FORT MYERS, Fla. – Chris Sale tied a career and season-high with 14 strikeouts as the FGCU baseball team defeated the Mercer Bears, 9-1, at Swanson Stadium on Friday night.
With the win the Eagles improve to 16-9 overall (8-2 A-Sun), while the Bears fall to 16-13 on the season (4-3 A-Sun).
The Blue and Green were able to get on the scoreboard in the home half of the first inning off the bat of Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla.). After Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario) grounded out to shortstop, Alvarez stepped in and smacked a 2-2 pitch over the right field fence to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
FGCU would plate three more runs in the bottom of the second. After Kurtis Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) reached on an error and advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt, Luke Smierciak (Gainesville, Fla.) tripled to center field, scoring Mullaney (2-0). The triple was Smierciak’s team-leading fifth triple of the season. Joe Guarnaccia (Weston, Fla.) followed with a single up the middle to score Smierciak (3-0) and advanced to second on a fielding error by the center fielder. Josh Chester (Weston, Fla.) walked and both he and Guarnaccia advanced on an error, before Alvarez sent a sacrifice fly to left field to score Guarnaccia (4-0).
Five more runs would come across the plate in the bottom of the third frame. Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla.) doubled down the left field line and Mullaney sent a one out single through the shortstop to put runners on the corners. Smierciak then stepped into the batter’s box and sent the first pitch over the left field fence to record his third homer of the season (7-0). Later in the inning a single by Guarnaccia and walks by Chester and Alvarez had the bases loaded with two outs. Tim Roberson (West Pam Beach, Fla.) doubled to left center field scoring Guarnaccia and Chester to give the Eagles a 9-0 lead.
Mercer ended any hopes of a shutout in the top of the sixth inning as they scored one run off of two hits and one error (9-1). This would prove to be the final run of the game as FGCU held on to take the 9-1 victory.
Junior lefty Chris Sale (Lakeland, Fla.) pitched 8.0 innings, allowing only four hits and one run (unearned) to go along with his 14 strikeouts and one walk. Sale is now 4-0 on the season. Junior right-hander Craig Crumbly (Winter Haven, Fla.) was solid in relief, pitching 1.0 inning of shutout baseball.
Brandon Love took the loss for the Bears (5-2), pitching 2.1 innings, allowing eight hits and nine runs (seven earned).
The Eagles picked up nine runs on 12 hits and three errors. Smierciak, who finished a double away from the cycle, led the way offensively for the Blue and Green. He finished 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored. Alvarez finished 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a home run. Maxfield, Mullaney and Guarnaccia all went 2-for-4 with a combined five runs scored. Roberson finished with two RBI.
The Eagles will be action Saturday afternoon as they wrap-up the three-game conference series with Mercer with a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m.