GREENSBORO - There was a time in November when North Carolina A&T head softball coach Mamie Jones didn't know if she would even have senior Tiffany Macklin to open the 2013 season.
But she entered the game at second base on Monday against Maryland Eastern Shore in the fourth inning for an injured Zebresha Blakeney. In the seventh inning, she hit a game-winning two-run RBI single to center field to lead the Aggies to an 11-10 win over UMES in the North Carolina A&T Softball Invitational at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex. The win over UMES was a continuation of a 7-4 game that was suspended the day before because of darkness in the fourth inning.
"What do you say about a kid like Tiffany who made such a contribution like this so early in the season?" Jones said. "She missed most of (last semester), so for her to come back like this, I'm very proud of her."
Macklin broke her ankle three months ago. She missed the majority of the fall workouts, but during the Holiday break she rehabbed fervently in order to make it back by February. The Aggies needed her presence. The Aggies served as the visitors at their own ballpark against UMES (3-4) because the tournament format allows each team to serve as the home team a certain number of times.
A&T (1-2) entered the visitor's seventh trailing 10-9. With one out, UMES shortstop Chelsea Alston mishandled a Raven Smith groundball to start the Aggies rally. Freshman Kimberly Brunson followed with a single to right field to put runners at first and second.
UMES pitcher Carmen Gurrola, who opened on the mound Monday for Sunday starter Belen Benitez, struck out Haley Snyder to put the Hawks an out away from victory. Macklin changed those plans by hitting Gurrola's 1-0 pitch to center field to score Smith and Brunson to give the Aggies the lead.
The Hawks put the tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh. But A&T freshman pitcher Janika May (1-1) got UMES third baseman Tranese Nash to pop out to Macklin at second base to end the game and the invitational.
Earlier in the day, the Aggies lost 3-0 to St. Francis as they went 1-2 in the invitational. Ashira Dobison had a no-hitter going after five before the Red Flash picked up its first hit on a Samantha Thomas single up the middle in the sixth. Davina Kachnovitz then ended the Dobison shutout with a double down the left field line to score Thomas. Chelsy Cosentino followed with a single that scored Kachnovitz. An Aggies throwing error led to another Red Flash (2-5) run as Sabrie Neeb reached and Kate Blattenberge singled to score Cosentino for a three-run lead.
Red Flash starter Ketarah Devries retired the Aggies in order in the seventh to finish the invitational 3-1.
"Ashira pitched a very good game," said Jones. "I was pleased with the fact that she gave us a chance to win. We lost the game on errors, but she did her job. She offered us the leadership we're looking to get from her."
When the Aggies returned to the field to complete their game against UMES, Jax Kaye Woodard greeted Gurrola with a two-run home that gave A&T a 9-4 lead. The Hawks rallied with five runs in their half of the fourth as Benitez hit a two-run triple to tie the game at 9. In the fifth, the Hawks took the lead on a Morgan King triple to center field that scored Gurrola, setting up Macklin's heroics. Woodard went 5-for-10 with two home runs and four RBI during the invitational.
"Overall, I thought it was a good tournament," said Jones. "I know the weather set us back. But once it started, I thought it well. We had some good teams here and the play was excellent."
Canisius (6-1) won the invitational by going 4-0. The all-tournament team is as follows: Alejandra Barcenas (A&T), Jen Consaul (Canisius), Chelsy Cosentino (St. Francis), Bethany DeMarco (Canisius), Morgan King (UMES), Sabrie Neeb (St. Francis), Taylor Parsons (St. Francis), Stephanie Pfentner (Canisius), Jax Kay Woodard (A&T).
The Aggies return to action on March 1 when they play in the Wolfpack Invitational at N.C. State.