Aggies Win In Walk-Off Fashion, Twice
GREENSBORO (April 14, 2017) – North Carolina A&T walked off the conventional way in Game 1. They added a little uniqueness to their walk-off methods in Game 2. Both walk-offs resulted in two huge Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference baseball wins as the Aggies swept a doubleheader from rival North Carolina Central, 8-7 and 4-3, Friday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium.
Senior first baseman Kyle Clary’s memorable day led to the Aggies first dramatic win. He hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning before connecting on a walk-off single in the ninth to initiate his team running out of the dugout to celebrate his big hit. In the seven-inning second game, NCCU starter Johnathan Figueroa was called for a balk with the game tied, two outs and a runner at third in the Aggies final at-bat in regulation. The call allowed junior Myles Sowell to score as another celebration erupted from the dugout. N.C. A&T improved to 19-14 overall and 9-5 in the MEAC with the doubleheader sweep. NCCU dropped to 16-20 and 7-7 in the conference as the two teams remain a part of a four-team MEAC Southern Division race that will see only three of those teams qualify for the MEAC tournament out of the division.
“It was a beautiful day of baseball with two competitive teams going for it,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “Our guys fought through both games. We didn’t play perfect, but you don’t have to play perfect to win. You’ve got to make big plays in big situations. We didn’t swing it the way we wanted to at times, but late in both games our guys came through.”
Before Clary could put on his cape in Game 1, the Aggies first had to overcome a three-run deficit after an RBI single from Carter Williams in the NCCU sixth gave the Eagles a 7-4 lead. Senior Tim Ravare began the comeback efforts in the seventh as he singled off NCCU right-hand starter Devin Sweet. It was pitch No. 102 for Sweet as he was replaced by Jake McCort (RHP). Junior Greg White greeted McCort with a single on the first pitch he threw, leading to Ravare advancing to third. After fouling off four McCort pitches, junior shortstop Brandon Melendez singled to right field to score Ravare. With two outs in the inning, White and Melendez pulled off a double steal to put runners at third and second. White was permitted to score to cut the Eagles lead to 7-6 on a McCort balk, marking the first of two runs the Aggies scored on balks Friday afternoon. There were called throughout the two games on Friday.
More threats to take the lead came in the seventh as McCort walked A.J. Hunt and Jarrett Norman before reliever Marcus Washburn (RHP) got freshman Camden Williamson to fly out to center to end the inning. Aggies reliever Leon Hunter (RHP) played a major role for the Aggies top of the eighth as he came in and got the Eagles to hit into an inning-ending double play. Clary quickly followed by opening the eighth with a towering blast over a Pepsi Billboard sign that stands approximately 20-feet above the left-field fence, tying the game at 7. In the Eagles ninth, Aggies reliever Cutter Dyals (RHP) came in to get the Aggies out of a jam caused by an error. N.C. A&T then came up clutch in the ninth. Reliever Justice Sampson (LHP) walked the bases loaded with two outs to set up Clary’s game-winning RBI single through the left side that came on an 0-2 pitch.
“The main thing I was trying to do was put together a quality at-bat. I was just trying to get on base and set the tone for the rest of the guys,” said Clary about his eighth-inning leadoff homer. “He just threw me a pitch I could hit out. I had a couple of bad swings on some breaking balls in that ninth inning. He left a fastball up, and I was able to get to it.”
Clary was 2-for-4 with two RBI in Game 1. Ravare went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, and White was 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Dyals (4-0) got the win and Sampson (4-1) took the loss. In the second game, Melendez led the way by going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Ordonez finished with three hits and two RBI including the game-tying RBI single in the seventh.
The Aggies went into seventh trailing 3-2. Things started to look bleaker when Figueroa retired the first two Aggies quickly. Melendez then stepped up with a big two-out, two-strike base hit through the left side to put the go-ahead run at the plate in Sowell. Sowell hit a high chopper to third base and then used his considerable speed to beat the throw, leaving things in the hands of Ordonez who promptly roped a single into left field to tie the game on Melendez’s run. Sowell raced to third which ended up being vital. With A.J. Hunt at the plate, Figueroa faked a throw to first but the first baseman was not standing on the bag. Figueroa was called for the balk; Sowell threw his hands up and jumped before jogging home in exuberance and the Aggies clinched the series.
The two teams go at it again 1 p.m., Saturday at WMS. N.C. A&T leads the season series 3-2. An Aggies would win would give them an advantage in a tiebreaker scenario. “Coming into the weekend we knew it was a huge, huge, series for conference purposes,” said Clary. “I’m still speechless on how that last game (Game 2) ended.”
Right-hander Josh Bottenfield (4-4) picked up the win in relief and Figueroa (2-4) took the loss.