys playing a little more because if you’re not careful, you’ll get in those conference stretches and have to put guys in who have never seen the field.”
The N.C. A&T players on the field Tuesday overcame a 4-1 deficit starting with a run in the sixth inning. Melendez and Sowell opened the frame with back-to-back singles. The 49ers countered by going with left-hander Matt Horkey who got redshirt sophomore A.J. Hunt to fly out to deep right field. In the process, Melendez moved to third to set up an RBI groundout from junior Adan Ordonez to move the Aggies to within two at 4-2.
The Aggies followed that momentum builder with a massive seven-run seventh that was capped off by Norman’s raucous slam. Charlotte right-hander Brandon Volger opened the seventh by hitting Clary with a pitch. Clary moved to second on a single from Smith, and both men moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt from Rivera. Clary scored on a Volger wild pitch to cut the lead to one. Another wild pitch from Volger allowed King to reach on a swinging third strike as Smith crossed the plate to tie the game at 4.
Jacob Craver replaced Volger but did not have much luck either. Craver started his outing by hitting Melendez with the first pitch he threw, setting up an RBI single up the middle from Sowell to give the Aggies their first lead of the game. After a walk to A.J. Hunt to load the bases, the 49ers turned to Phillip Perry who did strikeout Ordonez for the second out of the inning, but did not fare as well against Mr. Norman. In two games against the 49ers this season, Norman has two home runs and six RBI.
“He’s been swinging it well the last couple of weeks,” said Hall about Norman. “He’s just seeing the ball well and being aggressive. He’s a tough kid, so you know you’re going to get tough at-bats. He missed a few fastballs early in the game, but I kept telling him to tune in to them. Don’t miss. That one he didn’t miss.”
Three more runs were added on by the Aggies in their ninth inning to put emphasis on their big win. They open with the NCCU Eagles 1 p.m., Friday at WMS in what will be a doubleheader. The series will conclude 1 p.m., Saturday. Saturday will be Alumni Day at the stadium. Follow Aggie baseball on Twitter @ncatsubaseball. Follow Aggie Athletics on Twitter (@ncataggies), Instagram (@ncatathletics) and Facebook (@ncatathletics).