GREENSBORO - It was an unfortunate way to end a game North Carolina A&T fought so hard to make a competitive contest.
Senior Eric Chiz, who during the previous inning started a five-run Aggies rally, was picked off trying to go to second in the bottom of the ninth to give Elon a 7-5 in non-conference baseball win at War Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
Senior first baseman Kelvin Freeman went 2-for-4 with two RBI for the Aggies (2-2). Junior Cameron Jergens added two hits and an RBI. The Aggies got a combined four innings of scoreless relief from Kirby Whicker (3 innings pitched) and Shane Carter (1 IP).
Elon (2-2) started with a stellar pitching performance from starter Spencer Medick. But it was a rough beginning for Aggies starter Dustin Myers. Medick (1-0), who picked up the win, went seven innings, surrendered just three hits, struck out six and did not walk a batter. Myers (0-1) lasted just one inning after giving up three first-inning runs. Elon added four more runs in the fourth ignited by a two-run RBI single by Joey Tomko, helping the Phoenix take a 7-0 lead.
"Their No. 1 pitcher was a quality guy who threw three different pitches for strikes," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez about Medick. "He mixed his pitches. Even when he fell behind, he would always comeback with a fastball. He kept us off balance. Fortunately, we got to a few guys out of their bullpen who didn't have much control."
Chiz started the Phoenix's troubles. He entered the game at catcher to replace Stefan Jordan in the Elon sixth. Chiz battled to a 3-2 count against Elon reliever Jordan Darnell before he squeezed a groundball through the left side for his first hit of the season.
After Darnell walked center fielder Bo McMillan, he hit Jevoanny Tolentino with a pitch to load the bases. James Harris, another A&T substitute who was in the game at second base for Luke Tendler, also walked. His walk forced in Chiz from third to score the Aggies first run.
"We wanted to get some guys some AB's (at-bats), get them in the mix and see what they've got," said Sanchez. "Chiz had a good AB, battled and got the spark going for that inning. A few other guys who were on the bench were also ready to go. That's what we've been looking for - to see how many guys we can count on. Everyone is not going to start, obviously, but we've got to have quality bench guys who can come in and get the job done."
To answer the Aggies threat, the Phoenix turned to Danny Lynch on the mound. He was greeted with a two-run RBI single from Freeman that scored McMillian and Tolentino to make it a 7-3 contest. Jergens kept the rally going as his groundball to Elon first baseman Ryan Kinsella allowed Harris to score, while Freeman was thrown out going to second. After senior Reggie Washington hit into a fielder's choice that eliminated Jergens off the base paths, senior Mark Nales' single to right advanced Washington to third.
Elon then turned to its third pitcher of the inning, John Antonelli. Antonelli quickly tossed a wild pitch that allowed Washington to score for a 7-5 score. Senior Dairio Little looked prepared to administered more damage. He hit a laser off the leg of Antonelli on the mound. It ricocheted perfectly to Elon third baseman Sebastian Gomez, who then threw out Nales trying to go home, to end the inning.
Carter kept the Phoenix scoreless in the top of the ninth, keeping the Aggies within striking distance. Chiz led off the Aggies ninth by earning a walk off of Elon closer Nate Young. After striking out the next two Aggies, Young faced pinch-hitter Brandon Wilkerson.
But no one will ever know how the at-bat would end because Chiz left early from first base. Young paused, then turned toward second base and threw the ball right into the glove of shortstop Chris Bresnahan, who was waiting to tag out Chiz. Young picked up the save.
"We made a charge and kind of had them on the ropes," said Sanchez. "We had a couple of running mistakes late that ultimately won them the game. We've got to do a little bit of a better job of doing the little things, especially on the base paths. But our guys didn't quit."
A&T will play again on Thursday as the Marshall Thundering Herd come to War Memorial Stadium for a three-game series. Thursday's game time is 3 p.m.