FORT MYERS, Fla. – Central Michigan pounded out 11 hits and came away with runs in five of its first six at-bats against FGCU en route to a 10-5 win over the Eagles in the fourth and final game of the season-opening series Sunday afternoon at Swanson Stadium.
The loss draws the Eagles’ record to 2-2 after sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader against the Chippewas, who were picked as the preseason favorite in the MAC Western Division.
Freshman Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) made his first collegiate start, lasting 3.1 innings in the loss. He surrendered four earned runs on five hits and struck out two. Four different players saw relief work after Knapp. Senior Craig Crumbley (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region HS) tossed the last three scoreless innings, allowing just three base runners.
Senior Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) extended his hit streak to 18 games with a 2-for-4 day that included a double and two RBI. Freshman Alex Diaz (Miami, Fla./Ferguson HS) had his first two career hits (2-3) and scored a pair of runs, while classmate Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS) drove in a pair of runs for his second multi-RBI game of the series.
CMU’s 11 hits included eight extra-base hits and solo home runs from leadoff hitter Matt Faiman and Jordan Dean. Dean finished the day 3-for-5 at the dish with a double to go along with three RBI.
CMU starter Ryan Longstreth ran into trouble in the fifth and fell two outs shy of being eligible for the win. Longstreth gave up five runs on four hits and walked three. Scott Mariner shut the door on the Eagles in the fifth and went on to earn the win after throwing 4.2 scoreless innings. Mariner gave up just three hits and struck out six.
Leading 4-2 entering the top of the fifth inning, Central Michigan broke the game open with a four-running inning that resulted in FGCU trailing 8-2.
The Eagles bounced back in the home half of the frame, though, plating three runs of their own to cut the deficit to 8-5. Dwyer worked a bases loaded walk that brought home Diaz, who singled and stole second. With the bases still loaded, Maxfield drilled a high fly ball into left center field that got lost in the sun and dropped to score the last two runs of the inning to make it 8-5.
Just as it seemed FGCU had momentum, the Chippewas answered with two runs in the top of the sixth for the final 10-5 outcome.
FGCU will have four days off from game action before returning to Swanson Stadium for a three-game series against Big Ten foe Illinois (1-2) beginning on Friday, Feb. 25. The Illini spent the last three days at the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater where they opened with a loss to Pittsburgh (10-6), a win against Cincinnati (7-3) and a tough 5-4 defeat against West Virginia. First pitch on Friday night is set for 6:30 p.m. ET.