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FGCU Splits Doubleheader With USC Upstate
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Despite pounding out 30 hits on the afternoon, the FGCU baseball team could only earn a split during its doubleheader against USC Upstate on Saturday afternoon at Swanson Stadium. The Eagles used three home runs to take game one, 12-2, in eight innings, but dropped the nightcap by a 12-8 count.
The split gave the series win to USC Upstate and drops the Eagles’ record to 13-12 on the season and fourth place in the A-Sun at 7-5. The Spartans are now 10-15 overall and 4-6 in the conference.
FGCU’s day 30-hit afternoon featured a season-high 16 hits in the opener and 14 more in game two. Moved up into the No. 2 spot in the lineup, freshman Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) went 7-for-9 on the day with four runs scored. Senior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) strung together a pair of multi-hit games from the No. 5 spot, combining to go 5-for-9 with a double.
The power in the Blue and Green’s lineup came from senior Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) who drove in five runs on the day. Maxfield drilled his team-best fifth home run of the season in game one before going 3-for-5 with three RBI in the nightcap. Freshman Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS) drove in all four of his RBI in the opener, highlighted by a three-run home run for his first career round-tripper.
Junior Jacob Barnes (1-2) (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg HS) earned the win in the opener, tossing 100 pitches over his 5.2 innings of work. Barnes scattered six hits while giving up two runs – just one earned – while striking out four. Senior Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla./South Florida CC) tossed 1.1 scoreless innings before giving way to freshman Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) who made his third appearance of the week.
Maxfield gave the Eagles the early lead in the bottom of the first with a two-out home run to left center field. Bednar reached on a single right back at the pitcher before Maxfield drilled his first long ball at Swanson Stadium this season to give the Eagles a 2-0 edge.
Leading 2-1 entering the bottom half of the fourth, the Eagles broke the game open on the strength of Dwyer’s first career home run. Freshman Jake Foley (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS), who went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, brought home the first run of the frame with an RBI single before Dwyer stepped to the plate and gave the Eagles a 6-1 lead with a towering shot over the right field wall.
FGCU nearly ended the game in the bottom of the seventh, as it plated four runs to take an 11-2 lead to fall just one run short of the 10-run rule. In A-Sun doubleheaders, if a team gets up by 10 or more runs after seven full innings the game is over.
After Knapp pitched a scoreless eighth, sophomore catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) ended the game with one swing, blasting a solo home run deep to right field to make it 12-2. Reeves’ first long ball of the season was FGCU’s season-best 16th hit of the game and third homer.
In the nightcap, neither teams starting pitcher could find their rhythm. The lead changed hands three times through the first four innings before back-to-back RBI singles by Maxfield and Alvarez pushed across two runs and gave the Eagles a 7-6 edge heading into the fifth.
USC Upstate climbed back into the game and into the lead with five unanswered runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to take an 11-7 lead. While the Spartans’ bats were bringing them back, reliever Jordan Rusk limited the Eagles to just one run over his 3.1 innings.
FGCU’s comeback never formulated, as Ryan Fern closed the game with 2.2 scoreless innings without allowing a hit to earn his second save of the season.
Senior Jack Wagoner (Berlin, Conn./Northwest Catholic/St. Petersburg) started the game on the mound for the Blue and Green, going just three innings. The loss was FGCU’s first this season in A-Sun player when Wagoner starts (3-1). Freshman Harrison Cooney (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS) (2-1) was pinned with the loss after giving up two earned runs over 2.1 innings.
Senior Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) went 3-for-5 in game two with three runs scored. Bednar’s seven-hit day was capped with a 4-for-4 performance at the plate. The top five hitters in the FGCU lineup supplied 13 of the team’s 14 hits in the final game.
FGCU will head back to No. 29 Miami on Tuesday for its lone non-conference game of the week. First pitch at Alex Rodriguez Park is set for 6 p.m.