GREENSBORO (May 5, 2018) – North Carolina A&T baseball split a conference doubleheader with Savannah State on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium, winning 5-0 in Game 1 before losing Game 2, 6-5. Senior Milton Rivera had three hits and scored three runs in the doubleheader.
N.C. A&T is 25-22 overall and 12-7 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. After the doubleheader split, the Aggies are in a first-place tie in the MEAC Southern Division with Florida A&M. They are tied in the win column with FAMU and Bethune-Cookman (12-9 MEAC) for the Southern Division title.
In the first game, N.C. A&T scored in the third and fifth innings to aid in right-hand junior Tim Luth, junior RHP Walfrank Pineiro and freshman LHP Ethan Chavis' shutout effort. Luth (5-1) rolled to the win by striking out three in seven innings pitched. Both teams finished with six hits. Senior Greg White had two hits, an RBI and a run scored while senior Forest Kimbrell also had two hits and a run scored for N.C. A&T.
The Aggies took a 1-0 lead after the third inning on a White RBI single to right field to score Rivera. In the fifth, three errors by SSU along with two hits by the Aggies turned into four runs. Rivera led the inning by reaching on an error, followed by White singling to right. Kimbrell loaded the bases on a single past the shortstop and then redshirt junior A.J. Hunt drew a bases-loaded walk to force in Rivera. On the next play, junior Dawnoven Smith reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a throwing error as Kimbrell and White scored. Smith later crossed home plate on a passed ball to give the Aggies a commanding 5-0 lead.
Relievers Pineiro and Chavis held off the Tiger hitters as Pineiro pitched a scoreless eighth and Chavis pitched a scoreless ninth. The Aggies bullpen went into Game 2 with 10.2 straight innings of scoreless baseball.
That all changed in Game 2 on a late-inning rally by SSU. In Game 2, a rough seventh inning for the Aggies bullpen resulted in four hits that turned into two runs for the Tigers. Mason Calloway led the inning off with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on a groundout. Freddie Landers RBI doubled to right scored Calloway and then Jalen Atterbury singled to left field to score Landers for a 6-4 SSU advantage.
With their backs against the wall in the bottom of the seventh inning in a seven-inning game, A&T loaded the bases and Rivera crossed home on a bases-loaded walk to Smith. But with the go-ahead run at second, the Tigers forced an infield pop fly for the final out of the evening.
Game 2 got off to a slow start for N.C. A&T as they trailed 1-0 after SSU's first half inning. But Hunt hit an RBI double to right center scoring White. Smith followed with another RBI double sending Hunt home for a 2-1 Aggies lead. SSU responded by tying the game at 2 in the third inning on a solo home run by Khalyd Cox. In the fourth inning, senior Myles Sowell sparked the Aggies drawing a walk and then stealing second base. Rivera's RBI single to right scored Sowell for a 4-3 N.C. A&T advantage. The Tigers came back and tied the game at 4 with an RBI single in the fifth by Landers.
Rivera went 3-for-3 at the plate for the Aggies in the second game driving in two RBI while scoring a run. Smith added two RBI and Sowell scored two runs. Senior Marcello Betances went four innings striking out three and surrendering three earned runs. Senior relief pitcher Josh Stikeleather (2-3) took the loss after tossing the seventh inning. Josh Bottenfield increased the bullpen's scoreless inning streak to 12.2 before Stikeleather's tough inning.
The teams will return on Sunday at 1 p.m. for a single game to wrap up the weekend series. It will be Senior Day for N.C. A&T's 12 seniors.