Durham, NC - Florida A&M (19-23, 11-9 MEAC) took an 11-4 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning but fell 15-11 to North Carolina Central (17-26-1, 12-10 MEAC) in a wild game on Sunday afternoon at the Durham Athletic Park. The two teams combined for 26 runs and 31 hits, including 18 runs from the third through fifth innings, in the regular season series finale.
Blake Quillin, Michael Birdsong and Ferdinand Rondon each went 3-for-4 on the day for the Rattler offense, while Quillin and Birdsong combined for seven RBI. The top five in the batting order for FAMU combined to go 9-for-22 with three doubles, a home run and nine RBI in the loss.
William Carrasco (3-4) took the loss after allowing four runs on five hits over the final 2.2 innings.
FAMU scored first for the third straight game to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Quillin was hit-by-pitch to start the game and Bennie Robinson reached on a fielder’s choice as Quillin was out at second. Marlon Gibbs singled through the right side and Ryan Kennedy was also hit-by-pitch to load the bases with one out. Birdsong hit into a fielder’s choice as well but it allowed Robinson to score from third for the game’s first run.
Rattler starting pitcher Kendal Weeks worked out of a little jam in the bottom of the first to keep the NCCU off the board. Carlos Ortiz drew a five-pitch walk with one out and the very next batter, Tyson Simpson, was hit-by-pitch to put runners at first and second. Weeks then pitched Carter Williamson to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the first inning.
Florida A&M added a run in the second to increase its lead to 2-0 over the Eagles. Devin Perry singled and came around to score from first on Quillin’s RBI double to right.
The FAMU lead jumped to 5-0 in the third with three runs on four hits, highlighted by Quillin’s second double of the game, this time scoring two runs.
NCCU put a run on the board as Ortiz led off the bottom of the third with a home run to right to make the score 5-1.
The Rattlers pushed their lead to 7-1 on Birdsong’s two-run home run in the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the fourth the Eagles cut the deficit to three by a score of 7-4 on Ortiz’s three-run home run. Christian Triplett ripped a one out double down the left line and Zack Lee was walked with two outs before Ortiz’s blast reduced the Rattler lead.
Florida A&M answered right back with four runs on five hits in the top of the fifth for a score of 11-4. Perry walked while Rondon and Quillin recorded back-to-back singes with no outs to load the bases. Robinson followed with a two-run single to bring home both Perry and Rondon, while Quillin advanced to third. Quillin would come home for FAMU’s tenth run of the game on Gibbs’ sac fly to right. With one out, Kennedy singled to left to again put runners on first and second, then Birdsong’s RBI bloop single to left plated Robinson for the fourth run of the inning.
Central made the game a lot tighter, at 11-9, with five runs in the home half of the fifth. James Dey had a two-run home run while Lee had a two-run single and Tyson Simpson added an RBI single in the inning for the Eagles.
In the FAMU sixth, Rondon singled to center with one out, Quillin walked and Gibbs reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with two outs, but Kennedy grounded out to third to end the Rattler scoring threat.
North Carolina Central would tie the game at 11 with a pair of runs in bottom of the sixth. Eric Kimber scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded and Kory Wood’s sac fly to right plated Jared Kehagias for the second run of the inning.
North Carolina Central took its first lead of the game in the seventh inning and it proved top be enough for the win for a final score of 15-11. With the game tied at 11 in the bottom of the seventh, Ortiz ripped a single into center field and Simpson walked before Williamson laid down a sac bunt to move up both runners. FAMU reliever William Carrasco intentionally walked Dey to load the bases and setup the double play opportunity with one out, but hit Kimber to plate the Eagles go ahead run. After Carrasco struckout Kehagias for out number two, Triplett’s two-run single and an RBI single from Wood put NCCU up for good.
Eagles reliever Andrew Vernon (2-1) earned the win for Central after holding FAMU scoreless over the final three innings with four strikeouts.
The Rattlers return to action next weekend at Moore-Kittles field to wrap up the MEAC portion of their schedule against North Carolina A&T (16-27, 9-11 MEAC). The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday, May 3 beginning at 1:00 pm and the series finale will be held on Sunday, May 4 at 1:00 pm.
As always, fans can follow Rattler Baseball on Twitter @FAMUAthletics and live stats will be available via www.FAMUAthletics.com.