ATLANTA – In a thrilling elimination game in the 2024 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Baseball Tournament at Russ Chandler Stadium, Bethune-Cookman (BCU) edged out Jackson State (JSU) with a 4-3 walk-off win in the 10th inning. This victory forces a decisive third game between the two teams, with the winner advancing to the SWAC Championship.

Irvin Escobar walks across the plate with the game-winning run in the 10th inning. (photo c. Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports)

The game started with an early run for Jackson State. Jordan McCladdie scored in the top of the first after reaching on a fielding error by BCU. The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the seventh when Colton Olasin’s RBI single drove in AJ Smith, tying the game at 1-1.

Jackson State regained the lead in the eighth inning. Lenny Montesano’s single to right field scored McCladdie, making it 2-1. The Tigers extended their lead in the top of the ninth when Shemar Harris singled to left center, driving in Arjun Huerta for a 3-1 advantage. However, Huerta’s taunting as he crossed the plate led to his ejection, along with JSU Head Coach Omar Johnson. This shifted the momentum in BCU’s favor.

In the bottom of the ninth, Isaiah Williams took the mound for JSU. Jorge Gonzalez Febo walked, and Olasin singled to put two runners on base. After Garrett Chun walked to load the bases, Jorge Rodriguez was hit by a pitch, bringing BCU within one run. A wild pitch by Williams then allowed Olasin to score, tying the game at 3-3.

BCU relief pitcher Dale Michaud delivered a stellar performance in the top of the 10th, striking out all three batters he faced. In the bottom of the inning, Irvin Escobar led off with a ground-rule double. Franki Febles laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Escobar to third. After Jayme Villafane and Olasin were intentionally walked, Daniel Figueroa drew a bases-loaded walk, bringing Escobar home for the winning run.

Michaud, who earned his first decision of the year, pitched 1.1 innings, striking out three. BCU starter Joel Core had a solid outing, allowing one run on three hits in six innings, and striking out seven. The loss went to JSU’s Williams, who allowed three runs on two hits and two walks in one inning.

Both teams had their chances throughout the game. In the bottom of the fourth, BCU’s squeeze bunt attempt was thwarted by JSU’s Garrett VanDeventer, who threw out the runner at home. BCU returned the favor in the seventh, forcing Joseph Eichelberger out at the plate. In the eighth, BCU had another opportunity, but a ground ball to first resulted in the tying run being thrown out at home.

Offensively, BCU’s designated hitter Jose Gonzalez went 3-for-3. Escobar finished 2-for-5 with a run scored, and Olasin went 2-for-4 with an RBI. For JSU, McCladdie led the offense with a 1-for-3 performance, scoring two runs.

This intense matchup sets the stage for a final showdown between BCU and JSU, with the winner earning a spot in the SWAC Championship game.

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All images by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports

2024 SWAC Baseball: Bethune Cookman vs Jackson State