NCCU clinches spot in MEAC's with win over Florida A&M
Posted April 27
Durham, N.C. — Through the first five innings, Florida A&M seemed to be on a path to ruin Senior Day, but North Carolina Central University’s “Cardiac Eagles” did it again. Trailing 11-4 heading into the bottom of the fifth, the maroon and gray scored the next 11 runs in the game to take the rubber match between the two to win the series 15-11 on Sunday afternoon at the Durham Athletic Park.
For the second straight game, the much-improved Rattler program jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Eagles would not die.
In the bottom of the third, freshman Carlos Ortiz (Cleveland, Ohio) crushed his fourth home run of the year to right field to finally get NCCU on the board at 5-1 after leaving men stranded through the first two innings.
The Rattlers responded with a two-run bomb to left centerfield by Michael Birdsong to make it 7-1 heading to the bottom of the fourth.
Sophomore Christian Triplett (Wilkesboro, N.C.) revved up the Eagle offense with a one-out double, followed up by a Zack Lee (Wilson, N.C.) two out walk, when Ortiz did it again with a bomb to right field, his fifth of the year, to make it 7-4 to bring the home faithful to their feet.
Florida A&M’s potent offensive attack recovered to strike four more runs on the board in the top of the fifth to take a commanding 11-4 lead on the maroon and gray as senior Bennie Robinson ripped a single to drive in two runs with the bases loaded for the Rattlers.
FAMU did not score the rest of the day, while the Cardiac Eagles were just getting cranked up.
In the bottom of the fifth with NCCU trailing 11-4 sophomore James Dey (Charlotte, N.C.) followed up senior Carter Williamson’s single with his first career home run to trim the margin to five at 11-6. After redshirt junior Eric Kimber (Greensboro, N.C.) and freshman Jared Kehagias (Sanford, N.C.) were retired to put two outs on the board, Triplett’s single
Followed up by a Kory Wood (Spring Lake, N.C.) walk began another three run two out rally for the maroon and gray as Lee registered a two RBI single as well as Tyson Simpson (Burgaw, N.C.) ripped an RBI single and the lead diminished to just two at 11-9.
FAMU threatened to score for the sixth consecutive inning, but the Eagles tightened up in the sixth with the bases loaded while Kimber’s second career triple to left centerfield allowed the maroon and gray to tie the game at 11 after six complete.
After a second straight scoreless inning, the Eagles put the Rattlers away for good in bottom of the seventh with four runs to take a 15-11 lead, highlighted by Triplett’s two RBI single and Wood’s RBI single as well.
NCCU led 15-11 heading down the stretch and sophomore righty Andrew Vernon (Raleigh, N.C.) closed the game to earn the win with his 3.0 innings of work with four strikeouts in the comeback win.
Ortiz finished the day 4-for-5 with two home runs, four RBI, and three runs scored, while Triplett went 3-for-3 with a double, two RBI, and two runs scored.
Florida A&M’s Birdsong went 3-for-4 with a home run, four RBI, and two runs scored to led the Rattler offense in the loss.
During the weekend, the maroon and gray hit seven home runs as a team and batted .326 as Williamson led the Eagles going .533 at-the-dish (8-for-15) with a home run, four RBI and two runs scored, while Ortiz batted .467 (7-for-15) with three home runs and six RBI along with six runs scored.
NCCU (17-26-1, 12-10 MEAC) has clinched a berth into the MEAC Tournament which will take place on May 15-18 at Marty Miller Field in Norfolk, Va. with the only question remaining is which seed the maroon and gray will be. The Eagles could technically earn at least a share of the Southern Division title, stay tuned for more updates.