Wildcats Fall to FGCU, 13-10, in Big-Hitting Series Finale
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It was a big-hitting day for the series payoff game between Bethune-Cookman (2-4) and Florida Gulf Coast (5-3), Sunday at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. After a huge rally in the fourth inning to take control in Sunday’s barnburner, the Wildcats fell on the wrong side of the Eagles’ comeback, surrendering the lead in the final frame, 13-10.
“It was a big comeback, you’ve got to give our guys credit for that,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “However, the biggest key was not doing the little things that we needed to do to win the game.”
The Wildcats set the tone early in favor of the hitters, as first baseman Eric Sams crossed the plate on third baseman Jordan Thomas’ knee-high line drive back at the pitcher in the first inning, granting B-CU the early 1-0 advantage.
Countering in the top of the second, Florida Gulf Coast strung together five consecutive hits to take a 4-1 lead. The Eagles put up three more runs in the top of the fourth, efficiently finding any available seam in the B-CU defense across the two frames to go on top 7-1.
Facing a six-run deficit, the Wildcats showed patience in their at-bats in the bottom half of the inning, battling out three consecutive walks off FGCU starter Brad LaBozzetta. Facing reliever Brad English, catcher Clay Middleton logged two RBI on a well-placed loft shot just beyond first base, sparking the B-CU offense. Shaun McCarty crossed the plate on a Wild pitch and the Wildcats began to climb back into contention.
Designated hitter Jake Welch added a full-count RBI single to right field, scoring Middleton and right fielder Josh Johnson reached base as a hit batter, prompting another FGCU pitching change with no outs put away. Sterling Koerner picked up a pair of outs for the Eagles, but couldn’t escape the frame unscathed, as Thomas pushed an RBI single through the six-hole.
Second baseman Matt Noble capped off the eight-run outburst by firing a shot to the left field wall. Tracking the ball, FGCU left fielder Cody Hoffner slammed into the outfield wall, allowing Noble the opportunity to touch all four on a three-run inside-the-park homer, putting the Wildcats on top, 9-7.
The Wildcats extended their scoring to double digits in the sixth, as Thomas notched his third RBI of the day, bringing Sams home on a single through the three-hole, extending the lead to 10-7.
Mounting a comeback of their own, the Eagles scored six runs in the final three frames, pushing three runs across in the top of the ninth, earning runs with a base on balls, a single to center field and a single through the left side, pulling ahead 13-10.
Facing FGCU closer Brady Anderson, the Wildcats couldn’t generate any offense in the final frame, dropping the series finale and falling to 1-2 in the series. Anderson earned his first save.
The win went to Mario Leon (1-1), who closed out the sixth inning for Florida Gulf Coast. Reliever (0-1) Michael Austin takes the loss.
The Wildcats and Eagles combined for 23 hits on the scoreboard Sunday. Thomas paced Bethune-Cookman at the plate, batting 3-for-5 with three RBI and one run scored. Noble also went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI. Middleton (two RBI) and Welch (one RBI) each batted 1-for-4 on the day, drawing praise from the staff.
“Today proved that it’s not going to be the same guy every day for us,” Beverlin said. “To have those four guys step up and provide us with that spark offensively, then come through with the big hit with runners in scoring position was huge. Hopefully that will snowball in a positive direction.”
The Wildcats return to action at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, as the Stetson Hatters make the cross-county trip for the first of two games in the annual Volusia County showdown. The Hatters (2-5) earned the win in the series with Boston College on Sunday, topping the Eagles 3-1 at Melching Field.