BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University has the top baseball team among historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
B-CU also has been on the national stage. Last season, the Wildcats were 34-27 overall and 18-5 in the MEAC while winning their seventh straight MEAC title and making their seventh straight NCAA Regional appearance.
The Wildcats have won 12 of the last 13 and 16 of the last 18 MEAC titles and have been to the NCAA Tournament 14 times in the last 16 years.
This year’s squad is ready to take the next step under second-year coach Jason Beverlin.
“It all starts between the ears. We have the talent of SEC and PAC-12 schools but until we believe in ourselves we won’t win those games. In baseball, anybody can beat anybody. A team can’t just be physical and beat you like in other sports. In this game, the skill element is larger than other sports,” explained Beverlin.
Leading the Wildcats offense will be senior outfielder, David Lee (.306 BA, three homeruns, 47 RBIs, 13 SBs) while local product and Spruce Creek high alum in Junior Pitcher, Scott Garner (4-4, 6.00 ERA) is poised to lead them on the mound.
“I’m looking forward to leading the club offensively. I did it last year. That is why I came here. We just have to go out there and play,” responded Lee.
Garner responded, “I just know the area here and have my family around, which brings fans to support us. If I can keep the ball down and use my sinking fast ball, I can return to form and help lead the club.”
Junior designated hitter/firstbaseman and pitcher, Anthony Stokes (.261 BA, 10 HRs, 35 RBIs) along with senior outfielder Brandon Turner (.292 BA, 23 RBIs, 23 SBs) and junior outfielder Josh Johnson (.291 BA, one homerun, 26 RBIs, 27 SBs) return.
“We have good team speed and will be aggressive on the bases. We have more power this year but pitching and defense will still anchor our club,” added Beverlin.
Strong starting pitching
B-CU will have a strong starting pitching staff with Senior Ali Simpson (2-1, 4.30 ERA) returning from injury and Deltona high alum Montana Durapau (4-7, 3.86 ERA). They lost senior Gabriel Hernandez (6-3, 2.92 ERA) to injury.
Senior, Jordan Dailey (4-6, 3.30 ERA, 11 saves) returns as their closer. Both Simpson and Garner are former MEAC freshmen pitchers of the year and Simpson is a former freshman All-American.
“Our starting pitching is strong despite our lack of depth. Our concern will be finding the fourth starter and reliever spots right now. We are going to have to monitor our starters pitch count and keep them healthy. The new guys will have a chance to step up,” said Beverlin.
“We are looking forward to the season starting. We are looking forward to long outings. We just have to keep the ball down and work to our strengths,” added Garner.
A deeper team
The Wildcats have a few newcomers who can help the team out defensively and offensively in junior college transfers and infielders Eric Sams and Josh McCarthy along with freshman catchers Clay Middleton and Chris Biocic.
Sophomore infielder P.J. Boicic returns from injury to help the infield and sophomore Jake Welch returns to help depth in the outfield.
“We have far more depth than last season. During both the fall and the spring the team competition has been great. It has brought the best out of all our players,” said Beverlin.
“We are all the on the same team. We are comfortable with whoever goes out there and play. We just have to go play, execute and get it done,” added Lee.
B-CU opens the season with a three-game series at PAC-12 power Arizona State from Feb. 15-17.
Men’s basketball: ’Cats fall short on road
The road wasn’t kind to the Wildcats men basketball program this past week.
B-CU (9-16, 4-6) suffered defeats to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) 81-75 and North Carolina A&T 65-55.
Adrien Coleman had a career-high 31 points with 10 rebounds and two blocks for the Wildcats against NCCU. Kevin Dukes added 12 points and Malik Jackson 10 for B-CU.
Coleman and Javoris Bryant each had 12 points to lead the Wildcats against North Carolina A&T.
Women’s basketball: B-CU splits road games
The Ladies opened their road trip with a loss to North Carolina A&T 56-31 but rebounded by thumping North Carolina Central 51-34.
Bethune-Cookman (11-11, 6-4) remained in the thick of the MEAC race.
Shakyia Coyler led B-CU with 12 points against North Carolina A&T while Terrenisha Hollis had 18 and Coyler 16 against NCCU.
Both programs return home for the final homestand of the season. They face critical conference matchups against Howard on Feb.18, South Carolina State on Feb. 23 and Savannah State on Feb. 25.
Bowling: B-CU still ranked
The women’s bowling team remained ranked in the latest National Ten Pen Coaches Association poll, which was released on Feb. 8.
The Lady Wildcats retained their No. 19 ranking. The Wildcats hold a 40-41 mark but have competed in tournaments that featured many ranked opponents.
The Ladies return to action Feb. 15-17 when they travel to the Morgan State University Invitational in Perry Hall, Md.