NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Head Coach Dave Tollett, the three-time Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, and the three-time A-Sun Regular Season Champion FGCU Baseball team open up the 2010 Atlantic Sun Wednesday afternoon at Lipscomb’s Dugan Field at Marsh Stadium. ASun.TV will feature all of the games at no cost for viewers, while live scoring can be seen at LipscombSports.com during the four-day event. FGCU’s games will also be carried live on ESPN770.
The No.1 seed Eagles (37-18), who won every A-Sun series (10) this season, take on No. 6 Stetson (27-29) at 12 p.m. (11 a.m. CT) in the six-team, double-elimination conference tournament. FGCU holds a 6-3 lead in all-time series with the Hatters.
If the Blue and Green picks up a win on Wednesday, they will face the loser of Wednesday night's No. 3 East Tennessee State (30-26) vs. No. 4 North Florida (29-26) matchup at 4 p.m. (3 p.m. CT) Thursday. Should FGCU lose, they would take on Wednesday's No. 2 Mercer (33-22) vs. No. 5 Jacksonville (25-27) loser at noon (11 a.m. CT) Thursday.
The Eagles come into Wednesday’s matchup having won nine of their last 11 games. One of the two losses was 5-4 at then-No. 9 Miami on May 18. FGCU, who picked up wins at Clemson, at Oklahoma State and at Wichita State, won the A-Sun regular season by 7 1/2 games. After completing the regular season with a three-game home sweep of North Florida last weekend, the Eagles rose to 28th in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper rankings.
FGCU boasts a balanced offense with all but one starter featuring a batting average over .300. First Team All Conference middle infielders Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario) and Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla.), hitting .398 and .362 respectively, have combined for 119 runs scored, 69 RBI, five home runs and 28 stolen bases. Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla.) provide the power in the FGCU lineup with the pair each having reached double figures in home runs and collecting at least 56 RBIs.
The Eagles own the conference’s top team ERA by nearly a half run and feature three of the top pitchers in the A-Sun conference in Chris Sale (1st Team All-Conference), Pete Woodworth (1st Team All-Conference; St. Petersburg, Fla.), and Richie Erath (2nd Team All-Conference; West Palm Beach, Fla.). The trio has racked up 278 strikeouts in 273.0 innings pitched and holds a combined record of 26-5. Sale (Lakeland, Fla.), who was recently placed in the top 25 for the National Pitcher of the Year Award, unanimously captured the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year award after leading all three of the pitching Triple Crown categories - an unblemished 10-0 record, a 1.97 ERA and a nation’s best 135 strikeouts. His strikeout total already ranks among the 10 best in A-Sun history and as the most in the league since Justin Pope of UCF sat down 158 in 2001. The junior joins former teammate Richard Bleier as the second Eagle in the program’s three seasons in the league to garner the Pitcher of the Year honor.
Stetson comes into post-season play on a high note after its come-from-behind 8-6 victory over Jacksonville in the final game of the season to earn a berth in the A-Sun tournament. The 2010 season has been a series of streaks for the Hatters. After a 3-8 start Stetson won five in a row and then dropped four straight. On March 20 Stetson defeated FGCU 10-8 in the final game of the series and sparked a 16-7 run over the next 23 games that included series sweeps of Mercer on the road and Lipscomb at home. Coming down the home stretch however, the Hatters went 3-10.
As a team Stetson is batting .327 in A-Sun conference games this season. Leading the way is Sean Emory and Spencer Theisen hitting .452 and .433 respectively. Also swinging hot bats for the Hatters are Jeff Simpson, Ryan Lashley, and Nick Rickles. Simpson is 34-for-88 (.386) with six stolen bases and 23 runs scored. Lashley is batting .350 and slugging .598, while also registering 11 doubles, six home runs and 28 RBI. Rickles is batting .327 with 10 doubles and 20 RBI in A-Sun games.
The Hatters are no strangers to A-Sun tournament play. Stetson has won six Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Titles (1988, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2006) and have finished as the tournament runner up five times (1987, 1991, 1995, 1997 and 2003). Since 1987 Stetson has qualified for the A-Sun Tournament every year except one (1999). Stetson has a 42-33 all-time.