TALLAHASSE, Fla. (May 12, 2018) – North Carolina A&T baseball added to the championship collection. The best season in North Carolina A&T Athletics history since joining the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 1971 apparently still has a lot of steam left. N.C. A&T baseball scored a bunch of runs en route to the MEAC Southern Division regular-season title thanks to a 25-15 defeat of Florida A&M Saturday at Moore-Kittles Field.
The Aggies have now won regular-season MEAC titles in baseball, football, bowling and women's basketball. They are the recognized MEAC champions in football, women's and men's indoor track and field, bowling, women's basketball and men's outdoor track and field.
Aggies baseball (29-23, 16-8 MEAC) took the weekend series, 2-1 with Friday's doubleheader split with the Rattlers (24-28, 15-9 MEAC) setting up a winner-takes-all scenario for the Southern Division title between the two teams. Junior Dawnoven Smith registered a season-high four runs scored, as N.C. A&T capped their regular season in record fashion. The No. 1 seed out of the Southern Division is heading into next week’s MEAC Baseball Tournament having scored 25 runs on 19 RBI, 13 walks and seven hit by pitches to notch season-best in those statistical categories.
Saturday's 25 runs and 19 RBI are most since the Aggies scored 28 runs on 27 RBI against N.C. Central on March 14, 2010, at War Memorial Stadium. The Aggies 16 conference wins breaks the previous school record for conference wins, 15, set in 2010 and 2017. The Aggies also have their first MEAC regular-season title in 13 years. The last time the Aggies had a No. 1 seed going into the MEAC tournament, they won the title in 2005.
“Here at N.C. A&T, we are doing a lot of winning and we just want to do our part,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “This has been in the works for three and a half years. We will celebrate the win tonight and get ready for a great opportunity in Daytona Beach at the conference tournament.”
The Aggies built a 7-0 lead in the first inning on several miscues by the Rattlers. Senior Milton Rivera’s two-RBI single to left-center field highlighted the inning but FAMU’s defense surrendered five walks, hit three batters and committed a fielding error to aid in the Aggies efforts.
FAMU tried to make it interesting after their faltering first. FAMU’s Kaycee Reese’s hit a two-run homer to left to make it an 8-3 contest. Base hits by senior Greg White, redshirt junior AJ Hunt
The Rattlers slowly chipped away at the Aggies lead until they got it down to 11-7 going into their sixth. FAMU then put together their best stretch of the afternoon by posting a five-run sixth to take a 12-11 lead.
The hot-hitting did not stand for it, however. The Aggies scored 14 runs over their last two at-bats including a seventh inning where they scored five runs on no hits. N.C. A&T was able to load the bases in the seventh on an error, hit by
N.C. A&T's nine-run eighth included five hits, one FAMU error, four walks, two wild pitches, one hitter reaching on a fielder's choice and one batter hit by pitch. Two Aggies finished with four RBI (Sowell, McLean) while four scored three runs each (Williams, Rivera, McLean, Sowell). White tripled, Smith hit two doubles and Sowell stole two bases. Sophomore starting right-hand pitcher Michael Johnson went 4.2 innings striking out five batters. Senior RHP Josh Bottenfield (5-3) picked up his second win of the series in relief. Bottenfield pitched 5.1 innings in the series, made three appearances and did not give up a run on three hits. He went 1.1 innings to get the win on Saturday.
“First, hats off to both teams,” said Hall. “That was the longest two days of baseball that I have been a part of. Both teams competed really hard. I am extremely proud of my team. They had to fight for that series win and that’s what they did. This time of year you have to compete at a high level and find ways to win and that is what we did this weekend."
MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament play will begin noon Thursday against the winner of Bethune-Cookman/Norfolk State winner at Sliwa Stadium on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The Wildcats and the Spartans play 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 16.