NC A&T Sports Information
Mitchell hit a first-pitch fastball over the right-field fence at War Memorial for an eighth-inning grand slam to lift the North Carolina A&T baseball team to an 11-8 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. The Aggies (2-8) avoided the three-game sweep at the hands of the Knights (3-3) after losing the first two games of the series. They also snapped a six-game losing streak.
In his first game as the Aggies leadoff man this season, senior Bo McMillan contributed to the victory by going 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Senior Micah Carmony had 2-for-4 afternoon with two RBI and his third home run of the season. Freshman Milton Rivera also had two hits and scored twice.
But the biggest swing of the day came from Mitchell. He went 2-for-4 at the plate, scored twice and recorded five RBI. “Brandon’s been doing it all year,” said interim head coach Ben Hall. “He had a big hit in our win over Navy. He’s got a lot of confidence, and he’s worked his butt off all fall and all spring to put him in that position. So it’s no surprise.”
Despite his big day, it was perhaps one of Mitchell’s outs that made the biggest impact. In a game that had nine lead changes, A&T had just regained the lead 7-6 on a throwing error that allowed Carmony to score in the sixth inning. FDU right-hand relief pitcher Jose DeLeon then walked Rivera and Adan Ordonez to load the bases with two outs and Mitchell coming to the plate.
FDU head coach Gary Puccio decided to let senior right-hander Yonah Perline face Mitchell. It worked out well for the Knights as Perline fooled Mitchell on a 1-2 fastball to strike him out and end the inning. The strikeout was significant because the Knights were able to regain the lead in the eighth inning. Dylan Sprague led off the inning with a towering home run that easily cleared the right-field fence off senior right-hander Mitchell McQueen to tie the game at 7.
Ryan Brennan kept the inning going by reaching on an error. He was eliminated from the base paths on a fielder’s choice that allowed John Giakas to reach. Patrick McClure brought Giakas home with a double down the left-field line for an 8-7 lead. Lefty Dylan Hipp replaced McQueen and retired two Knights to end the inning after walking the first man he faced.
“I was happy with our pitchers today,” said Hall. “(I tell them) nothing is going to be perfect and laid out for you. You’re not going to get a perfect inning sometimes. We’ve got to be better in certain scenarios, but I was glad they didn’t let it snowball on them.”
A&T’s bats aided the Aggies pitchers in a big way in the eighth inning. Senior catcher Lester Salcedo opened the inning by reaching on an error. After speedy pinch-runner Myles Sowell replaced Salcedo, Ordonez singled through the left side to put runners on first and third. The inning ran into a hiccup as Sowell was thrown out at home after Timothy Ravare hit into a fielder’s choice. With two runners on Perline walked Rivera on five pitches to load the bases, setting up Mitchell’s heroics.
On his first pitch to Mitchell, Perline tried to breeze the fastball past him again. This time the switch hitter hitting from the left side was prepared. He bludgeoned Perline’s pitch for his first career grand slam. When Mitchell rounded first he threw his hands up in a vigorous celebration.
“I was pretty excited,” Mitchell said. “It’s been a rough few weeks, so it was good to get a win.”
The Aggies were not quite off the hook yet. Hipp walked the leadoff batter in the ninth. Righty Jason Gifford replaced him and walked Matt McCann in between getting a fly out and a strikeout. Gifford then walked Giakas to load the bases before getting McClure to hit into a game-ending fielder’s choice to earn his first career save. Hipp (1-0) picked up the win while Perline (0-1) was the losing pitcher. McCann led the Knights with three hits while McClure had two RBI.
A&T returns to action Tuesday when travels to Rock Hill, S.C. to face Wintrhop at 6 p.m.