GREENSBORO (February 18, 2018) – North Carolina A&T split a baseball doubleheader to open the 2018 season as they took the first game over Coppin State 3-2 in an extra inning rally before dropping Game 2 9-5 at War Memorial Stadium Sunday.
“It was a tough da. We didn’t play our best baseball, and I wasn’t really happy with what we did in the box,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “But you have to give credit to Coppin State. They came down and really outplayed us today. As a coaching staff we have to get our players better prepared.
I was happy with what we did in the first ballgame, coming back and getting the win with Jarrett’s walk-off. But we did not do enough in the second game to take care of the ball and missed offensively on some opportunities to give yourself some breathing room.”
In the bottom half of the 11th, senior Milton Rivera led off by doubling up the middle followed by a walk to Camden Williamson. Both runners advanced on a groundout by Greg White setting up Jarrett Norman’s two-out heroics. Norman blasted an RBI double to deep center field for the walk-off as Rivera scored.
Sophomore pitcher Michael Johnson came in the 10th and 11th innings to shut down the Eagles after CSU outhit N.C. A&T 10-5.
The Eagles, who failed to qualify for the MEAC tournament out of the Northern Division last season, played, the Aggies tough all day. The Eagles used three hits to take a 2-1 advantage in the sixth inning. Allen Saar led off the inning hitting a triple to right field and then scored on an RBI single by Caleb Duhay. Duhay then scored on a single up the middle by Nazier McIlwain putting Coppin State ahead.
N.C. A&T made a pitching change as they turned to right-hander Josh Bottenfield for starter RHP Tim Luth and escaped the inning. The Aggies pitching got them to the eighth. In the eighth inning, sophomore Shane Faulk came in to pinch hit for the Aggies and singled to right. Faulk stole second getting in scoring position for an RBI single off the bat of Rivera to tie the game at 2, setting up the extra inning events.
Rivera led the Aggies at the plate batting 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored. King and Faulk both scored runs. Johnson went two innings on the mound picking up the victory. Luth went 5.1 innings, striking out two and surrendering two earned runs. Bottenfield tossed 3.2 innings striking out two.
In the second game, N.C. A&T got on the board in the first inning on a balk as Rivera scored from third after he singled, stole second and advanced to third on a flyout by senior Adan Ordonez. CSU tied the game with two hits in the second. A double by Corey Treyes through the left side scored Castillo. Then in the third inning, CSU loaded the bases and went ahead on a fielder’s choice RBI by Drew Thomas. The Eagles extended their lead to 3-1 on an RBI double by Derek Lohr.
Williamson trimmed the Eagles advantage with some aggressive base running in the Aggies fifth. He walked, stole second and advanced to third with his speed. CSU sent Williamson home on a wild pitch making it a 3-2 game. But the Eagles took a commanding 9-2 lead with six hits leading to six runs in the sixth inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, N.C. A&T tacked on three runs as Rivera led off with a single to the left field and scored on an error by the Eagles. Ordonez tallied the Aggies second run of the seventh, scoring on a groundout to shortstop by Faulk. A Justin Williams RBI single to left field scored junior Dawnoven Smith. The Aggies, however, were not able to cut into the Eagles lead further.
Williams and Rivera each had two hits with Rivera scoring a pair of runs. Starting pitcher Marcello Betances took the loss after going five innings, striking out five and surrendering three earned runs.
The Aggies return to action on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at N.C. State in Raleigh at 4 p.m.