BY ANDREAS BUTLER
In a battle of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) South Division’s top teams, Bethune-Cookman University took two of three games from Savannah State University to hold on to the division lead.
Savannah State (21-22, 9-3) opened the series by winning the first game of a double header 3-2.
“It was a good game. I have no complaints,” said Chris Cochrane, B-CU’s softball coach.
Jami Paolini’s two-run homerun in the top of the eight gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
Michelle Banuelos-Smith homered in the bottom of the eight to get the Wildcats within a run.
Karina Romero and Cesley Tafoya each had two hits for B-CU while Paolini had three hits for SSU.
Bethune-Cookman (26-25, 11-1) responded by taking the second game 6-2 fueled by a six run second inning.
“We had some good at bats, and I think that Shanel threw well enough to win both games,” added Cochrane.
Madison Hedderly’s two-run homerun gave the Tigers an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
Calesha Shelly blooped a three-run triple over the drawn in infield to give B-CU a 3-2 lead.
“She was pitching me outside but finally pitched me outside. I just tried to get the ball over their heads. I got a pitch that I could hit and hit it hard,” answered Shelly.
Aurelia Gamch had an RBI double and Banuelos-Smith hit a two-run homerun for the Wildcats.
“I was really seeing the ball well and was focused. I was just trying to hit it not hit a homerun,” responded Banuelos-Smith.
The Wildcats won the series finale 9-3 as they honored seniors Tafoya (1-for-2, RBI) and Ferguson (2-for-4, two RBIs) on Senior Day.
Banuelos-Smith went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Gamch 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored, Shelly 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Karina Romero 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Series stars: Banuelos-Smith (.500BA, five hits, two homeruns, five RBIs, two runs); Shelly (.455BA, five hits, three runs, three RBIs); Gamch (.400BA, four hits, four runs, two RBIs); Tolbert (2-1, 3.66 ERA, 22 innings, seven strikeouts).
The Ladies hosted the University of Central Florida (38-13) on Tuesday.
They travel to Tallahassee to face Florida A&M (20-26, 7-4) on May 4 and 5 in another key division series to end the regular season.
Baseball: B-CU sweeps A&T
The Wildcats took advantage of the national spotlight by beating North Carolina A&T (7-11, 16-30) 7-5 on ESPNU to open the series.
“Our defense was good. Brashad (Johnson) showed out at shortstop. He made some excellent plays. We stayed within ourselves and was able to get some runs,” said Jason Beverlin, B-CU’s head baseball coach.
David Lee was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and Ryan Gonzalez (7-0) pitched five innings to get the win for Bethune-Cookman.
Nick Johnson, Jairo Acevedo and Brandon Turner each had two hits, Brashad Johnson and Jake Welch each had a hit an RBI and Jordan Dailey picked up the save for B-CU.
Bethune-Cookman (27-18, 16-4) swept a double header the following day winning 15-13 and 3-1.
Brashad Johnson went 4-for-6 with three runs and two RBIs and Lenny Pizzaro 2-for-3 with four RBIs while Gabriel Hernandez (5-1) was the winning pitcher for the Wildcats. Welch was also 2-for-4 with two RBIs for B-CU.
In the second game Ali Simpson (2-1) pitched five scoreless innings to get the win and Scott Garner (1) picked up the save while Brashad Johnson went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and David Lee 2-for-3 for B-CU.
Series stars: Brashad Johnson (.667BA, eight hits, four runs, four RBIs, six SBs); Ali Simpson (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, no runs).
Others: Welch (.333BA, three hits, three RBIs, three runs); Pizzaro (.333 BA, three hits, four RBIs), Lee (.454 BA, five hits, two RBIs, two runs), Acevedo (.375 BA, three hits, four runs, two RBIs, three IP, three strikeouts); Jordan Dailey (2.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, two saves, two ks).
Brashad Johnson also was named MEAC Player of the Week. In five games, he went 13-for-21 batting .619 with nine RBIs, four runs scored, seven stolen bases and a .714 slugging percentage. He also had 18 assists, seven put outs and turned three double plays on defense.
The Wildcats traveled to Florida International (25-18) on Tuesday. They play at No. 18 University of Miami (30-14-1) from May 4-6.
Bowling: B-CU finishes ranked
The Lady Wildcats bowling team finished ranked 18th in the final National Tenpin Coaches Association poll.
“It’s a great accomplishment for such a young team and for the coaches to rank us in the top 20. It’s a great achievement for our institution,” commented Tony O’Neal, B-CU head bowling coach.
The young Wildcats squad went 63-56 on the year, including 21-9 in the MEAC for the regular season.
B-CU finished second in the MEAC tournament but didn’t get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats defeated national champion University of Maryland Shore along with other notable programs in Webber State and the University of Florida.
Volleyball, softball get commits
Bethune-Cookman’s women’s volleyball team picked up four commits from four players from the Caribbeans.
Phylecia Armstrong of Trinidad and Tobago, Marissa Murphy of St. Croix, DeLicia Pierre of Trinidad and Tobago and Rhea Simon all signed letters of intent last week.
Bartow outfielder Wanda Darby signed a national letter of intent to play with the Wildcats.
As a junior this season, she batted .295 with 19 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
Darby is the cousin of former B-CU player and now volunteer assistant coach Brianna Laverett.