GREENSBORO - There are times when a difficult situation forces someone to make a positive adjustment.
North Carolina A&T power hitter Juanita Jernigan hit a two-out walk-off single in the seventh inning to lead the Aggies to a 4-3 come-from-behind win over S.C. State Sunday afternoon at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex. Jernigan's hit helped the Aggies (10-18, 3-0 MEAC) complete a three-game sweep of the Bulldogs (11-18, 0-3).
The hit came despite Jernigan finding herself behind in the count after using massive swings to foul off the first three pitches S.C. State starter Vianney Gomez threw. With the bases loaded, all Jernigan needed was a base hit to end the game. Therefore, it was perhaps fortunate that she was behind two strikes.
"Once I got two strikes, I decided to cut my swing way down," said Jernigan, who leads the Aggies in batting (.349) and RBI (17). "At that point, the only objective is to get on base."
That objective had everyone taking a deep breath as Jernigan took Gomez's next pitch and hit a bouncing groundball just inches away from the left side of the second base bag. Bulldogs shortstop Taylor-Anne Harris made a diving attempt to make the play going toward her left, hoping she could make the stop and tag second for the force out.
Instead, she was only able to get the tip of her glove on the ball. Even after doing so, the ball still dislodged from her glove as her body made its full descent to the ground. Dominique Smith scored the winning run to complete what was an impressive three-run seventh inning where the Bulldogs gave the Aggies some assistance.
"We didn't want to roll over for a team we beat 12-0 yesterday," said Jernigan about the Aggies win over the Bulldogs in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. "We would have felt kind of bad if that happened, so we had to pick it up a little bit."
The Bulldogs took a 3-1 lead in the sixth when Kandy Ranew launched a home run to left field on a 1-0 pitch from A&T starter Ashira Dobison. Gomez retired the Aggies in order in the home half of the sixth inning to leave A&T three outs away from defeat.
Gomez made it two outs away as she got Aggies catcher Sabrina Edmonds to pop up to second. Life for Gomez became much harder, however. Zabresha Blakeney doubled to left center, which set up what may have been Sunday's most significant play.
Macklin hit a groundball to Harris at short. As Harris gathered the ball, it appeared she was going to make the sure out by throwing Macklin out at first. But Blakeney, who was headed to third, may have changed Harris' plans by running in front of her. In Harris' attempt to tag Blakeney, she fumbled the ball. The miscue allowed Blakeney to reach third and Macklin to reach first.
At first it appeared the play would not have any significance as designated player Alexandria McAfee popped out to first. But Dominique Smith made them pay as she hit a line drive single through the left side to score Blakeney.
Detavia Kenan followed by singling to center field. Macklin beat the throw home from center field to tie the game at 3. The throw home allowed Smith and Kenan to move into scoring position. After an eight-pitch at-bat, Tranea Jones walked to load the bases, setting up Jernigan's heroics.
Jernigan, Kenan and McAfee had two hits apiece. Dobison (9-11) picked up the win after striking out four over seven innings. Jones hit her third home run of the season. It was a solo shot to left field that gave A&T a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
"I think this weekend shows that we can play well enough to make the MEAC tournament," said Jernigan, who noted the Aggies didn't qualify for last year's tournament. "We needed a good showing to show people we can compete in the MEAC again."
The Aggies are not in action until Friday, April 6 when they head to Tallahassee, Fla., to face the Florida A&M Rattlers in a three-game series. The two teams play a Friday doubleheader at 1 p.m., before playing 3 p.m., on Saturday.