ELON—The North Carolina A&T baseball team couldn’t protect a two-run lead, as walks led to its downfall in an 8-7 loss at Elon in 10 innings on Tuesday night at Latham Park.
It was the second extra innings loss for the Aggies (15-35) in their last three games. Junior shortstop Luke Tendler went 4-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to a season-best nine games.
But the Aggies couldn’t hang on against the Phoenix (25-26), despite taking a late lead with a four-run ninth.
“We had a chance to win it there, and we couldn’t close it all. All in all, it was a good game back and forth,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez.
After getting the first two out in the home 10th, senior right-hander Tim Jones walked Wil Leathers to put the winning run on base. He then walked Chris Schaedel. Sanchez called on southpaw Dustin Myers to pitch. Joey Tomko came in to pinch hit and walked to load the bases. Bower singled up the middle. Myers tried to get a glove on it, and Tendler fielded the ball, but his throw was not in time, as Bower was safe for the walk-off single.
“Good team, good arms, defensively they’re solid,” Sanchez said. “We had a chance to win it--we just couldn’t pull it out.”
The Aggies led 7-5 going into the ninth after a four-run top of the ninth. Down 5-3, the Aggies capitalized on some Phoenix miscues in the inning. Brandon Wilkerson started the rally with a leadoff single through the left side. Tendler collected his fourth hit of the night with a single to right to put runners on the corners. Consecutive walks to Kelvin Freeman and Dairio Little forced in a run. The Aggies took the lead when Elon first baseman Ryan Kinsella couldn’t hang on to a throw from third baseman Danny Lynch on a Darrin Meaders grounder. Two runs scored on the play, and Little would later make it 7-5 as he scored as Meaders was tryig to steal second.
Jones came in to pitch in the ninth and got left fielder Chris Schaedel to ground out to him the first out. But Lynch would make it difficult for Jones. He doubled down the left field line to bring the tying run to the plate, and then took third on a wild pitch. Bower reached by hitting a slow roller down the third base line that didn’t roll foul despite the wishes of Jones and Meaders, who was playing third base. A stolen base by Bowers put runners on second and third. A wild pitch by Jones scored Lynch, and an RBI sacrifice fly by Casey Jones sent the game into extra innings.
After Elon’s run in the tenth, A&T second baseman Jeovanny Tolentino singled to right with one out to start another rally. But he was picked off, and Wilkerson struck out to end the threat.
A&T got to lefty starter Brandon Kacer early. Wilkerson singled down the right field line, beating out the throw from Kacer. Tendler knocked a double that dropped between the left fielder and shortstop, to add to his nation-leading total of 25. Kacer next walked Freeman to load the bases before striking out the next two A&T batters. Meaders worked a full count before walking, and senior third baseman Mark Nales walked to bring home another run. Right fielder Dylan Hipp struck out swinging to leave three stranded, but A&T had a 2-0 lead.
A&T took a 3-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by Tendler in the second.
The Aggies will host Winthrop (17-31) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. before welcoming Savannah State to town on Friday at 6 p.m. for a make-up contest.
The game against the Tigers will decide the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for the MEAC tournament, giving the Aggies a chance to play the spoiler. If the Aggies win, Bethune-Cookman will be in first place. If the Tigers win, Savannah State will be the No. 1 seed.