GREENSBORO – The North Carolina A&T baseball team picked up a pair of wins against N.C. Central Saturday afternoon in the first two games its MEAC opening series at War Memorial Stadium
A&T (6-2 overall, 2-0 MEAC) defeated the Eagles (1-7-1, 0-2) 6-5 in 10 innings in the first game and claimed a 5-1 win in the second game to close out the day.
With the game tied at five, senior Cameron Jergens hit a walk-off single to right center in the tenth inning to drive in the winning run to help the Aggies clinch the first game.
“It was a good win for us,” head coach Joel Sanchez said. “Central got ahead early with a couple of home runs but our guys kept playing baseball and we knew we were going to score some runs. We just had to stay in range and we did. Boone kept us in the game and pitched well.”
NCCU held the 5-4 edge over A&T until the Aggies led off the eighth inning with a double from senior Luke Tendler. Tendler advanced to third on a groundout but it was junior Lester Salcedo’s RBI single to center field that helped the Aggies tie the game.
In the seventh, A&T rallied from behind to tie the game at four. Junior Brandon Mitchell got the inning started with a walk and stole second. Freshman Kyle Clary made the most of his at-bat and hit an RBI double to left field with a full count. With one out and Clary on third, the Aggies got help from junior Dylan Hipp as he singled to right field to tie the game.
The Aggies scored a run in the fifth with a double from Hipp, a single from junior Ryan Hill and a sacrifice fly from junior Brandon Wilkerson to cut NCCU’s lead to 3-2. In the fourth inning A&T finally got on the board after Jergens’ reached on a single to left field and took advantage of an Eagle throwing error that gave him two extra bases. Salecdo’s sac fly to center field gave A&T its first run.
NCCU struck first and put up two runs in the second inning after Carter Williamson and Christian Tripplett led off with back-to-back home runs.
A&T tallied 14 hits and was led by Wilkerson who was 3-for-4 with an RBI and run.
Senior pitcher Tyler Boone (1-1) got the win for the Aggies and threw seven innings, finishing with three strikeouts. Junior Brian Poag recorded his second save of the season after allowing just one run in three innings pitched.
The Aggies kept their momentum fueling into the second game but it was behind the efforts of junior pitcher Charles Cantrell (2-0) who recorded 12 strikeouts. Cantrell kept the Eagles off the bases and gave up only four hits and one run.
“I just tried to work quickly so we could keep hitting,” Cantrell said about the pace of the game. “When we get too relaxed on defense sometimes it effects our hitting, so I just tried to keep a quick tempo and it worked against North Carolina Central.”
“ pitched like ,” Sanchez said. “He threw a lot of strikes and kept their guys off balance. He’s good.”
A&T answered first and scored two runs in the first inning courtesy of Tendler’s two-run homer over the right center field wall. In the third inning with one out, Tendler reached on an error and stole second. Salcedo singled to center field, followed by a triple to right center from Mitchell to give the Aggies the 4-0 lead.
NCCU started a two-out rally in the fourth inning, using hits from Williamson and Tripplett to slice A&T’s advantage to 4-1.
After freshman Timothy Ravare and Wilkerson reached on singles, Tendler hit a sac fly to center field to score A&T’s final run in the sixth inning.
Tendler finished with a game-high three RBI as Hill, Mitchell, and Salcedo recorded two hits each.
A&T will host NCCU on Sunday, March 2 at 1 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.
“Tomorrow’s game is big,” Sanchez said. “We keep telling our guys that we have to win the conference games because you’re obviously trying to place yourself in the best possible position going into the conference tournament. Every conference win is a big win for us. Tomorrow we’ll play for a sweep hopefully in the third game, but we still have to come out and play.”