ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Iesha Waters' three-run homer in the sixth inning allowed Bethune-Cookman to win the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Softball Tournament Championship on Saturday afternoon, as the Wildcats took down Florida A&M, 8-5 at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex.
For Bethune-Cookman, the MEAC Tournament title is the first of its kind since 2012, erasing a string of four consecutive runner-up finishes.
With Bethune-Cookman (31-24) clinging to a 5-4 lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, All-MEAC senior first baseman Iesha Waters lifted a pitch deep over the left field wall for her first home run of the year, driving in teammates Jacki Smith and Cheyenne Smith to stretch the Wildcats' lead at 8-4.
In the top of the seventh, Florida A&M (23-29) – the four-time defending MEAC champs, looked to rally.
A fielding error by BCU shortstop Jacki Smith allowed FAMU's Alexis Day to reach base safely with two outs. Kyaira Brown followed with a single to right, allowing Hera Varmah to plate Day with a single to center, producing the final 8-4 score line.
Bethune-Cookman opened the game similar to Friday's semifinal matchup between the two teams, scoring in the opening inning.
Waters singled with two away in the frame, allowing designated player Brianna Sanders to deliver a run-scoring single to straightaway center field, putting BCU up, 1-0.
The Wildcats would stretch the lead at 3-0 in the bottom of the second inning.
Freshman second baseman Kayla Traylor singled to begin the BCU at-bat before Cheyenne Smith moved her over with a sacrifice bunt. Jacki Smith singled through the left side to bring around Traylor for the 2-0 BCU advantage. After a walk issued to two-time MEAC Player of the Year Ryan Jackson, Waters singled to center, scoring Jacki Smith on the play.
The Wildcats made it 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth, using a Waters sacrifice fly to right that plated Cheyenne Smith from third. The second run of the inning was scored via double steal performed by Jackson and Jacki Smith, with Smith racing in on an error charged to FAMU catcher Alexis Blasingane.
The Rattlers would eventually get on the board in the top of the sixth with four runs, using a pair of BCU errors and a RBI single from Brown to get themselves back into the game.
The win went to MEAC Pitcher of the Year Alexis Bermudez in the circle, moving her record for the year out to 13-9. In the process, she won all four games for the Maroon and Gold during this year's MEAC Tournament. In Saturday's winning performance, she threw 6.1 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, three walks and registering two strikeouts. The save was earned by freshman Victoria Guzman, picking up her team-high fifth save of the campaign, as she worked two-thirds of an inning and never surrendered a hit.
The loss went to FAMU starter Kyaira brown (16-12) as she posted a complete-game effort, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits, two walks and amassing two strikeouts.
The BCU offense was paced by Jacki Smith with a 3-for-4 effort at the dish, adding a RBI and scoring a game-high four runs. Cheyenne Smith was 2-for-2 with the bat, while Waters finished the game a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate with a run scored and five RBIs.
Bermudez was named as the MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Performer. Laura Watten was named the Most Outstanding Coach of the tournament.
Bethune-Cookman will wait to see where the Wildcats will go for next weekend's NCAA Regional, with the NCAA Selection Show taking place Sunday, May 13, at 10 p.m. (EST).