GREENSBORO (April 29, 2018) – North Carolina A&T baseball rallied from an early deficit on Sunday to capture the lead over Bethune-Cookman in Mid-Eastern Conference play at War Memorial Stadium.
Once they had it, the Aggies bullpen took charge of the game in leading N.C. A&T to a crucial 8-5 win over the Wildcats moving the Aggies to 24-20 overall and 11-6 in the MEAC. The Aggies took two out of three from the Wildcats (18-27, 12-9 MEAC) to stay in strong contention for the MEAC Southern Division crown. N.C. A&T is a game behind Florida A&M with four games remaining against the Rattlers.
N.C. A&T’s Sunday did not start positively. They trailed 4-0 after the first half inning thanks in part to a three-run home run off the bat of B-CU standout Danny Rodriguez.
“A strong attribute of our team all year is that they never feel they are out of the game,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “We know we can pitch it and defend it. Getting down early is not panic time for us because we’re going to hold the runs and get our offense going.
The hitter in me was really proud of them for stepping in and being aggressive early. We didn’t wait for three innings to get going. We went right at them right away. That changed the feel of the ballgame in our favor.”
Yes, the Aggies were quite impatient in rallying. Redshirt junior A.J. Hunt got the Aggies on the board in the first with an RBI single to score senior Greg White who led the inning off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from senior Forest Kimbrell.
Senior Adan Ordonez followed with a single before sophomore Zach McLean doubled down the left-field line to score Hunt to cut the Wildcats lead to 4-2. After the Aggies first inning ended with a fly out, they got right back to scoring in the second.
Senior Myles Sowell tripled to left as B-CU left fielder Adonis Lao fell trying to chase the line drive. Senior Milton Rivera’s groundout to shortstop brought Sowell home to slice the Wildcats lead to one, 4-3.
By the end of the third, the Aggies found themselves in the lead.
Isaak Gutierrez took over B-CU starter Tyler Krull to start the third. But he was hurt immediately by an error at third that allowed Hunt to reach. Junior Dawnoven Smith took advantage by doubling to right center. Ordonez then singled to left. As the ball rolled into left field, it rolled between Lao’s leg. Therefore, not only did Hunt score on the play but Smith was able to come home too to give the Aggies a 5-4 lead.
N.C. A&T never trailed again, but the Wildcats did tie the game in their fourth on a bases-loaded walk.
The Aggies, however, took the lead for good in their fourth on a solo home run from Hunt. Hunt is now a three-way tie for the team lead in home runs (5) with Smith and Rivera.
With a 6-5 lead, Hall turned to his bullpen to open the fifth. Junior RHP Walfrank Pineiro threw two scoreless innings giving up two hits and two walks. Pineiro gave up a hit to Giovany Lorenzo to open the seventh. Senior LHP Jonah Owenby replaced Pineiro and struck out Kyle Corbin before turning things over to redshirt freshman RHP Jason Jenkins.
Jenkins finished off the Wildcats. He threw the last 2.2 innings giving up only one hit, striking out three and walking none.
“It was good to see some guys who at times haven’t had as many opportunities as others out of that bullpen like Pineiro, Owenby
While Jenkins was being dominant on the mound, the Aggies picked up a run apiece in the seventh and eighth innings to give their reliever some comfort room. Sowell drove in a run in the seventh and White scored on a throwing error in the eighth.
Jenkins picked up his second save of the season while Pineiro (1-0) got his first win. McLean and Sowell led the way with three hits apiece. Hunt drove in two runs, had two hits and scored three times. White had two hits and scored twice while Ordonez finished 2-for-4 with an RBI.
N.C. A&T goes on the road for a non-conference contest at Appalachian State 6 p.m., Wednesday. The Aggies final seven games will be conference games as they come home May 5-6 to face Savannah State in a three-game series. On May 7, they will play a makeup game against FAMU at War Memorial before traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., to face FAMU in a three-game series May 11-12.