Pitching, Clary Homers Lead A&T to Series Sweep
GREENSBORO (April 15, 2017) – North Carolina A&T held the best-hitting team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in check for the vast majority of the weekend, and therefore pulled off a three-game sweep of North Carolina Central with their 5-2 win Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
NCCU (16-21, 7-8) came into the series hitting a league-best .305, but batted .250 for the series as the Aggies pitching staff posted a solid 3.60 ERA over the three-game set. Senior right-hander Kaeson Wilson (4-3) continued the Aggies’ trend of good pitching on Saturday, picking up the win by going seven innings, striking out five and surrendering just two runs and six hits. Seventy-one of the 100 pitches Wilson threw went for strikes. Junior Josh Bottenfield (RHP) served as the setup man, pitching a perfect eighth inning. Junior Cutter Dyals (RHP) closed the Eagles out in the ninth by striking out the tying run to pick up his fifth save of the season.
“I was real impressed with our pitching staff today,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “These were two competitive teams, so you know the games are going to be tight and Kaeson was outstanding, Bottenfield was outstanding and obviously Dyals is excellent at closing games. I think our pitching really set a tone for our hitters to keep working through the game to get runs when we could.”
It was another big day for senior Kyle Clary. A day after hitting a game-tying home run and a game-winning RBI single in the eighth and ninth innings respectively, Clary had two more baseballs explode off his bats for homers on Saturday. He had four hits in the series, three went for home runs. Junior Myles Sowell also homered and ended the day 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Junior Adan Ordonez and redshirt sophomore A.J. Hunt had two hits as well. The Aggies (20-14, 10-5 MEAC) now have their first 20-win season in five years and their first three-game sweep of NCCU since Eagles baseball joined the conference in 2012.
“We did well in all three phases of the game (offense, defense, pitching),” said Hall. “We were not perfect, but we made them earn their hits. We picked the ball up when we had opportunities to, and we got some timely hitting. But it all goes back to the mound. You build your wins off pitching. But if we keep bringing all three phases to the ballpark, we have a chance to win every day.”
N.C. A&T never trailed on Saturday, but the win wasn’t easy. Clary’s first home run came in the second when he launched a two-run shot over the Pepsi billboard (that stands about 20 feet over the left field fence) in left field for a 2-0 Aggies lead. It was the second time in two days a Clary home run cleared the Pepsi billboard. The Eagles got a run back in the sixth, but the Aggies quickly answered with Sowell’s third home run of the season to take a 3-1 lead. NCCU responded again in the seventh as Conrad Kovalcik hit a solo home run to right to cut the Aggies lead back down to one.
All series long, however, the Aggies were excellent offensively in the late innings. They were also superb at the plate with two outs. The Aggies were 14-for-36 in the series with two outs as they posted another two-out rally in the seventh. The Aggies put runners on first and second thanks to a Sowell walk and an Ordonez single. Hunt singled through the left side to score Sowell for a 4-2 Aggies advantage. Clary closed out N.C. A&T’s scoring with another home run to left as three of his seven career home runs were recorded this weekend.
“Kyle’s seen a lot of baseball. I know he hasn’t had quite the year he’s wanted to have. But I also know with as much baseball as he has played and with him being as smart as he is as a player, he’s going to start coming around. It’s not a surprise he got going. It just happened to occur in the big series of the season thus far.”
N.C. A&T will not have long to reflect on their NCCU sweep. The Aggies play five games next week starting with home contests on Tuesday and Wednesday against Winthrop and Norfolk State. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., on Tuesday and 5 p.m., on Wednesday. The Aggies then play Friday and Sunday at home against Davidson, but play at Davidson on Saturday. Follow Aggies baseball on Twitter @ncatsubaseball. Follow Aggie Athletics on Facebook (@ncatathletics), Twitter (@ncataggies) and Instagram (@ncatathletics).