GREENSBORO – The North Carolina A&T baseball team is not going to the MEAC tournament this month. Florida A&M designated hitter Michael Birdsong sealed A&T’s fate with a walk-off single in the 10th inning as the Rattlers defeated the Aggies 4-3 at Moore-Kittles Field, Sunday afternoon.
Around the same time the Rattlers were rallying in their half of the 10th, Savannah State was making the A&T/FAMU outcome irrelevant as the Tigers scored two runs in the home eighth to take an 8-5 lead over Bethune-Cookman. The Tigers went on to win 8-6, which clinched the fourth and final tournament berth out of the southern division.
Therefore, the Aggies (16-32, 9-15) were essentially eliminated from postseason contention despite their comeback efforts on Sunday.
A&T trailed 3-0 going into the visitor’s eighth. Speedy Ryan Hill opened the frame by reaching on an infield single. He moved to second on a Cameron Jergens groundout and scored when he attempted to steal second and FAMU catcher Jeremy Barlow’s throw went into left field, allowing Ryan Hill to end the Rattlers hope of a shutout.
Aggies catcher Lester Salcedo didn’t let the momentum fade as he reached on a single through the left side. Right-hand Rattlers relief pitcher John Marcus Roberts walked Brandon Wilkerson to put runners on first and second. FAMU turned to RHP Brandon Fleming and put the responsibility on him to preserve the lead.
He got senior Stefan Jordan to fly out, but Kyle Clary hit a two-out single to right to get the Aggies to within one run at 3-2. Wilkerson moved to third on the single and eventually stole home to tie the game. A&T right-hander Justin Godette helped the Aggies stay in the game by relieving right-hand starter Mitchell McQueen in the sixth. Godette pitched three innings of scoreless relief before being replaced by left-hander Dylan Hipp in the 10th.
Hipp retired the first Rattler but surrendered a single to Marlon Gibbs. Ryan Kennedy followed with another single, which led A&T head coach Joel Sanchez to replace Hipp with right-hander Luke McCreesh. McCreesh loaded the bases by walking Barlow, which set up Birdsong’s heroics.
Hipp (1-1) took the loss, while Fleming (4-4) picked up the win. Birdsong drove in two runs on Sunday, Gibbs was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Ryan Kennedy had a 4-for-5 afternoon for FAMU (21-24, 13-10 MEAC). Clary had half of A&T’s hits by going 3-for-5 with an RBI.
The Aggies’ final regular-season game will be 6 p.m., Wednesday at War Memorial Stadium against Winthrop.