Wildcats Split Series-Opening Day with N.C. Central
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Bethune-Cookman (8-6, 4-1 MEAC) split the opening day of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) baseball series with North Carolina Central (4-9-1, 2-3 MEAC), on Saturday at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. In game one, the Wildcats found all the gaps and converted for the big finish, wrapping the game early in a 12-1 run-rule effort. However, in the second outing, NCCU covered the gaps and limited the Wildcats’ scoring, holding off a final B-CU surge for the split.
“Our offense was really clicking the first game, from top to bottom,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “In the second game, their guy did a good job of filling up the strike zone and being aggressive. We hit some balls really well, right at people, and they made a good play to end the game.”
The Wildcats went to work early on the Eagles in game one of the doubleheader, courtesy of patience at the plate. Both right fielder Josh Johnson and left fielder Eros Modena coaxed out walks. Both advanced on stolen bases and Johnson scored on the pickoff attempt to put the Wildcats on the board in the bottom of the first. Modena wasn’t far behind, crossing the plate on first baseman Eric Sams’ sacrifice fly to give B-CU the 2-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the second, shortstop Shaun McCarty got a big day started at the plate, placing a misfielded single into center, collecting an RBI as two runs scored. Johnson followed up with an RBI double to move B-CU on top 5-0.
Capping off three consecutive scoring frames for B-CU, McCarty extended the lead in the third with a two-run single through the right side.
The Eagles finally got on the board in the fourth, opening the frame with a walk and consecutive singles from the heart of the NCCU order. First baseman Christian Triplett capitalized with an RBI, while hitting into a 4-6-3 double play for the Wildcats.
The bottom half of the inning was the Wildcats’ lone non-scoring frame, following up with consecutive scoring innings on RBI from center fielder Jake Welch and Sams.
The Wildcats finished the game off early, in big fashion, as McCarty cleared a bases-loaded situation with a single through the right side, concluding the game in a 12-1 run-ruling. This is the first run-rule conclusion of the season for the Wildcats, and first since defeating Savannah State 14-2 last season on March 31 at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
Starter Keith Zuniga (2-1) pitched a seven-inning complete game, recording five strikeouts in the victory. For NCCU, Alex Dandridge (0-3) took the loss, striking out two and walking five.
At the plate, McCarty racked up the Wildcats’ highest numbers, tying his career high with 3-for-4 hitting, logging a career-best six RBI, while also scoring one run of his own.
“I’ve been struggling a little big hitting up until now, and to come through like that and help the team win, and save our pitching, it felt great to help out that way,” McCarty said of the career day.
Sams added a pair of RBI on .500 hitting, with one more RBI each for Johnson and Welch.
In the second outing, it was the Eagles who reached the scoreboard first, using back-to-back singles to score one run in the top of the first on Carter Williamson’s single to outer right field.
With two outs on the board in the bottom half, Sams sparked the Wildcats with a perfectly-placed double right on the left field line. Third baseman Jordan Robinson battled to a full-count infield single, and designated hitter Austin Garcia made it count, firing a first pitch single through the left side to even the score at 1-all.
In a crucial second-inning burst, the Eagles went up 3-1 on Zack Lee’s RBI single and a tough RBI grounder from Jared Kehagias, deep into the first base pocket.
The game remained in stalemate through three scoreless innings, until the Wildcats made a move in the final frame. Facing NCCU Reliever Kyle Shields, Johnson reached on a fielding error and center fielder Julian Santos reached as hit batter. Sams then coaxed out a full count walk to load the bases. With two outs away, Garcia singled through the left side to bring home Johnson, but Santos was tagged out at the plate on the 7-2 exchange, ending the game in a 3-2 Wildcats loss, splitting the series.
NCCU starter Terry McNabb (1-2) picked up the win with six innings pitched and five strikeouts, while Shields collected his second save of the year. Gabriel Hernandez (1-1) logged the loss for B-CU, pitching 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts.
In the second game, Garcia was 2-for-4, collecting both RBI to lead the Wildcats.
The teams return to Jackie Robinson Ballpark for Sunday’s series rubber match at 1 p.m.