By Michael Morrell/Special to FAMU Athletics
DURHAM, NC –Florida A&M (19-22, 11-8 MEAC) split a conference doubleheader with North Carolina Central (16-26-1, 11-10 MEAC) on Saturday at the DurhamAthleticPark in Durham, NC. The Eagles rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the eighth inning of game one to win 8-5, while the Rattlers bounced back to take game two 7-3 while pounding out 11 hits.
Marlon Gibbs was 4-for-8 on the day with one RBI and three runs scored, including his first home run of the season. Bennie Robinson added three RBI over both games while hitting 3-for-9 and two runs scored.
Brandon Fleming (3-4) suffered the loss in game one for the Rattlers after allowing four runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings of relief. Game two starter David Duncan (3-4) won the second game for Florida A&M while giving up three runs on six hits with four strikeouts in five solid innings of work.
FAMU grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning of game one. Gibbs smacked his first home run of the season, a two out shot to give the Rattlers the early lead.
NCCU answered with a pair of solo home runs by Carlos Ortiz and Carter Williamson in the home half of the first inning to give the Eagles a 2-1 advantage.
The Rattlers would tie the game at 2-2 in the top of the fourth. Gibbs led off the fourth inning with a single to left and moved to second courtesy of a balk from Eagles starting pitcher Kyle Shields. Ryan Kennedy followed with a groundout to second to advance Gibbs to third before Jeremy Barlow’s sac fly to left plated Gibbs for the tying run. After scoring the tying run, Florida A&M worked the bases loaded with two outs before Logan Seymour grounded out to third to end the scoring opportunity.
The Eagles had a scoring chance in the fifth as Zack Lee reached on an error to lead off the inning and stole second with no outs. After a pair of fly outs, Williamson was intentionally walked before Rattler starting pitcher Jarrell shut the door on the NCCU scoring chance by striking out Bryant Battle to end the inning.
Central regained the lead at 3-2 in the seventh on Williamson’s RBI single through the right side. Ortiz was hit-by-pitch and moved up two bases to third on a two-out single to right from Tyson Simpson to setup Williamson’s go ahead RBI single.
FAMU took their first lead since the first inning at 5-3 in the eighth. Bennie Robinson’s two-run blast off the warehouse building that is located beyond the fence in right gave FAMU the lead in the eighth inning at 4-3. After a Gibbs single, Michael Birdsong reached on a fielder as NCCU second baseman Jared Kehagias dropped the ball, for a fielding error, trying to catch Gibbs advancing to second base. With runners on first and second, Ryan Hutson singled to second but Kehagias second error of the inning, this time with a high throw to first, allowed Gibbs to score all the way from second base.
After falling behind 5-3 in the top of the eighth, North Carolina Central answered with five runs on three hits in the eighth. Simpson’s three-run home run off the first pitch from Rattler reliever Blake Quillin proved to be the difference for the final score of 8-5 in game one.
Just as they did in game one Florida A&M scored first in game two. The Rattlers scored a pair of runs on four hits in the first inning. Quillin and Robinson recorded back-to-back singles to lead off the game and Gibbs sac bunt back to the pitcher moved both runners up a base. With runners now on second and third, Kennedy singled through the right side to plate Quillin for the first run of the game and Birdsong followed with an RBI double off the fence in right to score Robinson.
The Rattlers pushed their lead to 5-0 with three more runs in the top of the third in what turned out to be more than the Eagles could overcome. Birdsong and Kennedy had back-to-back, one out, base hits and Kennedy later advanced to third on Hutson’s fly out to right. Kendall Weeks’ RBI single plated Kennedy for the third run of the game for FAMU. Peter Jackson continued the scoring with a two-run double to right, bringing home both Birdsong and Weeks for the second and third runs of the inning.
NCCU cut into the Florida A&M lead with three runs on three hits in the fifth for the score of 5-3. Kehagias opened the home half of the fifth drawing a four-pitch walk for the Eagles and scored all the way from first on Christian Triplett’s RBI double down the left line for the first run of game two for NCCU. Kory Wood followed with a triple into the left center gap to plate Triplett and Lee’s RBI ground out to second allowed Wood to score the third and final run of the game for Central.
FAMU increased its lead to what was the final score of 7-3 in game two with two more runs in the sixth inning. Jackson walked and Ferdinand Rondon singled to right with one out, before Quillin reached on a fielder’s choice to put Jackson on third as Rondon was out at second on the play. Jackson then came home to score on a wild pitch from Eagle reliever Morris Jones and an RBI single from Robinson later scored Quillin from second.
Central reliever Jake Russell (4-4) earned the game one win for the Eagles, while game two starter Terry McNabb (2-7) was tagged with the loss.
Florida A&M and North Carolina Central will wrap up their regular season series on Sunday at 1:00 pm.
As always, fans can follow Rattler Baseball on Twitter @FAMUAthletics and live stats will be available via www.FAMUAthletics.com.