DURHAM, N.C. (April 15, 2018) – North Carolina A&T baseball fell short in their attempt to sweep the weekend series from arch-rival N.C. Central as the Eagles halted the Aggies eight-game conference winning streak with a 2-1win Sunday afternoon at Durham Athletic Park.
The season series end in a 3-3 split with the road team winning each series. Despite scoring first in all three games this weekend, the Aggies (19-16, 9-5 MEAC) were unable to add to their lead throughout the afternoon. The Eagles (21-18, 7-8 MEAC) kept the lead for most overall wins in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Sophomore right-hander Michael Johnson (4-1) was dealt his first loss of the season despite giving up only six hits and striking out six. Junior relief pitcher Leon Hunter (RHP) replaced Johnson in the eighth inning and pitched a scoreless inning while striking out two. After a pitching change by the Eagles in the first, Nick Caregnato held the Aggies hitless for five straight innings.
“Michael came out and gave us a great start,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “He went seven surrendering six hits with six strikeouts, two earned runs … that should be good enough to win. But tip your cap to their guy for coming out of the pen. He gave them six clean innings which were really tough on us.”
Trailing NCCU 2-1 in the eighth, the Aggies had three hits and were on the verge of tying the game. Back-to-back singles by redshirt junior A.J. Hunt and senior Dawnoven Smith put N.C. A&T in scoring position. Senior Adan Ordonez’s single gave the Aggies a chance to tie the game, but Hunt was thrown out attempting to score from second base to end the inning.
“We didn’t make enough adjustments in the box to put any pressure on him through the middle of the game,” said Hall about Caregnato. “It was a well-pitched ballgame and we had a chance to win it in the eighth but their guy in right field made a great play throwing us out at the plate. But what it boils down to on Sunday is that you have to swing it better and put some more pressure on their defense for them to have to make some pitching changes. We just didn’t do that today.”
Smith was the only Aggie with multiple hits going 2-for-4. Senior Myles Sowell had the only extra-base hit with a double to left field in the seventh inning. Redshirt sophomore James Rorie had the lone RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning to score Hunt.
NCCU responded in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single to left by Zach Michalski. The eventual game-winning run occurred in the fourth inning. Andrew Valichka drove in a run through the right side to score Corey Joyce to give the Eagles the one-run lead they held throughout the contest.
The Aggies will wrap-up their road swing with back-to-back games at USC Upstate 6 p.m., Tuesday and at Elon 6 p.m., Wednesday.