SANFORD, Fla.— The North Carolina A&T baseball team got the tying run and go-ahead run to the plate, respectively, in both ends of a doubleheader against Bethune-Cookman on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Memorial Stadium, but couldn’t secure the timely hitting they needed to pull ahead as the Aggies fell 4-2 and 4-3.
“We just couldn’t get some key hits and bottom line is we scrapped it back and forth most of the two games,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “We didn’t capitalize. We didn’t get enough timely hitting.”
A&T (13-26, 7-9) collected an early lead in each game, but were unable to protect their advantage as the Wildcats (25-19, 14-6) were able to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The Aggies left seven runners stranded on Saturday.
“Really whoever doesn’t make the plays gets hurt,” Sanchez added.
The Aggies tied the game in the sixth inning of the second game. Left fielder Dairio Little led off with a walk, and took second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Stefan Jordan. Nales hit an RBI single to center to knot the score at 3.
With two on and one out, catcher Clay Middleton ripped a single through the right side to give the Wildcats the lead in the B-CU sixth. A&T starter Josh Ganus, who is from Mt. Dora, Fla., picked off Middleton at first and then got shortstop Shaun McCarty to go down on strikes to hold B-CU to within a run.
Down to their last three outs in the seventh, Tolentino singled through the right side to bring up the go-ahead run to the plate. But junior Luke Tendler hit into a 6-3 double play. Brandon Wilkerson came up to bat and grounded out to third base to end the game.
In Game 1, A&T took a 1-0 lead on a two-out, solo shot to right field by Kelvin Freeman, his ninth home run on the year.
The Wildcats responded by loading the bases with one out on back-to-back bunt singles and a hit batter. Stokes tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center field. Tendler lifted a 1-0 pitch to right field for his fifth home run of the year to give A&T a 2-1 lead in the third. But the lead was short-lived, as the Wildcats got to A&T starter Brent Moore in the third.
The Wildcats got runners on the corner with one out to start their push. Noble doubled to left-center field to tie the game. Middleton grounded out to second, which allowed a run to score, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 3-2.
B-CU started off the fourth with a double down the left field line by Josh Johnson. He made a move toward third, and the Aggies attempted a 2-6-5 putout, but Nales couldn’t hang on to the throw from Tendler and Johnson scored on the fielding error.
After giving up the homer to Tendler, B-CU starter Montana Durapu retired the next 14 batters. Little singled to the right side to start a rally in the seventh, but was picked off first to end the inning. A&T wasn’t able to capitalize on a base runner in the eighth, as Tolentino grounded into a double play. Durapu retired the first two in the ninth, but gave up a single to Freeman. Jergens came up to bat, representing the tying run. He went down swinging to end the game, giving Durapu the complete-game win.
Florida natives Tolentino and right-hander Ganus turned in solid performances in front of a large contingent of family and friends. Tolentino had a pair of hits and a run scored, and Ganus tossed 6.0 quality innings in the loss.
With the twinbill loss, the Aggies’ series winning streak ended at three. The Aggies, who are in fourth place in the Southern Division, will look to avoid being swept in a 1 p.m., Sunday game.
“We’ve got to come back tomorrow and we’ve got to scrap one out. We can’t leave here 0-3,” Sanchez said.