GREENSBORO-The Bethune-Cookman baseball team has long dominated the MEAC. They have won the last seven consecutive Tournament championship titles, and 13 of the last 14. The only one that they did not win in that span was the 2005 crown, which the North Carolina A&T Aggies captured.
On Sunday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium, the Aggies took away something from the Wildcats that they have not since March 25-26, 2005-a series victory.
The Aggies (7-12, 3-3 MEAC) used a 3-run eighth inning to defeat the Wildcats (11-11, 6-3) by 9-6 to win the rubber match.
"Winning the series is big. That lets our group know that we can play with the better teams in the conference, and it's a conference that's up for grabs right now. Nobody's really starting to dominate," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "We came out and we knew we had to show up. We weren't satisfied with one win yesterday. We knew we could play with these guys and we did."
Freshman Kirby Whicker picked up his second win on the week, shutting down the Wildcats in the ninth to preserve the victory. A&T starter junior Tyler Boone had a strong outing, allowing three earned runs with four strikeouts in 7.0 frames.
"Boone did a really good job on the mound throwing strikes and keeping guys off balance. Whicker closed it out," Sanchez added.
A&T also had plenty of offensive firepower on the day as well. Senior Kelvin Freeman hit 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, while sophomore Brandon Wilkerson finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI.
"It was a good win, especially being at home. Everybody came out swinging the bats. It was a good win-a whole team effort," Sanchez said.
The Wildcats were the first to cross home. First baseman Jose Carballo hit a two-run homer to right to put B-CU in front in the second inning.
The lead didn't last long as the Aggies tied in the fourth inning. With one out in the fourth, junior catcher Stefan Jordan singled to center field. He advanced to third as pinchhitter Wilkerson doubled to right. Second baseman Jeovanny Tolentino singled through the right side to make it a 2-1 game. Junior shortstop Luke Tendler hit a sac bunt to bring home Wilkerson to tie the game.
A&T took the lead in the fifth as Wilkerson slammed a double to right field to score two runs and make it a 4-2 lead for the Aggies. But B-CU scored three runs on two hits in the top of the sixth, to retake the lead at 5-4.
But the Aggies responded immediately. An RBI single by Freeman tied the game at 5-5. Junior designated hitter Cameron Jergens walked to put two on with one out for third baseman Dairio Little. Little singled up the middle and Freeman scored the tie-breaking sixth run to pull ahead, 6-4.
B-CU tied it up in the top of the eighth as second baseman Eric Sams scored on a passed ball. The Wildcats loaded the bases with two out, threatening to again pull out in front. But Whicker got centerfielder Eros Modena to hit into a fielder's choice to get out of the jam.
The A&T offense wasn't finished. Freeman hit a line drive that hit the shin of B-CU reliever Byron Ferguson for an infield single to start things off. Jergens walked to put two on with no out. B-CU called on closer Jordan Dailey to face the Aggies. Left fielder Andre McKoy hit into a fielder's choice, but an error by the shortstop Shaun McCarty on the failed 6-4 putout allowed Freeman to score the seventh run. Senior Mark Nales went in to pinch-run for Jergens, and Nales scored as Jordan grounded out to second. A single to right by Wilkerson scored McKoy to put A&T in front, 9-6.
Whicker retired the side in the ninth to pick up the victory.
The Aggies will host Appalachian State at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at War Memorial Stadium, before welcoming Savannah State to town.
"We've got a little momentum, and hopefully we can carry it," Sanchez said.