DURHAM—Walks bedeviled the North Carolina A&T pitching staff on Tuesday night at Jack Coombs field, as the Aggies allowed 14 free passes along with 14 hits in a 12-2 loss at Duke.
“It’s tough when you give up 14 free passes on top of 14 hits. Tough overall on everybody,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “We overall didn’t play very good baseball. I thought we kind of had turned a page the way we played over weekend, but we didn’t show up in this game.”
The loss came after the Aggies took two of three at Gardner-Webb for their third straight series win. But Tuesday’s loss at Duke (22-17) marked the seventh straight midweek loss for the Aggies. In that streak, the Aggies have allowed 10 or more runs in each contest.
A&T (13-24) totaled five hits and two walks in the tilt, while five A&T pitchers combined for 10 walks, four hit batters and a balk.
Just like in their last meeting with Duke on March 27, A&T struck first. The Aggies took a 1-0 lead in the second. Senior left fielder Dairio Little reached on an error by Duke third baseman Jordan Betts, who made a high throw to first. Little stole second and scored as sophomore center fielder Brandon Wilkerson fired a single up the middle.
After being shutout in the first two frames by A&T starter Shane Carter, who was making his first start of the season, the Blue Devils broke open the game, capitalizing on five free bases. In the third inning, catcher Ryan Munger hit a triple to left to start a rally. Angelo La Bruna reached after being hit by a pitch. Andy Perez was then hit on the helmet with a pitch to load the bases with no out. Carter then walked in a run to tie the game.
Center fielder Grant McCabe hit into an RBI fielder’s choice that was nearly a double play, but a throwing error by Jeovanny Tolentinto allowed him to go to second and for the third Duke run to score. An RBI double by Betts made it a 4-1 contest with one out. Left fielder Mark Lumpa added to the rally with an RBI single through the right side. Right-hander Jamal Clark entered the game to relieve Carter. He walked the first batter he faced.
With a full count on designated hitter David Perkins, Clark balked, which allowed both runners to advance into scoring position. Perkins walked to load the bags for Munger. Munger was hit on the shoulder, permitting the sixth run to score. Clark was replaced on the mound after facing three batters by freshman right-hander Kirby Whicker. La Bruna hit a sac fly to right to make it 7-1 with two out. Whicker got Perez to fly out to end the inning.
“He kind of just lost it, and then it snowballed to the next guy,” Sanchez said of Carter, adding that the performance was atypical of Carter, who has turned in strong starts for A&T before and has been dependable from the bullpen this spring.
The Aggies answered right back. A&T catcher Stefan Jordan got a two-out double to right to start things in the fourth. Senior third baseman Mark Nales hit the ball to the same spot for an RBI single, to cut into the Blue Devils’ lead. It was the last run the Aggies would score. A&T would leave two over the last five innings.
The Aggies will compete in their sixth of 14 consecutive road games on Wednesday, taking on Radford at 6 p.m.