Tampa, Fla. – Second-seeded Florida Gulf Coast University(41-15) earned the right to face the top-seed University of Tampa after recording its second victory in the NCAA Division II South Regional. The 10-7 win over #3 Catawba (45-13) advances the No. 29 Eagles to an 11 a.m. Saturday winner's bracket matchup with the host Spartans while the Indians, ranked No. 4 in the most recent national poll, will now meet Lynn at 3 p.m. in an elimination game.
Both teams came out swinging to begin the game, scoring a combined eight runs in the first two innings. Catawba took a quick 1-0 lead on a two-base error by starting pitcher Ryan Williams (Estero, Fla.) on a failed pickoff attempt. FGCU quickly erased the deficit with a two-run homer by senior third baseman Jason Louwsma (Sanford, Fla.). After the Indians added a run in the top of the second, the Eagles scored four in their half of the inning to take a 6-2 lead.
Catawba chipped away at the FGCU lead by scoring two in the third and one in the fourth to cut the deficit to 6-5. The Eagles responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth on five hits and a two-run single by freshman second baseman Casey Coleman (Cape Coral, Fla.).
Catawba added another run in the top of the sixth as Nick Lefko had a lead-off double and scored on a Ryan Query base hit. The Eagles then stretched the lead to 10-6 with a run in the seventh inning on an RBI single by Louwsma. Catawba added a run in the ninth and brought the potential game-tying run to the plate but junior right-hander Matt Laliberte (New Port Richey, Fla.) shut the door on the Indians for his first save of the season.
Williams (6-1), a senior left-hander, started for FGCU and went 5 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs while striking out six and walking two. Meanwhile, Catawba starter Matt Smith lasted just 1 1/3 innings after surrendering six earned runs and five hits. Smith struck out one and walked three.
Louwsma went 4-for-5 with 4 RBi to lead a 14-hit Eagles attack. Senior Ian Manson (Plano, Texas) and freshman Pat Garrido (West Palm Beach, Fla.) each went 3-for-5 with an RBI for FGCU. Freshman center fielder Josh Upchurch had two hits and scored three runs.
In earlier day two action, Tampa moved on in the winner's bracket by eliminating #4 Florida Southern 8-3 while #5 Lynn outlasted #6 Albany State 12-7.