EAST GREENSBORO (February 17, 2019) –North Carolina A&T baseball endured rainy weekend that required tremendous attention to the War Memorial Stadium field to look really impressive in their season-opening three-game sweep of the Niagara Purple Eagles.
The Aggies completed the sweep by defeating the Purple Eagles 6-0 Sunday. The game started at 10 a.m., to avoid having the final game of the series rained out after game times were changed several times throughout the weekend because of the weather.
The Aggies are 3-0 for the first time since earning a three-game sweep over Buffalo to open the 2008 season. They earned their first shutout since defeating Savannah State 5-0 on May 5, 2018.
Rain and strong pitching were the two constants the Aggies had all weekend. Friday’s Game 1 starter, senior Tim Luth (RHP) gave up two earned runs over five innings and struck out three. Junior college transfer and Friday’s Game 2 starter Evan Gates (RHP) did not surrender an earned run over five innings while striking out three.
On Sunday, junior RHP Michael Johnson pitched six scoreless innings and struck out four on 70 pitches thrown – 47 of them were strikes. Meanwhile, the Aggies bullpen combined to pitch seven innings over three games and only gave up one earned run in the process.
“It was an outstanding effort by the entire pitching staff. They only gave up five runs on the weekend,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “I thought Michael was clicking on all cylinders today. His command and aggressiveness really set the tone for the day.”
Johnson may have set the tone, but it was senior A.J. Hunt who provided the offense. Hunt reached base all four times he came to the plate and was 3-for-4 with five RBI on the day. He did the majority of his damage in the Aggies third inning.
Three walks put Niagara starter Jordan Parranto (RHP) in a situation where he had to face Hunt, an All-MEAC slugger, with the bases loaded and one out. Parranto took the advantage over Hunt with
The sharp liner gave the appearance that it may have a chance of being caught by Purple Eagle right fielder Dawson Bailey on the warning track. But Hunt hit the pitch so hard it rocketed over the fence for the grand slam and a 4-0 Aggies lead. It was Hunt’s first career grand slam. Fellow senior Dawnoven Smith followed with a solo blast to right to give Johnson an even bigger lead at 5-0.
Hunt picked up another RBI in the fourth after freshman Donte Wade singled and stole second, Hunt rewarded the aggressive base running by singling through the left side to score Wade and give the Aggies a 6-0 advantage.
“I thought we did a better job of being disciplined early in the game. We had a bunch of quality at-bats,” said Hall. “If you keep logging quality at-bats, the hits will come. A.J. did a great job of battling a tough count and didn’t miss the mistake. You need your older experienced guys to be big, and he was today.”
Wade was 1-for-4 on the day and scored twice. Johnson (1-0) got the win and shared the four-hit shutout with RHP seniors Walfrank Pineiro, Leon Davidson
The Aggies will play the University of North Carolina in a rematch of their NCAA Chapel Hill Regional matchup in the NCAA tournament last season, 3 p.m., Tuesday at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. The Aggies return home the next day to face the Elon Phoenix, 4 p.m., Wednesday at War Memorial Stadium.