GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T knows what it is going to get out of the power bats in its lineup when it comes to seniors Luke Tendler and Cameron Jergens. But as the 2014 MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament approaches, it would be beneficial if some other bats in the lineup could come up with some clutch hitting.
That is precisely what happened for A&T on Saturday as junior Brandon Mitchell and freshman Kyle Clary led the Aggies to a doubleheader sweep of Marist at War Memorial Stadium, 3-0 and 7-6 (10 innings).
The win in Game 1 snapped the Aggies’ 10-game losing streak as Mitchell hit a two-run RBI single in the fourth inning to give senior right-hander Tyler Boone (1-5) all the cushion he needed for his first win of the season as he pitched a complete-game four-hit shutout.
Clary was the hero in Game 2 as he hit a walk-off single to left field in the 10th inning to help the Aggies improve to 13-22.
“Timely hitting,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “It had been a struggle for our guys to get those types of hits, and we got two today. We got one from Brandon and we got one from Kyle. It was good to get back on the winning side of a ballgame. It’s been a long time.”
Sanchez’s group actually fought back twice late in Game 2 to get on the winning side. In the Marist eighth, Tyler Kirkpatrick hit a sharp line drive RBI single off the leg of A&T starter Brian Poag (RHP) to give the Red Foxes a 3-2 lead. Poag didn’t appear to be seriously injured, but the sharp liner ended his day after 7.1 innings. Junior RHP Jamal Clark came in and got Joey Aiola to line into a double play.
A&T answered in its eighth as designated hitter Lester Salcedo singled to right to tie the game by scoring Tendler from third.
But the Red Foxes (8-23) were headed toward salvaging a split on Saturday after they scored three runs in their half of the 10th. What looked even more daunting was the fact that the Red Foxes brought in team-saves leader Ryan Thomas to close things out in the Aggies 10th. Thomas, in search of his fifth save of the season, opened the inning by getting freshman Timothy Ravare to ground out. But Thomas’ command left him.
He walked Tendler only to see Tendler steal second and move to third on a wild pitch. Junior Brandon Wilkerson then battled until Thomas walked him on 10 pitches to put runners on the corners. Thomas settled in and got Micah Carmony to hit a slow groundball to first. Laurino scooped Carmony’s groundball at first, pivoted and threw to second to force out Wilkerson. But Laurino’s throw hit Wilkerson in the back, allowing everyone to reach safely and load the bases with one out.
Thomas compounded his problems by hitting Cameron Jergens with a 1-0 pitch to force in a run to cut Marist’s lead to 6-4. Senior catcher Stefan Jordan tied the game with an RBI double down the left field line. After Jergens was thrown out at home trying to score on a Mitchell groundball to short, Clary stepped up for his heroic moment.
Clary, who entered the game in the ninth inning at third for Ernesto Lizardi, took Thomas’ 0-1 pitch and ripped a groundball to Marist third baseman Ben Moller. As Moller prepared to field the ball, it took a War Memorial bounce and went over Moller’s head into left field as Jordan scored the winning run.
“That second game we obviously thought was out of our hands,” said Sanchez. “But we kept playing. Our guys didn't pack it in, and we put an inning together. We finally got some key hits in clutch situations.”
Kirby Whicker (2-0) picked up the win after throwing only four pitches in the 10th. Thomas (1-4) got the loss and the blown save. Dylan Hipp, Tendler and Salcedo had two hits apiece in Game 2. Jordan went 3-for-5 with three RBI.
In Game 1, Boone pitched the first nine-inning, complete-game shutout of his career. He had a complete-game seven-inning shutout against Florida A&M on April 7, 2012.
Marist and A&T conclude their three-game series Sunday when they meet again at War Memorial at 1 p.m.