GREENSBORO- Despite a 3-2 loss to Savannah State on Sunday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium, North Carolina A&T head baseball coach Joel Sanchez likes the position his team is in.
The Aggies have one more three-game MEAC series remaining this season as they head to Tallahassee, Fla., to face Florida A&M May 11-12. A series sweep could help the Aggies improve their seeding in the MEAC Baseball Tournament, while helping them avoid opening the tourney against top MEAC Northern Division seed Delaware State (31-14-1, 20-1), as the No.4 seed coming out of the South.
"We still have our best innings in our hands; we've still got control of our season. Next weekend at FAMU, we're going to go out and take care of business. That's the bottom line," said Sanchez. "We'll have a midweek game against N.C. State and go from there. We've got to play, we've got to close teams out and put teams away. We've struggled with that all season."
Sunday's loss was a frustrating one for the Aggies (15-33, 9-12 MEAC), since it came after sweeping the Tigers (18-29, 10-11 MEAC) in a doubleheader yesterday, and also because they needed to sweep the series in order to move ahead of the Tigers in the MEAC Southern Division standings.
It was also frustrating for the Aggies because they were not able to come up with a win for seniors Estarlin Paulino, Carvell Copeland, Michael Radford and Marquis Riley, four gentlemen who played their final home games at War Memorial Stadium on Sunday.
The Aggies totaled just four hits in the loss, which matched the number of errors they committed in the contest. Sophomore Luke Tendler saw his 20-game hitting streak come to an after going 0-for-4 with an RBI.
"We can't take people lightly," said Sanchez. "We let them hang around. If you let them hang around, they're going to get you, and they did. It was like we didn't come out ready to play. We had a good opportunity to sweep these guys and that's what we were looking for. We couldn't close it out. We couldn't seal the deal."
Junior lefty Brent Moore picked up the tough-luck loss, despite an outstanding pitching performance. He allowed three runs - all unearned due to four A&T errors - on six hits and fanned a season-high eight batters in a season-high 8.0 innings. He battled and held the Tigers scoreless for six straight innings, helping himself out of a seventh-inning jam with back-to-back pickoffs.
"Brent Moore pitched really well, a great game. Especially in that first inning, he got out of that jam with only one run. That was a good job by him once again," Sanchez said.
But Moore couldn't pitch his way out of every tough situation. In the eighth inning, defensive miscues hurt the Aggies. Catcher Michael McHugh reached on an error by Radford. Left fielder Barry Truitt then laid down a sac bunt, which was bobbled by Moore. With runners on first and third and no out, Hagan hit an RBI sac fly to center to tie the game at 2. An RBI single by McCrary scored Truitt and gave the Tigers the late 3-2 lead.
The Aggies tried to answer back, and got the tying run on base as Little walked. But first baseman Kelvin Freeman struck out swinging to end the inning.
Freshman right-hander Joe Mackey kept the Tigers off the board in the ninth thanks to a heads up play by the Aggies defense as Dychal Bowles got caught in a rundown between third and home. Thanks to the alertness of the Aggies defense, A&T was still in striking distance.
Matthew Oglesby came in from first base to pitch in the ninth. He retired the first two batters before Wilkerson hit a single up the middle to keep A&T's hopes alive. But Radford went down swinging to end the game.
The Aggies will look to bounce back on Tuesday, as they travel to Raleigh to take on the N.C. State Wolfpack in a 6 p.m., contest.
"Hopefully we'll go out and play good [on Tuesday] and catch some momentum for the final weekend. We've got to take care of business at FAMU. That will be another tough weekend-another scrappy bunch that we have to go out and beat. Nobody's going to give anything to us," Sanchez said.