GREENSBORO - Junior shortstop Luke Tendler hit a grand slam to help snap a six-game losing streak for the North Carolina A&T baseball team, as they defeated Lehigh 17-8 on Wednesday evening at War Memorial Stadium.
The win also gives the Aggies some needed momentum as they welcome the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, who have won the last seven consecutive MEAC Tournament championships, to town this weekend.
"A win is a win. We had a full team effort," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez. "Hopefully going into the weekend we can carry that momentum and keep it on for Bethune-Cookman. It was a good win. It's definitely a better feeling to be on the good side of those high-scoring games."
The Aggies (5-11) recorded 10 hits in the contest, including three from Tendler and junior designated hitter Cameron Jergens. Senior Dairio Little had three RBI on the night as well.
Freshman reliever Kirby Whicker shutout the Mountain Hawks (9-5), tossing four hitless frames to close out the game for the Aggies and secure the win.
"It was a good outing for Kirby. We needed him to finally step up and pitch like we thought he would. It was good for him. We were looking for that from the bullpen. He stepped it up for us. That was big."
Lehigh pulled out to an early lead, but the Aggies scored a run in each of the first four innings to make it a 5-4 game. The Mountain Hawks made it an 8-4 game in the top of the fifth.
The Aggies tied it up with four runs in their half of the fifth. An RBI single by Jergens to center field brought home sophomore left fielder Dylan Hipp. A two-run RBI double to left field by Dairio Litte brought A&T again within one run of Lehigh. Sophomore center fielder Bo McMillan then stepped up to the plate, representing the go-ahead run. He flew out to right and Little scored from third to tie the game. Catcher Stefan Jordan doubled to right-center field to keep the Aggie offense rolling. Freshman second baseman Jeovanny Tolentino struck out swinging to end the inning.
Whicker retired the side in order in the top of the sixth, and kept Lehigh off the boards in the top of the seventh. A&T scored six runs in the seventh to take the lead for good. With one out, Lehigh walked McMillan and Jordan before hitting Tolentino with a pitch to load the bases with no out. That's when Tendler hit his third home run of the season, a blast to right field to break the tie. The Aggies brought home another two runs later in the inning.
"We didn't pack it in when they went up by four. We kept coming back and getting one run at a time in the beginning and finally got the big inning when Luke got the big hit to take the wind out of their guys," Sanchez said.
The Aggies will host Bethune-Cookman in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday and in a 1 p.m. matinee on Sunday at War Memorial Stadium.