DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 17, 2018) – North Carolina A&T, the No. 1 seed out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division, had to wait awhile before they played their opening game of the 2018 MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament but it was well worth it.
The Aggies (30-23) pounded out 15 hits and junior starting right-hand pitcher Tim Luth went seven strong innings as N.C. A&T defeated the Norfolk State Spartans 12-3 at Sliwa Stadium on Thursday. N.C. A&T’s win gives the program their first 30-win season since 2010 and just their second since joining the MEAC in 1971. The Aggies are one win away from tying the 2010 team’s mark of 31 wins.
The Aggies will advance to the semifinals where they will face Coppin State 2 p.m., Friday at Sliwa Stadium. The Aggies split two games with Coppin to open the 2018 season.
N.C. A&T was scheduled to play the Spartans at noon on Thursday but inclement weather pushed the start back to 7 p.m. The Spartans played earlier in the day as they completed an opening-round game against Bethune-Cookman that was delayed from Wednesday.
Despite the layoff, the Aggies jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the first four innings of the game.
“We were just excited to get on the field and play,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “We’ve been cooped up in the hotel trying to find a sunny spot to get some work in. When you have four or five days without practice on the field you have a little bit of worry going into the game.
But we’ve been playing all year so four or five days is not going to affect our mentality. I am not surprised we hit the gas pedal the way we did. It’s the way we’ve been playing all year.”
It took two outs in the first inning before things got rolling for Hall’s Aggies. Redshirt junior A.J. Hunt drew a walk from NSU starter Seth Hockett (RHP) which was followed by a walk to junior Dawnoven Smith. Junior Jarrett Norman contributed to the Aggies first run with an RBI single to left to score Hunt.
It appeared that would be all the damage done to the Spartans (19-29) after sophomore Zach McLean hit a routine groundball to shortstop. But Mikey Delgado’s throw from short went wide of the bag at second allowing McLean to reach, Norman to come into second safely and Smith to score. Sophomore catcher Ryne Stanley completed the three-run first for the Aggies with an RBI single to left.
Senior Milton Rivera added another run for the Aggies in the second when he tripled and then scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. N.C. A&T took a comfortable lead in the fourth as senior Myles Sowell and Rivera opened the inning with singles. Senior Forest Kimbrell drove in a run with an RBI single for a 5-0 lead as Sowell scored. Smith gave the Aggies a 6-0 lead with an RBI single. Hockett gave the Aggies a seven-run lead when he unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Kimbrell to score.
Luth (6-2) got the win by surrendering only two earned runs and striking out four. He retired the first 10 batters he faced on Thursday. NSU’s best two shots against was a solo home run in the fifth and a solo shot in the seventh. Before the home run in the seventh, however, the Aggies posted five runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. The big blast of the inning came from the bat of McLean who hit a mammoth grand slam over the scoreboard in left.
Six Aggies had two-hit games including senior Greg White, Kimbrell, Hunt, Smith, Sowell and Rivera. Kimbrell, Hunt, Smith, Norman
“You’re not going to score in one way all the time,” said Hall. “Some of our hits were hit hard, some were not but guys were hustling down the line putting pressure on the defense. That’s what we’re going to try to do throughout this tournament.”