It had been 12 years since Bethune-Cookman had won an NCAA postseason game, and the Wildcats had come tantalizingly close Friday night in losing to Miami.
On Saturday, facing elimination, the fourth-seeded Wildcats came through, jumping out to a six-run lead and holding off No. 3 seed Columbia, 6-5, at Mark Light Field.
The Wildcats (27-32) will play on 1 p.m. CT Sunday against top-seeded Miami (42-18), who lost to No. 2-seed Texas Tech (42-18). It is Bethune-Cookman’s first win in NCAA postseason play since beating Florida International 7-4 in 2002.
Keith Zuniga (8-4) was effective for the Wildcats, scattering three earned runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout in six innings of work.
Columbia starter Kevin Roy (6-5) allowed four runs, but only two earned, on six hits with two walks and a strikeout in five innings.
After managing just two runs in the loss to Miami in Friday’s opening round, the Wildcats got out to a 6-0 lead through the first seven innings, taking advantage of scoring opportunities when they came.
The first of those came right off the bat as leadoff batter Josh Johnson crushed a home run to left on the fourth pitch of the game. But it wasn’t until the fourth that Bethune-Cookman was able to strike again.
A single by Eric Sams and an error on Columbia third baseman David Vandercook allowed Eros Modena to reach safety. With two outs, Shaun McCarty singled to right to score one run, and when right-fielder Gus Craig booted the ball it allowed Modena to score and make it a 3-0 game.
Matt Noble pushed it to 4-0 in the fifth with a two-out RBI single, and his double down the left-field line with two outs in the seventh plated two more to make it a 6-0 lead.
Columbia finally started making its push in the bottom of the seventh.
Vandercook started it with a leadoff double down the left-field line followed by a Nick Maguire single to put runners at the corners. John Kinne ended the scoreless drought with a single to left-center to chase Zuniga.
The Lions pulled to within 6-5 in the ninth on a two-our RBI single by Craig. But Modena ended Columbia’s season with a running catch of a sinking line drive by Paller in center field.
NCAA CORAL GABLES REGIONAL
at Mark Light Field, Coral Gables, Fla.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN 6, COLUMBIA 5
Bethune-Cookman 100 210 200 — 6 8 0
Columbia 000 000 401 — 5 9 2
Zuniga, Waltermire, Lindsay, Sever and Olszewski; Roy, Donino, Tax and Fischer. W — Zuniga (8-4). L — Roy (6-5). 2B — Bethune-Cookman, Noble, Paller, Vandercook. HR — Bethune-Cookman, Johnson. Records: Bethune-Cookman 27-32; Columbia 29-20.
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