GREENSBORO – The North Carolina A&T baseball is now in a must-win situation on Sunday after it lost both games of a doubleheader to Savannah State, 17-7 and 2-1, at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The Aggies (15-28) are now 8-12 and in fifth place in the MEAC southern division, a half a game behind Savannah State (17-26) who is 8-11 in the south and in fourth place. Only the top four teams from the south advance to play in the MEAC tournament scheduled for May 14-18 in Norfolk, Va. The Aggies will need a win on Sunday to avoid falling further behind.
They hope to be spurred on by their Senior Day ceremony on Sunday. Before taking on the Tigers at 1 p.m., at War Memorial, the Aggies will honor seniors Tyler Boone, Justin Godette, James Harris, Cameron Jergens, Stefan Jordan and Luke Tendler.
“It was a tough two games to start this three-game series,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. “We both had our backs against the wall so to speak, now we have to come in here tomorrow with the attitude that we must win.”
Even though Boone (2-6) took the loss he did give the Aggies an effective outing after the Aggies gave up double –digit runs for the third straight game in Game 1. Boone went the entire seven innings of Game 1, striking out five and surrendering two runs. His teammates gave him a 1-0 lead in the third when Lester Salcedo hit an RBI single to score Dylan Hipp who reached on an infield single and moved to second on a Tendler walk.
Boone did run into trouble in the sixth as he gave up a leadoff single to Todd Hagen. Hagen stole second and then moved to third on a wild pitch. With no one out and Tre Sikes, a batter hitting better than .350 coming to the plate, Sanchez decided to have a conversation with his right-hander. Sanchez wanted Boone to keep the ball down and away from the slugger.
“Don’t make it easy on him because he is driving to drive in a run,” Sanchez told Boone during the pitcher’s mound meeting.
Unfortunately, Boone got his 1-0 pitch up in the strike zone to Sikes who ripped into left field for an RBI single that tied the game at 1. Parker Nix put runners on first and second with an infield single and Aaron Hoffer drove in the go-ahead run with a single up the middle.
“We played much better defense behind Boone. We just couldn’t get a key hit,” said Sanchez. “We had opportunities. We just couldn’t get the clutch hit when we needed it.”
A&T had one last opportunity in the seventh as the first two men reached base. But Dylan Hipp popped up his sacrifice bunt attempt into the glove of left-hand relief pitcher Kevin Herlihy. Herlihy then struck out one of the best power hitters in the MEAC in Luke Tendler before ending the game by getting John Pope to pop out to first to end the game.
“It’s disappointing we had first and second with no one out and we couldn’t execute,” said Sanchez. “We couldn’t get the bunt down, and then the one guy you rely on didn’t come through with the big hit. So you’re faced with a difficult situation.”
A&T gave up 19 hits and their pitchers hit seven batters in Game 1. Tendler led the way by going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBI. Salcedo was 2-for-4 with two RBI.