5/24/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 412
5/24/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 437
WP | Nick Deckert (7-5): 8.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO
LP | Denton Norman (7-6): 1.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
WP | Ian Martinez-McGraw (9-3): 9.0 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO
LP | Mario Leon (1-2): 1.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO
FORT MYERS, Fla. – After forcing No. 4 Lipscomb (33-27) into an elimination game courtesy of a 10-5 win Saturday afternoon, the top-seeded FGCU baseball team (39-22) dropped an 11-4 decision Saturday night to the Bisons in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship at Swanson Stadium.
The loss eliminates the Eagles from the double-elimination tournament, while Lipscomb advances to the championship final against No. 3 seed Kennesaw State on Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN3. The Bisons will need to defeat the Owls (who are 3-0 in tournament action) twice to earn the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. If Lipscomb wins the first game, the two teams will square off 30 minutes after the contest’s completion.
The Eagles conclude the regular season with 39 wins – the most in a single season in FGCU’s Division-I history (2008). The all-time program record for victories in a year is 41 in 2006. Though unlikely, the Green and Blue – which has played several top national teams and owns a victory over the No. 1 RPI team, Florida – will await its potential postseason fate as the NCAA Tournament Selection Show airs at Noon Monday on ESPNU.
FGCU, which won the league’s regular-season championship for the fourth time in seven years by virtue of a 19-8 mark, concludes the A-Sun Championship with a record three wins (3-2). In the second game against Lipscomb, freshman Jake Noll (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS) set the FGCU single-season hit record with his 100th in the first inning. Noll drove a triple into right field to surpass Mikel Alvarez’s 2010 mark of 99 hits. Other notable single-season records set by the Green and Blue this season are Noll’s 25 stolen bases and Mike Murray’s (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forrest Hill HS) 13 wins.
Lipscomb and FGCU were squaring off for the second and third times, respectively, in the tournament on Saturday. The Eagles opened up their tournament with a win over No. 8 UNF on Wednesday night before falling to Lipscomb on Thursday. A win over Jacksonville University Friday evening propelled the Green and Blue back into a matchup with the Bisons, and the Eagles knew they needed to defeat the Nashville-based school twice to get into the championship final.
“I told them all after the game that out of all the championships I’ve won at any level during my career, this one is the most special,” head coach Dave Tollett said of the Eagles’ 2014 A-Sun Regular Season Championship. “We were not expected to do the things that we did this season. No one thought after losing seven guys to the draft that this team could go as far as it did and win a conference championship. They were a very unique bunch. They improved more than any team I’ve ever had. I’m extremely proud of every single one of them and a loss here today can’t take away all that they accomplished as a group.”
Nick Deckert (Tallahassee, Fla./Tallahassee CC) took the ball in game one on Saturday and given the situation combined with the lefty’s recent struggles, put forth arguably the most impressive effort of his season. Deckert threw 140 pitches en route to his seventh victory and had more than enough support at the plate from his corner-infielders. Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) lifted a grand slam in the second inning of game one for his seventh long ball of the season which would eventually serve as the game-winning hit. Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) was the MVP of the tournament for FGCU at the plate. He closes his 2014 Championship having gone 10-18 at the plate for a .556 average, one homerun, three doubles, seven runs scored and seven RBI.
GAME 2 SUMMARY
Noll went 2-for-4 in the second game, Rivera also wrapped up a 2-for-4 outing and Gage Morey (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) was the only other Eagle with multiple hits as the eight hitter also went 2-for-4 while adding a pair of RBI.
Like they did in all three A-Sun tourney meetings with Lipscomb, FGCU scored in the first inning as the aforementioned Noll came around to score on a Colton Bottomley (Parkland, Fla./Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS) ground out to short to give FGCU a 1-0 edge.
FGCU’s lead was short-lived, however, as Lipscomb quickly got to Mario Leon (Naples, Fla. Gulf Coast HS) – who was making his first career start – in the top of the second. The Bisons plated five runs, four of which were credited to Leon, as the freshman took the loss (1-2) and was lifted after just 1.1 innings of work by Tollett in favor of a well-rested FGCU bullpen.
