N.C. A&T Aggies fall to B-CU Wildcats in MEAC Title Game

Posted by Andy Durham on May 24, 2010 at 11:30 am under College | Comments are off for this article

from www.ncataggies.com:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Over the last 13 seasons, Bethune-Cookman has been the team to beat in MEAC Baseball. Yet, on Sunday in the MEAC baseball championship game, North Carolina A&T simply did what it has done all season long – hit the baseball.
The only difference on Sunday was the runs didn’t come along with the hits. The Aggies left 12 men on base in a 7-4 loss to the Wildcats at Jackie Robinson Park. The win gives the Wildcats their 12th MEAC championship in the last 13 seasons, with only the Aggies winning a title within that span.

First baseman Kelvin Freeman, versatile senior Nick Rogers(Northwest Guilford HS), center fielder George Hines, and pitchers Nick Oelker and Esterlin Paulino(Southwest Guilford HS) made the all-tournament team.

“I’m very pleased we kept getting scoring opportunities,” said head coach Keith Shumate. “We just didn’t put the hit combinations together like we needed to, in order to score runs, which is our mark. But I’m very proud of my guys. You’ve got to get hits in order to leave runners on.”

A&T left seven runners on through the first four innings. But despite leaving three runners on in the fourth, the inning proved to be prosperous.

Marquis Riley opened the inning by reaching on an error. Freeman followed with a single through the left side. After Bethune-Cookman starter Roman Lancara retired the next two Aggies before Mark Nales hit an RBI single to left field to score the Aggies’ first run of the game. Lancara added to his problems by hitting Hines with the first pitch he threw him to load the bases. Lancara compounded things with a bases-loaded walk to Dario Little, allowing Freeman to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 3-2.

Despite the Aggies push, Bethune-Cookman’s offense kept subtly building its lead. The Wildcats scored a run apiece in the fifth and the sixth innings to take a 5-2 lead. The Aggies got back to within two on an RBI groundout by Freeman.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Bethune-Cookman,” said Keith Shumate, who has led the Aggies to the MEAC championship game four out of the last six seasons. “As usual, their offense just comes at you constantly.”

The Wildcats made one last nagging offensive charge in the seventh. A Jeremy Davis single advanced Justin Hoyte to third, but an Aggies throwing error allowed Hoyte to score for a 6-3 lead. An RBI single off the bat of Peter O’Brien scored another Wildcats run as they took a four-run lead into the eighth.

A Little RBI sacrifice fly put the Aggies back to within three, but after a Freeman single in the ninth, Wildcats closer Juan Perez clinched the title and his 10th save of the season for Bethune-Cookman by getting Alex Grubb to groundout to end the game.

The Wildcats (35-20) will advance to an NCAA regional. D.J. Leonard earned tournament MVP honors. Davis led the Wildcats on Sunday by going 4-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored.

Hines led the Aggies on Sunday with three singles. Little drove in two runs, and Freeman added two hits. The Aggies saw their season come to an end at 31-26. The 2010 Aggies put together the program’s first 30-win season. They also ended the season with a school-record 15 conference wins. Shumate saw his squad go 19-6 over its last 25 games.

“We happened to get over 30 wins, and I think that’s great for the program,” said Shumate. “But we’re looking nowhere but forward. We want that trophy out there that Bethune’s receiving.”

The Aggies have the foundation in place to win the trophy. Seven of the 10 players in the Aggies starting lineup on Sunday were either freshmen or sophomores, including Freeman, who was the MEAC Rookie of the Year. The Aggies should also have Paulino, MEAC Pitcher of the Year, for another two seasons.

A&T will have some holes to fill. Hines, who ranked among the nation’s leaders in runs scored and stolen bases, was the Aggies lead-off man this season. Rogers tied the school record with 10 pitching wins, and he hit 15 home runs at the plate.

But thus far, the Aggies have five newcomers ready for 2011 to go along with what was a young team. “The mark of our program is that we always get better throughout the course of the season,” said Shumate. “We start slow sometimes, but as our talent develops we always end strong.”

“We played a lot of freshmen this year,” Shumate added. “I think that is not only a credit to the freshmen, but to the older players and my assistants. We really pushed them hard. I can’t think of one that didn’t get better this year.”

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