GREENSBORO—After six innings of a pitcher’s duel, the N.C. Central Eagles were able to ride a five-hit, three-run seventh frame to a 4-2 victory over North Carolina A&T in baseball action on Sunday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
The Aggies, who had six hits in the game, weren’t able to scratch across a couple of runs until senior Kelvin Freeman hit his seventh home run of the year, a two-run shot, in the ninth inning. The Aggies were able to bring the tying run to the plate, but couldn’t complete the comeback in the series finale.
Despite the loss, the Aggies (11-21, 7-7) ended with the series victory and a season split with the Eagles (21-14, 9-6). Junior right-hander Tyler Boone (1-3), who picked up the hard-luck loss, allowed three runs on 10 hits in 8.0 innings of work. He walked two and fanned five in the contest.
The right-hander on the hill for NCCU, Terry McNabb (4-3), was just as effective. He held the Aggies to two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out five in 8.2 innings. Gavin Guarrera picked up his eighth save of the season.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t score any runs for Boone,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “He gave us everything he had and kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance. We couldn’t get any timely hitting and couldn’t get anyone on base. We’d get one but we couldn’t get him in. We had a couple guys who were thrown out on close plays.”
In the seventh inning, the Eagles finally broke through. Left fielder Eric Kimber doubled to center field over the head of sophomore Brandon Wilkerson to get the rally started. “That one play—if (Wilkerson) doesn’t get turned around – it’s a routine fly ball,” said Sanchez. “He got turned around, and they got on and got a little momentum.”
Kimber scored as James Dey hit an RBI single up the middle. Akeem Hood followed with a single to put runners on the corners with one out for Zack Lee. Lee hit an RBI sacrifice bunt to put NCCU in front 2-0. With two out and a runner on second, Luis Diaz singled to left field to score another run. The Eagles retired the Aggies in order in the seventh and eighth to help protect their lead, and Boone likewise kept NCCU scoreless in the eighth.
The Eagles loaded the bases with one out off reliever Tim Jones in the ninth. Williamson hit a sacrifice fly to left to make it a 4-0 game. The Aggies worked to rally in the home half.
Jeovanny Tolentino singled to start things off. With two out Freeman stepped up to the plate and launched a 2-2 pitch over the left-center field wall to make it 4-2. McNabb then walked Jergens, and Little strode up to bat representing the tying run. The Eagles called on Gavin Guarrera to face Little. He got Little to hit a pop fly to Dey to end the game.
“We just needed a couple more guys out in front of (Freeman) to get on base,” Sanchez said. “He’s always a threat. We’re trying to get it to him with runners on base. He’s always a threat, and we’re trying to get it to those guys who are a threat.”
The Aggies had a few threats throughout the ballgame. In the first, junior Luke Tendler singled to start the inning. Junior Cameron Jergens hit the ball, and reached first as the high throw from shortstop Zack Lee pulled first baseman Luis Diaz off the bag. Tendler tried to score on the play from third, but was put out in a rundown.
The Aggies almost scored in the fifth as well. Little started the A&T frame with a triple down the left field line. Two batters later, Stefan Jordan hit a fly ball to right, leading Little to try to score from third on a sacrifice fly. But right fielder Ronald Thompson made a strong throw to home plate where Dey tagged Little out.
Two innings later, the Eagles would break open the scoreless tie.
“Our guy was on and their guy was pitching well also,” said Sanchez. “We just had a couple of miscues, a couple of mental errors there that cost us that one inning where they scored their three runs. It seemed like whoever didn’t make a mistake was going to get out ahead, and that’s what they did.”
The Aggies will travel to Buies Creek, N.C. to take on Campbell on Tuesday at 6 p.m.