Wildcats Close Series-Opening Sweep with Crushing Rally
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (17-17, 9-5 MEAC) stuck with the game plan in both series-opening contests versus the Florida A&M Rattlers (2-31, 2-12 MEAC), finishing off the Rattlers for a big two-win day. B-CU logged hits throughout the opener, finally culminating in a comfortable lead through the middle innings to win 4-1. In game two, B-CU faced playing from behind, weathering the storm until a sixth inning homer opened the doors for 14 runs in a dominating final two frames, going on to win 16-3.
The Wildcats made solid contact throughout the opening innings but didn’t convert until the top of the fourth, when Eric Sams reached second on a double down the line to the right field corner. Freshman catcher Chris Biocic put the Wildcats in the scorebook with a line drive RBI single over the third baseman’s glove.
The Wildcats tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth as Eros Modena led off with a hard liner into left and came home on Sams’ RBI single over second base. Sams crossed the plate himself on Matt Noble’s RBI single through the left side, rounding two bags en route to the plate, pushing B-CU on top 3-0.
In the top of the eighth, Noble reached base on balls and scored B-CU’s final run from first on C. Biocic’s RBI triple to the right center gap, giving the Wildcats a 4-0 advantage.
The Rattlers made a push in the final frame, using a pair of singles to set up a sacrifice fly before the final out dropped in for a flyout in right field.
“We came up with some big hits and scored just enough to win,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said.
Starter Scott Garner (3-4) made a career-long nine inning complete game appearance, allowing just a single earned run and one walk, while tying a career high with seven strikeouts.
“The first game, it was all about Scott [Garner] and his ability to go deep into the game,” Beverlin said. “Once again he was in total control the whole game.”
The second game took a different tone early, as the Wildcats were forced to play from behind from the first inning forward, with the Rattlers first using three consecutive singles to score the initial run, adding a second run on a line drive into the chest of first baseman Anthony Stokes.
The Wildcats began their journey to battle back from the early 2-0 deficit in the top of the third, using a consecutive pair of base hits to put Brandon Turner in scoring position, converting the opportunity on Sams’ backside single through the left side.
The Wildcats knotted the game up in the fourth, capitalizing on a pair of FAMU errors, extending the inning on a dropped pop fly by left fielder Marlon Gibbs, allowing PJ Biocic to score.
The Rattlers responded in the bottom half of the frame, with Gibbs offering up a sacrifice fly to reclaim the FAMU lead at 3-2.
The trajectory of the game turned quickly as P. Biocic took a 1-2 pitch beyond the left field wall for his first career home run, pushing the game to a 3-3 tie initially, but jumpstarting the Wildcats’ offensive attack.
“Probably the biggest hit that inning was PJ’s home run to get us back to tied,” Beverlin said. “I think it kind of loosened everybody up. The guys did a great job those two innings swinging the bats and really putting up some runs.”
As Beverlin alluded to, the homer was just the beginning for the Wildcats. Josh Johnson followed up with a double to the outer shade of left field. Modena and David Lee joined him as hit and walked batters, respectively. Sams struck again, firing a bullet back at the pitcher to plate two runs and grant the Wildcats their first lead at 5-3, at a crucial juncture of the game.
An error at second base came back to haunt the Rattlers, setting the stage for a Stokes grand slam, extending the B-CU advantage to 9-3.
The onslaught did not end there for the ‘Cats, using a leadoff walk and second base error to reach double-digit scoring in the top of the seventh. Stokes made the Rattlers pay again, crushing a three-run triple to right field. P. Biocic coaxed out a walk and was joined by Stokes in crossing the plate on an error at first. Jake Welch pinch hit to cap off another seven-run inning with a sac fly, extending the lead to 16-3.
Relieving starter Byron Ferguson in the first, Michael Austin pitched an effective 3 2/3 innings, allowing one unearned run and striking out two. Christopher Waltermire (2-1) earned the win, closing out the game’s final three innings, allowing just two hits and no runs.
Eric Sams produced quite a day at the plate for the Wildcats, batting 6-for-8 with five RBI and four runs scored. Stokes’ contributions were evident, falling a double short of hitting the cycle at 3-for-5 with seven RBI, while C. Biocic was 3-for-4 with two RBI.
Following the doubleheader, the Wildcats were treated to the fine cooking of a postgame meal thanks to the hospitality of the Tallahassee branch of the Bethune-Cookman Alumni Association.
The Wildcats and Rattlers return to Moore-Kittles Field for the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m., as the Wildcats look to extend their win streak to four and move back over the .500 mark on the year.
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.