GREENSBORO-After only collecting four hits apiece in the last three games, the North Carolina A&T baseball offense roared to life on Saturday, as the Aggies tamed the Savannah State Tigers by sweeping a doubleheader with 9-4 and 8-7 victories on 27 total hits.
"It was crucial because we're trying to make sure we take care of our business. We came out and played baseball," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "It was a good team effort overall. The pitching kept us in the games, and we played fundamental baseball. "
The Game 1 victory snapped an 11-game losing streak for the Aggies, and helped them tie Savannah State (17-29, 9-11) for third place in the MEAC Southern Division standings. With a series sweep, the Aggies (15-32, 9-11) would move ahead of the Tigers in the standings.
"Tomorrow's game is going to be crucial too," said Sanchez. "We need to sweep these guys to guarantee ourselves getting into the tournament. That's our priority. Once we get there, anything can happen. "
In the first game, senior southpaw Estarlin Paulino tossed a complete game, his second on the year. He allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits to collect his team-leading sixth victory. Sophomore right-hander Tyler Boone allowed five runs on seven hits in 5.0 innings for his fourth win in Game 2.
Freshman Joe Mackey picked up the save in Game 2.
Sophomore third baseman Luke Tendler extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a single in both contests. Freshman Brandon Wilkerson and junior Andre McKoy each had five hits on the day. The Aggies also had some great production from Carvell Copeland in the leadoff spot to help jumpstart the offense. He ended the day with three hits and three runs scored.
"We got some key hits from some key guys that have been struggling a little bit. Carvell Copeland is a little spark plug in the leadoff spot. That was good for him and good for us. We know that when he gets going, the team gets going too," Sanchez said.
The Aggies added a pair of runs in the fourth inning of the first game to take a 4-3 lead, aided by an RBI triple by Michael Radford. It was his first triple of the season. The Tigers tied the tilt back up in the fourth inning on an RBI single by McCrary.
But the Aggies offense didn't slow down, adding five runs on six hits in the bottom of the fifth. The inning opened on back-to-back singles by Marquis Riley and Tendler to get things going. After striking out right fielder Dairio Little, McGowin then intentionally walked Freeman to load the bases to get to A&T catcher Stefan Jordan. Jordan, who came into the game hitting .252, ripped a single up the middle to bring home a pair of runs.
With runners on first and second and still one out, McKoy singled to left field, and made it to third on an error by SSU centerfielder McCrary. That play allowed two more runs to score. The Tigers then called upon Jackson May to relieve McGowin. The hits kept on coming, as Wilkerson and Radford each singled for the Aggies. McKoy scored on the hit by Wilkerson for the fifth A&T run of the contest.
The Aggies nearly made it a 10-4 game in the sixth inning, as Little slammed a home run over the left field wall. But the first base umpire, Rick Prim, called Little out because he did not touch first base, after the Tigers appealed.
Game 2 was a back-and-forth battle. Savannah State jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning on a three-run home run by Peter Poole.
Tendler cut the lead down to two runs with a sac fly in the bottom of the first to make it a 3-1 game. The Aggies continued to chip away at the Tigers' lead, by scoring a run on a sac fly by Riley to make it a 3-2 game. McKoy put the Aggies ahead for the first time in the game with a two-run homer to left field to give A&T a 4-3 lead. But SSU grabbed the lead right back in the top of the fifth on a two-run shot by Poole.
An RBI double by Freeman tied the game up at 5 in the fifth. McKoy hit a single up the middle to give the Aggies the lead for good to score Freeman. Catcher Eric Chiz then reached second base on an error. He came around to score to make it a 7-5 game on an RBI single by Wilkerson.
The Aggies got a run in the sixth inning, which ended up being a crucial one. Copeland, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning, came around to score as Tendler grounded out into a 4-3 double play, to give the Aggies an 8-5 lead.
The Tigers fought back, and brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh and final inning. A leadoff single by Campbell brought up McCrary, who doubled to right field. With runners on second and third, Poole grounded out to second baseman Riley, which scored a run. Oglesby then hit a sac fly to right field, which brought home McCrary to make it a one-run game. But Ian Farris grounded out to Tendler to end the game.
Estarlin Paulino, Carvell Copeland, Marquis Riley, and Michael Radford will be honored in a pre-game ceremony on Sunday for Senior Day at 1 p.m. The game will be the series finale, as well as the final home game of the year for the Aggies.