By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Aggies Win MEAC Title: Coach Shumate Makes ALL the Right Moves
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA.—N.C. A&T baseball coach Keith Shumate came upon by the last week of March with his team 7-17 and coming off of a blowout loss.He needed clutch hitting. So he permanently inserted Nic Mayo into the leadoff spot. Despite his 0-for26 start, Shumate re-inserted Phillip Brewington into the No. 2 spot in the order because Brewington made contact which Shumate hoped would eventually turn into hits. Then he placed 6-foot-6 freshman Patrick Oates behind his slugging cleanup hitter Charlie Gamble in the hopes the power-hitting first baseman could make teams pay for pitching around Gamble.What Shumate and his Aggies received for his hunch was clutch hitting and the 2005 MEAC Championship thanks to a 10-9 win over Norfolk State on Sunday. The win clinches an NCAA berth for the Aggies in a double elimination four-game regional scheduled to start in June.
“Our weakness at the beginning of the year became our strength at the end,’’ Shumate said. “We get hits in the clutch now, and we feel like that has raised the level of our offense. We don’t have to rely on a certain individual to deliver a clutch hit for us, we feel like we have guys up and down our lineup who can deliver in the clutch.”
Seven of the Aggies 10 runs came with two outs in the inning, including a six-run first that came together after two outs. The biggest two-out hit of the game came in the seventh, however. With the game tied at nine thanks to an RBI single from Mayo in the seventh, Brewington grounded out to third for the second out of the inning.
MEAC Player of the Year, Jeremy Jones then stepped to the plate with Mayo on second and Chris Williams on third. Jones hit a hard ground ball to third that diving Norfolk State third baseman Juan Serrano knocked down but couldn’t gather, which allowed Williams to score what would eventually be the game-winning run and Jones to reach first with an RBI single. After surrendering two runs in the top of the seventh that gave the Spartans a 9-8 lead, Richard Hawk set the Spartans down in order in the eighth. Michael Hauff, who had 12 strikeouts in Game 1 of the tournament for the Aggies as their starter, came on in relief in the ninth.
The Aggies are the first team not named Bethune-Cookman to win the MEAC baseball title in six years. Banks, Serrano and Bush made the all-tournament team for the Spartans, while Gamble, Joe McIntyre, Rual Santiago and Hauff earned all-tournament honors for the Aggies. McIntyre was named tournament MVP as he went 9-for-16 in the tournament with six RBI.