Wildcats Advance to MEAC Title Game After Long Road Back
NORFOLK, Va. - PJ Biocic dealt a four inning no-hit relief performance to preserve the 4-1 Bethune-Cookman (34-24) lead over Coppin State (18-33) through the final out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Baseball Championships semifinal, Saturday at Marty L. Miller Field. With the win, the Wildcats advance to the Championship for the eighth consecutive season, despite a first round loss.
“They were outstanding,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “I’m extremely proud of all of the guys. Like I told them, I wish we had realized earlier in the season how good of a team we could really be when we play together, but now’s the time to come together.”
Utilizing the style that brought them to the semifinal, the Wildcats again got to work early with David Lee bringing home Brandon Turner and reaching third courtesy of a dropped fly ball in left field for the 1-0 lead after one complete.
B-CU ramped it up again and put pressure on the Eagles in the bottom of the second, with Eros Modena beating the throw on a base hit to lead off, and later scoring on Matt Noble’s first-pitch RBI triple to the right center wall. The Wildcats tacked up another score as Noble came home on a wild pitch for the 3-0 lead.
A one-out walk came back to bite the Wildcats in the top of the third. After advancing to third on a single, Chris Kashangaki scored on David Hamlett’s fielder’s choice; the Eagles’ lone score of the contest.
However, the Wildcats were quick to reclaim the run, capping the game’s scoring with a Modena sacrifice fly in the home half of the inning, granting B-CU a 4-1 advantage.
“It was big to put pressure on them early,” Beverlin said. “That’s very important in any game. They did a great job and got runners on early and then came through with big hits when we needed them.”
From the fourth forward, it was a pitcher’s game, as starter Ali Simpson (4-7) turned in a commanding performance for his 23rd birthday, evading jams all game and going on to earn the win after giving just the one run in five innings. Simpson struck out four Eagles batters in the victory.
“He came to my room last night and he asked for the ball,” Beverlin said of Simpson. “It was important that he get the opportunity to pitch today. He wanted to keep us alive, and that says everything about him, as a person and a player.”
Coppin State starter Anderson Burgess (2-5) absorbed the loss after going six frames, handing off to Michael Roberts for the final two innings. The duo combined to hold the Wildcats scoreless for five innings.
On the other side of the coin, Biocic earned his first career save after four no-hit innings on the bump, striking out six CSU batters, including two swinging to shut the door on the final frame.
“PJ told me when he was warming up, ‘I’m going to finish this game’,” Beverlin noted. “He followed through with what he said he was going to do.”
Aiding Biocic with the first out of the ninth, Matt Noble robbed leadoff hitter Ian Arciaga of a sure double, making a highlight-reel leaping play to snatch the hot, high line drive.
With the win, the Wildcats match the win total from a season ago.
Coming out of the elimination bracket of the tournament, the Wildcats face off with the Co-Divisional Champion Savannah State Tigers (32-21), who have won all of their games in the tourney. B-CU will need to top the Tigers in two games Sunday to earn the MEAC title, beginning at 11 a.m.
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