By Michael Coker/Black College Nines
In his first season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and as Bethune-Cookman Head Baseball Coach. Under Jason Beverlin, the Wildcats finished the season 1st in the (South) division 18–5 in conference, 34-27 overall celebrated as conference regular season and conference tournament champion, with an automatic qualifying bid for NCAA postseason play in the Gainesville Regional.
Two years later, the Cats were projected in 2014 to go to the College World Series. Instead they ended up 27–33 overall tied for 1st (South) division 14-10 in conference, with another succeeding postseason bid in the Miami Regional. Coach Beverlin, entering his fourth year, knows he can’t prevent the former, but he has gone about addressing the latter.
Current, BC is off to a 3-15 start, one of the worst records among several MEAC teams, although they’ve only played six conference games sitting at 3-3. Don’t count this team out yet.
Bethune-Cookman, in the last 15 years, has started the season off with more losses than wins a yearly feat. Since Beverlin arrival in Daytona Beach, Florida, he is following a trend started by former coach Mervyl Melendez who Beverlin replaced. Melendez bolted to Alabama State.
Prior to Alabama State, Melendez coach his alma mater to eleven Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships in his twelve seasons. As coach he led the team two back-to-back undefeated conference seasons in 2010 and 2011. His teams also won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament every year from 2000 through 2011, with the exception of 2005. He won 379 games as coach of the Wildcats, and in 2009 became the second-youngest coach in NCAA history to win 300 games.
Both coaches have pried on conference opponents proven as the better conference team. Let’s dive in against every conference opponent’s record against the Wildcats in the last fifthteen years.
In fact, Bethune Cookman is the only historical MEAC baseball team that has a winning record against the entire conference, as the Wildcats are 222-56 in the last 15 years. Being an enigma, they have the best record against winning teams within the conference, but they also have the best winning percentage against conference opponents.
Playing in the MEAC is tough. It’s even tougher exiting with a win. Specifically, winning championships starts with conference victories, and Bethune has proven that over the last three years. They’re 49–22 under Beverlin to lead the MEAC. Not only are they winning on the road they’ve defended home turf well.
The Wildcats have a solid core of starters on the mound to repeat as conference champion. Most notably redshirt senior right-hander Keith Zuniga who was selected as Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Zuniga returns for his senior year after foregoing being drafted in the 35th round of the MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins, recording an 8-4 record and 2.70 ERA after pitching 100 innings with 57 strikeouts.
Sophomore Donté Lindsay, a first year starter, made 14 appearances as a reliever during his freshman season at B-CU, collecting 10 strikeouts in 7.2 innings…Registered a 1-1 record with a 3.52 ERA. Opposing batters hit just .222 against Lindsay.
In a recent non-conference game against the University of South Florida, Lindsay pitched 4 innings yielding just two hits allowing one run. The Bethune-Cookman pitching staff allowed just five hits in that game, but the offense was unable to deliver runs, as the Wildcats lost a 1-0 heart breaker to USF.
The Wildcats were tabbed as the top team in the MEAC Southern Division having earned the final MEAC Championship in “eight of the last nine seasons”. To qualify for the NCAA automatic bid, invalidate the entirety of the regular season to the team that happen to get hot at the right time instead of the team that have dominated all season long. Because of the overall competitiveness of the conference, Bethune knows that the criteria for success winning the regular season, and they have not fallen short, nor will they in my opinion.