Wilson Leads Aggies to Tournament Win
SALISBURY, Md. (May 17, 2017) – It wasn't Senior Weekend, but it will certainly do. After not having the type of outing he wanted his final home game at War Memorial Stadium, North Carolina A&T senior right-hander Kaeson Wilson did atone for it by pitching seven innings of shutout baseball to lead the Aggies to an 8-0 win over Maryland Eastern Shore in the opening game of the 2017 MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament at Perdue Stadium.
N.C. A&T advances to play the top seed from the MEAC Northern Division, the Norfolk State Spartans, 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Perdue Stadium. Wilson (5-7) surrendered only four hits and tied a career high with eight strikeouts. Relief pitchers K.J. McAlister (RHP) and Josh Bottenfield (RHP) contributed to the Aggies first shutout win since beating Savannah State 2-0 on April 24, 2015.
“When I went out to the mound to pull him I told him, ‘the best thing about today even though it is not going your way, you've got another start coming,'” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. recalling Wilson's last outing when he went only four innings in a loss to Florida A&M on May 12. “It was awesome to see him go out there and pitch as well as he did. You love being able to start postseason play with a senior on the mound.”
Wilson threw only 88 pitches, which is a career-low in games where he has pitched 7-plus innings. Wilson did not allow a runner to reach third, and at one point in the game he retired seven straight Hawks before giving up a single to Jordan Wesley to open the Hawks seventh. Wilson pitched with a comfortable lead most of the game.
Junior Milton Rivera drove in three runs for the Aggies, while junior Myles Sowell was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Adan Ordonez also had two hits, and he drove in a run. Senior Tim Ravare got the Aggies on the board in the second inning with an RBI single that scored junior Greg White. A fielding error by the Hawks led to the Aggies other run in the second as A.J. Hunt, who walked and moved to third on Ravare's single, scored.
A wild pitch from MDES starter Zach Mills led to another run for the Aggies in third. But it was N.C. A&T's fourth led to Mills' exit from the game. Sowell opened the inning by reaching on an error before a Brandon Melendez single moved Sowell to third base. Mills was replaced by Toby Hoskins (RHP) following Melendez's single. Hoskins did get the first batter he faced, Rivera, to ground out to second. But the groundout scored Sowell. Ordonez then doubled down the left field line to score Melendez for a 5-0 Aggies lead.
Rivera assisted in the Aggies adding two more runs in the fifth with an RBI double down the left field line.
“We weren't quite clicking on all cylinders offensively, but we did some good things. I thought our two-out hitting was excellent today,” said Hall who saw his team go 4-for-12 with two outs. “That two-out hitting helped us string some innings together where we were able to score at least one in each inning from the second to the fifth. I think we can put some better swings on the ball going forward, but overall I'm pleased with our effort.”
The Aggies are now 4-0 against MDES this season. Each margin of victory was by seven runs or more. Mills (3-5) took the loss.
NSU and the Aggies played twice during the regular season with each team winning on the other's home field. The Aggies will likely face MEAC Pitcher of the Year Devin Hemmerich (9-2, 1.74 ERA). The Aggies will throw RHP Marcello Betances (5-5, 4.98 ERA).
“Norfolk is a good team but at this point in the season it's us versus us,” said Hall. “We have a tough challenge ahead of us tomorrow, but I trust our guys will go out and compete all nine, put the bat on the bat on the ball and play Aggie baseball.”