EAST GREENSBORO (February 15, 2019) –North Carolina A&T used Niagara miscues and smart at-bats to rally from two runs down in the home ninth to beat the Purple Eagles 4-3 in the first game of a season-opening doubleheader at War Memorial Stadium on Friday.
The ninth opened with junior designated hitter Zach McLean reaching on an error at second base. Senior pinch-runner Jason King replaced McLean on the base paths at first base. Junior Dustin Baber then reached on an infield single to put runners at first and second. Senior catcher Jarrett Norman kept the rally going with a single through the left side to score King to cut the Purple Eagles lead to 3-2.
Freshman Donte Wade then battled through a tough at-bat against right-hand Niagara reliever Tyler Howard with one out in the inning. On a 3-1 pitch from Howard, Wade could not stop his swing and was called for strike two. Two pitches later on a 3-2 pitch, he held his swing, the umpire on the bases confirmed it and Wade jogged to first base to load the bases.
Junior Shane Faulk followed with a groundball to second that scored Baber to tie the game at 3. It appeared the game was headed to extra innings as junior Justin Williams hit a one-hopper to third base. Niagara third baseman Mike Gabriele fielded the ball cleanly but his throw bounced to first base allowing Norman to score the winning run.
Right-hand reliever Leon Hunter (1-0) got the win while Howard (0-1) took the loss. Faulk led the Aggies by going 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Niagara took a 1-0 lead in the game thanks to an RBI-single from Josh Marchese. The Purple Eagles went ahead by two runs in the fifth when Max Giordano hit a slow roller to third with two outs that A.J. Hunt could not get to in time. N.C. A&T got on the board in the seventh thanks in part to a one-out double from James Rorie. Rorie moved to third on a wild pitch before Baber walked. Junior pinch-hitter Cam Williamson came to the plate and a deep flyball to center field for an RBI sacrifice fly.
The Purple Eagles got the run back in eighth with a solo home run from Joe Tevlin to make it 3-1 going into the ninth. Tevlin was 2-for-4 with an RBI.