Day 2 Gallery
SALISBURY, Md. –
For its first eight innings of play Friday at the MEAC Baseball Championship, the Norfolk State baseball team struggled to find its footing.
After dropping a 16-6, seven-inning decision to Bethune-Cookman earlier in the day, the Spartans found themselves down 4-0 after half an inning of an elimination game against North Carolina A&T Friday night. But the Spartans rebounded with an impressive display of power to surge in front, then held off a late Aggie rally in a 12-11 win at Arthur Perdue Stadium.
The victory puts the Spartans (26-21) into tomorrow's tournament championship round for the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons. NSU will face two-time defending champion Bethune-Cookman at 1 p.m., with the Spartans needing to win twice to take their first-ever MEAC baseball title. B-CU has yet to lose in the tournament and needs just one victory to win the championship.
Senior second baseman Roger Hall
homered twice and drove in five runs against A&T, while Stephen Baughan
continued his torrid tournament with a solo homer among two hits and two RBI to pace a 14-hit attack. Justin Burrell
added three hits and two stolen bases, while Tony Leite
(2-for-5, three RBI), Brian Beard
(2-for-4), Hall and Baughan (2-for-5 each) added two hits apiece.
The Aggies scored four runs on four hits in the top of the first, with three of them going for extra bases. After Brandon Melendez scored on a Spartan error, Milton Rivera and Kyle Clary hit back-to-back RBI doubles. Then Tim Ravare's fly ball to center was lost in the sun, resulting in a run-scoring triple that gave the Aggies a 4-0 cushion.
The Spartans got a run back in the bottom of the first. Beard led off with a double to left and scored on Hall's groundout.
But the real fireworks for the Spartans came in the bottom of the second. NSU sent 12 men to the plate and six of them recorded hits, resulting in a seven-run outburst. Baughan got it started with a solo homer deep down the left-field line. A walk to Ismael Herrera
and a single by Johnny Mayer
preceded the first of two Aggie errors in the inning, which loaded the bases. Leite singled in a run and Alex Mauricio
's fielder's choice knotted the score at 4-all.
NSU still wasn't done. On the first pitch of the next at bat, Hall blasted a three-run homer to left field to give the Spartans their first lead. Two batters later, Baughan capped the rally with an RBI single to right, putting NSU ahead 8-4.
The Aggies got a run back in the top of the sixth, but Hall homered to lead off the bottom of the sixth, a no-doubter over the advertising billboards in left that sit some 15 to 20 feet behind the outfield fence. Later in the frame, Herrera hit a two-out RBI single to push NSU's lead to 12-5.
But N.C. A&T wasn't done, scoring four times in the eighth and twice more in the ninth to add drama to this one. Myles Sowell's two-run single with two outs in the top of the ninth brought the Aggies within 12-11. Greg White followed with an infield single to load the bases, but Jonathan Mauricio
got Melendez to fly out to end it.
(6-2) picked up the win after working the first six innings for NSU, allowing five runs and eight hits. Anderson also picked up the save in Thursday's win over the Aggies. Jonathan Mauricio
earned the three-inning save, his first of the season.
White went 3-for-4 and Clary 3-for-5 for the Aggies, who finished with 15 hits. Sowell had three RBI.
N.C. A&T starter Michael Johnson was saddled with the loss. He gave up seven hits and eight runs, three earned, in 1.2 innings.
Hall's two-homer game was the first of his career and the first by a Spartan since Alex Mauricio
did it against Lafayette in February of 2016. Hall has hit all of his team-leading four homers in the last five weeks of play, while Baughan's shot was his second of the season and fourth extra-base hit of the tourney.