Eagles Sale Past Stetson, 9-4, in A-Sun Championship Play
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The FGCU baseball team was successful in claiming their first victory in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship by defeating the Stetson Hatters, 9-4, on Wednesday afternoon at Lipscomb’s Dugan Field at Marsh Stadium.

“The first one is always tough,” said head coach Dave Tollett. “We’ve been waiting two years to do this (play in the postseason after the transition to Division I). It feels really good. I wouldn’t call us nervous, but we were definitely anxious.”

Currently 39th in RPI, FGCU improved their record to 38-18, while Stetson dropped to 27-30 on the season. The Eagles are now 7-3 all-time against the Hatters.

Recently placed in the top 25 for the National Pitcher of the Year Award, junior Chris Sale (Lakeland, Fla.) started the afternoon on the mound for the Eagles. Throwing seven innings and allowing two earned runs on six hits to go with 11 strikeouts, the 2010 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year improved to 11-0 on the year, joining TCU's Matt Purke as the second pitcher in the nation at that record. Sale now sits in fifth place on the A-Sun’s single season strikeouts list with 146 (tied with FIU’s Evan Thomas; 1995).

A-Sun Single Season Strikeout Leaders
Rank   Player (School)          Year     Total Strikeouts
1.      Evan Thomas (FIU)  1996           220
2.      Justin Pope (UCF)    2001           158
3.      Jason Arnold (UCF)  2001           150
4.      Edwin Franco (FIU)   1998           147
5.      Evan Thomas (FIU)  1995           146
5.       Chris Sale (FGCU)       2010              146

Sophomore Jacob Barnes (St. Petersburg, Fla.), junior Jack Wagoner (Berlin, Conn.), and sophomore Jason Forjet (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) finished the final two innings, as Forjet induced an important inning ending double play in the eighth and went on to pick up his first save of the 2010 campaign.

Jacob deGrom (4-5) was credited with the loss after starting the afternoon on the mound for the Hatters. Tossing six innings, deGrom allowed five earned runs on seven hits and recorded two strikeouts and a walk.

A quarterfinalist for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award, junior Steven Wickens (Whitby, Ontario) started the game off with a hit by pitch and junior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla.) followed with a single to left field. With runners on the corners, senior Josh Chester (Weston, Fla.) brought home the first run of the game, scoring Wickens on a sacrifice fly to the centerfielder (1-0).

The Hatters would even the score in the visitor’s half of the second inning. After Sale sat down the first two Stetson batters that he faced, deGrom smashed a 1-0 pitch over the fence in right field (1-1). The homer was the first of deGrom’s career and also the sixth home run that Sale has given up all season (last was on May 20 against UNF).

The Blue and Green regained the lead in the bottom of the second inning. Following singles by juniors Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla.) and Luke Smierciak (Gainesville, Fla.), fellow classmate Alex Lozada (Estero, Fla.) grounded into a double play plating Gaines (2-1).

Stetson would draw the game even in the third frame. Nick Rickles singled up the middle to score Spencer Theisen (2-2), who singled and stole second base earlier in the inning.

The Eagles would add a total of three runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 5-2 lead. Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla.) singled through the left side to start off the home side of the fourth inning. Gaines singled up the middle and a sacrifice bunt by Smierciak put runners on second and third with one out. Later in the inning, Lozada grounded out to the shortstop, scoring Maxfield (3-2). Gaines would also come in to score off of a wild pitch to give the Eagles a 4-2 lead. In the fifth inning Alvarez sent a laser over the fence in right field, registering his fifth home run of the season and increasing the FGCU lead to 5-2.

The Hatters pushed a pair of runs across the dish in the top of the eighth inning to cut the FGCU lead down to one (5-4). Stetson scored the two runs on only two hits.

Exploding for four runs on six hits in the top of the eighth frame, highlighted by triples from Smierciak and Wickens, the Blue and Green pushed the score to 9-4 before retiring the side in the ninth to pick up the victory.

The Eagles moved home nine runs on 14 hits in the contest, and were led offensively by Alvarez’s 3-for-4, one run, one home run and two RBI performance, and Gaines’ 3-for-4, three run outing. Smierciak went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while Wickens and Joe Guarnaccia each registered an RBI and went 2-for-4 and 1-for-4, respectively. Additionally, Roberson batted 2-for-4 with a walk.

Stetson scored their four runs off eight hits on the day.

The Eagles will be back in action Thursday, May 27 at 3 p.m. CT (4 p.m. ET) when they face No. 4 North Florida (29-27).