Greensboro, NC – Ryan Anderson and Aubrey McCarty knew what was at stake when they took the mound Friday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium and behind strong outings from both junior right-handed pitchers Florida A&M (26-23, 14-9 MEAC) defeated North Carolina A&T (25-23, 14-9 MEAC) by scores of 6-4 and 8-1 to take both games of the doubleheader.
With both wins, the Rattlers clinched a spot in the upcoming MEAC Tournament in Salisbury, Maryland.
Anderson (4-2) continued his second half success and set the tone early by retiring the side in the home half of the first inning after the Rattlers spotted him a 1-0 lead. The Brandon, FL native allowed just two earned runs and scattered six hits through eight innings pitched and struck out five.
Thomas Nicoll pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his third save of the season in Game 1.
In Game 2, Aubrey McCarty (6-4) kept the trend going, pitching six shutout innings for the Rattlers and allowed only three hits.
The Florida A&M pitching staff did not walk a single batter and allowed just 10 hits through 16 innings on the afternoon.
Offensively, the Rattlers tallied 14 runs on 18 hits through both games. Aubrey McCarty (3-for-6, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI) led Florida A&M at the plate all afternoon. In Game 1, Garrett Wilkinson (2-for-4, 3 R), Brian Davis (2-for-4, 2B), and Kodi Russ (2-for-3, 2 R, RBI) had multi-hit performances, while Kaycee Reese (2-for-3, R, RBI) had multiple hits in Game 2.
Dallas Oliver extended his hitting streak to 17 games on the afternoon after going 1-for-5 both games.
Marcello Betances (5-4) took the loss in Game 1 after allowing three runs on five hits through five innings of work, while Kaeson Wilson (4-7) suffered the loss in Game 2 after giving up five runs on four hits in four innings pitched.
Game 1 Scoring
Aubrey McCarty gave the Rattlers the lead in the top of the first inning with a line drive single into center field. Garrett Wilkinson got the inning started with a single and Brian Davis walked to put runners on first and second with two outs for McCarty who's single gave FAMU a 1-0 advantage.
The Aggies tied the game in the bottom of the third inning with the help of two FAMU errors. After the leadoff hitter reached on a throwing error, Forest Kimbrell singled to left field and the ball was misplayed by Dallas Oliver in left, allowing the runner to score all the way from first and knot the score at 1-1.
Florida A&M regained the lead with a single run in the top of the fourth. McCarty singled through the right side and Kodi Russ walked, putting runners on first and second with no outs. McCarty was thrown out at third on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Kaycee Reese, then Danny Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Javon Byrd made the score 2-1 with an RBI fielder's choice before a strikeout ended the inning.
FAMU added a single run in the top of the fifth to make the score 3-1. Wilkinson walked to start the inning and Davis doubled down the right field line, putting runners on second and third with one out. McCarty then drove in his second run of the day with a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Wilkinson from third.
North Carolina A&T scored their second unearned run of the day in the bottom of the sixth inning without recording a hit. The leadoff hitter reached on an error and advanced to third after a sacrifice bunt and a fly out. With two outs, the runner then came in to score on a wild pitch, trimming the Rattlers' lead to 3-2.
Florida A&M gave themselves some breathing room with three runs on five hits in the top of the seventh inning. The Rattlers loaded the bases with no outs after a single by Wilkinson, walk by Willis McDaniel, and a single by Davis. McCarty grounded into a double play and Wilkinson came in to score for the first run. Russ, Reese, and Rodriguez then recorded three consecutive two-out singles to bring in two more runs for the Rattlers and give them a 6-2 lead.
The Aggies trimmed the deficit to two in the bottom of the eighth with two runs on three hits. With one out, NCAT recorded three consecutive singles to plate the first run, and a sacrifice fly made it a 6-4 game before Anderson recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
Game 2 Scoring
Florida A&M jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with two runs in the top of the second inning. Davis and McCarty walked to start the frame, and Reese singled to load the bases with one out. Rodriguez then reached on a throwing error by the shortstop, allowing two runners to score for FAMU, before a strikeout and a groundout stranded runners on the corners.
Garrett Wilkinson extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the third with a solo home run to right field – his third of the season.
The Rattlers scored for the third consecutive inning in the top of the fourth. Rodriguez reached on an error and Javon Byrd singled to right field to put runners on first and third with one out for Oliver, who drove in Rodriguez with a single to center, giving FAMU a 4-0 lead.
Florida A&M added a single run in the top of the fifth on one hit, but left the bases loaded. Davis was hit by a pitch and McCarty walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. McDaniel advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt and Reese singled to center, scoring Davis from third. Rodriguez then worked a walk, loading the bases with one out, but a strikeout and a groundout ended the Rattlers' threat.
Aubrey McCarty launched a two-run home run just inside the right field foul pole in the top of the sixth to give Florida A&M a 7-0 advantage. With one out, Ben Ellzey walked before Davis reached on a fielder's choice and McCarty sent his MEAC-leading eighth home run of the season sailing over the right field fence.
The Rattlers scored one run in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Ellzey, making the score 8-0.
North Carolina A&T scored their only run of Game 2 on a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning for a final score of 8-1.
Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T will play the series finale at War Memorial Stadium tomorrow at 1:00 PM.
The Rattlers still have a chance to earn the No. 1 overall seed from the Southern Division in the MEAC Tournament but must win tomorrow to do so. If FAMU wins tomorrow they are guaranteed the No. 2 seed in the tournament, however if they lose they will enter as the No. 3 seed.
As always, fans can follow Florida A&M Baseball on Twitter @BaseballFAMU and on Facebook.