SAVANNAH, Ga.—The North Carolina A&T baseball team would likely agree with T.S. Eliot that April is the cruelest month. The Aggies suffered their second straight conference sweep on Sunday, falling 10-7 to Savannah State at Tiger Baseball Field.
The Aggies, now 7-13 in conference, will be battling Florida A&M for the fourth and final berth for the 2013 MEAC Tournament next weekend. The Rattlers are in fifth place with at 4-17 record. A&T is still three-and-half games in front of the Rattlers. If the Rattlers sweep the Aggies, A&T could be required to make up a rained-out game against Savannah State at season’s end.
“Definitely didn’t expect that—to be swept,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “Unfortunately we put ourselves in a position — now we’ve got to go out and have a battle on our hands with FAMU.”
The Aggies (14-31) collected 10 hits against the Tigers (27-18), and designated hitter Cameron Jergens was perfect on Sunday, hitting 3-for-3 with a walk.
SSU took the lead for the first and final time in the fifth inning. After back-to-back singles, David Richards scored as Chris Arnold grounded out to Mark Nales. Drew Quinney took third on an error, as Luke Tendler wasn’t able to hang on to a throw from Boone, who attempted to make a pickoff. Quinney scored to make it 9-7 on a sacrifice bunt by Campbell.
A&T got the tying run to the plate in both the sixth and seventh, but each runner was left stranded. In the eighth, Nales was caught stealing second to end the frame.
SSU added an insurance run in the eighth. Peter Poole hit a sacrifice bunt to advance two runners into scoring position. McCrary then hit the ball to shortstop, taking first on a fielder’s choice. Antonio Scott came home from third and in the collision with A&T catcher Stefan Jordan that pushed both players out of the batter’s box, the ball came out of Jordan’s glove.
With Eric Ricks on the hill for the Tigers, Tendler reached first to start the ninth after being hit by a pitch. Ricks retired the next two before hitting Jergens with a pitch, which brought the tying run, Bo McMillan, to the plate. McMillan went down swinging to end the game.
“Overall, just a disappointing weekend…,” said Sanchez. “We thought we were coming in better than that. In every game, we could have won, even that first game we had our chances. Today we scored runs, but we couldn’t cut them down. We couldn’t put up a zero after we scored,” Sanchez said.
The two teams traded blows in the first three innings, starting with sophomore Brandon Wilkerson who hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center field to score Tendler from third. Kelvin Freeman made it 2-0 when he scored on a Jergens single.
The Tigers answered with two runs in the first, but A&T came back in the second with another push. Jordan reached on a fielding error by third baseman Joe McCrary, and took second bunt by Nales. Davis then walked Little to put two on for Jeovanny Tolentino. Tolentino gave A&T the lead again with an RBI single. With two runners in scoring position and one out, Tendler hit an RBI bunt single down the left side. Freeman made it a 5-2 game with a sacrifice fly to center.
SSU responded with two runs in their half of the second to make it a 5-4 game, but A&T’s hit parade didn’t stop as Little made it a 7-4 contest with a two-run double to left field in the third.
But the three-run lead was not safe. SSU’s Richards singled to right and took second on a fielding error. With two in scoring position, Quinney grounded out to Freeman at first, which allowed the fifth run to score. Arnold’s RBIs single through the left side made it 7-6. Arnold took second on a wild pitch while Darien Campbell was at the plate, and scored as Moore singled to right.
“It was a momentum shift back and forth,” Sanchez said of the early innings. “But give them credit, they fight. They put the ball in play and make plays and they don’t back down, that’s for sure.”
The Aggies will take on UNC Greensboro on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at UNCG Baseball Stadium before hosting Florida A&M in a three-game series from May 4-5.