Stokes' Home Runs Lift Wildcats in 10-2 Stetson Win
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Three home runs and a big final frame lifted the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (19-17) to a big 10-2 victory over the Stetson Hatters (15-18), Monday night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark for the Wildcats’ first win over their Volusia county rival since 2011.
Though Bethune-Cookman fell behind early as the Hatters created trouble for starter Montana Durapau in the first frame, the Wildcats wouldn’t be kept down for long. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second, first baseman Anthony Stokes logged his second longball in the last three games, launching a solo home run beyond the left field wall to tie the game. Matt Noble followed up with the go-ahead run on a first-pitch solo homer to the same location as the next batter up, pushing the ‘Cats to a 2-1 advantage.
The Hatters countered with back-to-back base hits in the top of the fourth, taking advantage of a B-CU error to bring home one run and narrow the deficit to a single run. With the inning still in contention, Noble halted the Hatters’ chances to go for more, leaping to snatch a line drive for the third out.
The Hatters stuck with starter Chad Rood after the early scoring and it paid off through the middle innings, as the senior right-hander held the Wildcats off the board for two more innings. However, a 4-0 walk to open the sixth inning gave the Wildcats an opportunity and they grabbed it. Stokes made him pay for the middle-in pitch, crushing the two-run jack over the left field batting cages, lifting B-CU to a 6-2 advantage.
Two frames later, facing Ike Greenspon, the Wildcats went to work quickly to put the game out of reach, as Clay Middleton started B-CU off with a single to left field and Josh Johnson’s fielder’s choice put runners at the corners as Tyler Warmoth took the mound. Brandon Turner collected an RBI with solid contact to right field to bring Middleton in. Eros Modena followed up with an RBI single through the left side, and Eric Sams capped off the inning with a two-run triple fired over first base to blow the game open to a 10-2 B-CU lead.
After assuming pitching duties in the top of the seventh, freshman Michael Austin closed the deal in the top of the ninth, limiting the Hatters to a single hit in the final frame, earning his second save on a three-inning performance, allowing three hits and striking out three Stetson Batters.
“[Head] Coach [Jason] Beverlin has given me a couple of new pitches to throw and it has worked out well,” Austin said. “I’ve been able to control them and throw them for strikes. It just keeps the hitters off-balance so they don’t know what’s coming.”
Durapau (5-3) earned the win in his 10th start, showed great command to throw six effective innings, allowing just one earned run and one walk, while striking out four.
Crowned MEAC Player of the Week late Monday afternoon, Stokes lived up to the honor with 3-for-4 hitting for three RBI and two runs scored.
“He definitely gave us the momentum and gave us the lead. Those were really big [hits] today,” Beverlin said.
Since returning to the B-CU lineup over the weekend, Stokes has been putting up big numbers at the plate, batting 7-for-13 with three home runs, a triple, a double and 10 RBI.
“Since he came back after being away for four games, he’s been outstanding. He’s definitely a big lift to our team,” Beverlin noted of Stokes.
Turner, Sams and Noble each went 2-for-4. Sams had two RBI, while Turner and Noble logged one RBI each.
With the win, the Wildcats’ win streak moves to five, matching the existing season-best streak from February. This also marks the Wildcats’ first win over the Hatters since April 2011, while tonight Stetson Head Coach Pete Dunn coached his 2000th game as a collegiate head coach.
Wrapping up a stretch of five games in four days, the Wildcats head to Jacksonville tomorrow for a 6:30 p.m. rematch with Jacksonville (11-21) at JU’s John Sessions Stadium. The Wildcats won 3-2 when these teams met on March 13 at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
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