Wildcats Use Late-Innings to Push Past NCAT for Series Sweep
SANFORD, Fla. - Sunday’s series finale between the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (26-19, 15-6 MEAC) and North Carolina A&T Aggies (13-27, 7-10 MEAC) offered all the drama that fans could ask for, with the Wildcats standing their ground to hold off the Aggies through four lead changes to claim the 7-5 victory. B-CU used key timely hits from Levonte Allen and Anthony Stokes to pull ahead and build a lead in the final two frames to complete the 3-0 series sweep.
“We had some guys step up big today, and really up and down the lineup I thought we did a good job,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “It was just a great team win. Everybody contributed today and came up big when we needed them.”
The Aggies tipped the scales in their favor early, capitalizing on a sudden downpour in the top of the second with consecutive outfield base hits to put starter Michael Austin in a jam in his first start, setting up a two-run Dylan Hipp single down the right field line for the 2-0 lead.
Despite Eric Sams and Allen reaching base in the bottom half, the ‘Cats came away without a run in the frame. Making his first collegiate start, as designated hitter, Allen collected his first hit in the inning.
However, the Wildcats came back strong in the bottom of the third, as left fielder Josh Johnson jumpstarted B-CU with a low line drive single through the left side. David Lee joined him, reaching base on balls. Stokes came up big facing a 2-2 count, knotting the score with a solid two-run single to the right center wall.
Making his second career pitching appearance, PJ Biocic took the mound in the top of the fourth, throwing three complete frames and limiting the Aggies to just three hits and one run, as the Aggies regained the advantage in the sixth, with Hipp adding another RBI on a sacrifice fly.
The Wildcats were quick to respond this time, as Sams led off the bottom of the sixth with a backside single to left. Clay Middleton drew a walk to add to the scoring opportunity. Both runners set the table, advancing on a wild pitch by NCAT starter Tyler Boone. The Wildcats went back on top at 4-3 as both scored on Shaun McCarty’s double deep down the right field line.
The Aggies showed they were in it for the long haul, again rallying courtesy of a seventh inning two-run homer to left field by first baseman Kelvin Freeman; his second jack of the series; to go on top 5-4.
With the game on the line late, B-CU showed patience in the batting approach, opening with Lee’s walk in the bottom of the seventh. Stokes joined him on the basepath with a first-pitch single up the middle, and Sams added an additional walk to load the bases, forcing a second NCAT pitching change to Tim Jones.
Jones plunked Matt Noble with his first pitch, tying the score at 5-5. Then Allen came through in a big way for the Wildcats, collecting his first career RBI on a single through the right side for the 6-5 advantage.
The Wildcats added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth, as Brandon Turner drew a leadoff walk from Jones, reaching third on a pair of crucial steals, then coming home on Sams’ single to third for the 7-5 advantage.
“Those were huge, huge plays in the game, putting pressure on them and really affording us the opportunity to win that game,” Beverlin noted of Turner’s late-game efforts. “He comes ready to play every single day. We know he’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win.”
With assistance from 10 hits on the day, the Wildcats logged 18 base runners in the finale, granting B-CU the opportunity to keep the Aggies on their heels throughout the contest.
“Time and time again, I think we did a good job of continually putting pressure on them and scoring in multiple innings, especially late in the game,” Beverlin said. “We always had an answer today and it was great to see us battle back.”
Jordan Dailey secured the victory and his ninth save of the season in the ninth inning, as a looking strikeout, a groundout, and a multi-point rundown pickoff ended the game.
Christopher Waltermire (3-1) earned the win, throwing one inning with two hits and two runs allowed. Justin Godette (0-4) earned the loss for the Aggies.
Sams had a big day at the plate for the Wildcats, hitting 3-for-4 with one run scored. Stokes racked up three RBI on 2-for-5 batting, while Johnson was 2-for-3 at the plate.
Bethune-Cookman remains on a tear of late, locking up the series sweep to bring April’s win-loss record to 12-3, with 11 of those games away from the confines of Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
“The goal from the beginning of the season was to continually improve,” Beverlin noted. “I think we’re definitely doing that, especially mindset-wise, our confidence is growing with each win and the belief that we’re going to be in every game we play.”