DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - In a baseball game where there weren't many hits, Delaware State more than North Carolina A&T took advantage of the players who did reach base.
A sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh led the Hornets to a 3-2 win over the Aggies in a Friday morning MEAC Tournament elimination game played at Jackie Robinson Park. Delaware State advances to play the loser of the Norfolk State/Bethune-Cookman later in the day.
Meanwhile, the Aggies (21-34) not only saw their season come to an end, but the loss also means the end of an era in Aggies baseball. Keith Shumate, who announced his resignation earlier this season, coached his final game as the Aggies head coach. Shumate leaves the program after a 15-year stay in which he won 304 games.
"I'm proud of the fact that during my coaching time at A&T, we continued to recruit African-American players in a time when many schools looked elsewhere," said Shumate. "I sincerely hope that legacy continues. We also brought non-traditional faces to A&T that fell in love with school the way I did. We loved all of our players and taught them as best we could to respect their academic mission and the game of baseball. I came here to change the culture of baseball at A&T. I'm leaving to make sure that A&T never puts baseball last on its list of priorities."
The Aggies elimination from the tournament and Shumate's subsequent farewell had a lot to do with Delaware State starter Elliott Gardner and the Hornets ability to take advantage of opportunities. Gardner (5-7) pitched a complete-game four hitter. In the process, he struck out 10 and walked one.
"Gardner pitched his tail off today," said Shumate. "He was tough. Their catcher (Cameron Cecil) doesn't get a lot of praise, but I thought those two guys did a fantastic job against our hitters. The zone was the same for both teams, but I thought Gardner was effectively wild. It was really a good zone for the way he pitches, and you have to give him credit for taking advantage of it."
Aggies starter Craig Erskine was also effective. Erskine (2-7) surrendered only three hits and struck out four. The one difference between the two stellar pitching performances was Erskine's six walks and three hit batsmen.
One of those hit by pitch occurrences happened in the DSU seventh with the game tied at 2. After a Peter Broehl single, Erskine hit Keith Hernandez with a 1-0 pitch. Both runners moved into scoring position after a sacrifice by Troy Drummond. Ryan Hass then recorded what turned out to be the game-winning RBI as he flew out to left field to score Broehl on a sacrifice fly.
N.C. A&T had a chance to tie or take the lead in the ninth after two DSU mistakes as Luke Tendler reached on an error and Dairio Little was hit by a pitch with one out. A Kelvin Freeman fly out moved to Tendler to third, but when Nales fouled out to first, the Aggies season was over.
Xavier Macklin went 1-for-4 with an RBI double in the fourth. Stefan Jordan had the Aggies other RBI, which came in the third. Jordan's suicide squeeze allowed Freeman, who reached on a double, to score from third to give N.C. A&T a 1-0 lead. The Hornets scored their first run on a throwing error.