Wildcats Earn Series Win, Divisional Bump in SSU Finale
SAVANNAH, Ga. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (30-21, 17-7 MEAC) delivered the crucial series-winning victory over Savannah State (28-20, 16-7 MEAC), Monday at Tiger Baseball Field. Using outstanding underclass performances and Scott Garner’s three-hitter, the Wildcats cruised to a 9-3 victory and a half-game MEAC Southern division lead.
“It was good to see us rebound after that loss in game two yesterday,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “There was a lot more energy today, a lot more excitement, and that was great to see.”
The Wildcats injected some new, younger faces into Monday’s lineup, and it paid off in the top of the third, as three consecutive freshman base hits jumpstarted B-CU, opening on a leadoff line drive single from catcher Clay Middleton. Michael Austin joined him with a single to center, and Jordan Thomas plated his classmates with a two-run line drive double over third base. Thomas crossed the plate himself on Brandon Turner’s pulled line RBI drive through the right side for the 3-0 lead.
Anthony Stokes dropped in a single to load the bases and Eric Sams’ RBI walk hastened the end of starter Rexford Davis’ appearance, introducing Ethan Glass from the Bullpen. Jake Welch capped off the five-run frame with an RBI walk before Glass retired the side trailing 5-0.
Glass held the Cats just long enough for the Tigers to enter the scorebook, as SSU tacked up one run on an RBI double deep to left center in the bottom of the fourth, cutting the B-CU lead to four runs.
The Wildcats came on strong again in the top of the fifth with a boost from the underclass, as sophomore Welch put a well-placed two-run double into right center to extend the ‘Cats lead to six. Welch advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on another. Austin added an RBI single to right, wrapping up the four-run inning with a 9-1 Wildcats lead.
After pitching six solid innings to hold the Tigers in check, starter Scott Garner (5-4) lined up the win before giving way to Byron Ferguson. Garner allowed just three hits, one walk and one run, while striking out three.
Ferguson earned his first career save, holding off the Tigers across three innings on the hill, allowing one earned run on one hit and two walks.
A pair of errors in the bottom of the seventh allowed Drew Quinney to add to the Tigers’ total, coming home on an overthrown pickoff after reaching third on a wild pitch. SSU scored its third and final run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth, with the Wildcats claiming a 9-3 victory and 2-1 win in the series.
Welch led the Wildcats with three RBI on 1-for-3 batting, while Thomas was 1-for-4 with two RBI, and Austin went 2-for-4, adding another RBI. Underclassmen playing in the game accounted for six hits and six runs.
“They brought a level of energy that we’ve been missing the last week or so, and they did exactly what I expected them to do,” Beverlin noted of the newcomers to the lineup. “They really did a great job producing and getting results as well.”
With the victory, the Wildcats take a half-game lead in the MEAC Southern Division, with a make-up date between Savannah State and North Carolina A&T expected to determine the final rankings, heading into the MEAC Baseball Championships, May 15-19 in Norfolk, Va.
In the meantime, the Wildcats will be quick to get back to work, with games Tuesday (7 p.m.) at South Florida and Wednesday (6:30 p.m.) at UCF.
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