BOILING SPRINGS -The offensive output was there for the North Carolina A&T baseball team. The Aggies again brought the tying run to the plate late in a game but were unable to complete the rally, as they lost to Gardner-Webb 10-7 at John Henry Moss Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The problem for the Aggies in their past three games has been the pitching staff's inability to keep the lead. In each of the last three games, the Aggies have allowed their opponents to tie or post the go-ahead runs in the bottom half of the inning in which A&T took a lead.
Walks have been a contributing factor to those woes. A&T has allowed 21 walks in the last 27 innings pitched.
"It's hard to get past the walks. We can't do that. We've got to be able to put up a zero after we score some runs," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "We didn't do it [today]."
The Aggies (13-27, 7-8) had a four-run lead early, but pitching struggles by A&T starter Ruben Torrellas, including two of his five walks in 2.1 innings, allowed the Runnin' Bulldogs (22-20) to tie the game up immediately after A&T pulled ahead. Sophomore Luke Tendler led the Aggies by going 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
"Offensively, we came out and had a good approach against [G-WU starter Conner Scarborough]. We got some key hits there early and we put up five runs. We just happened to give them right back," Sanchez said.
The Aggies loaded the bases on a walk and back-to-back hits by Marquis Riley and Tendler in the top of the eighth to threaten G-WU. First baseman Kelvin Freeman stepped up to the plate representing the tying run. He brought home a run on a fielder's choice to cut GWU's lead to 9-6.
Dairio Little then came up to bat with two out and runners on the corners, still representing the tying run. Little hit the ball up the middle, but shortstop Ryan Hodge dove for it, and flipped the ball to second baseman Scott Johnson to put out Freeman at second to end the inning.
G-WU made it a 10-6 game in the bottom of the eighth.
A&T threatened again in the top of the ninth. Bo McMillan doubled to right-center field to start things off. He took third base while Brandon Wilkerson was batting, and scored as Wilkerson singled to right field to make it a 10-7 contest. But the Runnin' Bulldogs got the last two outs to end the game.
The Aggies will be home on Friday, April 27 at noon when they take on Bethune-Cookman in the first of a three-game set. Friday's game will be televised live on ESPNU. The Aggies will wrap up the series against the Wildcats with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m., on Saturday, April 28 at War Memorial Stadium. All games are free and open to the public.
Former U.S. Speaker of the House and 2012 U.S. Presidential candidate Newt Gringrich threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Tuesday, and spoke with A&T head coach Sanchez and the team prior to the game.
The Aggies struck first in the contest. Left fielder Andre McKoy led off the game with a single to center field. He took second on a passed ball, and advanced to third as second baseman Marquis Riley flied out to center. Tendler hit the ball to shortstop, and the ball was bobbled by Hodge at shortstop. Tendler reached on the error, and McKoy came home to put A&T ahead 1-0.
The Runnin' Bulldogs evened up the score in the second inning. With two men on, Zeke Blanton blasted a shot to center field, and A&T center fielder Bo McMillan robbed him of the three-run homer by catching the ball at the wall. Blanton still earned the RBI sac fly on the play, to make it a 1-1 game.
Wilkerson slammed the first pitch he saw to center for a leadoff triple in the third frame. Shortstop Michael Radford singled to the left side to bring home Wilkerson and give the Aggies the lead again. McKoy reached base after being hit by a pitch. Both runners advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch while Riley was batting. Riley grounded out, but Radford scored from third to make it a 3-1 game. Tendler then doubled down the right field line to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, and to bring home McKoy. Tendler crossed home for A&T's fifth run on an RBI single by Little.
But the Runnin' Bulldogs responded right back in the bottom of the third, scoring four runs to tie the game at 5 by getting the better of Torrellas, who was making his first start since April 4.
"Ruben wasn't very sharp," Sanchez said, noting that Torrellas' hip injury which kept him from making a couple of midweek starts was not an issue. "He threw a good bullpen the other day, and he seems to be fine."