A&T to Play For Division Title After Sweeping SSU
SAVANNAH, Ga. (May 7, 2017) – A team that was underestimated at the beginning of the baseball season now has its sights squarely on winning a divisional title. North Carolina A&T completed a three-game series and six-game season sweep of Savannah State on Sunday with a 12-2 win over the Tigers at Tiger Field. The Aggies improved to 25-21 on the season and 14-7 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Aggies lead the MEAC Southern Division by one and a half games over Bethune-Cookman, a team that holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Aggies.
N.C. A&T has a two-game lead over three-time defending southern division champion Florida A&M. In each teams' final conference three-game series of the season, FAMU and the Aggies will play at War Memorial Stadium May 12-13. The two teams open the series on Friday at 1 p.m. with a doubleheader followed by a 1 p.m. game on Saturday.
The B-CU Wildcats and Savannah State will hold a three-game series the same weekend. The Wildcats and North Carolina Central must also schedule a makeup game before the 2017 MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament in Salisbury, Md., May 17-20. Ben Hall, the Aggies third-year head man, is looking to partner his team with Aggie fans to win the southern division title by asking fans to “Pack The War.”
“Great weekend sweep by these Aggies,” Hall tweeted on his @BenHallbsb16 account after the game. “Took care of Business! Aggie fans get ready to pack the War this Friday.”
Regardless of what happens the rest of the regular season, the Aggies will get a chance to go after the program's fourth MEAC title after clinching a MEAC tournament berth on Saturday, their first since 2013. But after being picked to finish fifth out of five teams in the southern division, a divisional title would certainly be sweet for Hall and his players heading into the tournament.
They took steps to get there on Sunday and they took them early. Sophomore Jarrett Norman hit a first-inning three-run home run to left field. It was Norman's third homer of the season. Norman home runs have produced nine RBI for the Aggies this season. The Aggies added two more runs in the second inning when junior Brandon Melendez rocketed a two-run RBI double down the right field line to give the Aggies a 5-0 lead.
Aggies right-hand starter Michael Johnson would protect that lead. Johnson recovered from three straight rough starts to go six innings against the Tigers, giving up just five hits and one earned run, while striking out five to improve to 4-3 on the season. Josh Stikeleather (RHP), K.J. McAlister (RHP) and Jonah Owenby (LHP) each pitched an inning of scoreless relief. With the strong pitching backing them, the Aggies closed out the game strong. Leading 6-2 going into the seventh inning, the Aggies picked up a run on an RBI single from junior Adan Ordonez.
In the eighth, the Aggies put together a two-out rally starting with sophomore Dawnoven Smith reaching on an error and stealing second. Senior Tim Ravare then singled up the middle to score Smith. SSU starter Austin Robinson then walked Melendez, hit junior Milton Rivera with a pitch and forced in a run when he walked Xander Maddox to give the Aggies a 9-2 lead. N.C. A&T closed out the game with a three-run ninth. Smith had a two-run RBI double and Rivera chipped in with an RBI single.
Melendez had a huge series, going 7-for-9 with five runs scored and three RBI. He was 2-for-3 with two RBI on Sunday. Senior Kyle Clary was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Rivera was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to eight games, and Smith scored three times.
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