SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The FGCU baseball team opened up Atlantic Sun Conference play by taking both games of a doubleheader with the Spartans of USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. on Saturday. The Eagles took game one, 20-11, but battled in the second game to a 10-9 victory.
With the doubleheader victories, the Eagles record improved to 9-4 overall with a 2-0 A-Sun conference record. The Spartans record dropped to 7-9 overall and 0-2 in A-Sun conference play.
In game one, junior lefthander Chris Sale (Lakeland, Fla.) was given the nod on the mound from head coach Dave Tollett. The A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year threw five innings, allowing two runs (two earned) on seven hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts. Sale picked up his first victory (1-0) of the season for his performance.
Senior Matt Branham started the game for Upstate, giving up one run (one earned) in the one and two-thirds innings appearance. Junior Phillip Brannon was credited with the loss for the Spartans after allowing nine earned runs in two innings, on seven hits.
On Friday afternoon, Upstate was able to gain the lead in the first inning as Gaither Bumgardner singled with one out and was followed by a Jimmy Tanner grounder up the middle that ricocheted off Mikel Alvarez’s (West Palm Beach, Fla.) ankle and into center field, giving Upstate a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, freshman Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario) knocked his first homer of the season off the scoreboard in left-center to tie the game at one apiece (1-1). Competition was then postponed until Saturday morning due to the rain.
As play resumed on Saturday, Upstate was able to regain the lead in the bottom of the second on two hits, as one run came across the plate (2-1). The Eagles would respond in the top half of the third inning when A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year, Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla.) sent a 1-2 delivery over the fence for a solo homerun, his second of the year, knotting the game yet again (2-2).
The Blue and Green broke the lead open in the visitor’s half of the fourth inning. Reeves walked to start off the inning, and came home on a Luke Smierciak (Gainesville, Fla.) double down the left field line (3-2). A single by junior Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario) plated Smierciak (4-2). Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla.) would single to right field, advancing Wickens, and Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla.) doubled to bring Wickens home (5-2). Alvarez would eventually score on a wild pitch, adding another run to the Eagles total (6-2). Junior Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla.) would bring two runners home later in the inning on a double to left field (8-2) and Reeves would pick up an RBI by bringing Gaines home, on a single to first base (9-2). Smierciak would earn his second RBI of the inning by sending Reeves home on a two-base hit through the right side (10-2). This would prove to be the final tally in the Eagles eight-run fourth inning.
In the fifth inning FGCU would add half the runs they did in the previous inning, as four runners came across the plate. Wickens walked to start of the inning and Alvarez picked up two RBI, connecting with his first homerun of the season (12-2). Roberson stepped to the plate and sent the first pitch to left field for a hit. Gaines added two more to the Eagles total when he sent a full-count delivery over the center field wall for a two-run homer (14-2).
The Eagles would put up six more runs before Upstate could record the final out of the sixth inning. Senior Josh Chester (Weston, Fla.) got a single to start things off and Wickens was hit by a 1-1 pitch. Roberson scored Chester with a single down the right field line (15-2). A Maxfield single would score Wickens and a Gaines single would plate Roberson (17-2). Freshman Kurtis Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) would be hit by 3-0 pitch and SMierciak would bring home Maxfield, Gaines and Mullaney on a triple to right center (20-2). The 18-point advantage would prove to be the Eagles' biggest lead of the contest.
The Spartans would add runs to their total in each home portion of the remaining innings. While holding FGCU scoreless, Upstate was able to plate one run in the sixth, five runs in the seventh, two runs in the eighth, and a single run in the ninth. The tally would still have the Eagles ahead on the scoreboard, 20-11, when the final out was recorded.
In game one, the Blue and Green were able to move 20 runners across the plate on 22 hits, and four homeruns, in the contest. Every FGCU player was able to record more than one hit in the game. Wickens went 2-for-5 with three runs scored, an RBI, and a walk. Alvarez hit 2-for-6 with a homerun, two runs scored, and two RBI. Roberson went 3-for-6 with two RBI and three runs scored. Maxfield went 3-for-4 with a homerun, three runs and two RBI. Gaines recorded a homerun and tallied five RBI while Reeves also added a homerun and two RBI. Smierciak also added a triple and five RBI for the Eagles in the first game of the doubleheader.
USC Upstate was able to get 11 runners across the plate, registering 15 hits and drawing only three walks in the first contest.
In the second game of the doubleheader, senior right hander Pete Woodworth (St. Petersburg, Fla.) was given the go-ahead on the bump. Woodworth went six innings, allowing five runs (five earned), and recorded five strikeouts and two walks. With the win, the senior’s record improves to 4-0 on the year.
Austin Moyer was given the loss in the contest after giving up ten runs (nine earned), three walks, and two strikeouts in three innings.
The Eagles got on the board early in game two, putting up two runs in the first inning of the contest. Following a single by Wickens and a double from Alvarez, the Eagles knocked in the first run of the game on a Roberson double down the right field line (1-0). Roberson would advance to third on a passed ball and would move home on a sacrifice fly from Gaines (2-0).
After moving eight runners across the plate in the third, the Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Chester led off the inning with a walk and would come home when Alvarez sent a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right center, for his second homerun of the season, bringing two runs home for FGCU (4-0). The next batter, Roberson, stepped into the box and matched Alvarez with a solo shot of his own, his second of the season, moving the score to 5-0 in favor of the visitors. Gaines would single, Reeves would walk and Mullaney would single to plate Gaines (6-0). Smierciak would move to first on a 3-1 hit-by-pitch, then Chester scored Mullaney and Reeves on a double to centerfield (8-0). Wickens singled up the middle bringing in Chester and Smierciak for the Eagles (10-0).
Upstate wouldn’t go down without a fight, putting up five runs in the sixth inning and two runs in the eighth inning, to cut the Eagles’ lead to 10-7 heading into the final frame.
The Spartans held the Eagles scoreless in the top of the ninth and headed to the home half of the final inning down three runs. Upstate cut it to a one-run game with two outs and runners on the corners, but the next batter hit into a four-six fielder’s choice , ending the game with the Eagles on top 10-9.
In the second game the Blue and Green picked up their 10 runs on 13 hits, to go along with five base on balls. Wickens went 2-for-4 and Alvarez went 3-for-4, both with two RBI and a run scored. Roberson hit 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored and Chester went 1-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI.
The Eagles will head back to the diamond on Sunday morning for the final game of the A-Sun opening series with the Spartans of USC Upstate. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. from Harley Park.