Wild fourth inning propels Bethune-Cookman into MEAC final
NORFOLK, Va. -- Bethune-Cookman (25-31) battled back from an early deficit versus Savannah State (22-30) in the semifinal round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Baseball Championships, igniting the bats in the fourth to spark a 16-6 run rule victory against the Tigers.
Using a season-best scoring total, the Wildcats were able to earn some vindication after falling to the Tigers in the 2013 MEAC Championship final, 1-0, in the 10th inning, advancing to the championship game for the ninth consecutive season.
“We did a great job,” head coach Jason Beverlin said. “It was just one barrel after another. Guys were doing a good job of hitting the ball hard and using the whole field.”
The Wildcats were the first to reach the board in Sunday’s semifinal, as Bryant Munoz scored on second baseman Matt Noble’s sacrifice fly for the first inning 1-0 advantage.
However, the Tigers went to work early as well, using four consecutive hits in the second to take the lead on Zachary Brigham’s two-run double to left field, finishing the frame with a 3-1 advantage after a Lee Moore sacrifice fly.
After the early scoring cooled in the third, the game looked as though it could turn into a pitcher’s duel, but the fourth inning changed everything, as third baseman Jordan Robinson set the Wildcats off on a seven consecutive hit run, pushing B-CU well into the lead as 13 Wildcats batted through, en route to a 10 hit, nine run inning, going on top 10-3.
The Tigers stayed in the fight, as Moore scored on a single to the outfield in the fifth and Tre Sikes added a two-run homer to trim the Wildcats lead to four runs.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on, responding with a pair of runs in the bottom half, as Shaun McCarty scored on a Josh Johnson RBI single and Zach Olszewski scored from third during a double play. However, the final push for the win came in the sixth. Robinson put in the first run, scoring as McCarty reached on an error. Olszewski followed with an RBI single through the right side, McCarty scored on Johnson’s sac fly, and Olszewski crossed the plate for the double-digit lead on a Munoz RBI, pushing the Wildcats ahead 16-6.
After entering in relief for starter Montana Durapau in the sixth, Scott Garner lifted the Wildcats with a one-hit outing to secure the run-rule victory, with the final out coming on a snag of a lined foul ball by Robinson at the left side fence.
“It was awesome to get in there,” Garner said. “We had a lot of reasons to beat them. I’m glad I was able to come in and once we got that 10th run, the seventh inning came along, I just had to shut it down and throw strikes.”
Despite his toughest outing in 26 appearances, Durapau (11-1) earned the victory and ties Helpiz Moises (2002) for most wins in a season, falling just one third of an inning behind Francisco Rodriguez for season innings pitched.
“It was one of those deals where the guys really picked him up [Sunday], it was great to see,” Beverlin said of Durapau. “There have been times throughout the year that he picked them up, and it was great to see them have his back [Sunday].”
All nine batters logged a hit for B-CU, six finished with multiple hits and six recorded multiple RBI, led by the freshman catcher, Olszewski, who went 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Johnson and Munoz each went 2-for-4 with a team-leading three RBI apiece.
“The team had a lot of energy coming out, and they knew we were on a mission to get the job done and get past Savannah,” Johnson said.
The Wildcats advance to Monday’s final at 11 a.m. at Marty L. Miller Field.
“It definitely puts us in the driver’s seat,” Beverlin noted. “We’ve just got to go out [Monday] and continue to play well.”