EAST GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T baseball took a big step toward winning their second straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Southern Division title thusly earning the No. 1 seed out of the south at the upcoming MEAC Championship Baseball Tournament as the Aggies defeated rival N.C. Central 9-2 Tuesday night in a makeup game played at War Memorial Stadium.
The two teams were not able to complete their three-game series at War Memorial the weekend of April 12-14 because of inclement weather. Therefore, the two schools agreed to play on Tuesday for NCCU’s final MEAC game of 2019.
Meanwhile, the Aggies (26-21, 14-7 MEAC) can’t get too far ahead of themselves. They have a major three-game series against Florida A&M this week at War Memorial. The Rattlers at 13-8 are a game behind the Aggies in the standings for the No. 1 seed out of the south.
N.C. A&T and FAMU will open their series at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 9 before finishing the series with games on Friday and Saturday. The Eagles (19-28, 10-14 MEAC) were eliminated from MEAC postseason consideration with the loss.
Junior Dustin Baber led the Aggies by going 3-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI. Junior Ryne Stanley also had a three-RBI night as he turned in two hits. Senior Dawnoven Smith added a 3-for-4 performance with an RBI and two runs scored.
The Aggies posted runs throughout the game. They began to pull away in the fifth inning. Leading 3-1, Smith launched a fly ball into left field that landed just inside the chalk and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Junior Cam Williamson then lofted a line drive over the head of NCCU second baseman Trey Maslin before stealing second base to put runners on second and third.
Stanley then ripped a double down the left-field line to score both runners to give the Aggies a 5-1 lead. The inning could have been much worse for the Eagles as sophomore Zach McLean through the right side and freshman Tony Mack singled. But Stanley and McLean were eventually thrown out at the plate during the inning.
Those two occurrences didn’t seem to deter the Aggies. N.C. A&T scored two more runs in the sixth. After a Baber single, senior Jason King benefited from an error at first base. The mistake was compounded when Maslin kicked the ball away trying to pick it up allowing Baber to score and Mack to reach third. Smith brought Mack home with an RBI sacrifice fly to center to give the Aggies a 7-1 advantage.
NCCU added a run in the seventh before Baber hit a two-run RBI double in the Aggies half of the seventh to give the Aggies a 9-2 lead.
As has been the case this season, the Aggies pitching was superb with the bullpen leading the way. Freshman RHP Gianni Smith (2-2) got the win while five other pitchers combined to pitch 5.1 innings. The quintet did not give up an earned run while striking out five and walking two.
Ryan Miller (6-4) got the loss. Josh Brammell led the Eagles with two hits and an RBI.