Wildcats Top NCCU, 3-2 in Series Finale Pitcher's Duel
DURHAM, N.C. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (9-8, 5-1 MEAC) snapped the series tie with a late-inning push against the North Carolina Central Eagles (9-7, 3-3) to claim the 3-2 victory in the series finale Sunday at Durham Athletic Park.
Riding on the strength of solid pitching and defense, B-CU's victory gave the Wildcats an early lead in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) standings.
If fans were looking for a high-scoring affair, they were in the wrong place, as reigning MEAC Co-Pitchers of the Week, B-CU's Montana Durapau and NCCU's Terry McNabb, faced off.
The Eagles struck first in the bottom of the second, as back-to-back base hits brought in the first run on catcher Carter Williamson's RBI double deep down the right field line. Williamson wasn't on the bases long, scoring the second run on a Zach Lee groundout.
The Wildcats were quick to counter, as Shaun McCarty led off the top of the third with a four-pitch walk and Brandon Turner collected B-CU's first hit, a single to shallow center. With both runners sacrificed into scoring position on Josh Johnson's bunt, Eric Sams brought McCarty home on a sacrifice fly and Matt Noble punched a game-tying RBI single to right center to score Turner and make it a 2-2 game.
From there on, the teams settled into a pitcher's duel, with no additional runs on the board until the eighth when B-CU converted an opportunity with outstanding extra-base effort from David Lee.
The senior right fielder reached on a one-out walk and wheeled the bases, from first, for the eventual winning run on Anthony Stokes' line-drive double down the left foul line, earning B-CU its first lead of the game.
"That was big for our team, obviously, and big for Stokes," Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. "We need him to get going. To see him get that big hit was really good."
When the Wildcats were unable to secure an insurance run in the ninth, it all came down to Durapau's final frame.
Consecutive line drives from the Eagles put away the first two batters, but third baseman Troy Marrow battled to a full count and reached as a hit batter to bring up Williamson. Over possibly the most tense four minutes of the season to date, Williamson battled to a nine-pitch full count before Durapau slammed the door with a curveball for the looking strikeout.
"I told him, 'you keep us at two runs and we're going to score' and he kept us right there; held them down the rest of the way," Beverlin said. "I felt like he went that far, it was his game to win or lose, and he came up big."
Durapau (3-0) secured his third complete game win of the year, allowing four hits, two earned runs and one walk while striking out four Eagles.
McNabb (2-2) took the loss, going 7 1/3 innings before giving way to Jacob Russell.
B-CU held the Eagles to just four hits, utilizing the strength of the Wildcats' infielders making key plays, including their fifth double play on a crucial third-inning stop.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to our infielders. They turned a bunch of double plays this weekend, which was huge. It was great to see them come out and play the way they did," Beverlin commented.
The Wildcats were limited to six hits, but made them count, led by Stokes' 2-for-4 performance with the game-winning RBI. Turner also was 2-for-4 on the day, while Noble and Sams each collected a RBI.
The Wildcats return to action on Tuesday, March 12, traveling to DeLand, Fla. to face Stetson (7-7) at Melching Field. The Hatters won their weekend series, 2-1, against Princeton on Sunday's 2-1 victory.
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