GREENSBORO – The North Carolina A&T and Marist baseball teams engaged in a wild game Sunday afternoon that saw the two teams combine for 24 runs, 27 hits, nine errors and five lead changes.
The final lead change went to Marist in a 14-10 victory over the Aggies at War Memorial Stadium. Senior Cameron Jergens led the Aggies by going 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored. Luke Tendler, Brandon Wilkerson and Lester Salcedo had two hits apiece.
Despite the defeat, the Aggies (13-23) were still able to revert back to what they were doing at the beginning of the season – winning weekend series. A&T took two out of three from the Red Foxes (9-23) before reentering conference play next weekend when Bethune-Cookman comes to town.
“Maybe it was good not to see a conference opponent this weekend,” said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez who has seen the Aggies lose six straight conference games. “Maybe it took the pressure off of us a little bit. We didn’t feel like we had to win because it really doesn’t make a difference in our conference standings. I think that showed yesterday and today. We swung the bats well, but we just couldn’t keep them off the board.”
The Aggies were able to grab a 10-9 lead in the eighth thanks to an RBI single to right field by Salcedo. Sophomore right-hand reliever Kirby Whicker, who entered the game in the fifth, tried to protect the win for A&T in the Marist ninth. But Zach Passerelle greeted him with a double to left center to open the inning. A bunt single by Jake Berry and a walk to Joey Aiola loaded the bases for the Red Foxes with no outs.
The Aggies then turned to junior RHP Jamal Clark to face Ben Moller. Moller torched a double down the left field line to give the Red Foxes an 11-10 lead. Pinch-hitter Mark Pagano kept the rally going with a single to center field to score two more runs. When Aggies center fielder Ryan Hill over ran the ball, it allowed Pagano to advance to third. Pagano eventually scored on an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of Nick McQuail to secure the Red Foxes' 14th run.
Two Aggies did reach base in the ninth against RHP Chris Thorsen. But Thorsen got Ernesto Lizardi to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. Whicker (2-1) took the loss why Thorsen (1-0) picked up the win. The Red Foxes (9-23) were led by Passerelle who went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. Aiola added three RBI.
“We were coasting there for a little bit and then they put together the one big inning,” said Sanchez. “It was then back and forth. We put up runs, but it was one of those days where your pitchers out of the bullpen didn’t have enough good stuff. We didn’t do a very good job defensively either.”
A&T looked well on its way to sweeping the series as an RBI sac fly by Kyle Clary in the third gave the Aggies a 5-1 lead. Marist rallied in the fifth, however, by scoring six runs to take a 7-5 advantage. The Red Foxes went on to take an 8-6, but this time it was A&T’s turn to rally.
With Salcedo on third and Jergens at second, Marist third baseman Ben Moller booted a Stefan Jordan groundball, allowing Salcedo to score. A throwing error by Marist right-hand reliever Evan Davis on a sac bunt by Brandon Mitchell brought Jergens home to tie the game at 8. The Red Foxes turned to Thorsen to halt the Aggies’ momentum.
Thorsen got help when junior Ernesto Lizardi whiffed on a suicide squeeze bunt attempt. Jordan was coming home on the squeeze and was promptly tagged out by catcher Mark Swertfager. Pinch-hitter Hill fouled out to end the inning.
An RBI sac fly by Marist’s Steve Laurino in the Marist eighth gave the Red Foxes a 9-8 lead before the Aggies rallied in the eighth.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t finish out this series, but we still got two out of three,” said Sanchez. “It’s a winning weekend. You have to take that and hopefully go into to Tuesday, bust our butts and try to keep winning.”
The Aggies host Campbell Tuesday evening at 6 before hosting Bethune-Cookman in a three-game series starting Saturday at 1 p.m., with a doubleheader. The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.