Baseball Clinches MEAC Tournament Berth
SAVANNAH, Ga. (May 6, 2017) – North Carolina A&T took both games of a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader from Savannah State on Saturday by winning a wild Game 1, 11-10, before using a strong pitching effort to win a calmer affair, 7-2, in Game 2.
The two wins put the Aggies (23-21, 13-7) into the 2017 MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament because the Aggies own the tiebreaker over North Carolina Central who is 11-11 in the MEAC Southern Division and can garner no more than 13 conference wins this season. The Aggies have not reached the MEAC tournament since the 2013 season. The Aggies are atop the MEAC South for the meantime, one game ahead of both Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman.
Cutter Dyals pitched three scoreless innings and the Aggies rallied from a two-run deficit with a three-run eighth inning to win the first game. In Game 2, N.C. A&T right-hand starter Marcello Betances (5-3) had his third straight quality outing for the Aggies, giving up just four hits on two runs and striking out six to lead the Aggies to victory. Junior Milton Rivera was key in both games. After not playing from Feb. 19 to April 11, Rivera has started the Aggies' last eight games. He has hit safely in seven of those and has a seven-game hitting streak. He went 3-for-6 with three runs scored and two RBI in Game 1, while posting a 2-for-4, two-RBI outing in the second game.
Trailing 8-6 going into the visitor's seventh, the Aggies rallied thanks in part to Rivera's part. Ian Concevitch (RHP) replaced starter Trevor McKenna (LHP) to open the seventh. Concevitch did not get off to a good start. He walked junior Brandon Melendez before giving up an RBI double to Rivera to cut the Tigers lead to 8-7. Rivera advanced to third on the throw home to throw out Melendez. Junior Adan Ordonez took advantage of Rivera taking the extra base with a groundout to short that scored Rivera to tie the game at 8.
The Tigers regained the lead in their seventh as Bernard Barnes reached on an error and moved to second as Aggies reliever Josh Bottenfield (RHP) walked Jalen Atterbury. N.C. A&T head coach Ben Hall then turned to his top closer out of the bullpen in Dyals. Khalyd Cox did his job by moving both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Kyle Gerdts' RBI double off Dyals scored both runners to give the Tigers a 10-8 advantage going into the Aggies eighth.
But for the second straight inning, the Aggies earned a leadoff walk as senior Tim Ravare got the free pass and then benefited by moving to second on a wild pitch. Melendez took advantage as well with a one-out RBI single to center field to get the Aggies to within one at 10-9. Melendez set up Rivera to drive in another run when he stole second. Rivera did not waste the opportunity as he singled to center to score Melendez and to tie the game at 10. After SSSU reliever Paul Sheffield (RHP) walked Ordonez to put runners on first and second, the Tigers went with Alex Wright (RHP) on the mound.
It didn't matter to senior Greg White who hit an RBI single to left to score Rivera. Wright got the next two batters, but by then the Aggies were holding on to an 11-10 lead. Dyals did give up a one-out single in the SSU eighth, but he followed by striking out Mason Calloway and Barnes to end the inning. The ninth saw the Tigers again put the go-ahead run at the plate as Cox singled with one out. But Gerdts hit into a fielder's choice that eliminated Cox from the base paths. Bryce Luken ended the game by grounding out to third.
Dyals improved to 5-0 on the season. Sheffield (1-4) took the loss for the Tigers. Adan Ordonez had a three-run home run in the fifth and five RBI for the game. Melendez went 3-for-3 and scored four times.
Melendez had a multiple-hit Game 2 as well. He went 2-for-3 and was aided by Dawnoven Smith who was 2-for-4 with a run scored and Jason King who had a 2-for-3 second game with two runs scored.
The Aggies pulled away in the fifth inning of the seven-inning game. With White on first and Smith on second with one out, senior Kyle Clary singled to center to drive home Smith. On the same play, Calloway's error in center field allowed White and Clary to score to give the Aggies a 6-2 lead in a whacky way. The inning kept going when King earned a two-out single before later moving to second on a stolen base and to third on an error. King scored when Melendez got caught in a run down to give the Aggies a five-run lead.
Betances gave up a leadoff single in the SSU fifth, but retired the next three batters to get out of the inning. An error helped the SSU's Gerdts to reach in the SSU sixth, but Betances then struck out the side to keep the Tigers off the board. Senior Bob Peck entered the game in the seventh for the Aggies and retired the Tigers to secure the doubleheader sweep.
The two teams conclude the series Sunday with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.