MACON, Ga. - Atlantic Sun Conference play began with a number of exciting conference series highlighted by a 3-0 start from Jacksonville and a near no-hitter at Florida Gulf Coast as JU's Matt Lopez and FGCU's Richie Erath claimed the league's weekly awards.
A freshman made the big splash for Florida Gulf Coast in their first A-Sun series as Erath combined with Chris Sale to blank UNF on his way to earning A-Sun Pitcher of the Week accolades. In only his second start, the southpaw carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before surrendering a lead-off single to Michael Smith. Erath would go 8.0 innings, limiting the Ospreys to a pair of hits while striking out five batters. UNF came into the series hitting .370 as a team after a series win against Mississippi State, who was ranked No. 23 in the preseason. The Lake Worth, Fla., native majors in Business.
Lopez was the man of the hour on several occasions for the Dolphins as JU earned its first sweep at Varity Field since Gardner-Webb joined the A-Sun in 1998 to claim Player of the Week honors. In a weekend in which JU stayed undefeated and jumped out to a 3-0 conference mark, Lopez continued his torrid hitting in Boiling Springs by batting .467 (7-15) with four doubles, a home run, five RBI, 14 total bases, a .933 slugging percentage and a .467 on-base percentage. In game one, the senior finished 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and two RBI, but this biggest hit was the two-run round tripper to break a 6-6 tie in the eighth and lead the Dolphins to a 9-6 win. In game two, Lopez only batted 1-for-6 with an RBI but the hit was his second game winner in as many day by driving in a run through the right side in the top of the 12th, which led JU to a 6-5 win. In the finale, the infielder did his part at the plate once again by going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI en route to a 7-1 Dolphin win to complete the sweep. The Oveido, Fla., native majors in Biology.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is a 12-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Gardner-Webb University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.
Other Top Performers
Carlo Testa, Belmont (Jr. – OF/P – Tallmadge, Ohio – Exercise Science) Racked up career-high 11 strikeouts in conference opener vs Lipscomb.
Kyle Bowley, USC Upstate (Sr. – P – Apopka, Fla. – Criminal Justice) Picked up complete game victory at ETSU.
Mike Dunn, Lipscomb (Sr. – P – Hopkinsville, Ky. – Management) Clinched weekend series for Lipscomb with complete game at Belmont.
Anthony Russell, ETSU (Sr. – 1B – Waldorf, Md. – Business) Went 6-for-12 with a homer vs USC Upstate.
Joe Winkler, Mercer (Fr. – OF – Orlando, Fla. – Undecided) Piled up eight RBI in four games.