DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – North Carolina A&T earned a big doubleheader split at Jackie Robinson Park on Saturday. Bethune-Cookman won the first game behind big hits from Eric Sams and Shaun McCarty.
But the Aggies (7-10, 3-2 MEAC) ended their eight-game losing streak and remained alive for a top seed in the MEAC tournament in two months with a 5-1 win over the Wildcats in the second game which went seven innings.
The two schools will conclude their three-game series Sunday afternoon at 1 when A&T right-hander Mitchell McQueen (1-3) faces Wildcat RHP Scott Garner (1-2).
The Wildcats were able to get a first-inning run in the second game and led 1-0 going into the visitor’s fifth. Ryan Hill took the first pitch he saw from B-CU starter Gabriel Hernandez and bunted it down to the third base side. Wildcats third baseman Jordan Robinson’s throw to first was a bad one, allowing Hill to move into scoring position.
Hill moved to third on a Stefan Jordan sacrifice bunt and went home on a sac fly to right by Kyle Clary to tie the game at 1.
Dylan Hipp then followed up with a triple to center field. Luke Tendler walked to put runners on the corners with two outs. The inning appeared over when Hernandez tried to pick Tendler off of first. Tendler managed to make it to second. In the midst of the chaos, Hipp came home to give A&T the lead for good.
Junior catcher Lester Salcedo added two more runs in the sixth as he blasted a two-run homer to left to give A&T a 4-1 lead. Salcedo added his third RBI of the game with a run-scoring single up the middle in the seventh to score Cameron Jergens. Jergens was 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
RHP Charles Cantrell (3-1) picked up his team-leading third win of the season by pitching a complete-game seven hitter with five strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 1.71.
Teammate and Game 1 right-hand starter Tyler Boone (0-3) could not quite crack the win column in the first game. He went six innings, giving up four runs, three earned, and striking out seven. The Aggies did give him a 2-0 lead in the third when Jergens roped a two-hit, two-run RBI single into right to score Brandon Wilkerson and Hipp.
But the Wildcats erased that lead in their fourth. McCarty hit a two-run RBI double to right to tie the game at 2. With runners at third and second, Josh Johnson laid down a bunt that allowed Zach Olszewski to score from third to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead. They added another run in the sixth before A&T moved to within one with an RBI single from Wilkerson.
A&T had a chance to tie or take the lead in the eighth. Salcedo, Brandon Mitchell and Clary opened the eighth with consecutive singles. Pinch-hitter Ernesto Lizardi then stepped up to the plate. The Wildcats countered by replacing starter Keith Zuniga with reliever right-hand reliever Michael Austin.
Austin got Lizardi to fly out and then struck out Hipp and Hill to end the threat. Sams added an insurance run in the eighth with an RBI single. Zuniga (2-1) picked up the win.