Wildcats Open MEAC Play Taking Both from FAMU
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Battling through a cold and gusty day at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (5-6, 2-0 MEAC) pulled through Saturday's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) doubleheader with the Florida A&M Rattlers (0-10, 0-2 MEAC), sweeping the day with 8-6 and 7-0 victories for a solid start to MEAC play.
In the opening game of the series, the Wildcats jumped out to a quick start, taking advantage of FAMU miscues. In the bottom of the second, Anthony Stokes made B-CU's first entry into the scorebook, reaching base and advancing to second on a fielding error, claiming third on a wild pitch. He crossed the plate to put B-CU on top 1-0 on Matt Noble's infield contact.
An infield overthrow into the FAMU dugout opened B-CU's fourth inning scoring spree, sending Eric Sams to second, Stokes joined him on base with a walk and Noble loaded the bases with a single through the left side.
B-CU capitalized, as a ball lost in the sun granted Chris Biocic an RBI single to right, and Shaun McCarty plated two RBI and advanced Biocic to third on a misplayed ball at third. Biocic would go on to score as Josh Johnson reached on a fielder's choice, providing B-CU a 5-0 lead after four frames.
FAMU began a late rally push, as walks and hit batters worked against the Wildcats in the top of the sixth, with an additional walk in a bases-loaded situation and a fielder's choice bringing in the first runs for the Rattlers, while Garrett Johnson's two-RBI single through the left side made it four on the frame.
FAMU converted opportunities in the seventh against the Wildcats' bullpen, opening with a Marlon Gibbs bullet double just inside third base, sacrificed to second, and came home to tie the game on a Jared Walker bloop single over the left side.
With bases loaded, B-CU went to always dependable closer Jordan Dailey with one out. A groundout provided a brief 6-5 lead for the Rattlers, but was hardly a kill stroke for the Wildcats.
Sams walked to lead off the eighth and moved into scoring position as Stokes layed down a sac bunt. Noble reached on another base on balls, and both advanced on a groundout. McCarty made a head first slide to beat an overthrown pickup from the FAMU shortstop and allowed the tie run to cross the plate. Johnson delivered in the clutch, reclaiming the lead with an RBI single smacked high off the outstretched third baseman's glove. McCarty added the icing, scoring from third on a passed ball for the 8-6 lead.
Dailey (1-0) attacked the strikezone in the top of the ninth, taking down the Rattlers in order with three consecutive strikeouts for the series-opening conference win, after pitching 2 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit to go with the three K's. Starter Ali Simpson completed held up five scoreless frames of 5 2/3 innings pitched, collecting three strikeouts.
For Florida A&M, Stephen Dollar (0-1) took the loss.
"The first game, we definitely didn't play our best, nor did they," Head Coach Jason Beverlin said, "and we were really fortunate to win that baseball game."
On the other side of the coin, the Wildcats came out extremely aggressive in all facets in the second outing and dominated from the opening frame, with starter Scott Garner quickly retiring FAMU's top order on three consecutive groundouts.
In the bottom half, Johnson led off with a high chopper to shortstop, beating the throw for the base hit. Modena reached on a fielder's choice, while David Lee and Sams followed up with singles to load up the bases, with Modena scoring on a wild pitch. The high-gusting wind shifted an outfield shot from Stokes, who churned out a two-RBI double on the play. Noble tacked up one more on an RBI single to center, claiming the 4-0 first inning lead.
The Wildcats held the comfortable lead on Garner's pitching effort, inducing 13 groundouts while allowing just four hits through seven innings.
Heading into the final lower frame, the Wildcats put any hopes of a FAMU rally out of reach. Modena got the 'Cats on the move, launching a double to the outer shade of left field. Lee reached on an error and stole second to add to the pressure. Modena was sacrificed in for the score by Sams, and Lee crossed the plate on Stokes' Texas Leaguer to left center. Matt Noble finished off the Rattlers with a triple to deep left center, batting in Stokes and expanding the lead to 7-0.
Garner (2-1) collected the groundouts B-CU needed and closed the top of the seventh with a swinging strikeout, securing the first-day sweep and his first complete game shutout of the season.
"He was tough," Beverlin said. "He was in total control the whole game and looked really good."
Bouncing back from his first loss of the season, last week, Garner allowed just four hits, walking one, and striking out three.
"It was definitely something I needed to do for me and for the team," Garner said. "I just knew I had to get down in the zone, and saw the first game with Ali [Simpson] and saw what he had success doing, to just go out there and try to emulate that."
After just three hits in the opening contest, the Wildcats responded with nine in the second outing of the doubleheader.
Noble led the Wildcats on the day, batting .429 on 3-for-7 hitting, tallying three RBI. Johnson also had a solid outing with three hits, while Stokes batted .333 and scoring four runs in addition to 3 RBI.
The Wildcats return to action on Sunday for the series finale with Florida A&M. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.