By Michael Morrell/Special to FAMU Athletics
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Michael Birdsong’s walk-off RBI single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning scored Marlon Gibbs to lift Florida A&M (21-24, 13-10 MEAC) 4-3 over North Carolina A&T (16-32, 9-15 MEAC) on Sunday afternoon at Moore-Kittles Field. The win marked the eighth straight win for FAMU in games decided by one run and the 13 MEAC wins is also a school record.
Brandon Fleming (4-4) worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief for the win. Ryan Kennedy led the Rattlers going 4-for-5 at the plate, while Birdsong added two RBI for FAMU on the day. The middle of the Florida A&M batting order combined to go 9-for-18 with three RBI and all four runs scored.
All three runs scored by A&T were unearned.
The Aggies had a scoring opportunity go by the wayside in the top of the fifth inning. Kyle Clary led off the fifth with a single through the left side and stole second with one out. After a fly out in foul territory that allowed Clary to tag up and advance to third, Luke Tendler was walked for the third time to put runners on the corners. Tendler immediately stole second but a fly out to right by Ryan Hill stranded the runners, keeping the Aggies off the board.
FAMU broke open a scoreless game with three runs in the sixth inning. Gibbs drew a walk to open the home half of the inning and Kennedy followed with a single into right center to put runners on first and second. Still with no outs, Jeremy Barlow ripped an RBI double down the left line to plate Gibbs for the first run of the game. With runners at second and third, Birdsong doubled down the right line to score Kennedy, but Barlow held up at third. Luckily, Hutson’s sac fly to center plated Barlow in what turned out to be a very important third run of the inning to make the score 3-0.
In the seventh inning, the Aggies had a runner in scoring position, but again was unable to bring the run home. Bo McMillan reached on a fielding error by Kennedy to start the inning. Brandon Mitchell followed with a walk before John Marcus Roberts came in for relief of Rattler starter Kendal Weeks with one out and runners on first and second. On the very first batter, Roberts pitched Tendler into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and ending another scoring chance for North Carolina A&T.
The Aggies would tie the game at 3-3 with three runs in the eighth. Hill’s infiled single started it all for A&T and he later moved to second on Jergens’ groundout to first. Hill scored A&T’s first run on a throwing error by Barlow while trying to steal third. With one out, Lester Salcedo singled through the left side and Wilkerson walked putting runners on first and second. Brandon Fleming came in to pitch for Florida A&M as Stefan Jordan flied out to right. Clary’s RBI single to right plated Salcedo and with Wilkerson on third, the Aggies pulled off the double steal allowing Wilkerson to score the tying run.
A&T had things working in the top of the 10th inning as Jordan singled to left with one out. In what turned out to be a big play, Jordan was picked off at first with one out as Clary who was at bat was sitting on two strikes. Clary ended up grounding out to third on the next pitch to end the Aggie inning.
In dramatic fashion, Florida A&M loaded the bases and scored the game winning run in the bottom of the 10th for a final score of 4-3. After Robinson flew out to left to lead off the bottom of the inning, Gibbs and Kennedy recorded back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second. Barlow followed with a walk on six pitches to load the bases with one out. With the outfield playing in, Birdsong came through in a huge way with the game-winning RBI single to score Gibbs from third.
Aggie reliever Dylan Hipp (1-1) was tagged with the loss after his base runner turned out to score the game winning run. Hipp allowed just one run on two hits in 1/3 of an inning.
The Rattlers close out the home schedule by hosting Jacksonville (15-27, 8-12 A-SUN) on Tuesday at 5:00 pm at Moore-Kittles Field. Florida A&M will then travel to Jacksonville on Wednesday, May 7, to close out the regular season. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 pm.
As always, fans can follow Rattler Baseball on Twitter @FAMUAthletics and live stats will be available via www.FAMUAthletics.com.