DAYTONA BEACH (May 19, 2018) – Senior Myles Sowell’s birthday was Friday, May 18. But he partied late into that night and into Saturday morning to lead North Carolina A&T baseball to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship Tournament game with a 15-7 win over Coppin State in the semifinals at Sliwa Stadium Saturday morning.
Another bad day of weather forced the Aggies game against the Eagles to a 9:05 p.m., start after their original 2:30 p.m., start was delayed after two pitchers were thrown. The Aggies (31-23) did not claim victory until 12:50 a.m., when junior right-hand reliever Roberto Negron struck out Jonathan Sabino.
N.C. A&T will now play in the title game for the first time since 2010. Their win over Coppin State gives them an enormous advantage in the double-elimination tournament. Two elimination games must be played on Saturday before the Aggies will even know who their opponent is. Once their opponent is determined between either Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman or Coppin State, the Aggies will only have to win once to claim their first title in 13 years while their opponent must win twice because N.C. A&T has yet to lose in the 2018 tournament.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall, who saw his team tie the school record for wins. “We’re just going to play the next game in front us and see what happens. We’ve got a bunch of guys on this team who just love to play baseball. “
The Aggies will play either B-CU, FAMU or Coppin on Sunday. A time has not been determined.
"The delays, the bad weather, the changing game times have more of an effect on us as coaches than they do the players. These guys are just excited that we’re still playing,” Hall continued.
They are playing like a motivated team. The Aggies have scored double-figure runs in four straight games and five of their last six. In their last nine games, they have a 7-2 record and they have outscored their two opponents in the tournament by a combined score of 27-10.
“It’s that time of the year,” said Hall. “This is why you play 50, 60 some odd games in baseball because it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. I think the big thing for us lately is the guys at the bottom of our order are starting to hit the ball, so they are flipping the lineup. The guys at the top of our order are coming to the plate with runners on base.”
Sowell, the birthday boy and the Aggies No. 8 hitter, went 4-for-4 with four runs scored and an RBI. Three of Sowell’s runs were scored on wild pitches. Senior leadoff man Greg White was 2-for-4 with three RBI and two home runs. Redshirt junior A.J. Hunt also had two hits and sophomores Zach McLean and Ryne Stanley also had homers.
But it was the bottom of the order that sparked the Aggies in the pivotal fifth inning. N.C. A&T went into the fifth leading 3-2 before Sowell singled which was followed by a single from No. 9 hitter Milton Rivera. Senior Greg White moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt that led to an RBI single by senior Forest Kimbrell. Rivera was thrown out at the plate for the second out in the inning but that did not slow down the Aggies offense.
Hunt brought Kimbrell home on an infield single before an RBI double from junior Dawnoven Smith gave the Aggies a 6-2 lead. Smith scored on a throwing error that allowed junior Jarrett Norman to reach. McLean powered out a homer to left to add two more runs to the Aggies’ totals. Stanley followed with a solo shot to left to give the Aggies a 10-2 advantage. The Aggies seven-run fifth all but put the game out of reach for the Eagles (21-22-1).
First-team All-MEAC sophomore pitcher Michael Johnson (7-1) got the win while Aaron Rea (6-5) took the loss.
“We’re really playing a really aggressive brand of baseball right now,” said Hall. “We’re aggressive on the basepaths and at the plate and I think you saw tonight that Michael was aggressive on the mound. Hopefully, we can continue to play that way.”