BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman concluded its season with losses to #23 South Florida 7-3 on May 7 and then ranked #30 the University of Central Florida 4-0 on May 8.
The Wildcats now shift their attention to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament in Norfolk, Virginia from May 15-19 where the conference title and NCAA Tournament berth is at stake.
Bethune-Cookman (30-23, 17-7) hasn’t been as dominant in conference play this season as in recent years but still has what it takes to win it.
B-CU finished second in the MEAC Southern Division. They had the same conference record as Savannah State (29-22, 17-7) who won the tie breaker and the division.
The ‘Cats are the number two seed from the Southern Division in the tournament. They opened with Coppin State (12-14, 17-32) on Wednesday (May 15).
“We just have to concentrate like we do when we play the better competition. We have to be ready to come and play our best. If, we do that I feel good about us,” responded B-CU Head coach, Jason Beverlin.
B-CU has won seven straight MEAC titles, 13 in the past 14 seasons and 15 in the past 17 years. They have also been to seven straight NCAA Tournaments and 13 in the past 14 years.
“There is no added pressure. Any pressure is what you put on yourself. It’s all self-induced. Pressure is always there to win. As competitors you want to win every year,” said Beverlin.
Pitching is still the key to the Wildcats success; they are led by starters Montana Durapau (8-3, 3.41 ERA) and Scott Garner (5-5, 4.63 ERA) along with closer Jordan Dailey (5-0, 1.07 ERA, 10 SV).
“We’re going to need to be strong on the mound in this tournament with our lack of depth. We are looking for our starters Montana, Scott and Ali Simpson to all go deep into games,” added Beverlin.
B-CU’s offense is led by its catalyst Josh Johnson (.322 BA, 64 H, 15 SB), Anthony Stokes (.303 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBIs) and Eros Modena (.288 BA, 2 HR, 31 RBIs, 37 R, 17 SB).
The supporting cast of David Lee (2 HR, 25 RBIs), Eric Sams (1 HR, 23 RBIs), Matt Noble (2 HR, 29 RBIs) and Brandon Turner (.261 BA, 11 RBIs, 31 R, 22 SB) will also be needed for offense if the ‘Cats are to win.
“The top of our lineup is important. Josh gets us going and Brandon is one of the best base runners I have seen in both college and pros as a player and coach. We have a lot of team speed and can put pressure on defenses. We have a lot of guys who bring something to the table. Also, David hasn’t hit as high average wise as in the past but he has deep pitch counts. He wears down pitchers and help guys behind him,” expressed Beverlin.
Softball title eludes team
For the first time in three years; Bethune-Cookman is not headed to the NCAA Tournament.
B-CU entered the tournament as the three-time defending champion.
The Wildcats (18-35, 11-3) were eliminated from the MEAC Tournament with a 9-5 loss to Delaware State University on May 10.
B-CU led the game 3-0 before DSU rallied fueled by some late homeruns.
Calesha Shelley went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Simone Ceasar 2-for-4 with an RBI for the ‘Cats.
Jessica Madrid and Ashley Bennett each homered and combined for six RBIs for the Hornets.
A day earlier, the Wildcats opened the tournament with an 8-0 win in five innings over Coppin State.
Michelle Banuelos-Smith had two RBIs, Ceasar had two hits and Shamaria Engram two hits with an RBI while Shanel Tolbert pitched a complete game shutout for B-CU.
Later that day they fell to Savannah State University 8-1, in that game Ceasar had an RBI single that scored Shelley for the Wildcats.
Hampton (34-23) won the tournament and earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wildcats earn honors
B-CU head coach, Chris Cochrane was named MEAC Coach of the Year on May 9. She won the award for the second time in three years.
This season, Cochrane led the Wildcats to the MEAC Southern Division title.
In seven seasons, B-CU has won three MEAC titles and made three NCAA appearances under Cochrane.
Michelle Banuelos-Smith (.329 BA, 7 HR, 37 RBIs, 50 H, 29 R, 13 SB) and Aureila Gamch (.325 BA, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 54 H, 30 R) were named to the All-MEAC Second Team.
Golf: B-CU wins minority titles
Bethune-Cookman won both the men’s and women’s PGA Minority Golf Championships this past week.
The Wildcats’ men edged Texas Pan American by one stroke 283-284 for the title. Ryan Fricker was B-CU’s top golfer. He finished in third place individually.
The women’s team (291) defeated Texas Pan American (291) in a playoff to claim the title. It’s the second consecutive year that B-CU has won the women’s title.
The Wildcats’ Andrea Orozco (220) won the women’s individual championship.