SALISBURY, Md. – Keith Zuniga pitched all nine innings on Thursday afternoon, helping Bethune-Cookman stave off elimination with a 3-2 victory over Savannah State on second day action of the 2015 MEAC Baseball Championships at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is serving as host of this year’s tournament in Salisbury, Maryland.
Defending conference champion Bethune-Cookman (17-39) stared elimination in the face Wednesday afternoon, sitting in unfamiliar territory of the elimination bracket on just the second day of the four-day annual event.
The Wildcats answered with a solid pitching production from redshirt senior and first team all-conference performer Keith Zuniga.
Savannah State (21-33) had the first real opportunity to score the game’s first run in the top-half of the inning when Michael McHugh tripled to start off the at-bat. Zuniga then got McHugh leaning too far away from the bag on a line shot back to the mound off the bat of Devin Jackson, keeping the run off the board.
Redshirt senior right fielder Jordan Robinson led off the B-CU at-bat in the second with a single, followed by a walk issued to designated hitter Austin Garcia. After a sac bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Robinson scored the game’s opening run courtesy a Jake Welch sac fly fouled to right field. That was followed by a sac fly from Bryant Munoz, plating Garcia for the 2-0 Wildcats advantage.
Bethune-Cookman went back to work on McCormack in the fourth with another run that would end up being the game-winner.
A two-out rally began with Welch’s bunt single down the third base line. He then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by SSU catcher Ryan McCranie trying to cut him down at second. Munoz then crossed Welch with a RBI single back up the middle, adding to the B-CU lead, 3-2.
The Tigers were finally able to get to Zuniga in the top of the seventh.
Left fielder Hector Benitez drove across McCranie with a single to right field, after McCranie led off the frame with a single to short.
In the eighth, All-MEAC performer third baseman Zachary Brigham blasted a leadoff home run over the right field wall, cutting into the Wildcats lead, 3-2.
B-CU fourth-year head coach Jason Beverlin sent Zuniga back to the hill in the ninth, where the Nogales, Arizona native delivered three consecutive outs – ending the game with a strikeout to earn the win.
In working his team-leading fourth complete game of the year, Zuniga moved his record to 7-5 on the campaign with the victory. He allowed two runs on eight hits scattered, striking out a season-high nine batters and walking just one.
The loss went to McCormack, also turning in a complete game effort, as he was tagged for three runs (one earned) with one strikeout and two walks.
Robinson led the Wildcats offensively with three hits in four trips, scoring a run in the process. Second baseman Brandon Amendolare was 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Munoz drove in two scores.
Bethune-Cookman will now take on the top seed out of the north in the form of Norfolk State on Friday at 10 a.m. Norfolk State used a walk-off fielder’s choice to defeat host Maryland Eastern Shore in the day’s opening elimination contest.
The championship finale is set for Saturday, May 16, beginning at 1 p.m.