FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind a season-high 13 hits and a combined 15 strikeouts by six different pitchers, the FGCU baseball team earned its second straight win over a Big Ten opponent with a 6-4 victory against Michigan on a windy Wednesday night at Swanson Stadium.
The win avenges a 13-7 setback against the Wolverines last year for the Eagles, who even their mark at 4-4 heading to the opening weekend of Atlantic Sun play. FGCU defeated Illinois last Sunday, as it now stands at 3-4 all-time against the Big Ten.
Michigan, who has faced a pair of ranked teams and six BCS schools, falls to 0-7 this season with the loss.
Tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth, senior Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) delivered a go-ahead RBI double to right center that scored classmate Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) all the way from first after an inning-opening single.
Senior right-hander Craig Crumbly (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) took the mound in the top of the seventh and fought off Michigan rallies in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, to help the Eagles hold the lead.
After being inserted into the lineup the same time Crumbly entered the game, senior Robert Greene (Cape Coral, Fla./Mariner HS) provided the Eagles with an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, smashing a towering solo home run down the left field linen to make it a 6-4 game.
With five scoreless innings already to his credit this season, senior Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla./Northeast HS/South Florida CC) earned the save in the ninth, getting the final out on a grounder to second.
After going the first seven games without a home run, senior Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) and Greene supplied the first two round-trippers of the season for the Eagles during the 13-hit attack. Roberson’s 2-for-5 night also included a double and two RBI, while sophomore Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter's Secondary) produced a double during his multi-hit evening. Senior Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) and freshman Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) also had two hits each.
Freshman Harrison Cooney (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS) got the win on the mound despite being the fourth pitcher to enter the game for the Blue and Green, and tossing just two-thirds of an inning. Freshman Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) got the Eagles out of a big jam in the fourth and finished with strikeouts over his 2.1 innings.
Used primarily as a reliever, junior Jacob Barnes (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg HS) got the nod on the mound and was impressive over his three innings of work. The 6-foot-2 righty gave up one hit in the first, but struck out the side and followed suit in the second by sitting down the side in order on strikes.
Following Barnes’ three strikeouts in the top half of the inning, FGCU took a 2-0 lead in its half of the inning on Roberson’s 36th career home run. Wickens led off the inning with a single into right center before coming around to score on FGCU’s all-time home run leader’s two-run blast to left field.
The Blue and Green stretched its lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the second as Reeves came around to score on a RBI single by freshman Jake Foley (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS). Reeves doubled to right center field to get into scoring position, as the Eagles could have done more damage but left the bases loaded.
Michigan finally got to Barnes in the third, putting two runners in scoring position with no outs. UM’s Patrick Biondi’s fly out to right field appeared deep enough to score the runner from third, but Bednar’s throw from right beat the runner to the plate and Reeves applied the tag.
Faced with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the fourth, Knapp inherited the jam left by classmate Alex Norris (Clearwater, Fla./Dunedin HS). Knapp helped the Eagles escape with just one run allowed to make it a two-run game, at 4-2. After striking out the first two batters he faced, Knapp issued a bases loaded walk before getting the final out.
Michigan tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the sixth with two runs off Knapp before Cooney got the final two outs.
Prior to the game, the FGCU Athletic Department presented Duane Swanson, who the baseball complex is named after, with an Honorary Letter, the highest honor Florida Gulf Coast University Athletics can bestow upon a non-athlete.
FGCU will now turn its attention to the start of Atlantic Sun play just two days from now. The Eagles will head north to Jacksonville, Fla. to for the opening weekend of league action when it takes on UNF for a three-game set. Game one is set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.