DURHAM (April 14, 2018) – North Carolina A&T baseball remained the hottest team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference by capturing their seventh consecutive conference victory by sweeping a doubleheader from rival N.C. Central 7-5 and 4-3 Saturday at the Durham Athletic Park.
“Great day of baseball,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “I am proud of our guys for pulling out a pair of tough wins. I thought our pitching was outstanding all day. I liked the different ways we worked to scratch runs. We manufactured some runs, played situational baseball and had some big swings.”
A three-run ninth inning turned Game 1 in the Aggies favor. With the game tied at 4 going into the ninth, James Rorie walked to lead off the inning. Sophomore Ryne Stanley did his job by executing a sacrifice bunt to move Rorie into scoring position for senior Myles Sowell who did his job by scoring Rorie with an RBI single to give the Aggies a 5-4 lead. After Sowell moved to third on the throw home to get Rorie, senior Forest Kimbrell reached on an infield single to set up a two-run RBI double by senior Milton Rivera to put the Aggies ahead by three.
NCCU did score one run in the bottom of the ninth a solo homer. Two more runners reached after the homer against Aggies senior right-hand reliever Josh Stikeleather. But Stikeleather remained poised to pick up his third save of the season. He struck out Andrew Valichka and got Dominic Cuevas to hit into a force play to end Game 1.
The Aggies got off to a quick start in the first game after redshirt junior A.J. Hunt hit his team-high fifth home run of the season, a solo shot to left field. Junior Dawnoven Smith then doubled down the left field line. Senior Adan Ordonez brought him home with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead. NCCU came back with two runs in the second and one in each in the third and fourth innings to take a 4-2.
Sowell helped the Aggies rally in the fifth with a leadoff single. After proceeding to second on a groundout and stealing third, Sowell cut the deficit to one by scoring on an RBI groundout by senior Greg White. An RBI sac fly by Ordonez in the sixth tied the game at 4 leading to the Aggies big ninth inning.
N.C. A&T sent four pitchers to the mound. Junior RHP Tim Luth started and went five innings. Redshirt senior RHP Josh Bottenfield (3-2) was awarded the win after pitching a scoreless seventh and a scoreless eighth. Hunt was 3-for-4 in Game 1, scored two runs and had an RBI. Sowell had the only stolen base for N.C. A&T and hammered out two hits, scored twice and posted an RBI. Ordonez had two hits and two RBI.
In Game 2, the Aggies stole a season-high seven bases with senior Forest Kimbrell recording a career-high three. He was also 2-for-2 at the plate as the Aggies never trailed in the game. Smith ignited the Aggies early in Game 2 with a second-inning leadoff single to center. A groundout moved him to second and a single by Rorie sent him to third. Stanley hit an RBI sac fly to left to score Smith. After NCCU tied the game at 1-1 in their half of the second, the Aggies quickly regained the lead in the third.
Kimbrell doubled to right center and stole third base to move 90 feet away from scoring. Rivera added an extra baserunner when he was hit by a pitch. It gave Hunt an opportunity to blast a two-run single to left field for a 3-1 Aggies lead. The Aggies lead grew to 4-1 in the fourth on Sowell’s second home run of the season.
NCCU added a run in the sixth and another in the seventh on an RBI sac fly to cut the Aggies lead to 4-3. But with a runner on Stikeleather earned his fourth save of the season by striking out Valichka to complete the DH sweep. Senior RHP Marcello Betances won his second consecutive start going 5.2 innings and striking out four. “I really like our team presence in tight games. The overall dugout feeling is not too high and never low," said Hall. "They just remain focused and loose. I am excited to get back after it tomorrow.”
The Aggies and Eagles conclude their season series at 11 a.m., Sunday at Durham Athletic Park.