Late-Inning Comeback Falls Just Short vs. FGCU, 5-4
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Florida Gulf Coast snapped a three-game Bethune-Cookman win streak in the series and delivered the Wildcats their third consecutive 2014 loss, fending off a late-inning comeback on Friday night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, and holding on for the 5-4 win in the series-opening contest.
The Wildcats (1-3) started a furious rally on the long road back from a 5-0 deficit in the eighth, scoring four runs in the frame. Second baseman Matt Noble led off the inning with a single through the left side of the infield, later crossing the plate along with Clay Middleton on a bases-loaded fielding error.
“The key was putting pressure on the other team,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “We put the ball in play, on the ground, hard. When you do that, there’s always a chance that good things are going to happen.”
“Late in the game, we did a great job of adding pressure and they didn’t respond. It got us back in the game. We have to learn how to do that for nine innings.”
Breaking out of a five-inning pitcher’s duel, the Eagles (4-2) jumped out to a late 5-0 advantage, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth, and adding a pair in the top of the eighth.
In the final frame, the Wildcats moved into position to force extra innings or pull ahead, advancing the tie run into scoring position. However, FGCU reliever Brady Anderson, who allowed all four runs in the eighth, put away the final two Wildcats batters to halt the B-CU rally and secure the 5-4 FGCU win.
Bethune-Cookman’s Keith Zuniga had a quality start, recording a season-high eight strikeouts in six innings pitched, with no walks. However, extended at-bats through the middle innings escalated his pitch count, and the Eagles capitalized to hand Zuniga (1-1) his first career loss.
Freshman Riley O’Brien made a solid closing effort for the Wildcats, allowing no hits in 1.1 innings, to preserve the comeback opportunity.
Senior first baseman Eric Sams led the Wildcats at the plate, batting 2-for-3 on the night.
For Florida Gulf Coast, starter Michael Murray (1-0) earned the win, pitching 7.2 innings, allowing six hits with nine strikeouts. Offensively, designated hitter Kevin Young paced the Eagles, batting 2-for-4 with two RBI.
The Wildcats and Eagles return to action on Saturday (Feb. 22) for game two of the three game series. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Friday’s contest started later than originally scheduled due to a rain delay in the late afternoon.