Wildcats Scoring Stalls in 5-3 Series Finale Loss at NCCU
DURHAM, N.C. - Although the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (19-20, 11-7 MEAC) controlled North Carolina Central (15-21-1, 10-7 MEAC) through five shutout innings, the Eagles came storming back and surmounted the Wildcats’ lead late in Sunday’s 5-3 series finale loss at Durham Athletic Park.
“We lost our approach and let them stick around,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “We were a little too complacent with winning the first two games and didn’t show that same hunger to win that third game.”
Bryant Munoz made it a 3-0 advantage, scoring from third on a James Dey passed ball, after reaching base on a leadoff single up the middle.
Although the Wildcats drove pitch counts on NCCU starter Alex Dandridge, extending his first inning count to 24 thrown, the Eagles’ sophomore right-hander continued to look sharp into the seventh, exiting with 126 pitches. Dandridge kept the Wildcats from extending their lead, giving NCCU a chance.
The beginnings of that opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth, with Zack Lee reaching on a leadoff single. Center fielder Carlos Ortiz brought the Eagles back into the picture with one big swing, hitting a two-run homer to the short porch in right field, drawing the B-CU lead to 3-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, walks proved to be the Wildcats’ undoing, as the tie and go-ahead runs each reached base on balls. Facing Michael Austin in the eighth, NCCU’s Eric Kimber singled through the left side, bringing in Christian Triplett for the 3-3 tie. Dey would put the Eagles up 4-3, scoring on a wild pitch.
Kimber went on to extend the NCCU lead on a hotly-contested sacrifice fly, managing to edge under Zach Olszewski’s tag at the plate for the 5-3 NCCU advantage.
In the top of the ninth, the Wildcats were downed in order by NCCU closer Andrew Vernon, who picked up his fourth save of the season. Jacob Russell (3-4) picked up the win, throwing one and a third with no hits. Responsible for the winning run, John Sever (3-4) takes the loss for B-CU, throwing one and two-thirds.
At the plate, the Wildcats came out strong, but struggled mightily in the latter innings. Munoz went 2-for-3, scoring one run, while McCarty was 1-for-4 with the two RBI.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats remain atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Southern division standings by one game over Florida A&M and NCCU, and have won three consecutive conference series.
The Wildcats have a single midweek matchup, on Tuesday at North Florida, heading back to the Tarheel State for a Good Friday doubleheader and Saturday series finale at North Carolina A&T.