Wildcats Split NCCU Matchup in Final Home Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (21-18, 11-6 MEAC) opened up Jackie Robinson Appreciation Weekend and the North Carolina Central (22-16, 10-7 MEAC) series splitting the doubleheader in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) action, Saturday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. In the early game, the Wildcats held off the eagles for a 4-2 pitcher’s duel victory, but pitching miscues in game two doomed the ‘Cats to a 10-0 shutout.
The Wildcats were steady at the plate throughout the series opener and put in work early, capitalizing with Brandon Turner reaching as a hit batter, advancing on a wild pitch and putting B-CU in the scorebook on David Lee’s first inning RBI double to left field.
While the Wildcats were kept at bay for three innings, they did well to respond each time the Eagles threatened, first matching NCCU’s game-tying score on a double to right center, as Eros Modena reached base, advanced to third and later scored on Anthony Stokes’ line drive down the left baseline.
NCCU again pushed in the fifth, scoring on an RBI groundout, but the Wildcats pushed back, first reclaiming the lead with Clay Middleton scoring on Josh Johnson’s RBI groundout. The ‘Cats built in an insurance run as Eros Modena plated Shaun McCarty’s run on a first-pitch RBI single to shallow center field, granting the Wildcats a 4-2 advantage.
“I thought we did a great job the first game of doing some little things, offensively,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “We came up with some big hits and I think we did some really good things offensively.”
Though starter Scott Garner handled the Eagles through six innings, early battling drove his pitch counts, forcing him to give way to Christopher Waltermire in the top of the seventh. Waltermire kept the charge rolling, holding the Eagles to just two hits and two walks across three frames, striking out two, earning his first NCAA DI save and securing the victory for Garner (4-4), who limited NCCU to three hits and one earned run, while walking one and striking out five.
“Scott [Garner] pitched outstanding and [Christopher] Waltermire did a great job of coming in after him,” Beverlin said. “It was big to only have to use two pitchers that first game.”
Modena led the Wildcats at the plate to open the day, batting 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Stokes went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Early miscues in the second outing dug the Wildcats into a hole, as the Eagles came out with an aggressive approach, scoring quickly on a an infield single, however, four more runs would cross on a mixture of walks and passed balls, allowing the Eagles to grab an early 5-0 lead with just three hits to their credit.
Relieving starter Ali Simpson, freshman Michael Austin stabilized the situation as quickly as possible, and checked the Eagles for three additional frames of the seven-inning contest, giving way to Lenny Martinez in the fifth. Austin allowed just one hit with three strikeouts in his 3 2/3-inning appearance. Martinez threw two innings, allowing only one hit and one run before exiting the game.
The Wildcats found early trouble again in the seventh, with four consecutive walks, followed shortly by a hit batter to add two to the total. In working out of the inning, debuting PJ Biocic allowed a two-run single, but pulled the ‘Cats out of the inning, ending the jam at a 10-0 deficit.
“I think it was a situation where a couple of things happened that we couldn’t control early on, but there were just too many freebies today,” Beverlin noted. “It’s hard to overcome; that’s 15 base runners. You can’t give them that much and expect good things to happen.”
Limited to just four hits in the game, the Wildcats struggled to put runners in scoring position and close the deal, but Coach Beverlin notes that NCCU’s pitching effort may have had something to do with that.
“I think he did a really good job of keeping us off balance and threw the ball well,” Beverlin said.”
Johnson went 2-for-3 to lead the Wildcats in the second game.
Simpson (3-5) took the loss for the Wildcats, while NCCU’s Glenn Frye (4-3) pitched the complete game shutout for the win.
In opening the series, the Wildcats continued their win streak to seven, matching the 2010 team in the second longest streak of the past 10 seasons. Unfortunately, the streak was snapped in the second game as the Wildcats befell the first MEAC shutout since the 2005 season.
The Wildcats and Eagles return to action for the rubber match on Sunday at 1 p.m., back at “The Jack”, with MEAC divisional standings on the line, as the Eagles remain just one game behind the Wildcats in the standings.
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