Wildcats Hold Off Aggies for Doubleheader Sweep
SANFORD, Fla. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (25-19, 14-6 MEAC) pulled out a pair of close victories to win the North Carolina A&T (13-26, 7-9 MEAC) series early, in Saturday’s series-opening doubleheader at historic Sanford Memorial Stadium. In both games, the Wildcats rallied on big innings to come from behind for wins of 4-2 and 4-3 over the Aggies.
“It was a good way to start the series,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “Whether you win pretty or win ugly, it doesn’t matter as long as you win.”
The Aggies jumped out to an early advantage in the opening contest, as first baseman Kelvin Freeman put out a home run to right field in the top of the first inning.
The Wildcats responded quickly, using back-to-back bunt singles and a hit batter to set up an Anthony Stokes sacrifice fly to center field, knotting the score at 1-1.
The Aggies again edged ahead in the top of the third, with a second home run, this time from shortstop Luke Tendler, again to right field, pushing NCAT up 2-1.
The Wildcats again responded on cue, first tying the game on Matt Noble’s RBI double to the left center wall, bringing Stokes across the plate. B-CU claimed its first lead of the day as Eric Sams came home on a Clay Middleton RBI groundout.
Looking for some cushion the Wildcats scored once again in the bottom of the fourth as Josh Johnson led off the frame with a double over third base deep down the left field line. Stealing third, Johnson capitalized on a pickoff error, coming home on the overthrow for the 4-2 advantage.
The remaining five innings turned to a pitcher’s chess match, as the Wildcats threatened in consecutive innings late, but were unable to add insurance runs. Meanwhile, B-CU starter Montana Durapau limited the Aggies to just three hits in the final five innings, with no runners advancing beyond first.
“Montana was great the first game,” Beverlin said. “He really only made a couple of mistakes. Other than that, he really was in total control the whole game, which is really big for us.”
Closing the top of the ninth with a pair of swinging strikeouts, Durapau (7-3) earned the victory, tallying his fourth complete game of the season after pitching nine innings, allowing two runs with no walks, while tying a season-best eight strikeouts in the win over the Aggies.
Returning for the second game, the Wildcats did not have the same stability on the mound as in the opening contest, as B-CU entered its first reliever in the top of the third, after two runs scored on Brandon Wilkerson’s single up the middle.
Blanked in the bottom of the frame, the Wildcats’ counter came in the bottom of the fourth, as both Johnson and Brandon Turner reached base on hard hit infield line singles. David Lee took a pitch to the helmet, but took his bag to load up the bases, and Stokes again made the Aggies pay, tying the score at 2-2 with a two-run single to left center, as Johnson and Turner stacked up en route to home on the play. Lee also crossed the dish, scoring on Noble’s sacrifice fly to left, granting B-CU the first advantage of the game.
As the game wound down, the Aggies made a push in the top of the sixth, tying the game on a single to shallow center at 3-3.
The Wildcats came through in the clutch, breaking the tie as Stokes scored on Middleton’s single through the right side, after battling back from an 0-2 count to reach base on a leadoff single and advance on a sac bunt and fielder’s choice.
B-CU’s fifth pitcher of the game, closer Jordan Dailey (4-0) defended the 4-3 lead in the seventh and final frame, closing the door on the victory inducing a double play and groundout to end the day with a 2-0 sweep.
Johnson led the Wildcats at the plate on the doubleheader, putting up a 4-for-8 performance and scoring two runs. Stokes topped the Wildcats in run production, batting 3-for-7 with three RBI and two runs scored.
“Stokes was great all day,” Beverlin said. “He did a great job of coming up with some big hits when he had two strikes on him.”
Noble and Middleton each logged a pair of RBI on the day.
On the doubleheader, the Wildcats put 27 runners on base and were a perfect 4-for-4 on stealing bases.
“Constantly putting pressure in them allowed us to score some runs,” Beverlin noted.
The Wildcats return to action with the Aggies on Sunday in Sanford, taking on the series finale with a 1 p.m. first pitch. The Wildcats are going for their second MEAC series sweep of the month.
For all the latest information on the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, follow the official Twitter feeds at @BCUathletics, @CookmanBaseball, or "Like Us" on Facebook at Bethune-Cookman Athletics.