NORFOLK, Va. -- Gutting out a 4-2 victory on Monday afternoon against Norfolk State (23-26) at Marty L. Miller Field, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (26-31) became champions once again, earning the 2014 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship after a smooth and inspired run through the conference tournament.
“This long road trip that we’ve been on really helped our guys come together as one and to peak at the right time,” head coach Jason Beverlin said. “Playing some really quality opponents in Washington and Auburn, and then coming here, we knew it was going to be a tough game. The teams in our league are definitely great opponents. Our guys coming together and really swinging the bats at the right time and our pitching staying consistent, they didn’t disappoint at all.”
Although the Spartans made the first strike, scoring in the top of the first on a Cameron Day RBI single to right field, the Wildcats were quick to counter. B-CU capitalized on a Josh Johnson leadoff walk, as the senior right fielder crossed the plate on first baseman Eric Sams’ RBI double into the left field corner for the tie at 1-1.
The Wildcats made the most important move of the day in the second, changing the game with one solid swing of the bat by left fielder Bryant Munoz, who brought three runners home with a double to left center field. The Spartans responded with a single run in the third on a Cody Ellis RBI single up the middle, but the Wildcats held onto the 4-2 lead with tough defense.
The Wildcats used three pitchers to secure the game from the mound. Starter Gabriel Hernandez carried the Wildcats through four innings before yielding to Christopher Waltermire. A redshirt senior, Hernandez allowed two runs on four hits. Waltermire (2-5) covered the fifth and sixth with three hits to earn the win, while took over the final three frames with no hits and three strikeouts for his third save.
Five Wildcats collected hits in the contest, with Munoz logging three RBI on 1-for-4 hitting and Sams registering one RBI on 1-for-5 hitting.
The championship is the first for B-CU since 2012, as the Wildcats fell in last season’s championship final, snapping a streak of seven consecutive championships. With the 2014 crown, the Wildcats have won eight of the past 10 MEAC titles and 17 overall.
“This is what you work hard for all year, and these guys deserve it,” Beverlin said. “They did a great job of coming together at the right time, and hopefully we can continue this momentum into the NCAA regionals.”
In addition to winning the title, three players were named to the MEAC all-tournament team: pitcher Montana Durapau, shortstop Shaun McCarty and catcher Zach Olszewski. Durapau was also named MEAC tournament most outstanding player. Coach Beverlin was named tournament outstanding coach.
The Wildcats also clinch the MEAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats will learn their regional location during the 2014 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Selection Show, a one-hour telecast on ESPNU at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, May 26. The 16 regional hosts will be announced on Sunday, May 25.