Aggies Outslug Highlanders
GREENSBORO-The North Carolina A&T baseball team had a strong showing offensively against Radford on Wednesday, spending an overcast, blustery afternoon at War Memorial Stadium posting a season-high runs and hits (18) in a 13-10 victory against the Highlanders.
The Aggies (4-5) saw five players collect multi-hit games and multi-RBI games. First baseman Kelvin Freeman extended his hitting streak to a season-best eight games with a 2-for-5 performance including a two-run home run. Andre' McKoy and Dairio Little each ended the game with four hits, which matched a career-high for both players. Little and second baseman Marquis Riley each had three RBI in the contest.
"There was a lot of freaking swinging the bat," said head coach Joel Sanchez. "We needed to have one of those games."
Freshman right-hander Shane Carter picked up his first win in his first career start. He allowed five runs on five hits in five innings. He retired six batters in a row at one point in his longest outing this season. It was his first appearance for the Aggies since his A&T debut on Feb. 18. James Harris tossed three innings for the Aggies and righty Andrew Cook picked up his second save of the year, allowing one run on two hits in one frame.
"We had a good performance from our starter again," Sanchez said. "He hadn't pitched in a while. He gave us five good innings and then he started to run out of gas. Then James Harris came in and picked up the slack a little bit after the home run he gave up. Then he gave us another couple of good innings. Cook was able to force them out on contact."
The Aggies jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning on a two-run RBI single by shortstop Luke Tendler. The Aggies made it an 8-0 ballgame in the second, knocking Radford starter Jeff Maxwell out of the game after 1.2 frames. With one out in the second, third baseman Michael Radford singled. An RBI single by McKoy scored centerfield Dylan Hipp, who had reached on a fielder's choice. Riley next popped out to first baseman Ryan Burgess in foul territory.
With two out and two on, Little slammed a two-run RBI double down the left field line to make it a 5-0 game. The Highlanders replaced Maxwell with Jake Palese on the hill. Freeman slammed a 380-foot home run over the wall in left-center to make it a 7-0 game. Tendler followed that with a double to right field, and he came around to score on an RBI single by freshman Bo McMillan.
The Aggies enjoyed an 8-0 lead until the fourth inning, when the Highlanders posted their first run. Radford cut it to an 8-3 game on a two-run RBI double to center field by second baseman Brett Mollenhauer in the fifth frame.
The Aggies responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth. With the bases loaded and no out, McKoy hit a sacrifice fly to bring home catcher Eric Chiz. Riley hit a two-run RBI double, and Little followed with an RBI single to make it a 12-3 contest.
But the Highlanders offense kept chipping away at the A&T lead. Radford added four runs in the sixth to make it a 12-7 game, powered by a three-run homer by right fielder Cory Turner and an RBI single by center fielder Zach Costello.
"I'll give them credit, they kept coming back. They didn't back down," Sanchez said. "We scored two, and then six, and they kept coming back. They were that kind of team. Sometimes it's tough for our guys--we're just throwing strikes. We're going to throw strikes and make them swing the bat and they did."
The last A&T run came on a sac fly by Riley, which scored A&T's Radford.
But the Highlanders weren't finished. They scored two more runs in the eighth and made things interesting in the ninth. With two out, Cook gave up a solo home run to left fielder Matt Hillsinger, which made it a 13-10 game. Burgess then singled up the middle. Third baseman Phil Bondi walked to put two on for Turner. Turner represented the tying run. But the late Radford rally did not make Sanchez or any of the Aggies nervous.
"I knew that guy had hit a home run earlier, but I didn't get nervous. I know, just being around baseball that happens. The numbers statistically are in our favor. I knew he was shooting for [another home run]. Our guy made a good pitch and it resulted in a soft liner to our first baseman," Sanchez said.
Turner's lineout to Freeman ended the game and gave the Aggies their fourth home win of the season.
The Aggies will continue their homestand this weekend. They will take on the LaSalle Explorers in a three-game series starting on Friday at 3 p.m. The series will continue with 1 p.m., games on Saturday and Sunday. LHP Esterlin Paulino will take the bump for the Aggies, while LHP Erick Van Wyk will start for the Explorers on Friday.