The top 10 stories of 2017 in Aggie Athletics continues with Nos. 8, 7 and 6.
No. 8: Cutter Gets Drafted
Cutter Dylas only spent one season in an Aggies baseball uniform but what a season it was. After transferring from Eastern Florida State junior college, Dyals was instrumental in helping the Aggies return to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship Baseball Tournament after a four-year absence. Opponents hit .190 against Dylas as he recorded 38 strikeouts in 34 innings pitched. He was 6-0 with seven saves and a 0.53 ERA in 19 appearances. He earned first-team All-MEAC despite throwing only 414 pitches all season.
On June 14, he was drafted with the 500th overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves in the 17th round. In his first season for the Danville Braves, an advanced rookie-level team, Dyals made 17 appearances and posted a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings pitched. He also had 21 strikeouts and opponents hit just .221 against him.
Honorable Mention: N.C. A&T head coach Ben Hall led one of the biggest one-year turnarounds in Division I NCAA baseball in 2017 and was awarded MEAC Coach of the Year. The Aggies were picked to finish fifth out of five teams in the MEAC’s southern division. Instead, the Aggies entered the MEAC tournament as the second seed and were one game away from reaching the championship game. The Aggies went 28-25 overall and 15-9 in the MEAC, tying the school record for conference wins.
No. 7: Indoor Track and Field Leaves Their Competition In The Dust
The N.C. A&T men’s and women’s indoor track and field programs went from being good programs finishing near the top of the MEAC every season to being scary good. They never looked more imposing than one February day in Landover, Md. When they sprinted to two MEAC titles – men and women – without much of a challenge. The Aggies owned the sprints. The women scored victories in the 60 meters, 400m, 60-meter hurdles and 4x400. Sophomore Kayla White, freshman Madelein Akobundu and Knight finished 1, 2 and 3 in the 60mh.
Outside of the sprints, the Aggies also posted first-place finishes in the pole vault, long jump and triple jump. N.C. A&T scored 145 points during the indoor women’s championships, 51 more points than their closest foe, Florida A&M. Toppin was also recognized as the meet’s most outstanding female field performer after she coupled her second-place long jump finish with a win in the triple jump to score 18 points for the weekend.
For the women, it was their first-ever MEAC indoor title. For the men, it was their first in 21 years, and they were just as dominant as the women. All four N.C. A&T 60m finalists finished in the top-4 led by Chris Belcher’s 6.65. Belcher also led a group of top-3 finishers in the 200 as he finished with a 21.38 followed by Rodney Rowe (21.59) and Caleb Gabriel (21.78). The Aggies had the meet won by the time the final event of the day, the 4x400 relay, came around. Yet the Aggies brought the crowd to their feet with a first-place finish in 3:16.91. The Aggie men scored 146.50 to best second-place Hampton by 55 ½ points. The Aggies also secured wins in the 400m and the heptathlon.
And track was just getting started for 2017.
Honorable Mention: N.C. A&T’s Tarrell Robinson has been a part of many success within the N.C. A&T women’s basketball program. As an assistant from 2005-09, the Aggies won three MEAC regular-season titles, a MEAC tournament title and made an NCAA tournament appearances. As the head coach from 2012-present, he has won a regular-season MEAC title, a conference tournament championship and the Aggies made an NCAA tournament appearances in 2016. On Nov. 10 he reached his first total-wins milestone when he recorded his 100th coaching victory with a 60-49 defeat of Georgia Southern.
No. 6: A&T Football Beats Charlotte, Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central
N.C. A&T football will round out the bottom five of the list but like track and field this will not be the last you hear from football. But there are steps to perfection and while all wins are counted equally, the wins over Charlotte, B-CU and NCCU were essential in the Aggies reaching perfection in 2017.
The 49ers are an FBS program with more scholarships, superb facilities and the second-largest enrollment in the state of North Carolina. Despite their advantages, the Aggies led 28-10 in the third quarter. A frantic 49ers comeback had the game come down to a fourth-quarter drive with the Aggies leading 28-24. Mac McCain III then introduced himself to the nation and at the same time brought attention back to his grandfather’s legacy (Franklin McCain) by returning an interception for the game-winning touchdown. McCain would go on to become a freshman All-American and his family’s Greensboro Four legacy would on to be told numerous times to the sports world because of his play.
B-CU’s significance comes in because many Aggie players will say the Wildcats were the toughest team on the schedule in 2017. In fact, it was the only game of 2017 in which the Aggies had to come from behind to win. The Aggies trailed 20-14 late in the third quarter. A Deion Jones interception led to a fourth-quarter field goal by freshman Noel Ruiz to cut the Wildcats lead to 20-17 with 13:05 to play. A Lamar Raynard touchdown pass to graduate tight end Trey Scott gave the Aggies lead for good a 24-20 with 8:26 remaining. The Aggies defense held the Wildcats to 28 yards the rest of the game to secure the win at Aggie Stadium on Oct. 21.
NCCU is big for obvious. The Eagles came into the Nov. 18 matchup having won three straight over the rival Aggies. That fact led to the Aggies having to answer questions about the Eagles all season long. It was fitting that the Aggies defeated the Eagles to not only win the MEAC title outright for the first time in 14 years, but it also completed an 11-0 regular season for the Aggies, their first undefeated regular season as a MEAC member.