Lipscomb carried that 5-1 lead into the fourth inning before the Eagles trimmed their deficit in half with a pair of runs. With the bases loaded and no outs, Blake Berger (Jacksonville, Fla./Santa Fe College) lifted a sacrifice fly to left to drive in Rivera who led off the inning with a walk. Morey followed with a base hit up the middle to plate Tillery and make it a 5-3 game.
However, the Bisons answered right back in the fifth with four runs to calm the FGCU momentum. Lipscomb maintained that 9-3 advantage until the Bisons added one more tally in the eighth inning off Tillery, who had moved to the mound from third base in the fifth.
FGCU got that run back in the bottom of the frame as Morey ripped a double off the wall for his second RBI of the night, but the Bisons once again had an answer with another run in the ninth to provide the final margin.
GAME 1 SUMMARY
Deckert came through with a clutch performance to keep the Eagles alive for one more game. The junior southpaw struck out five, walked three and scattered eight hits as he earned the win to move to 7-5 on the year. He was relieved by freshman Garrett Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSota HS), who tossed the final inning.
Tillery blew the game open early as the junior third baseman crushed a grand slam well over the left-field fence in the second inning. Rivera reached base four times as part of a 3-for-4 effort at the plate in which he drove in two runs, recorded his team-leading 25th double of the season and drew a walk. Despite the offensive outburst by the Eagles – who had 11 hits in the game – only Rivera secured multiple hits.
Just as they did Thursday against Lipscomb, the Eagles scored three runs in the first inning. After Bottomley and Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS) were hit by pitches in consecutive at bats, red-hot Rivera remained that way as he ripped a full-count single back up the middle to plate Bottomley. A few batters later, Berger worked the count full and laced a line drive to center to bring home Suchy and Rivera and supply Deckert with a 3-0 lead.
At the time of Rivera’s first-inning hit, FGCU had 11 RBI in the A-Sun tournament, and the Eagles’ first baseman had been responsible for six of them.
The big blow occurred in the aforementioned second inning when Tillery jumped all over a 2-1 offering from Lipscomb starter Denton Norman. The Bisons had made two errors and allowed an infield single previous to Tillery stepping to the plate before the Naples product delivered the first grand slam of his career and the third for FGCU on the year.
After Deckert gave up his first two hits and initial run of the afternoon in the top of the fourth, the Eagles responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. Suchy reached on four straight balls leading off the inning, and Rivera continued his torrid pace as he sent a double off the wall in left center to drive home Suchy. Rivera later came around to score on a ground out to second by Tyler Selesky (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) on just the sophomore’s 15th RBI of the season to extend FGCU’s lead to 9-1.
The Bisons got one run back in the sixth before the Eagles rebutted with a sac fly in the bottom of the frame. The score remained 10-2 into the ninth when Lipscomb tallied the final three runs of the contest.
The 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship is being generously sponsored by Raymond Building Supply, The News Press, Wayne Wiles Floor Coverings, Culver’s, TECO Peoples Gas, Applebee’s, Naples Daily News, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McDonald’s, Beef O’ Brady’s, Allen Concrete and Masonry, Jason’s Deli and Youngquist Brothers Rock.
Full coverage of each game during the tournament including live stats and video can be found at FGCUAthletics.com/asunbaseball. The championship game on Sunday can be seen on ESPN3. If you can’t reach a computer, follow @FGCU_Baseball on Twitter or “like” FGCU Baseball on Facebook for daily news, photos and a constant stream of live updates during each game.
Tickets to the 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship are available. General admission day passes are available for $10 and tournament passes can be purchased for $35. Reserved seating day passes are available for $15 and tournament reserved seating passes are available for $55. For more information and additional deals, visit FGCUathletics.com/tickets, or call the ticket office at 239-590-7145.