GREENSBORO - The regular season for the North Carolina A&T softball team is over, and there is some good and bad news associated with its conclusion.
The good news is the Aggies closed the regular-season by winning two out of three from archrival N.C. Central. A&T lost 2-1 on Sunday, in the continuation of Saturday's postponed second game of a scheduled doubleheader at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex. The Aggies won Sunday's second game 4-0 to close out the regular season with a 15-33 overall record and a 7-8 MEAC mark.
What may be concerning for the Aggies is the fact that they handed the Eagles (4-45, 1-13) their first conference win of the season. There is also the health of first baseman Juanita Jernigan, who re-injured her hamstring on Saturday. Jernigan leads the Aggies in hitting (.358) and was having an MVP-type season before initially being injured two weeks ago.
Her 12 extra base hits and .560 slugging percentage add explosiveness to the Aggies' lineup. She will be a huge loss if she can't compete at this week's MEAC Softball Tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla. A&T will open the tournament against Delaware State (23-16, 12-3), the North's top seed. On the upside, Hope Fletcher looks healthy after a reoccurring illness sidelined her for 12 games this season.
She went 1-for-2 with a run scored in Game 2. In between games, she was also honored for having the highest grade point average on the team. The fashion merchandise and design major holds a 3.68 GPA. She is a two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Academic team member and has been an A&T scholar athlete every year since 2010.
Another good news moment for A&T is that on the final home game of the season, the Aggies did not have any seniors to honor. Although A&T only played with 12 players this season, all of them will return with what will be an impressive recruiting class.
Add to that the outstanding pitching performances from A&T staff over the weekend, and the Aggies seem poised for postseason play.
In the three games played this weekend, junior college transfer Ashira Dobison and freshman Alexandra McAfee combined for a 0.67 ERA. Dobison was nearly perfect as she surrendered only one run over 14 innings pitched - a solo home run to Aurora Baker in the seventh inning of Saturday's game.
On Sunday, Dobison three-hit the Eagles, while giving up three walks and striking out five. She didn't receive offensive assistance until the fourth inning. A two-out double by Raven Smith led to all types of problems for the Eagles. Smith's double was followed by an error at second base by Martha Batie, which allowed Fletcher to reach first and Smith to advance to third.
More Eagle miscues helped the Aggies take an even bigger lead as McAfee reached second on an error to open the Aggies fifth. Dominique Smith put runners on first and third with a single; and Detavia Kenan loaded the bases as she also reached on an error. Sophomore catcher Sabrina Edmonds scored pinch-runner Erica Turner on an RBI sacrifice fly to center field. A&T's fourth and final run came on a wild pitch by NCCU starter Bianka Molina.
After getting the help she needed, Dobison pitched her way out of jam in the sixth inning before setting the Eagles down in order in the seventh to improve to 14-17 on the season.
McAfee (1-14) took the loss in Sunday's first game after an RBI single off the bat of Amanda Bullock just escaped the grasp of Fletcher at shortstop in the sixth inning to give the Eagles a one-run lead. Six different Aggies had a hit in the first game. Dominique Smith secured the only RBI of the game for A&T, as she laid down a suicide squeeze in the third inning to score Tiffany Macklin and tie the game at 1.