FORT MYERS, Fla. – After opening the afternoon doubleheader with a six-run burst in the first inning, the FGCU baseball team found itself in two close battles against Central Michigan on Saturday at Swanson Stadium. The Eagles took game one 10-7 and needed a walk-off RBI single from senior Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) to secure a 4-3 victory in the 11th inning of the second contest.
With the pair of wins, the Eagles improve to 2-1 on the 2011 season while the Chippewas dropped to 1-2 on the year.
The Blue and Green erupted for a six-run first inning, batting around the lineup to kick-off the afternoon. Back-to-back errors put Wickens and senior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central) on second and third with no outs, and a walk to freshman Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS) loaded the bases. A failed pickoff attempt scored both Wickens and Alvarez and moved Dywer, who eventually scored on an RBI from sophomore Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter's Secondary) to give the Eagles a three-run edge, 3-0.
Junior Javi Sujo (Miami, Fla./Miami Sunset HS/Middle Georgia College) stepped to the plate and connected for a single and was followed by an RBI double to the left center wall from freshman Tyler Anderson (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa HS). Later in the inning, following a Jake Foley (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS) walk, freshman Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) plated Anderson on a single up the middle to give FGCU a 5-0 lead. Wickens later brought Foley across to close out the 6-0 scoring run.
Central Michigan rallied with seven unanswered runs to take a 7-6 lead heading into the bottom of the seven, but it would prove to be short-lived as the Eagles rallied for three runs in the home half of the frame.
After Reeves drew a walk to move senior Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) to second, a double down the right field line from Sujo plated Maxfield, and Reeves would also come around to score on a single up the middle from freshman Andrew Valencia (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep). Sujo would score later in the inning on Foley fielder’s choice RBI to give the Eagles a 9-7 lead.
FGCU added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth after senior Robert Greene (Cape Coral, Fla./Mariner HS) single to bring home Dwyer, who had reached previously on a single of his own. The final out was recorded with the Eagles holding on for the 10-7 victory.
Highly deserving of the game one win, Jack Wagoner (Berlin, Conn./St. Petersburg College) had a great outing in the first start of his senior campaign, exiting the contest after allowing just one earned run with five strikeouts in as many innings on his way to a no-decision. Holding a 6-2 advantage upon his departure, Wagoner placed the Eagles in a great spot to pick up the win.
The Eagles used three arms to get through the final four innings, as Sujo picked up the victory after surrendering three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning on the bump. Junior Kevin Bryant (Homestead, Fla./South Dade HS) relieved Wagoner in the six and went an inning and a third, allowing two earned runs on three hits. Junior fireballer Jacob Barnes (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg HS) earned his first save of the year, notching five strikeouts in two scoreless frames to close out the opening contest.
The afternoon was far from over, as an exciting 11-inning contest ensued in game two of the doubleheader. FGCU again jumped out an early lead as Alvarez made good of a Foley single, by sending him home on double in the home portion of the third.
CMU topped the Eagles in the next half inning, sending three runners around the bases. The Chippewas 3-1 lead held firm for two full innings until the Blue and Green stepped back to the plate in the bottom of the seventh.
Following the seventh inning stretch, a sacrifice bunt by Reeves moved Greene and Foley into scoring position with only one out. An RBI groundout by Wickens put Greene’s run up on the board, and Foley’s came shortly thereafter when Alvarez roped a double to right center field to bring the score level at 3-3.
The game remained deadlocked for three frames, extending the game to the 11th inning. With senior Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla./South Florida CC) toeing the rubber, CMU provided a scare in the top of the stanza, loading the bases off a double, a walk and an intentional base on balls with two outs. Gaines recorded the final out by getting CMU’s Harman looking, giving the Eagles another shot at the victory.
FGCU provided the decisive tally in the home half of the frame after Greene reached on an error and advanced to second on a throwing error during Foley’s fielder’s choice connection. A sacrifice bunt by Anderson moved Greene and Foley over with one out, with the top of the order due up. Wickens approached the plate in what would prove to be the final at-bat of the contest, roping a single over the right fielders head scoring Greene from third, sealing the victory for the Eagles.
In his first collegiate appearance, freshman Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) went four innings, allowing just three runs (one earned) on two hits and recording five strikeouts in four innings on the hill. Junior Jason Forjet (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Nova HS) had good stuff in his relief effort, totaling eight strikeouts and allowing no runs in five innings of work. Pitching out of the jam in the 11th, Gaines picked up the victory after throwing two scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts.
On the afternoon, the Eagles recorded 21 hits, including three extra base hits, to the Chippewas’ total of 20. Sujo went 4-for-10 on the day with two runs scored and a RBI, and Maxfield extended his hitting streak to 17 games after recording a hit in each of the contests, going 3-for-8 with a run scored. Green had a 2-for-6 day with two runs scored and an RBI and Foley added a 2-for-7 afternoon, scoring three times and driving in another.
The two teams will reconvene for the fourth and final game on Sunday at Swanson Stadium beginning at 12:30 p.m.