DAYTONA BEACH — Severe weather continued to wreak havoc with the MEAC tournament on Thursday, but the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats managed to dodge the raindrops, and elimination, on the tournament's second day.
The Wildcats started the day by resuming Wednesday's tournament opener against Norfolk State, which was suspended in the bottom of the ninth by rain with the teams tied at seven. When the game resumed Thursday morning it was the Spartans who walked off with the win, thanks to an assist from the B-CU defense.
With two on and two outs, Norfolk State’s Alsander Womack scored the game-winning run when a strike three ball in the dirt skipped past B-CU’s Chase DeBonis, allowing the batter to race to first and giving the Spartans the 8-7 win.
The loss not only sent B-CU to the losers bracket of the tournament, but also meant the Wildcats would have to face Maryland Eastern Shore immediately after in an elimination game.
“It was awful, the worst feeling ever,” pitcher Tyler Krull said of the loss. “We’d be through this before, though. We were up for the challenge.”
Luckily for the ‘Cats, it was Krull who would take the mound against the Hawks shortly after, and the junior made it clear he wasn’t ready to go home quite yet.
Krull battled into the sixth inning, giving up just three runs as B-CU staved off elimination with a 13-3 win over the Hawks. Senior Michael Deeb led the way offensively, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
That win, coupled with a Norfolk State loss late Thursday night to North Carolina A&T, sets up a rematch between the Spartans and Wildcats at 9 a.m. on Friday in another elimination game. The rematch was supposed to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, but weather, once again, forced all games to move back.
“We needed someone to come out and set the tone, get things rolling in the right direction,” said head coach Barrett Shaft. “Tyler certainly did that. We’ve been swinging the bat well, too. Recently, I’ve felt like our lineup hasn’t really been letting up on guys.”
Danny Rodriguez and Zach Spivey added three hits each in the win for the Wildcats (21-33), while senior Jordan Stacy hit a towering solo home run in the eighth. B-CU outhit Maryland Eastern Shore, 15-7, and scored in all but three innings, including five runs in the fourth.
Perhaps more importantly than the offense was Krull, who ate up enough innings to save most of the B-CU bullpen. The Wildcats have also been able to get through two games without using ace Anthony Maldonado, who was named the MEAC’s Pitcher of the Year earlier this week.
Shaft remained tight-lipped as to who would start Friday's pivotal game.
"We're going to be TBD," he laughed. "We're going to try and make the best move to win the next game."
No matter who starts, Krull said the team feels confident in a must-win situation, especially given their past.
"We have a lot of good players here, a lot of guys who returned from last year," he added. "Last year was a big run for us, so I think we have a lot of veteran guys who can push us through this. We can get it done."