Bethune-Cookman put the final touches on a successful Southwestern Athletic Conference debut Sunday at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, downing Jackson State 8-7 to sweep the three-game opening series.
The Wildcats (8-11 overall, 3-0 SWAC) registered their first conference opening series sweep since 2014, when they swept Florida A&M to begin Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.
How it Happened
For the second day in a row, the Tigers (10-10,0-3) took the early lead, posting runs in the second and fourth for an early 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats went on to take the lead in a wild fourth. Franki Febles tied things up with a bases-loaded walk. Next up Colton Olasin sent a 2-1 pitch into shallow right field that fell to the ground as JSU infielders lost it in the sun. After some controversy within the officiating crew, the play was ruled an infield fly, and Brian Perez scored to give the Wildcats the 3-2 lead.
Jackson State disputed an errant called time by the second-base official that the Tigers believe could have prevented further outs in the inning, and the game was placed, and completed, under protest.
Knickolas Billings took over for Vazquez in the middle of the seventh. In the eighth, the Tigers loaded the bases and scored a run to pull within one, but Billings struck out back-to-back batters to preserve the lead.
Wilkinson and Perez scored on a throwing error on a bunt by Febles, who scored on a Colton Olasin single. Patterson drove in Olasin to make it an 8-3 game.
Jackson State made things interesting in the ninth, capitalizing on two Wildcat errors to close to 8-7. Brenton Fisher came in from the bullpen and registered a strikeout to preserve the victory and the save.
“You look at the box score, and it’s an ugly win for us,” Wildcats head coach Jonathan Hernandez said after the game.” We just have to clean thinsg up and get ready for Tuesday and another SWAC series next weekend. Championship teams don’t make those mistakes – we can’t let the moment get to us.”
Perez had two hits for the Wildcats.
Hector Vazquez got the win after going 6.2 innings, allowing two runs – one earned – on eight hits, no walks, and six punchouts. Billings chipped in 1.1 innings, allowing no hits, walking two, and striking out two. Derrius York and Gabriel Perez worked the ninth before turning things over to Fisher for the final out.
A sweep to open conference play will not go unnoticed around the SWAC.
“We know we’re a good ballclub,” Hernandez said. “I think the fist half of our season prepared us for what we did this weekend. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish – We’ve got another big series coming up next weekend.”
- Wildcats pitchers walked only four batters and struck out nine.
- B-CU bats worked nine walks in the game as the Tigers struggled to find the strikezone.
- Vazquez threw 66 of 94 pitches for strikes.