TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In the regular-season finale, the North Carolina A&T baseball team secured the No. 3 seed and a .500 record in the MEAC by getting its first series sweep of the season. The Aggies defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers by a 9-7 final on Saturday afternoon at Moore-Kittles Field.
"It was a good win," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "We took care of business and we're ready for the conference tournament. It was a good finish to the regular season. We wanted to come out here and win them all and we did. That was the goal."
The Aggies (18-34, 12-12) will face off against Norfolk State, the No. 2 Northern Division team on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., in the first round of the MEAC Championship Tournament, hosted by Norfolk State. The Aggies will be looking for their fourth Championship title in program history.
"So now we've got to get ready for the conference tournament," said Sanchez. "I keep telling these guys that we've got enough talent, bottom line. We're good enough to go out and win this thing."
But in order to dethrone reigning six-time champion Bethune-Cookman, the Aggies will have to continue to play smart, effective baseball.
"We've got to play baseball. We've got to go there and make the plays, have to have good, timely hitting and we've got to throw strikes. We've had spurts of it--we just need to show up at the right time," Sanchez said.
The Aggies played solid baseball in the series finale on Saturday, and were able to score the game's first seven runs.
After the Aggies got an early run in the second, Marquis Riley started the onslaught in the third by singling to start the inning. He reached third as Freeman reached on an error by FAMU second baseman John Scott. Tendler then hit the ball toward first. FAMU first baseman Dylan West tried to put Riley out at home, but overthrew catcher Ryan Sheplak, allowing Riley to score. Freeman moved to third and Tendler took second on the error. Bo McMillan then hit an RBI single to put the Aggies up by 3-0. Eric Chiz's sac fly to score Tendler gave A&T a four-run advantage.
With the bases loaded on three hits in the fifth inning, right fielder Dairio Little brought home a run after being hit by a pitch to make it a 5-0 game. With the bases still loaded and one out, Riley hit a two-run RBI single through the right side to give A&T a seven-run lead.
The Rattlers started to stage a comeback in their sixth against Aggies reliever Shane Carter. Shortstop Tyler Lawson hit a double to left field to score two runs and make it a 7-3 game with no out. Jared Walker continued the threat with an RBI single through the left side to cut the A&T lead to three runs. Sanchez then called on Jamal Clark to relieve Carter. Later in the inning, Walker scored on a wild pitch while Scott was batting to make it a 7-5 game. A walk to Reginald Grant put two on with two out for designated hitter Aaron Smith, who represented the go-ahead run. Smith popped out to third baseman Mark Nales in foul territory to end the rally.
The Rattlers rally didn't stop the Aggies from hitting, however. Nales hit an RBI triple in the eighth to get back a run. Freeman followed Nales' hit with an RBI single up the middle to put the Aggies ahead by four runs.
FAMU answered back, as an RBI triple by Lee in the bottom of the eighth made it a 9-6 contest. With one on and no out, Clark got Thomas to strike out swinging, but Thomas took first on the passed ball third strike. Daniel Lee scored from third to cut the Aggies lead to two. Sanchez then replaced Clark with Joe Mackey on the hill. Mackey promptly retired the last three batters to get out of the inning and hold the Rattlers at bay.
The Rattlers made one last stand in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch hitter Shawn Bailey doubled to left field to start things for FAMU in the bottom of the ninth. But Mackey retired the next three batters in order to pick up his fourth save of the year and secure the win for the Aggies and for starter Brent Moore (4-6). Moore got out bases loaded jams in the first and second innings. He allowed just five hits in five shutout innings, walked one and struck out five.
"He made some good pitches when he needed to," Sanchez said. "It was a good finish for him. He's been one of our most consistent guys, and he was good again today."
Riley led the team with three hits. McMillan, Chiz, Wilkerson and Radford each had two hits in the contest. Riley and Chiz led the team with two RBI apiece.
The Aggies will leave Greensboro on Tuesday to drive to Norfolk, Va., for the 2012 MEAC tournament.