Wildcats and Tigers Split Key MEAC Doubleheader on Sunday
SAVANNAH, Ga. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (29-21, 16-7 MEAC) and Savannah State Tigers (28-19, 16-6 MEAC) battled to a split doubleheader in Sunday’s crucial Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) series opener at Tiger Baseball Field. The Wildcats took the opener, separating the MEAC’s top pitcher from his perfect record in a 9-2 victory, but one big inning made the difference in a 4-2 loss in the nightcap.
After post-rain field conditions pushed the game back three hours, the Wildcats jumped out to a great start in the series, downing the Tigers in starting pitcher Kyle McGowin’s (10-1) first loss of the 2013 campaign, capitalizing on SSU miscues and converting for runs, while staying steady in their approach throughout the game.
The Tigers gave the Wildcats some incentive to get moving early, with SSU picking up a score, as David Richards RBI single put the Tigers up 1-0 after one complete.
The Wildcats swung the momentum and were quick to respond, as Anthony Stokes doubled with two outs into the outer shade of left field. A miscommunication among the Tigers’ outfielders led to a dropped fly ball and SSU’s first error of the day, allowing Stokes to score from second and Matt Noble to make the second bag. Clay Middleton plated Noble for B-CU’s first lead at 2-1 after the top of the second.
The Tigers again struggled with errors in the top of the third, as B-CU converted on three SSU errors and one hit, collecting five runs in the frame. Brandon Turner reached on an error and became the first to score, following consecutive hit batters, as Eric Sams’ backside Texas League single brought in Turner and Lee. Noble reached on a fielder’s choice, but an overthrow on the play allowed him to reach third and two more runs to cross. Noble capped off the five-run inning, coming home as Middleton reached on an error to push B-CU’s lead to 7-1.
The Tigers responded in the bottom half, but barely put a dent in the six-run advantage, as three consecutive batters reached, and one SSU run scored on a double play, narrowing the Wildcats’ lead to 7-2.
B-CU extended its lead late, as Josh Johnson’s eighth-inning two-run double deep down the left field line capped the scoring at 9-2 as the Wildcats’ pitching staff held the margin in place through the final out.
Montana Durapau (8-3) pitched seven complete to earn the win, allowing five hits and no walks, while striking out six.
“[Durapau] did a good job of keeping them off balance and really making the big pitch when he had to,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “They had some runners on early, and in those situations he really did come up big.”
Lenny Martinez shut the door on the Tigers, taking the hill for the final two frames, allowing one hit, two walks, with one strikeout.
Johnson led the Wildcats with a 2-for-4, two-double performance, collecting a pair of RBI. Sams also earned two RBI in game one.
The second game of the day unfolded in a completely different direction, as the Wildcats broke up the deadlock of a pitcher’s duel in the fourth, but succumbed to an SSU big-inning rally in the bottom of the fifth, but were unable to bounce back despite threatening in the seventh.
“We were able to overcome mistakes in the first game, but we weren’t in the second game,” Beverlin said.
“They wanted it more than we did,” Beverlin commented. “End of story, that’s what it boiled down to.”
Bethune-Cookman starter Ali Simpson and his SSU counterpart Jackson May battled it out through the first three frames, with Simpson holding the Tigers without a hit until the third.
The Wildcats finally broke through in the top of the fourth, as Turner jumpstarted the Wildcats by drawing a walk, and Eros Modena followed up with a single to shallow left field. Both worked into scoring position on a double steal and Lee took advantage of the situation with a RBI single to shallow right field, granting the Wildcats a 1-0 advantage.
After throwing four complete innings with just two hits allowed and no runners reaching second, Simpson got into a jam after running into troubles locating his pitches. A pair of walks gave the Tigers an opportunity and they cashed in with a Lee Moore two-run double into the left field corner. Relievers Christopher Waltermire and Jordan Dailey worked to quell the rally, but two more runs crossed on an RBI single and a B-CU error before Dailey closes the door with consecutive groundouts.
The Wildcats threatened in the top of the seventh, opening with three consecutive singles. PJ Biocic battled to a full count RBI walk to draw the lead to two runs. Facing reliever Eric Ricks, Middleton hit a hard line shot to the right, but first baseman Peter Poole made the snag and the force-out for the double play. A first-pitch groundout to first ended the Wildcats’ comeback hopes and split the series with a 4-2 loss.
“When you wait until the seventh inning, all it takes is a hard-hit ball like we had to the first baseman, and it’s too little, too late,” Beverlin noted. “The will to win is huge.”
Simpson (3-7) took the loss after throwing 4 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and walking three, while striking out five.
May (4-3) earned the win with six innings pitched, while Ricks earned his fifth save of the year.
The Wildcats outhit the Tigers, seven to four, led by a 2-for-3 performance from designated hitter David Lee, who scored one run and batted in another. Five other Wildcats collected hits in game two.
With the split, both teams move to 16 MEAC wins and remain locked in a battle for the Southern divisional title and the number one seed in the upcoming MEAC Baseball Championships in Norfolk, Va.
Sunday’s series finale is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch at Tiger Baseball Field, with the outcome posing a direct impact on the divisional race and the bracket for the conference tournament.
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