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Fri, Feb 15
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EAST GREENSBORO (February 15, 2019) – The North Carolina A&T baseball team overcame first-game butterflies and the little foibles that come along with opening day to sweep a doubleheader from the Niagara Purple Eagles Friday evening at War Memorial Stadium.

 

The Aggies earned a come-from-behind 4-3 win in the first game before taking Game 2, 6-2 in a scheduled seven-inning game. The Aggies are 2-0 for the first time in six years.

Senior Dawnoven Smith was 2-for-2 with three RBI in the second game. Right-hand junior college transfer Evan Gates went five innings without giving up an earned run to get the win in his Aggies debut. But it was senior catcher Jarrett Norman who may have had the biggest hit of the game. After falling behind in the count 0-2, he launched a 2-2 pitch to center field to score two runs helping the Aggies break open the game on his way to a two-RBI game.

“I always worry about our opening days,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall who led the Aggies to their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title in 13 years last season. “We have not had good opening days since I’ve been here. But it’s all about getting the jitters and the kinks out.  We still have some kinks to get out, but today we stuck with the game and we pitched well. When you pitch well, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win.”

 

Gates gave up two hits, struck out two and walked four in 88 pitches thrown. Another Aggies newcomer, freshman Gianni Smith pitched two innings of scoreless relief.

“I thought he looked good,” said Hall about Gates’ performance. “This was his first Division I baseball game. He’s got junior college experience, but it is not the same as playing Division I baseball. It was good to see him pitch through a couple of innings where he kind of lost his control.  But he was able to figure it out. I tell pitchers all the time you have to make adjustments just like hitters do, and I thought he did that well tonight.”

The Aggies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a two-run RBI double from Smith. A sloppy third inning for the Aggies helped the Purple Eagles (0-2) get a run back in the third as the Aggies committed three errors in the inning. It was a groundball error at first base that allowed Dawson Bailey to score to cut the Aggies lead to one run.

 

N.C. A&T responded nicely in the third as junior Jason King opened the inning by being hit with a 2-2 pitch. Senior A.J. Hunt laced a single to center field and the Purple Eagles pretty much pitched around Smith to load the bases. A wild pitch by Niagara starter Ben Erwin allowed King to score before Norman’s RBI-double gave the Aggies a 5-1 lead.

 

“We made a lot of mistakes in the box, but we did hit on a few,” said Hall. “We had a couple of hit and runs, we were aggressive on the basepaths by stealing a few bases and we laid down a pretty good sack bunt in that game. I would say we were 50 percent on our execution and that needs to get better.

 

We have to be better with two strikes. Our swings were too big because there were guys trying to do too much in the first game. But that was a great at-bat by Jarrett and those are the type of things we can build on.”

 

Erwin took the loss. The two teams are scheduled to play the third game of the series 3 p.m., Saturday at War Memorial.