May 20, 2012

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NORFOLK, Va. - The Wildcats may have taken the longer route, but overcame the elements and a winner-take-all title game appearance to earn a seventh straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Championship, after falling to Delaware State in the initial championship final, 3-2, and topping the Hornets in an 8-3 finale.

In the first game of the day, Delaware State (40-17-1) got an early jump on Bethune-Cookman (34-25), scoring three runs in the top of the first. DSU picked up scores on a fielding error, an infield single and a sacrifice fly.

The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the inning with Josh Johnson coming home on a David Lee grounder. Brashad Johnson scored on a DSU fielding error in the fourth to bring the score to 3-2, where it would stand through the final out.

Starter Gabriel Hernandez (L, 6-3) only gave up a single earned run with four strikeouts, but took the loss in game one. Jairo Acevedo pitched solid in relief, allowing no runs with two strikeouts.

With the game ending in loss, the double elimination format forced a second game, which worked out to the advantage of the Wildcats, despite battling the elements. The morning's overcast skies and intermittent drizzle turned to a steady misty rain around midday and persisted throughout the second game.

"I don't really think there was anything different and that's why we won the second game," said Head coach Jason Beverlin. "I would have been easy to get down on ourselves. We played a good game, and played hard in the first game. They beat us 3-2, it happens.  The thing I'm most proud of is the way we reacted to that."

B-CU set the tone early as starter Ali Simpson grabbed a pair of K's in the top of the first, while Lee put B-CU on the board with an RBI single to left in the bottom half.

The Hornets battled back in the top of the third, taking a 3-1 lead with runs scored on a hit batter, force out error at the plate and an infield grounder.

The early lead forced the Wildcats to react, using a double steal to get two in scoring position, setting an opportunity for Lee to bring both home on a shot through the right side, bringing the game to a 3-3 tie.

"I feel like when I hit in the middle of the lineup, it's my job to drive in runs, and that's all I was trying to do," Lee said. "Josh [Johnson] and Brandon [Turner] did a great job at the top of the lineup getting on base and getting in scoring position. I felt like I was doing my part in helping the team win."

Entering the game to lock down the inning, Bryan Rivera (W, 3-3) went to work and locked DSU down from the mound. Rivera threw 5.2 innings without a hit, collecting nine strikeouts, retiring 16 consecutive batters, and giving the Wildcats a chance to build some separation.

"I've never had a game like that in my college career," Rivera said. "I just came in and tried to make my pitches, combining my change-up and curveball. I finished strong, but I didn't realize I was doing that kind of job. It's part of the game that you're so locked-in that you just keep pitching and do your job."

Coach Beverlin was more than satisfied with the sophomore middle reliever's performance.

"He was a little rough right when he came into the game, but after he got out of that inning, he was in total control of the game," said Beverlin of Rivera. That's really what we needed out of him."

B-CU started that separation by adding a run in the fourth, with Lee putting a solid single on the left field line to bring in Carlos Delgado.

The bats fired up for B-CU in the fifth, as B. Johnson set off the inning with a first-pitch single through the left side. With Brandon Turner joining him on base, Acevedo (designated hitter in game two) came up huge with a two-run single to the outside shade of shallow right. Turner was hit by a pitch for another run, and Delgado scored on a wild pitch to extend the Wildcat lead to 8-3.

Delaware State went through three relievers in the final three innings to stop the B-CU scoring spree, but the damage was already done, as Rivera gave way to Jordan Dailey, who collected one out on the ground and a pair in the air before the B-CU dugout emptied for a championship dog pile in the middle infield.

"I think it's most rewarding as a coach when you get to see your players celebrating on the field because you know all the hard work they put into it," Beverlin said.

Jason Beverlin received the tournament's Outstanding Coach Award, while David Lee was the Outstanding Performer. Joining Lee on the All-Tournament Team was Rayan Gonzalez, who earned the 3-0 win over Maryland Eastern Shore in the Semifinal.

Lee went 4-for-9 on the day with five RBI, while he batted .391 (9-for-23) on the tournament, with 11 total RBI.

"He was incredible, much like he was all tournament. He came up with big hits all day long, and drove in the runs that he needed," Beverlin said.

Josh Johnson was 3-for8 with a pair of doubles and three runs scored against Delaware State, while Brashad Johnson was also 3-for-8 with two runs scored.

The win gives B-CU its seventh straight MEAC title and 16th overall, including 13 of the last 14 years. It is also great first step for Jason Beverlin in his first year as the program's skipper.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Beverlin said. "With all the hard work these guys put in, and with all the hard work the assistant coaches have put in, it's great to see it pay off with a championship at the conference tournament."

Moving on with the MEAC's automatic NCAA Tournament bid, the Wildcats will learn their destination on May 28 at noon during the Division I Baseball Selection Show, "the Road to Omaha", live on ESPNU.