EAST GREENSBORO – Junior Dustin Baber hit a two-out three-run RBI double to left-center field to lead a come-from-behind charge by the North Carolina A&T baseball team as they downed Bethune-Cookman 7-4 Sunday afternoon in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) play at War Memorial Stadium.
The win keeps N.C. A&T (23-19, 11-6 MEAC) remain in first place in the MEAC Southern Division. Baber, the Aggies leading hitter, went 2-
N.C. A&T trailed 3-0 early before cutting the Wildcats (16-30, 9-12 MEAC) lead to 3-2 going into the seventh inning. But B-CU starter Isaak Gutierrez retired the first two batters he faced to open the frame.
From there the Aggies were able to string together some outstanding at-bats. Freshman Tony Mack drew a tough two-out walk on a 3-2 pitch from Gutierrez. Senior Brandon Melendez followed with a pinch-hit single before senior Jason King was patient enough to draw another walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases against B-CU reliever Alec Mendez (LHP).
“Jason King’s at-bat before Baber’s was huge,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall. “It was a disciplined at-bat, and if he is not disciplined in that situation Baber doesn’t get his opportunity. Those are the small things that help you win ballgames.”
Baber did get his opportunity and drove Mendez’s 1-0 pitch into the gap in left-center to clear the bases and give the Aggies a 5-3 lead.
“I was up against a tough-throwing lefty. He threw first-pitch change-up so I was thinking fastball on the next one, so I just wanted to stay up the middle with it,” said Baber. “I wanted to hit it out near the old Aggie scoreboard by staying through it and trying to put a good swing on it. I was able to hit hard and get out over the outfielders.”
B-CU did get to within one after Baber’s big hit on a Nate Sterijevski home run to left field. But the Aggies added two more runs in the eighth off RHP Seth Lovell. The rally started with a bunt single by junior Ryne Stanley before junior Zach McLean in an RBI triple into the corner of left field to score Stanley.
McLean eventually scored on a passed ball to give the Aggies a 7-4 lead. N.C. A&T went to their formula of success to close out games on the mound in 2019. The Leons.
Senior Leon Davidson came on in the seventh in relief of junior starter Michael Johnson. Senior Leon Hunter entered in the ninth inning and earned his eighth save of the season thanks in part to striking out two Wildcats during the inning. Davidson (2-0) got the win.
Gutierrez (2-3) took the loss. N.C. A&T took two of three from the Wildcats over the weekend and won the season series with a 5-1 record.
The Aggies will play a midweek game at Davidson on Wednesday, May 1 at 6 p.m., before embarking on a crucial three-game series at Savannah State starting on Friday, May 3.
“All series wins are big especially when you’re at home,” said Hall. “With the way yesterday went with them coming out and punching us pretty good, I was proud to see the guys come back and respond with some resolve. That’s big to see this time of year because you know the games are going to be tight and competitive with everyone playing stretch-run baseball.”