Extra Innings Opener Leads to Wildcats Split with NCAT
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Now taking on games seven and eight of the 21-game road swing, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (20-22, 12-8 MEAC) split the series-opening doubleheader with the North Carolina A&T Aggies (14-24, 7-10 MEAC) in a pair of Good Friday matchups at War Memorial Stadium.
“I thought they were pretty similar games in the respect that they were both tight games,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “The difference was we didn’t let it slip away late like we did the first game.
In the first outing of the day, the Aggies earned victory after cutting into the Wildcats lead late in the regulation innings, forcing extra innings and eventually earning the win by working the counts.
The Wildcats built a lead slow but steady in the doubleheader’s opening contest, as Eros Modena reached base on balls in the first and came home on Jordan Robinson’s RBI groundout. After reaching on a double, Matt Noble touched home by advancing on the throw to second, as the Aggies attempted to catch Josh Johnson stealing and instead committed an error.
Robinson got the Wildcats started in the sixth, reaching base on an error by third baseman Timothy Ravare. Johnson joined him on the basepath with a bloop single into shallow center. Robinson came home on a delayed double steal, and Johnson joined him once again, scoring from second on a Bryant Munuz RBI single fired up the middle.
In the meantime, the Aggies had notched one run in the third, as Dylan Hipp scored from second on a Luke Tendler RBI single to right field. The Aggies again narrowed the B-CU advantage in the eighth with an 0-2 count home run by Micah Carmony to right field.
As starter Keith Zuniga went well beyond the century pitch mark, N.C. A&T led off with a single for Luke Tendler, drew a walk, and added a sacrifice bunt to open the bottom of the ninth. Entering in relief, Donte Lindsay loaded the bases on a 4-0 walk, yielding the mound to Michael Austin. Designated hitter Stefan Jordan coaxed out a full count walk and Carmony added to his RBI total with a sacrifice fly, tying the game at 4-4. Austin secured the final strikeout, sending the Wildcats to extra innings for the fourth time this season.
In the 11th, catcher Lester Salcedo led off the frame with a double for the Aggies, and the Wildcats intentionally walked Cameron Jergens. Ryan Hill coaxed out a walk to load the bases and call Chris Waltermire into action for the Wildcats. Waltermire secured two outs and had substitute second baseman Kyle Clary behind in a 2-2 count, but the Aggies’ freshman found the perfect gap in right field for a walk-off RBI single, ending the game in a 4-3 loss for the Wildcats.
Zuniga went eight and a third innings, striking out four. Pitching one and two-thirds, Austin (0-2) takes the loss for the Wildcats. Hipp (1-0) earned the win for the aggies, pitching two innings and striking out two.
Early in the second game, the Wildcats worked the counts themselves, drawing an RBI walk for Julian Santos in the top of the first to bring in Modena, who singled through the left side. After reaching base on balls, Robinson touched the plate to make it 2-0 on an Eric Sams RBI single to right center in the second.
The Aggies trimmed the B-CU lead in the third to 2-1, as Hipp scored on an error during a rundown at third.
However, the Wildcats were quick to take the run back, as Modena placed a two-out double down the third base line in the fourth and Bryant Munoz made it count with an RBI single to right field, pushing the B-CU lead to 3-1.
Over the next two frames, Montana Durapau combined with efforts from Waltermire and Logan Blum to keep the Aggies at bay, stranding three N.C. A&T runners. In the seventh, Blum struck out one and walked another before handing off to John Sever. Sever struck out the two remaining Aggie batters to secure the 3-1 victory and earn his second save of the year.
“I knew it was time to get it done,” Sever said. “I went out there and threw as many strikes as I could to get the win for my team. It always feels good to win, but we’ve still got work to do.”
Durapau (8-0) earned the victory, pitching five innings with three strikeouts and no earned runs allowed. For the Aggies, starter Brian Poag (2-2) takes the loss, throwing two innings.
Stepping up to open the series, Munoz was an offensive key in each contest, hitting .714 (5-for-7) on the day with two RBI.
“I’m just feeling confident,” Munoz said. “I’m seeing the ball really big and just doing my best to put runs across and get on base for the team.”
Modena batted 3-for-8 with three runs scored. Meanwhile, Amendolare, Noble and Sams each tallied two RBI apiece.
The Wildcats and Aggies meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the series rubber match at War Memorial Stadium.
To join the conversation on social media, be sure to tag your B-CU-related posts with the official hashtag of B-CU Athletics, #HailWildcats.