FORT MYERS, Fla. – After rallying to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, the FGCU baseball team couldn’t overcome two runs in the ninth from Columbia in a 5-3 loss that featured a wild finish at Swanson Stadium on Tuesday.
The loss evens the Eagles’ record at 8-8 on the season, while Columbia, who like the Eagles has defeated Illinois and MAC favorite Central Michigan, improves to 5-3.
The Eagles had their chances in the ninth inning to at least tie the game, but came just a few feet shy on a ball hit by senior Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS). After a one-out single by senior Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) with the Eagles trailing 5-3, Roberson drilled a shot off the left center field wall that fell just a few feet shy of tying the game at 5-5. Instead, Maxfield tried to score from first, but was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning, while Roberson moved to third. With momentum now against them, FGCU was retired for the final out.
Freshman right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) made his second career start and sixth appearance of the season. Knapp earned a no-decision when the Eagles tied the game in the eight. The 44th round choice by the Detroit Tigers in last June’s MLB Draft gave up seven hits and three runs over his five innings of work.
Sophomore R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) worked out of some jams during his three scoreless innings, as he bought the Eagles time in the comeback. Senior Craig Crumbly (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region HS) entered in the ninth and was pinned with the loss after being charged with the two runs.
Despite leaving with the lead, Columbia starter David Speer also earned a no-decision. Speer was impressive during his 111-pitch evening, striking out six while scattering five hits over six innings of work. Two runs in the game were charged to Speer with only one being earned.
Zach Epstein entered in the seventh for Speer and gave up the game-tying run in the eighth, but was the benefactor of Columbia’s two-run top of the ninth. The Lions then turned to Tim Giel for his second save of the season in the final frame.
Maxfield’s 2-for-5 night at the plate extended his hit streak to 10 games, while classmate Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Academy) pushed his streak to 11 contests. Maxfield drove in both runs in the first inning that give FGCU a 2-0 lead on his 41st career double. Following Maxfield in the lineup at cleanup and the No. 5 spot, Roberson and junior Javi Sujo (Miami, Fla./Miami Sunset HS/Middle Georgia College) each had two hits, including a double. The multi-hit game was the third in a row for Sujo.
On the flipside, Columbia, who was one night removed from 22 hits against South Alabama, finished with 13 hits against off the four different Eagle pitchers. A majority of the damage came from spots 1-3 in the lineup in which they combined to go 8-for-13 with three runs and three RBI.
The two teams will commence for the final game of the two-day set on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.