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Eagles Take Three in A-Sun Opening Series
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – In the first A-Sun Conference series of the season, the FGCU baseball team was able to take all three games from the Spartans of USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. In the third game, the Eagles used nine runs over the final three innings en route to a 12-3 victory at Harley Park on Sunday afternoon.
In victory, FGCU improved to 10-4 overall and 3-0 in A-Sun competition. With the loss, USC Upstate dropped to 7-10 overall and 0-3 in A-Sun play.
Throwing a solid eight innings, junior Richie Erath (West Palm Beach, Fla.) allowed just two runs (two earned) on nine hits, with three strikeouts and no walks in the winning effort. The junior righty improved his record to 3-0 on the season with the win.
Matt Branham got the start for the Spartans and went five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Giving up the decisive run, Ryan Newell was credited with the loss for Upstate after throwing just one inning.
USC Upstate was able to get on the scoreboard in the in the home half of the second inning, giving the Spartans an early 1-0 lead.
FGCU would respond in the in top of the fourth, bringing the game back to one apiece. Junior Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla.) singled to through the left side of the infield and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Roberson advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Josh Chester (Weston, Fla.) and would eventually come home on a sacrifice fly by junior Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla.) (1-1).
Upstate would retake the lead in the bottom portion of the fourth frame, when a one-out sacrifice fly to left-center plated a runner from third base (2-1).
The game would draw level yet again, when the Eagles brought a runner home in the visitor’s half of the fifth inning. Junior designated hitter Bobby Greene (Cape Coral, Fla.) reached second on a one-out double to centerfield and advanced to third on a fly ball to right field. Junior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla.) sent a two-out single through the right side, evening the game at 2-2 as Greene came across the plate.
In the top of the sixth frame, the Blue and Green would take a one-run lead. Chester led off the inning with a double, and walks by Gaines and Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario) loaded the bases with no outs. Junior Luke Smierciak (Gainesville, Fla.) would step to the plate later in the inning and score Chester from third on a two-out single to through the shortstop (3-2).
The Eagles would pick up two more runs in the top of the seventh inning, following singles by Alavarez and Roberson. A passed ball advanced the runners to second and third, and Chester sent a 1-2 delivery back up the middle to plate both runners (5-2).
After a three-run eighth inning, FGCU opened the lead to a six run advantage. Sophomore Joe Guarnaccia (Davie, Fla.) came in to pinch run on a hit by Greene. Wickens singled and stole second, moving runners to second and third, and a sacrifice fly by Alvarez moved Guarnaccia across the plate (6-2). Two more runs would come across the plate when Roberson sent a 0-1 pitch over the right field fence for a homerun, his third of the season (8-2).
FGCU would add four insurance runs in the top of the final inning. Gaines doubled to lead off the inning and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Reeves. Mullaney singled to score Gaines (9-2), and Smierciak was hit by a 1-1 delivery to load the bases. A Guarnaccia double to right-center field scored Reeves and Mullaney (11-2) and a Wickens single up the middle later scored Guarnaccia (12-2).
The final tally of the game would be recorded in the home half of the ninth inning, as the Spartans moved a run across the board on a triple to right center that plated a runner, who had reached previously on a single through the shortstop. The final out of the game was recorded with the Eagles on top 12-3.
Of the 10 batters to see the plate, nine were able to record a hit in the final contest of the series. Roberson hit 3-for-5 with a homerun, two RBI, and three runs scored. Chester went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Additionally, Alvarez scored a run and Guarnaccia scored two, while each recorded two RBI.
The Eagles will land back at home on Tuesday, March 16 for a meeting with the FIU. It will be the first contest in a home-and-home series with the Golden Panthers this season, with the Eagles heading to Miami on April 6th. The first pitch for Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.