Head Bethune-Cookman baseball coach Johnny Hernandez has seen it all. The tradition of excellence in HBCU baseball at B-CU is not lost on him or his team.
“With 19 conference championships, you know, in the MEAC, we’re trying to secure our first one now in the SWAC. We’re in our second year in and I think we had a good showing last year,” Hernandez said. “We went 19-11 in SWAC play in the first year and ended up losing to the eventual SWAC champs Alabama State.”
Through the last couple of decades, the B-CU Wildcats have been the most decorated HBCU baseball team. They virtually owned the MEAC and often made noise in the NCAA Playoffs. The Wildcats were led by some pretty dynamic skippers during that run of greatness.
Mervyl Melendez is credited with leading Bethune-Cookman to the top of HBCU baseball. During his tenure, the Wildcats would defeat several Power Five conference schools. At some point it wasn’t even a surprise, it was an expected outcome. Jason Beverlin succeeded Melendez and put his own stamp on the Wildcats, continuing their romp of excellence. Beverlin’s bunch stunned McKeithan Stadium in 2017, by defeating the Florida Gators in the NCAA Regional first round. A few weeks later, the Gators would capture the NCAA Baseball national championship.
While the Wildcats lost to FSU 10-1 at Dick Howser Stadium on Tuesday, it does not deter the purpose of the team playing the Seminoles in a long-standing relationship. “There’s some definite positives, even after today’s loss against Florida State that we look at. I think it’s a good relationship (with FSU), you know, with Chip Baker who is the director of operations here. We’ve kind of set up the scheduling and now with coach Jarrett who took over we want to make it a point to try and play as many quality teams as we can to get us ready for a potential run at the end of May.,” Hernandez said.
The bats started out slow against FSU, but the Cats were able to crank out five hits on the day. Additionally, the pitching was solid at points, but there were times where the bats of the Seminoles got going. The Wildcats used seven pitchers in the game. B-CU also showed solid defense. The infield was consistent in knocking down ground balls and showed extreme range in covering the hole. As usual with a B-CU outfield, the speed covered the whole outfield.
Hernandez and his team understand the expectation of wearing the maroon and gold pinstripes. “It’s a situation where our guys are ingrained in the tradition. We’re just here just trying to build on the tradition that was laid out for us and they understand the magnitude of what it means to represent our program and our brand, not only on the field but off the field as well.They understand it, they get it and again, just trying to build on the tradition of Bethune-Cookman,” Hernandez concluded.