GREENSBORO - As the sun set and the temperature dropped at War Memorial Stadium, the North Carolina A&T baseball team's offense heated up.
The Aggies posted two runs apiece in four straight middle innings to overcome an early deficit and defeat the Marshall Thundering Herd 10-7 on Thursday afternoon in the opener of a three-game series. Junior Luke Tendler and senior Dairio Little each went 3-for-5 in the game and had multiple RBIs in the contest. The victory also snapped a two-game skid for A&T.
"It was a good win. They're a good team from a good conference. It was a good start to the series," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez.
Marshall (1-2) took advantage of some early struggles from junior starter Josh Ganus, tagging him for three runs on three this and two walks in the first inning.
"Ganus started a little rough, uncharacteristically, a little wild," said Sanchez. "But he settled down and gave us seven quality innings. That was huge, especially to save the bullpen a little bit, since we had to play these midweek games back-to-back."
The Aggies (3-2) quickly chipped into the deficit. A&T loaded the bases with two out in bottom of the second for Tendler, who lent some power to the ninth batting spot. Tendler doubled to left field to bring home a pair of runs to make it 3-2.
"That was huge in the nine-hole. I don't think they were expecting it," Sanchez said.
The bottom half of the Aggie lineup also provided the offensive spark in the fourth inning. Little led off the fourth inning with a double down the left field line. He stole second, and scored on a double to right-center by catcher Stefan Jordan. Tendler hit a slow-rolling single up the right side, and Jordan scored from second to tie the game at 4.
Marshall made it 5-4 as an RBI single to left field by right fielder Eric Escobedo scored catcher Matt Kirkwood in the top of the fifth.
But the Aggies kept rolling. A&T loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning. Sanchez called up on left-handed hitter sophomore Brandon Wilkerson to face righty Ryan Hopkins. Wilkerson drove a single through the left field side, bringing home a pair of runs to give the Aggies a 6-5 advantage and the lead for good.
"That was big. We keep telling the guys off the bench that they have to be ready at any time because that's one of the things we've got a chance to do a little bit more of this year. Because we have more guys that are usable off the bench, we can mix and match and play match-up a little better," Sanchez said. "In a key situation, Brandon stepped up and got a key hit. It was a good at-bat. He battled himself into a hitter's count and it was a good job. "
The Aggies scored two on an RBI single to right by Little to take an 8-5 lead in the sixth frame. But the Herd wasn't about to give up.
Marshall brought the tying run to the plate in top of the seventh with runners on the corners and two out. An RBI single by Escobedo made it an 8-6 contest. Aaron Bossi came to bat, representing the go-ahead run, but Ganus got him to ground out to short to end the threat.
Junior right-hander Tyler Boone came in to relieve Ganus in top of the eighth, and allowed one unearned run in the ninth. Ganus (2-0) picked up his second win on the year, after finishing the game with four earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts in 7.0 frames.
The series opener was moved up a day in anticipation of the weekend's inclement weather. When the rest of the three-game set between the Aggies and the Herd will be played will be determined by the incoming weather system.
"We'll see what the weather does these next two days. Hopefully we can get all three of them in. We need to play, they need to play, everybody needs to play," Sanchez said. "Everyone in the area from South Carolina through Virginia is dealing with this stuff, so everybody's trying to get games in."