DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Florida A&M (10-3) opened MEAC play on a strong note, downing Bethune-Cookman 11-6 on Friday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Sophomore Willis McDaniel was outstanding, finishing the game 4-for-5 with two triples, a double, two runs scored, and three RBI.
The game was tight for five innings, but the Wildcat bullpen struggled to keep the Rattlers off the bases, and off the scoreboard. Florida A&M scored six earned runs on Bethune-Cookman relievers to put the game out of reach.
FAMU starter JoJo Durden (2-0) was solid once again, allowing only two earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts in 5.1 innings. The Wildcats scored three runs off Durden in the bottom of the first inning, but he settled in nicely on his way to earning his second win of the season.
Florida A&M set the tone early with three runs in the top of the first inning. Brian Davis got things started with his third homerun of the season, a solo shot to right field. Ben Ellzey then walked, and Willis McDaniel laced an RBI triple to right center. The Rattlers added the final run of the inning on a wild pitch, scoring McDaniel from third.
After Bethune-Cookman answered back in the bottom of the first inning, tying the game on a three-run homerun from senior Austin Garcia, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs and a man on third, the Rattler infield committed a costly error, allowing Bethune to take the lead 4-3.
Florida A&M regained the lead in the top of the sixth. The Rattlers loaded the bases with one out for Kaycee Reese who drew a walk to bring in the first run. After a wild pitch from BCU reliever Joesph Calamita allowed the second run to cross, John Capra delivered an RBI fielder’s choice, giving FAMU a 6-4 lead.
Willis McDaniel single-handedly extended the Florida A&M lead to 7-4 in the top of the seventh inning. After crushing his second triple of the day over the left fielder’s head, Gutierrez sailed the next pitch behind Dallas Oliver allowing McDaniel to score.
The Wildcats cut into the Rattler lead, scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double by Danny Rodriguez, making it a two-run ballgame.
FAMU put the game out of reach by adding four more runs in the top of the eighth inning to push their lead to six. With one out and the bases loaded, Aubrey McCarty drove in the first run on an RBI single to center field. Willis McDaniel then followed with his third extra-base-hit of the day, this time a 2-RBI double to right center field. For the third time of the afternoon a wild pitch by the Wildcat pitcher allowed a Rattler runner to score from third for the final run of the inning, making the score 11-5.
Bethune-Cookman added a single run in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice fly for a final score of 11-6.
The Rattlers finished the day with 11 hits, their tenth game of the season with double digit hits. Florida A&M is now 7-3 in such games.
John Capra (2-for-6, R, RBI) and Brian Davis (HR, 2 R) had good days at the plate, while Danny Rodriguez pitched well in relief, throwing the final 1.2 innings without allowing a hit.
FAMU pitchers did a great job on Friday afternoon of making BCU hitters earn their way on base. The Rattlers issued only four free passes on the day (1 BB, 3 HBP) to go with seven strikeouts, whereas Wildcat pitchers surrendered 11 free passes (8 BB, 3 HBP).
Bethune-Cookman starter Donte Lindsay (0-2) suffered the loss after allowing five runs on six hits in 5.1 innings pitched.
Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman will play a double header tomorrow, starting at 1:00 PM to wrap up the first conference series of the season. The second game is scheduled to start approximately 30 minutes after the completion of Game 1.