LYNCHBURG, Va.-Sophomore third baseman Luke Tendler's been showing why he was a preseason All-MEAC selection lately. He extended his hitting streak to 18 games on Wednesday afternoon at Liberty, slapping a single through the left side in the top of the ninth inning to keep the streak alive. He's hitting .417 with four doubles, two triples, five home runs and 20 RBI in his streak.
But the North Carolina A&T baseball team was unable to total more than four hits for the third straight game, as the Aggies fell to Liberty 6-2 at Worthington Stadium.
"Just flat. We just came out flat. We weren't into it from the get-go," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "Our focus is off and we've got to do a better job of getting the barrel on the ball. That's it."
The two teams held each other to one hit apiece in the first three and a half innings. The Flames pulled ahead first, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off back-to-back RBI singles off A&T starter freshman Shane Carter. Carter allowed four runs on nine hits in the game, and tossed a season-high 6.0 innings.
Liberty shortstop Zack Haley slammed a home run over the left field wall to put the Flames ahead3-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Liberty added to its lead on an RBI double by third baseman Dalton Sype in the sixth to make it a 4-0 lead.
"Until the fourth inning, it was 0-0. Then they scored two runs. Two runs, you're still in the baseball game. Three runs, you're still in it. Four runs, you're still in it," said Sanchez.
And the Aggies worked to stay in the contest.
The Aggies threatened in the top of the seventh, bringing the tying run to the plate. Right fielder Dairio Little and second baseman Marquis Riley earned consecutive walks. First baseman Kelvin Freeman came up with two on and no out, and doubled to right center to score both runs. With the Aggies down 4-2, center fielder Bo McMillan came up to the plate representing the tying run. The Flames then called on Matt Marsh to relieve Danny Grauer on the mound. McMillan popped up to the shortstop for the second out. A&T catcher Eric Chiz then was called out on strikes to end the A&T offensive.
"We've had many opportunities to come back in the game but we just don't seem to want to put any hits together. That's the bottom line," Sanchez said.
Left reliever Dylan Hipp then came out in the bottom of the seventh to face the Flames for the rest of the game. He gave up a two-run home run to right fielder Ryan Cordell, to give the Flames a four-run lead.
The Aggies have lost their last 11 games, despite hanging tough and being within a handful of runs. It's the longest losing streak by A&T since the Aggies dropped 14 straight games from Feb. 2-March 12, 2003. The Aggies finished that season with a 13-36 overall record.
A&T is now 13-32 with seven games left to play, including two key series against MEAC opponents. The Aggies are 7-11 in Southern Division play, and are in fourth place. They'll take on the third and fifth place teams in Savannah State and Florida A&M to close out the season. The Aggies will be working to improve their division record in order to secure the best seeding possible for the MEAC Tournament.
"Hopefully we come out and play this weekend," Sanchez said.
The Aggies will take on Savannah State this weekend at War Memorial Stadium. The two teams will face off in a twin bill starting at 1 p.m., on Saturday. The Aggies will host Senior Day on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Aggies will be honoring the careers of outfielder Carvell Copeland, infielder Michael Radford, infielder Marquis Riley and left-handed pitcher Estarlin Paulino.