GREENSBORO-The North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman baseball teams traded blows on Saturday afternoon at War Memorial stadium, as they split two high-scoring games in a doubleheader. The Aggies won Game 1 by 15-6, while the Wildcats took Game 2 with a 15-2 win on a 10-run seventh inning.
The Aggies totaled 20 hits on the day, while allowing 27 hits. Senior first baseman Kelvin Freeman had two home runs on the day, going 3-for-7. Senior left fielder Andre McKoy had four hits and two RBI on Saturday. The Aggies (6-12, 2-3) had 17 hits in the first game to help beat the Wildcats (11-10, 6-2) for the 20th time since 1992.
It was their first victory against Bethune-Cookman since March 25, 2012, which lefty Brent Moore also won. It was also the Wildcats' biggest loss in conference game since they were blanked 10-0 by Florida A&M on May 3, 2003.
"It was a good win for us, to start a series against a good team-the top team in the conference," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez.
The Wildcats took an early 3-0 lead, but the Aggies cut the advantage down to one run in the second inning. Senior third baseman Dairio Little walked and moved to third on a single by McKoy. McKoy advanced to second on the throw by the centerfielder. B-CU starter Montana Durapau was then called for a balk, which scored Little from third. Catcher Stefan Jordan was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners. Shortstop Jeovanny Tolentino hit an RBI single to make it a 3-2 game.
The Aggies took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the third. Dylan Hipp and Freeman hit back-to-back singles to start off the inning. They advanced on a sac bunt by junior designated hitter Cameron Jergens and scored on a double to right-center field by Little. Jordan singled to bring home Little and give A&T a two-run lead.
An RBI single by centerfielder Brandon Turner in the top of the fifth pulled B-CU within one run at 5-4. But Freeman responded by launching the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for his fourth home run of the year. An RBI single by Jordan gave A&T a 7-4 lead.
B-CU scored their fifth run on an RBI single by right fielder Eric Johnson to make it 7-5 in the top of the sixth.
The Aggies opened up the game with eight runs in the sixth. They chased Durapau from the game after he walked Tolentino and gave up a hit to Tendler to start the frame. Durapau, who came into the contest with a 3-0 record and having tossed two consecutive complete games in his last starts, left the game with nine earned runs on 11 hits with three walks and two balks in 5.0 innings against A&T for his first loss on the year.
With two runners in scoring position, Hipp singled to put A&T in front, 9-5. Jergens kept the scoring going with an RBI double to deep centerfield. Little singled to keep things moving. McKoy singled up the middle to bring home two more runs. Jordan stepped up to bat with one on and one out and reached on an E6. Bo McMillan doubled to left field to score McKoy and make it 13-5. Tolentino came up again with runners on second and third with one out. B-CU reliever Lenny Martinez then threw a wild pitch, which allowed Jordan to score. The catcher threw the ball to Martinez to try to put out Jordan at home, but the throw went wide. McMillan then came racing around in an attempt to score. First baseman Eric Sams threw the ball to Martinez, but Martinez dropped the ball and McMillan was safe to make it 15-5.
The Wildcats scored a run in the top of the seventh, to avoid ending the game early due to the MEAC's 10-run rule. Both teams were held scoreless in the last two innings.
"We came out and swung the bats. They had a very good pitcher going, who had beat some good teams. We knew he was going to throw strikes and be around the strike zone, so our guys were ready and came out swinging the bats," Sanchez said. "Brent Moore did a good job. He threw strikes as well and gave us a chance to get our hits in."
In the second game, B-CU took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Turner. McKoy singled to left field for the first A&T hit of the game in the fourth. McKoy took second on a failed pick-off attempt and advanced to third on a sac bunt by Jordan. He scored on a wild pitch as Tolentino walked to tie the game, 1-1. Tendler then walked, but the Aggies left both runners stranded in the inning.
The Wildcats took a 4-1 lead in the top of the fifth. Freeman cut the lead to 4-2 with a solo slam over the right field wall for his fifth home run of the year. A&T continued to threaten in that inning, but were unable to capitalize on their scoring opportunity. The Aggies put runners on the corners with one out for Jordan, who represented the go-ahead run. The Wildcats then brought in Jordan Dailey to replace starter Ali Simpson, and Dailey walked Jordan to load the bases with one out. Dailey struck out McMillan and Tolentino to get out of the jam.
"We came out in the second game and we just couldn't get any timely hits. We had opportunities there early, we just couldn't get anyone to set up and get us that key hit. It was a struggle," Sanchez said. "I think if we get a key hit early, it's definitely a different ballgame."
The Wildcats then scored a run in the sixth inning, and followed that with 10 runs on seven hits in the seventh to take a 15-2 lead. The Aggies went down in order in the seventh to end the game.
The Aggies will host Bethune-Cookman in the rubber match on Sunday at 1 p.m. Junior right-hander Tyler Boone (0-1, 2.00 ERA) will start for A&T while junior right-hander Scott Garner (2-2, 8.10 ERA) will start for B-CU. They will look to avoid losing their second MEAC series of the season.
"We've got to go out there and try to salvage this weekend. We've got to go out and make the plays, throw strikes and get the timely hits," Sanchez said.