EAST GREENSBORO –Pop! Pow! Boom! Those are the sounds freshman Scott Meitzler's left hand has made all season as the North Carolina A&T baseball bullpen catcher catching some of the Aggie fire throwers such as Roberto Negron and Leon Hunter.
Meitzler believed his freshman was going to be spent paying his dues in obscurity behind two veteran catchers. He was wrong and that incorrection benefited the Aggies in a big way and on a big stage Friday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium. The Aggies (22-18, 10-5 MEAC) remained in first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division.
In just his third game played and his second start of 2019, Meitzler hit a two-run home run to right-center field to lead the Aggies to a 5-3 win over Bethune-Cookman in front of a nationally-television audience on ESPNU. Meitzler’s home run came on only his fourth career at-bat.
It was not a bad television debut for a player who thought he would redshirt in his first year as an Aggie. Not happy with the idea of redshirting, Meitzler asked the Aggies coaching staff what he needed to do to avoid not playing as a freshman. Upon finding out what it took to play, Meitzler went to work.
He’s a perfect example of what you do in practice will carry over into the game,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “He has practiced as well as anyone in this program over the past few months and he has reaped the benefits. His work in the bullpen gave him an advantage behind the plate and in the (batter’s) box he has given himself good repetitions going into games.”
Junior Zach McLean complemented Meitzler home run with a 400-foot plus blast to the deepest part of
After the delay, N.C. A&T decided to stay with their starter, senior RHP Tim Luth. Bethune-Cookman, however, replaced reigning MEAC pitcher of the year Anthony Maldonado after the lengthy delay.
RHP Jordan Pinto entered the game for the Wildcats (15-29, 8-11 MEAC). Junior Cam Williamson greeted him with a single to right before Meitzler drove Pinto’s 1-0 pitch over the wall to give the Aggies a 3-1 lead. McLean followed with a single through the left side.
After Pinto settled in and retired sophomore Justin Williams and freshman Dontae Wade, senior Jason King hit a groundball up the middle. B-CU shortstop Nate Sterijevski was not able to get to the ball in time with his diving attempt as the ball slowly rolled into center field for an RBI single and a 4-1 Aggies lead.
Luth pitched two more innings after the delay. He gave up a run in the sixth before leaving the game after giving up two runs and striking out two over six innings pitched. Luth (6-2) picked up the win and improved to 4-0 against MEAC opponents this season.
“Luth is a senior, so he only has so many starts left,” said Hall. “We trust him. When you’ve been around a guy for a long time and they do everything you ask of them, there is a certain trust factor that’s there. We probably would have had to fight him take him out. He stayed sharp throughout the delay with armbands and we felt his pitch count wasn’t that high.”
After Luth left the game, he was aided by McLean’s sixth-inning home run that was hammered into the windy skies of War Memorial to give the Aggies a 5-2 lead. The Wildcats scored a run off senior RHP Leon Davidson in the seventh.
Senior RHP Roberto Negron came on in the eighth and after giving up a leadoff walk, he retired the next three Wildcats in order. Senior RHP Leon Hunter retired the first two Wildcats he faced in the ninth and the game appeared over when Danny Rodriguez swung and missed on a third strike. But the ball got away from Meitzler allowing Rodriguez to reach.
Rodriguez moved to second on a passed ball, but the game ended when Chase DeBonis grounded out to shortstop Dustin Baber to give Hunter his seventh save of the season.
The second game of the series will be played at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 27 at War Memorial Stadium.