NORFOLK, Va.— North Carolina A&T dropped into the elimination bracket of the 2013 MEAC Baseball Championship Tournament Thursday evening with a 7-3 loss to Coppin State at Marty L. Miller Field.
The Aggies will take on the winner of Delaware State vs. Bethune-Cookman at 2 p.m., on Friday in an elimination game. If the Aggies win, they will play again at 6 p.m.
The Eagles (18-31) scored five runs in the fifth inning, on five hits and some A&T defensive miscues, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
“Tough loss, obviously…,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “We would have liked to have been 2-0. That was a tough team we played. We struggled a little bit defensively again. These games are too tight to be giving away innings and runs, and that’s kind of what happened here. We’ll regroup and come back out. It’s a longer road, not out of the question, but it’s a longer road.”
Junior right-hander Josh Ganus turned in his sixth complete game of the year, allowing seven runs (two earned) on two walks with a season-high seven strikeouts in eight innings of work. He picked up the loss in the contest.
“Josh pitched like Josh. He didn’t catch the breaks, and we didn’t make a couple of plays behind him. That was really the difference in the game,” Sanchez said. “We couldn’t make the plays for him when it got tight there in that one inning when we gave up five runs.”
The A&T offense gave Ganus a two-run lead to work with early in the contest. After scoring a run in the second, the Aggies a one-out triple by junior shortstop Luke Tendler to start another push. Senior Kelvin Freeman, the MEAC Player of the Year, collected an RBI single to make it 2-0.
The Eagles loaded the bases with one out in the third inning but Ganus got Hamlett to ground into an inning-ending double play.
But Coppin State took charge in the fifth. Designated hitter Nathan Pitts tripled over the head of Brandon Wilkerson in right field to start the rally. Second baseman Colin Dower reached after Nales bobbled his grounder at third. Ganus then hit Chris Kashangaki with a pitch to load the bases with one out. Another Aggies error, this time by second baseman Jeovanny Tolentino on a Mike Wright ground ball, allowed Pitts to score from third. With the bases still loaded, Hamlett hit an RBI single to left to score Hamet. Senior Dairio Little fielded the ball and put out Kashangaki at the plate for the second out of the inning.
But the Eagles weren’t finished. Third baseman Chris Godfrey singled toward the left side. Tendler made a diving stop to prevent additional runs from scoring. With the bases loaded and two out, right fielder Jack Kraft hit a two-RBI single to right to put the Eagles in front, 4-2. The fifth run scored as Alex Brown singled to short.
“We should have got out of that inning with two runs, especially after Dairio [Little] threw the guy out—he made a heck of a play, a heck of a throw with throwing the guy out at home, and we still couldn’t get out of the inning,” Sanchez said. “Tough loss, got to regroup it and get back at it tomorrow.”
A&T worked to overcome the deficit. Freeman slammed a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall for a 400-foot homer to make it a 5-3 contest in the sixth. Wilkerson followed with a single through the right side. Little singled to left to keep the rally going. Nales came up to bat, representing the go-ahead run, but Wilkerson was caught stealing third during his at-bat to end the rally.
The Eagles padded their lead in the sixth on an RBI sac fly by Hamlett. Moments later, an RBI single by Godfrey made it a 7-3 contest. Ganus held the Eagles scores less in the last two innings, but the Aggies were unable to rally. A&T left a runner stranded in each of the last three innings.
“Give them credit—their pitcher threw strikes and kept us off balance. We hit too many balls up in the air on a day where you couldn’t hit balls up in the air with this stiff breeze coming in. We just couldn’t keep the ball out of the air,” Sanchez said.