No. 1 ranked University of Florida Gators (47-13) will host streaking Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (29-25) in an NCAA Division I regional tournament matchup at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium in Gainesville.
Florida won earlier this season defeating Bethune-Cookman 7-1 in their only scheduled meeting this past May 3rd. The Wildcats entered that game on a seven-game win streak. Timely hitting paired with a solid pitching performance from six different pitchers led the Florida baseball team to the win over Bethune-Cookman.
Florida pitchers were in command through the first three innings and kept the Wildcat batters off-balance. Offensively, the Gator bats came to life early with a run in the first and a five-run second inning. UF’s offensive struck again in the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot to finalize the 7-1 win.
BCU’s German Hernandez (4-5) started that contest and was charged with the loss allowing seven runs on nine hits in six innings of work.
Florida remains No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and also remains No. 1 in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Florida is tied for the most victories (37) in the country and is off to the best start in school history. Currently, Florida leads the nation in strikeouts (470) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.6). UF is second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.43) and fielding percentage (.985).
Bethune-Cookman will look to get back on track after falling to Florida this season. The Wildcats have a pitching staff in place with starters Alex Seibold, 4.60 ERA and a 6-4 record in 60.2 innings pitched with 54 Ks, Tyler Norris who earned Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) postseason honors as a starting pitcher after turning in a 6-3 record and 4.16 ERA in 67 innings pitched. He also struck out a team-best 69 batters and added a team second-lowest .276 batting average against mark. The Wildcats also have German Hernandez, with a 5.01 ERA. Reliver Clint Clymer has a 3.14 ERA with 2 saves, and Joseph Calamita has appeared in 25 contests with a 2.55 ERA and has two saves in 24.2 innings worked
At the plate, Bethune-Cookman surprising freshman first baseman Danny Rodriguez, MEAC Rookie of the Year, led the Wildcats in RBIs (46), recorded 67 hits, nine doubles and seven home runs, with 36 runs scored. Additionally, Rodriguez was selected to the All-MEAC Second Team as a first baseman.
Nathan Bond finished the year atop the Cats in batting average (.358), while plating 28 RBIs on 58 hits. Michael Cruz, one of the top home run hitters in the NCAA (16) is third on the B-CU team in batting average (.332) and as the primary catcher, started more than 50 games. Clay Middleton is second on the team with a .352 batting average with 3 round trippers and 31 RBIs, while Jameel Edney has 7 HR and 32 RBI.
Demetrius Sims started in 53 games, hitting .283 batting with 52 hits, 21 RBIs and 35 runs scored. Rakeem Quinn is fourth on the team in batting average (.311), with 16 RB and a team-leading 27 stolen bases in 30 attempts.
B-CU will be making its 15th NCAA Regional appearance in the 2016 Division I Baseball Championship. The Wildcats earned the automatic qualification to the NCAA tournament after winning the MEAC title.
The last time the Wildcats played in the Gainesville regional was in 2012, head coach Jason Beverlin’s first year at the helm.
The Wildcats enter the weekend having won its last six games and seven of the last 10. Two of the three losses came against top-ranked Florida (May 3) and third-ranked Miami (May 10).
B-CU is 0-30 in the all-time series, with 29 losses coming in Gainesville. Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 10-0 against the Wildcats.
Bethune Cookman faced one of the toughest HBCU non-conference schedules this season with solid wins against the nation’s top Division I RPI baseball programs. The Wildcats have talent on the mound and having faced Florida earlier could be a plus for the staff. As well, they are swinging the bats well.