PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – Norfolk State jumped out to a 5-0 lead after three innings, and Spartan pitchers Stephen Butt and Josh Vales made that stand up in a 5-4 Spartans’ win over Maryland Eastern Shore on Sunday afternoon as NSU clinched at least a share of the MEAC Northern Division regular-season title for the first time ever.
Mikey Bruno had two hits and an RBI for the Spartans (20-12, 16-5 MEAC North), while Butt fanned eight and allowed just three hits in seven strong innings. Vales picked up his fourth save with two scoreless innings of relief for the Spartans, who clinched the No. 1 seed from the northern division in next month’s MEAC tournament.
NSU also won its school-record 16thMEAC regular-season game on Sunday, topping the 2012 team that went 15-9. The Spartans, who won the season series from UMES six games to three, can win the division outright for the first time by taking at least one of three games from Coppin State in their final MEAC regular-season series next weekend at Marty L. Miller Field.
NSU plated two runs in the second. Ryan Kilmon led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice. Bruno then walked, and he and Kilmon executed a double steal to put two runners in scoring position. Noah Johnson‘s sacrifice fly scored Kilmon, and Bruno came home on a two-out error.
The Spartans pieced together a three-run rally in the third to take a 5-0 lead. Roger Hall and Angel Rosario led off with back-to-back singles and moved up on a sacrifice. Kilmon’s groundout scored Hall for the first run of the inning. Syeed Mahdi then walked, and he and Rosario executed a double steal with Rosario scoring from third to make it 4-0. Bruno capped the rally with a clutch two-out RBI single to stretch the advantage to 5-0.
UMES battled back with four unearned runs in the fourth as NSU committed three errors in the frame. Isaiah Chambers led off with a single before NSU made its first error of the inning. A Joshua James single loaded the bases, and one out later, two runs scored on the second Spartan miscue of the frame. Connor Breslin’s RBI single and Jordan Martin’s fielder’s choice grounder brought UMES within 5-4.
But the three singles in the fourth were all the Hawks’ hits in the game. Butt allowed just one baserunner in his final three innings of work. Vales then set down all six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings, two by strikeout, to seal the win for the Spartans.
Butt did not allow an earned run in his seven innings of work, as all four runs that scored in the fourth were unearned. Butt walked two and struck out eight. In the process, he lowered his season ERA to 2.22. NSU’s pitchers allowed just seven runs (three earned) and 11 hits in the three games with UMES this weekend.
Bruno went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored Sunday. Kilmon went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run.
The Spartans face VCU at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Richmond for the first of the teams’ two meetings in the next 10 days. NSU then returns home for its final seven games of the regular season, starting with a three-game series with Coppin State next Saturday and Sunday at Marty L. Miller Field.
Originally Posted By NSUSpartans.com