Wildcats Bounce Back from Opener to Split FAMU Doubleheader
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It was a tale of two completely opposite games at Jackie Robinson Ballpark on Saturday, as the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (16-17, 8-6 MEAC) and Florida A&M Rattlers (11-18, 8-5 MEAC) split the series-opening doubleheader, with FAMU taking the opener, 5-1, and B-CU racking up the runs for an 8-1 game two victory.
The Wildcats went to work early in game one of the doubleheader, as first baseman Eric Sams opened the day with a leadoff double to left field. Two batters later, third baseman Jordan Robinson capitalized on the opportunity with a double of his own, bringing Sams in to grant B-CU the early 1-0 advantage.
Although the Rattlers logged base runners in each of the first five innings, starter Gabriel Hernandez and the Wildcats defenders kept FAMU off the board, but the Rattlers finally converted in the sixth, using a Jeremy Barlow RBI groundout to knot the score up at 1-1.
The game resumed its pitcher’s duel status into the final inning, when FAMU got the bats going against the B-CU relievers, as center fielder Jared Walker batted in Kendall weeks to take the 2-1 lead. However, the Rattlers made their move in a big way, reeling off three additional runs on RBI by Bennie Robinson and Ryan Kennedy, all with two outs on the board, pushing FAMU ahead 5-1.
With no response from the Wildcats in the bottom half, the four-run deficit went final. For B-CU, Christopher Waltermire (1-4) took the loss, pitching one and 1/3 innings, and allowing the go-ahead run to reach in the ninth. For FAMU, Williams Carrasco earned the win, pitching the final three frames with no runs allowed.
“They took that first loss to heart, and came out with a definite sense of urgency,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “They did a great job of putting pressure on them, and we looked like a totally different team.”
Imposing their will to win in the second outing of the doubleheader, the Wildcats again went up early, but maintained steady pressure to come away with a big game two victory.
Again, Sams led off with a hit, and again J. Robinson brought him in on a double, but second baseman Matt Noble followed with a double of his own, and left fielder Eros Modena capped the trio of two-baggers with a two-run double to the left center wall, pushing the Wildcats ahead 3-0 in the opening frame.
After three shutout innings behind starter Keith Zuniga, the Rattlers reached the board in the top of the fourth on Michael Birdsong’s power shot through first base, bringing in B. Robinson to narrow the deficit to 3-1.
However, in the bottom half, the Wildcats responded in a major way, opening with consecutive base hits. Center fielder Julian Santos made it three in a row with a two-run roped single down the first base line. J. Robinson capped off the three-run inning with a sacrifice fly to bring Santos in and give the Wildcats the 6-1 advantage.
In the fifth, freshman designated hitter Austin Garcia extended the lead to 7-1, crushing a second pitch from FAMU’s Cameron Sims directly into the Halifax River beyond the left field wall, bypassing the riverwalk entireley. Modena batted in the Wildcats’ final run of the day, reaching base on balls with the bases loaded, bringing in Sams for the 8-1 lead.
Zuniga (4-3) went the distance for his third complete game of the season, closing the seventh on consecutive looking strikeouts to earn the win.
“Keith really had a good tempo going, and he keeps guys on their toes because he’s in the strike zone all the time” Beverlin said. “He used almost exclusively his fastball, and pretty much dominated with one pitch.”
The junior right-hander struck out four and allowed one run on six hits. For FAMU, starter Jordan Montague (2-1) takes the loss, pitching three innings, striking out three and allowing six runs.
It was a big day for the extra base hit, as the Wildcats connected on six doubles and the home run. Leading the way for the Wildcats with crucial consistency was Sams, who went 4-for-7 on the double header, logging one RBI and scoring three runs. Robinson was 2-for-7 with two RBI and a run, while 11 Wildcats logged hits across the two games.
Prior to the first game, the Wildcats held its annual Senior Day Ceremony, as Sunday will be the 2014 home finale. Recognized during the ceremony were Montana Durapau, Scott Garner, Gabriel Hernandez, Josh Johnson, Shaun McCarty, Eros Modena, Matt Noble, Eric Sams and Christopher Waltermire.
Already a big series, Sunday’s ESPNU-televised rubber match will determine who steps into the driver’s seat in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Southern Division standings. The Rattlers sit at an 8-5 conference record and the Wildcats are 8-6 going into Sunday’s finale.
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app on smartphones and tablets. It will air on tape delay at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Joe Davis (Play-by-Play) and Jay Walker (Analyst) will be on the call from Jackie Robinson Ballpark.