Baseball Set to Host FGCU Invitational
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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Junior right-hander Pete Woodworth will make the first start for the Eagles against Central Michigan
Junior right-hander Pete Woodworth will make the first start for the Eagles against Central Michigan

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast University baseball team opens up their 2009 season as they host the FGCU Invitational sponsored by La Quinta Inn & Suites. The Eagles welcome three teams to the FGCU Invitational on Feb. 20-22 with the Eagles first game of the 2009 season against Central Michigan at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

 

Here’s a glance at FGCU’s three opponents in the FGCU Invitational.

 

Central Michigan Chippewas

Central Michigan posted a 29-27-1 record last season with a 15-7 mark in MAC play while finishing fifth in the West Division of the MAC. The Chippewas return four of five starters from last year’s squad. The Chippewas lost four of their top five hitters, but return 11 of 13 pitchers including on their top pitcher Steve Teno (3.91/7-4). 

 

 

 

 

 

FGCU vs. Central Michigan                        12:01 a.m.         Friday, Feb. 20

FGCU vs. Central Michigan                        8:00 p.m.           Friday, Feb. 20

Central Michigan vs. Temple                       1:00 p.m.          Saturday, Feb. 21

Wichita State vs. Central Michigan              Noon                Sunday, Feb. 22                           

        

 

Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State enters the 2009 season looking to continue their great baseball tradition.  Last season they went 48-17 and 19-5 in MVC play while qualifying for the NCAA Regional and eventually losing to FSU at the Tallahassee Super Regional.  Redshirt junior Clinton McKeever (.328) and junior Ryan Jones (.326) will pace the Shockers offensively as they return for the 2009 season as the top returners from a year ago. The Shockers pitching staff, however, will be full of new faces as they lost five of their top hurlers from a year ago.  Senior Logan Hoch will provide experience on the mound this year after finishing first in appearances (24) and posting a 5.16 ERA last season for the Shockers.

 

 

Temple vs. Wichita State                       1:00 p.m.                      Friday, Feb. 20

FGCU vs. Wichita State                        8:00 p.m.                      Saturday, Feb. 21

Wichita State vs. Central Michigan          Noon                            Sunday, Feb. 22

 

 

Temple

The Owls of Temple University went 27-29 last season and finish fourth overall in the

Atlantic 10 with a conference mark of 16-11.  Sophomore Brandon McCoy returns after a

phenomenal freshman year, where he led the team in hitting with a .352 batting average. 

The top hurler returning for Temple University is Senior Matt Mongiardini, who posted a 6-5

record with a 3.59 ERA while starting 14 games (80.1 IP) during his junior campaign.  

 

 

Temple vs. Wichita State                       1:00 p.m.                      Friday, Feb. 20

Central Michigan vs. Temple                  1:00 p.m.                      Saturday, Feb. 21

FGCU vs. Temple                                  Noon                            Sunday, Feb. 22

 

 

Here’s a look at the 2009 Eagles

 

2008 A-Sun Coach of the Year Dave Tollett enters his seventh season as head of the Eagles program and looks to repeat as A-Sun Regular Season Champions. The Eagles joined Division I last season, and in its last season in what the NCAA calls a probationary period. This means the Eagles will be eligible to win the Atlantic Sun's automatic postseason bid in 2010.

 

 

The Eagles became the third team in A-Sun history to win a regular-season championship in their first year in the league and the first to win the title in the one-division alignment. At 25-8, the Eagles established the record for the most conference wins by a program in their first year in the A-Sun, breaking the record set in 1999 when Jacksonville finished its first year at 22-8. Even without A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Richard Bleier and A-Sun Player of the Year Jason Peacock, the Eagles return four players who earned A-Sun honors, Pete Woodworth Second Team All-Atlantic Sun, and three Atlantic Sun All-Freshman nominees Mikel Alvarez, Richie Erath and Chris Sale.  The 2009 Eagle baseball team will have a different look after losing eight seniors and two junior arms to the draft. Don’t let those numbers fool you. The Eagles are young but very talented.

Quotables

“We will be a young, but talented team in 2009,” said Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dave Tollett. “We will be able to pitch and that will be our strength in the upcoming year. We lost some power but will make it up in speed. This is easily the most challenging schedule that we have ever faced.  Wichita State, Florida, Florida State and Miami are all great programs that have a chance to make it to Omaha every year. We are trying to bring high quality baseball programs to Southwest Florida and this schedule has done that.”

 

“Our rotation will be strong, and we have great depth on the mound this season. If we stay healthy, I believe we will be in the running for another A-Sun regular season title.”

