Wildcats Open FAMU Series 2-0 After Extensive Opening Day
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - After a grueling seven hours and 25 minutes of baseball, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (5-4, 2-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) emerged with a pair of conference road wins over Florida A&M (3-7, 0-2 MEAC), topping the Rattlers 10-5 and 4-2 over 22 innings of play on Saturday at Moore-Kittles field.
The Wildcats and Rattlers remained deadlocked late into the afternoon in game one of the doubleheader, extending to a program-long 15 inning conference contest before the Wildcats captured the serieso-opening victory.
The Rattlers raced out to a 3-1 advantage after the second inning, opening the scoring on an RBI single through the infield for designated hitter Bennie Robinson. FAMU added to the total in the second using consecutive triples from left fielder Marlon Gibbs and right fielder Blake Quillin.
Robinson would score again to jumpstart a big inning for Bethune-Cookman in the fourth, reaching home on a delayed double steal, slipping around the tag at the plate. Garcia drew the Wildcats to within one run, bringing in second baseman Eric Sams on a pulled single to left field, narrowing the FAMU advantage to 4-3.
Although the Rattlers added another run in the top of the fifth, the Wildcats responded in kind in the bottom of the frame. Catcher Clay Middleton reached on an error, bringing in Sams in the process, and right fielder Josh Johnson singled up the middle to send Middleton home with the tie run.
Over the next eight innings, the teams remained deadlocked at 5 runs apiece, however, the Wildcats were able to capitalize in the 15th and then blow the game open. With Julian Santos and Robinson reaching on consecutive singles, Sams and Matt Noble both reached as hit batters. Noble earned the RBI that gave the Wildcats a 6-5 advantage. However, Jake Welch subbed in as the designated hitter and made it count, firing a triple deep down the right field line for three more runs. Shortstop Shaun McCarty capped off the scoring with a sacrifice fly, and B-CU went on top 10-5.
Freshman left-hander Donté Lindsay relieved Christopher Waltermire in the bottom half, recording a pair of strikeouts and capping the 15-inning pitcher’s duel with a groundout. Waltermire (1-1) earned the win. Keith Zuniga made the most extensive appearance of the five B-CU pitchers, tossing seven frames.
Returning for the second game of the doubleheader, FAMU again pushed out to a quick lead, using third baseman Michael Birdsong’s two-run single to go on top 2-0 in the first. FAMU clung to the slim advantage for three innings before the Wildcats responded in a major way.
Hitless since the second, designated hitter Jordan Thomas led off with a line drive single up the middle in the top of the fifth, followed by a single from Noble. Both runners would advance on wild pitches, the second allowing Thomas to score. Noble and Welch would both score on a throwing error by Birdsong, granting the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
After relieving starter Gabriel Hernandez in the fifth, freshman left-hander Riley O’Brien had a stout appearance, allowing no hits through two frames, with a pair of key strikeouts.
The Wildcats put a pair of exclamation points on the lead. McCarty opened by hitting a high line drive over third base for an RBI double and the 4-2 B-CU lead in the top of the seventh. Then midweek starter Montana Durapau took the mound in the closer role, registering three consecutive swinging strikeouts to secure the victory and his second save. Hernandez (1-0) picked up the win in his first start since 2012.
For the day, at the plate, Matt Noble came on strong late in the opener, carrying the momentum over to game two, batting 4-for-9 with three runs scored and an RBI. Sams went 3-for-7 with three runs scored. Garcia went 3-for-5 with one run and two RBI, Robinson was 3-for-7 with three runs and Welch was 1-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBI.
The Wildcats take a 2-0 advantage in the series, winning the last 12 against the Rattlers.
The teams return to Moore-Kittles field on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the series finale.