Wildcats Advance to MEAC Semi-Final on 10-2 NSU Rout
NORFOLK, Va. - The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (24-31) continued their conference title run in the 2014 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Baseball Championships on Thursday (May 15) at Marty L. Miller Field, routing tournament host Norfolk State (20-25) to advance to the tournament semi-finals.
Just like the opening-round contest versus Maryland Eastern Shore, the Wildcats battled behind a solid pitching performance for the victory, and the offense provided run support early and often to blow the game open in the early going.
“They did a great job,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. “Offensively, we were really good today with a lot of hard-hit balls and a lot of good contact.”
Second baseman Matt Noble sparked the Wildcats with a first-pitch double fired down the left field line to lead off the second inning, but Shaun McCarty stepped up to make it a statement inning. The senior shortstop belted a three-run triple deep into right field and then came home on catcher Zach Olszewski’s sacrifice fly to push the Wildcats ahead 4-0.
“I love that I could contribute and help us get the win,” McCarty said. "It felt good and I think that our offense is clicking."
Noble got the Wildcats started again in the next frame, reaching on a one-out single, ahead of a Jordan Robinson walk. Designated hitter Austin Garcia tacked up another run on an RBI single to left field, while center fielder Eros Modena capped the two-run frame with a sacrifice fly for the 6-0 advantage.
Noble made it three consecutive scoring frames, driving in Olszewski on an RBI fielder’s choice play in the fourth.
Although the Spartans put a score on the board in the top of the sixth with Zach Markel scoring on Ross Cardwell’s RBI groundout, the Wildcats continued to pile it on, scoring a pair in the bottom half on Noble’s sacrifice fly and Modena’s RBI single through the left side. Josh Johnson led off the seventh with a triple to left field and scored on left fielder Jake Welch’s single through the left side, extending the Wildcats’ advantage to 10-1.
Facing reliever John Sever in the eighth, the Spartans trimmed the B-CU lead to eight runs with Andre Moore scoring from third on a catcher’s interference. After Scott Garner closed the eighth, Donte Lindsay downed NSU in order in the ninth to secure the 10-2 win.
B-CU starter Keith Zuniga (7-4) earned the victory with a seven-frame outing, striking out four Spartans while allowing just four hits and one earned run. For the Spartans, Stephen Butt (3-3) took the loss, allowing seven hits and seven earned runs through five innings on the mound.
“I was excited,” Zuniga said. “This is my first time doing this [MEAC Tournament] and I know how much it meant to some of these guys with the way things turned out last year. I was motivated to have a different outcome.”
Noble, McCarty and Modena each batted 2-for-4 in a productive hitting day for the Wildcats. McCarty tallied three RBI and one run, while Noble and Modena each registered two RBI and scored a run. Robinson scored two runs for the Wildcats.
With the victory, the Wildcats earned a third-round bye and will face the winner of the Florida A&M and Savannah State matchup on Saturday (May 17) at 1 p.m. at Marty L. Miller Field.
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