TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 11, 2018) – North Carolina A&T baseball split a doubleheader at Florida A&M on Friday at Moore-Kittles Field to set up a winner-take-all scenario for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division title and the No. 1 seed out of the South for next week's MEAC tournament in Ormond Beach, Fla.
The Aggies dropped Game 1, 7-6, but recorded a season-high three home runs in a dominating 13-8 victory in the later game. The two teams will play the rubber game of the series 1 p.m., Saturday with the winner claiming the Southern Division regular-season title and the top seed out of the South. For the Aggies, it would be their first regular-season title in 13 years.
N.C. A&T (28-23, 15-8 MEAC) combined for four long balls on Friday with the Florida A&M (24-27, 15-8 MEAC). Senior Greg White, redshirt junior A.J. Hunt and redshirt freshman Justin Williams all had three hits each while senior Forest Kimbrell and Hunt had four RBI apiece. On the mound, Josh Bottenfield pitched in both games surrendering no earned runs and picking up a win in Game 2.
In the latter game of the doubleheader, the Aggies were on the verge of letting the regular-season divisional title slip away as they trailed 7-3 going into the fourth inning of a seven-inning game. The Aggies fought their way back, however, with three runs on three hits in the fourth. Kimbrell crushed a three-run homer, his second of the season, to left field scoring Williams and senior Myles Sowell minimizing the deficit to 7-6.
Two runs in the sixth restored hope for the Aggies as they took an 8-7 lead. White knocked in two runs on a single after Sowell was hit by a pitch and Williams reached on a fielding error. FAMU tied the game in the sixth on three hits, but the Aggies used five runs on three hits to put themselves in position to claim a championship. Sparked by junior Jarrett Norman’s first home run of the season, the Aggies followed that up with a two-run double to left by Williams. White reached second on a throwing error from shortstop, which allowed Williams to score. Williams came home on redshirt sophomore James Rorie's RBI single up the middle to make a 13-8 game going into the FAMU seventh.
Bottenfield (4-3) took down the Rattlers in order in the seventh to earn the victory after throwing 1.2 innings striking out one and allowing no hits, runs or walks. Kimbrell, Smith, and Norman hit home runs while Sowell and Williams each had two hits.
In the first game, FAMU led 5-2 after the third inning and held off a late Aggies run.
Three hits in the first inning had the Aggies off to a 2-0 advantage. Hunt scored Kimbrell on an RBI single after Kimbrell reached on a fielder’s choice. Senior Adan Ordonez scored on Hunt on an RBI single to right to close out the scoring in the first. FAMU got a run back in the first before scoring four crucial runs in a rough third inning for the Aggies. Four hits by the Rattlers in the inning led to a 5-2 advantage.
An RBI sacrifice fly by Kimbell in the fifth inning cut that deficit to two runs with Sowell scoring on the play. The Rattlers responded in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run pushing their lead to 6-3. In the sixth, an Aggie throwing error allowed another FAMU run to score making it 7-3.
N.C. A&T came roaring back in the seventh behind three hits. N.C. A&T's hard work culminated in a three-run blast to left by Hunt to cut the Rattlers advantage to one at 7-6. FAMU pitching retired seven straight Aggie hitters to hold on to the Game 1 win.
N.C. A&T’s junior pitcher Tim Luth (5-2) went five innings striking out two but was handed the loss. Thomas Nicoll (3-7) got the win for FAMU, while Dylan Carson picked up his ninth save of the season. At the plate for N.C. A&T, Hunt went 2-for-4 with a home run racking up four RBI.