Wildcats Split Series-Opening Doubleheader with N.C. A&T
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (10-9, 5-3 MEAC) split the series-opening doubleheader with North Carolina A&T (7-10, 2-3 MEAC) in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) baseball action on Saturday (March 15) at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The Wildcats took the first game, holding off the Aggies 5-3, but fell to an N.C. A&T rally in the second outing, 5-1.
In the series opener, the Aggies reached the scoreboard first, scoring on a two-run Cameron Jergens single through the right side in the top of the third, pushing North Carolina A&T on top, 2-0.
The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the fourth, sparked by left fielder Eros Modena’s leadoff single to shall right field. Austin Garcia reached on an error, and catcher Zach Olszewski loaded the bases, as his hard-hit liner up the middle hit the third base umpire, and the play was ruled dead. Shortstop Shaun McCarty took advantage of the opportunity, bringing in two runs on a single to outer right field, tying the game at two-all. Josh Johnson brought Olszewski home for the 3-2 lead on a fielder’s choice sacrifice bunt attempt.
The Wildcats added insurance runs in the sixth and eighth on a sacrifice fly and an RBI single from Eric Sams.
The Aggies added one run in the top of the seventh on a Brandon Wilkerson RBI single to center field. N.C. A&T challenged again in the top of the eighth, using three consecutive hits to load the bases. Sophomore Michael Austin entered in relief of starter Keith Zuniga, facing the jam with no outs away. Austin proceeded to induce a flyout to right field and then delivered consecutive strikeouts to escape the frame with the Wildcats unscathed.
In the top of the ninth, senior Montana Durapau took the mound, downing the Aggies in order for his third save of the year. Zuniga (3-1) earned the win, throwing seven innings with five strikeouts and three earned runs allowed.
At the plate, Sams and McCarty each went 1-for-4, but both logged a pair of RBI each. Eros Modena went 2-for-4 in the first game of the day.
The Wildcats struggled to get the timely hit going in the second game, but were able to string together a trio of base knocks in the bottom of the first, capped by second baseman Matt Noble’s RBI single through the left side to bring home center fielder Jake Welch, granting the Wildcats the 1-0 advantage.
The Wildcats held the Aggies scoreless through three additional frames, but N.C. A&T finally broke through in the fifth inning of the seven-inning contest, logging scores across each of the final three frames, highlighted by catcher Lester Salcedo’s two-run homer to left field in the sixth.
Starter Gabriel Hernandez (1-2) takes the loss, pitching five innings with two strikeouts and two earned runs allowed. For the Aggies, Charles Cantrell (3-1) earned the complete game win.
Jordan Robinson and Sams each went 2-for-3 in the second game, while Noble was 1-for-3 with the Wildcats’ lone RBI.
The teams return to Jackie Robinson Ballpark on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the series payoff game.