Offense
The big question in 2009 will be the Eagles offense. The Eagles lost 37 out of a total 43 homeruns from last year’s squad, and two of their top hitters in Jason Peacock (.434/9/53) and Ozzie Borrell (.353/7/54). The Eagles returned four your starter and leadoff hitter Josh Upchurch (.325/2/23) for his senior year.  Upchurch, the Eagles career leader in steals will be the catalyst for this year’s team.  He will receive help from Mikel Alvarez (.346/2/35).  Alvarez is coming off one of the best years in school history as a freshman.  Alvarez is listed on Wallace watch list.  At shortstop, Stephen Wickens (.251/1/22) will be the guy. Wickens and Alvarez were an unbelievable middle combination for the Eagles in 2008. They give the Eagles a solid, combination and throw in Upchurch in the middle and the Eagles are very sound. Tim Roberson will be over at third; Roberson had an impressive summer in the Northwoods League. Junior college transfer Josh Chester will add an offensive spark to the 2009 Eagles.  Other new birds that look to make an impact for the Eagles are Zach Maxfield, first base, Brad Roberts infielder, and Bobby Greene at catcher.


Pitching

After losing two juniors to the draft, Richard Bleier in the sixth round and Casey Coleman in the 15th round, as well as their durable reliever, JJ Crumbley, the Eagles strength is still on the Hill. The Eagles will have a good weekend rotation with Pete WoodworthChris Sale and Richie Erath.  Their bullpen will be as strong or better than last years team. Second Team All-Atlantic Sun pitcher Pete Woodworth (7-3/4.27) moves into the ace role. Richie Erath (2-1/3.62) who was hurt for most of 2008 re-enters into a starting role; Erath was the third starter last year as a freshman in the Eagles rotation. Chris Sale (2-0/3.47) will move into the starting rotation after only starting in one game last season, along with Patrick Nathanson (0-3/5.91) who started a combined nine games last season.

 

The bullpen will lean on freshman Jacob Barnes, and seniors Derek Shaw (1-1/1.46) and Nick Ursitti (2-0/2.89). In the closing role this year will Stephen Wickens.

Schedule
The schedule features 31 home games and 13 games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

 

The Eagles open the season with a 15-game home stand beginning on February 20th against Central Michigan in the FGCU Invitational. The field for the tournament includes super regional participant Wichita State. The Shockers are a fixture in postseason baseball under legendary coach Gene Stephenson. The field also includes Temple.

 

The following weekend, the Eagles host the FGCU Baseball Classic which includes Samford, Towson, South Florida and Bethune-Cookman. After the Classic, the Eagles host Boston College for two games and begin A-Sun play with Campbell. The final two games of the 15-game home stand see the Eagles host Big 10 foe Penn State for two games.

 

The Eagles then get into the bulk of conference play with series at UNF and home against Jacksonville. Following the Jacksonville series, the Eagles begin an 11-game road trip with College World Series participant Florida State and road trips to A-Sun foes Belmont and Mercer.

 

One of the highlights of the season is a visit from Florida on Tuesday April 21. The Eagles and Gators will face off in Hammond Stadium and then travel to Miami on the 22nd of April for the first of two meetings against the Hurricanes. Last season, the Eagles dropped a 4-2 heartbreaker in extra innings to the #1 ranked team in the county.

 

The Eagles finish the season with three at home against Atlantic Sun rival Stetson.


What to watch for?
Last season the Eagles pitching staff led the A-Sun with a 3.19 ERA, while the offense finished tied in second with a .312 average over 53 games. The Eagles outscored their opponents 372-109 and while the pitching staff held their opponents to a .256 batting average.

 

Mikel Alvarez earned a spot on the preseason 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List. The Wallace Award is presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player in conjunction with the College Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Sophomore Alvarez appeared in 49 games while starting 47 of them for the Eagles in 2008. Alvarez landed on the Second Team A-Sun and All- Freshman A-Sun teams. He had the third best batting average on the team (.346), had 71 hits and set an FGCU record for hitting streak where he recorded at least one hit in 20 straight games. Alvarez scored 44 runs, walked 18 times, and had 6 doubles on the year. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native will return for the 2009 season as a solid bat in the top of the lineup and a versatile defensive player for the eagles.


Final Analysis

The Eagles starting rotation will give them a tremendous advantage in 2009. The depth on the mound can carry the Eagles to another A-Sun regular season title. The key will be to stay healthy and to continue to improve every game. It will be tough for the Eagles to put up the offensive numbers they did just a year ago but the talent is there. Just when it will emerge is the big question.