CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Five runs over the final three innings, including four in the seventh, was not enough Saturday for Columbia to complete the comeback, as Bethune-Cookman held on for the 6-5 victory in the elimination round of the Coral Gables Regional of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championships.
Columbia plated four runs in the seventh frame, batting around the order to close the gap to 6-4, setting the stage for an exciting finish. Gus Craig added the fifth run on an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, but the Wildcats got some good defense to hang on for the victory, remaining alive for another game.
Bethune-Cookman needed just four pitches to get on the scoreboard in the top of the first, as Josh Johnson cracked a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall for a 1-0 lead.
Columbia starter Kevin Roy settled in following the homer, cruising through the second and third innings. Bethune-Cookman though got the offense going again in the bottom of the fourth, plating two more runs. An error at third with one out gave the Wildcats two base runners to work with. Roy got Jordan Robinson to pop out in foul territory in the next at bat to make it two outs, but Shaun McCarty made the Lions pay for the fielding error in the next at bat. Bethune-Cookman’s shortstop knocked a single through the right side that was bobbled in right field, allowing Eros Modena and Eric Sams to score.
The Wildcats tacked on another run in the fifth frame, extending their lead to 4-0 when Matt Noble singled to left, scoring Johnson.
Reliever Joey Donino came on to start the sixth frame for Columbia and worked a quick 1-2-3 inning with three ground outs. Unfortunately, the Lions offense was unable to turn the momentum, also going three-up, three-down in the bottom half with a trio of pop outs.
The seventh inning brought a flurry of runs from both teams, including an exciting four from Columbia. Bethune-Cookman started the inning by adding two more runs to its tally, with Noble earning credit for both RBI on a double to left field.
Finding itself down 6-0 heading to the bottom of the frame, the Columbia offense awoke in a big way, batting around with the first five hitters reaching base safely. David Vandercook doubled down the right field line, followed by singles from Nick Maguire and John Kinne. Kinne’s single to left center plated Vandercook to get the Lions on the board. Fischer then walked to load the bases, prompting a pitching change from Bethune-Cookman. The change had little effect, as Will Savage then picked up an RBI, taking ball four on a full count to make it a 6-2 game.
Another pitching change resulted in another run, as Serena lifted a sacrifice fly to center, plating Kinne. Two batters later, Robb Paller completed the scoring for Columbia, rocketing a double to left field to bring home Fischer.
Zack Tax came on in relief and tossed two quick, hitless innings to keep Columbia within two runs, heading into its final turn at the dish. The inning began well, as Fischer walked once again before Logan Boyher came on to pinch run. Boyher scored three batters later from second on Craig’s clutch RBI single to right, cutting the deficit to just one, 6-5. The Wildcats secured the win though in the next at bat when Paller’s hard drive to shallow center was caught just before hitting the ground by the Bethune-Cookman’s center fielder.
With the loss Columbia was eliminated from the Coral Gables Regional. The Lions finish the season with a program-record 29 wins and their 12th Ivy League Championship.