Wildcats Convert Long Day of MEAC Action into SSU Series Win
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Concluding in a big, full day of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) baseball action, the Bethune-Cookman series versus Savannah State worked through lows and highs, but the Wildcats finished on the upswing, winning the series 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, claiming victories of 4-3 and 5-1 with a 5-0 loss in the opener.
With the series schedule shifted to accommodate anticipated weather problems, the Wildcats (15-14, 7-5 MEAC) and Tigers (10-18, 3-9 MEAC) worked through a gritty opener, hoping to beat out the incoming storms.
The Tigers jumped out to a middle-innings lead on Saturday (March 29), first moving out front on a Tre Sikes RBI single through the right side in the top of the fourth, adding another on a Parker Nix fielder’s choice. The Tigers capped off the frame a third run by Sikes, capitalizing on a pair of B-CU errors to go up 3-0.
As the storms moved in, the game was halted before opening the seventh and the teams returned to action on Sunday (March 30) morning in advance of a scheduled doubleheader.
With only three innings to work with, the Wildcats never got momentum to tack runs up on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, the Tigers extended their lead, with Sikes first putting an RBI triple into right field, and later scoring on a sacrifice bunt by Nix to take a 5-0 lead.
The Wildcats had opportunities, but couldn’t produce the big hit, leaving eight runners on base through the series opener. SSU starter Austin Denney (3-1) went six innings to earn the win, striking out four and walking none in the shutout, yielding to Ethan Glass (1), who picked up the save. B-CU starter Keith Zuniga (3-3) took the loss, throwing six innings.
The first game of the doubleheader was the polar opposite for the Wildcats, as timely hitting and zeroing-in on the big-hit situations was the key to B-CU’s victory to split the series.
Although the Tigers got on the board early, thanks to Mendez Elder’s two-out home run to right field, the Wildcats remained patient and gained momentum through the mid-to-late innings.
Trailing 1-0 for four innings, the Wildcats strung together consecutive singles from first baseman Eric Sams and catcher Zach Olszewski in the bottom of the fifth. Junior third baseman Jordan Robinson made it count with a two-run opposite-field triple into right field to push the Wildcats ahead 2-1.
As the Wildcats held onto the slight lead, the Tigers threatened in the seventh, using a Zachary Brigham RBI single and Ian Farris sac bunt to pull back ahead. However, this time the Wildcats were quick to respond.
In the bottom half of the frame, shortstop Shaun McCarty led off with a single to right field, and Sams followed with an RBI triple deep down the right field line to tie the game. Robinson again produced the clutch play, bringing Sams home on a sacrifice fly for the 4-3 advantage.
After locking down the Tigers’ push as a reliever in the seventh, left-hander John Sever (3-1) completed the final two frames to earn the win, closing the ninth with three consecutive strikeouts to even the series.
Middle reliever Ryan McCranie took the loss for SSU, throwing 2.1 innings, while allowing the go-ahead run in the seventh.
In the series finale, the Wildcats jumped on the Tigers from the opening frame, claiming a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the first on Eros Modena’s RBI single up the middle to bring Olszewski home.
Starting his first conference series of the season, senior right-hander Montana Durapau gave the Wildcats the breathing room to be patient with the lead, as the Wildcats added two more in the third on McCarty’s two-run left field single, and capped the scoring with a Modena two-run single through the left side to go up 5-0 in the fourth.
Durapau held the Tigers without a run through four complete frames, but SSU tallied its lone run of the contest in the fifth on a Brigham RBI single.
After throwing five, Durapau yielded to sophomore right-hander Michael Austin, who allowed no hits and no runs through the final two innings, striking out one. Durapau (6-0) earned the win, striking out four with just one walk.
Despite the shutout in game one, the Wildcats outhit the Tigers, and Olszewski (2-for-3), Matt Noble (2-for-4) and Josh Johnson (2-for-4) each recorded a pair of hits each. In the second game, Robinson proved to be the hero, despite a 1-for-4 batting performance, recording both the early go-ahead RBI and the winning run. Meanwhile, Sams scored two runs and had one RBI, while hitting 2-for-3. In the finale, Modena proved crucial, going 3-for-4 with three RBI and one run scored.
The Wildcats have a busy midweek ahead in south Florida, first Meeting 29th-ranked FIU in a road rematch on Tuesday (April 1), before heading to Coral Gables to go for the sweep at Miami (FL). Over the weekend, the Wildcats will take on a crucial three-game MEAC series with cross-state rival Florida A&M in the final home contests of the year.
“Senior Day” is scheduled for Saturday, April 5.