A&T Beats FAMU, Earns No. 2 Seed
GREENSBORO (May 13, 2017) – North Carolina A&T did some of things they will need to do to win the 2017 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Tournament next week in Salisbury, Md. They took advantage of opportunities given. They pitched well out of the bullpen, and they got timely hitting late against the other team's bullpen.
It resulted in the Aggies completing the 2017 regular season with a 10-7 win over Florida A&M, Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium. Another bonus of the Aggies doing those things was the fact their seven seniors, pitchers Bob Peck, Kaeson Wilson and Will Greene and position players Keenan Herring, Kyle Clary, Tim Ravare and Xander Maddox, got a victory in their final games played at War Memorial.
The win improved the Aggies to 26-23 overall and 15-9 in the MEAC. They will be the No. 2 seed out of the MEAC's southern division and will open the tournament against the third seed out of the North, Maryland Eastern Shore.
“The one thing that has never been in question about this team is the fight,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “The fight has always been there. We came back twice in the ballgame and our bullpen has been reliable all year long, and they came through for us again.”
N.C. A&T not only fought on Saturday, they overcame some odds. The Rattlers (26-24, 14-10 MEAC) entered closer Thomas Nicoll into the game in the home seventh with a 7-4 lead to protect. Nicoll was doing just that when he got junior Myles Sowell to hit into a double play, putting him one out away from ending the inning. But a fielding error at second kept the inning alive for the Aggies, giving the Aggies a much-needed opportunity to score against Nicoll.
Junior Milton Rivera thanked the Rattlers by doubling to the right-field corner of War Memorial to score White. N.C. A&T's top RBI man Adan Ordonez then singled to left field to score Rivera to cut the Rattlers lead to 7-6.
In the eighth, the Aggies took advantage of another opportunity given. Pinch hitter Camden Williamson hit a one-out single to center field, his second pinch-hit hit of the three-game series. It was followed by a groundball to second that should have been the start of a double play. Instead the ball was mishandled, allowing Williamson to reach second and Clary to reach first. Ravare used the mishap to tie the game with an RBI single to right field. Hunter Fillingim replaced Nicoll and wild pitches followed.
With Ravare on second and Clary on third, Fillingim struck out junior Myles Sowell swinging. But the pitch was thrown in the dirt and got away from catcher Brian Davis. It allowed Sowell to reach and Clary to score to give the Aggies an 8-7 lead. Another wild pitch allowed Ravare to score before an RBI sacrifice fly from White scored Sowell for a 10-7 Aggies lead.
Not shockingly, the Aggies turned to closer Cutter Dyals to finish off the Rattlers. He got the first two outs with ease, but Garrett Wilkinson and Willis McDaniel singled to put the tying run at the plate in Brian Davis who had already recorded a three-run homer on the day. But Davis innocently hit into a force play, ending the game and sending the Aggies to the tournament with a morale booster.
Josh Bottenfield, who entered the game during a big five-run sixth for the Rattlers and ended the threat, improved to 5-4 by getting the win. Dyals picked up his seventh save of the season, and Ravare was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI in his final game played at War Memorial.
“We have one goal at the beginning of each year, and that's to win a championship,” said Hall. “Now they've given themselves a chance to go do that. It's remarkable to go from where we were two years ago, to make this run through the regular season and put ourselves in position to participate in tournament play. In tournament play, anything can happen.”