NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Facing a 3-0 first inning deficit, the FGCU baseball team rallied over the middle frames, highlighted by a three-run seventh, to defeat Belmont, 5-4, in a game one of the critical Atlantic Sun Conference series on Friday evening in Nashville, Tenn. With two singles in the contest, senior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) tied the FGCU career hits record.
Battling for an A-Sun tournament berth, the Eagles improved to 23-27 overall and brought their league record to 12-13 this season. Meanwhile, Belmont dropped to 28-22 and moved to 14-11 in conference play.
The Blue and Green brought five runs across the dish on 10 hits, highlighted Alvarez’ 2-for-3 night that included three RBI, a run scored and an intentional walk. With his second hit in the contest, Alvarez moved into a share of the FGCU program record for career hits set at 311.
Freshman Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS) added a 3-for-4 game with three runs scored, and junior Javi Sujo (Miami, Fla./Miami Sunset HS/Middle Georgia College) went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Belmont got out to an early 3-0 lead, putting a trio of runs on the board in the bottom of the first. A leadoff triple followed by a groundout made it a 1-0 game, and a two-out two-run homerun by Tim Egerton gave the Bruins a three-run first inning edge.
Pushing one run across the plate in both the third and fifth frames, the Eagles cut the deficit to 3-2. Dwyer started the third with a single to right center and freshman Jake Foley’s (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS) one-out single moved runners to the corners, allowing Alvarez to send a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Dwyer. In the fifth inning, Dwyer started the frame with a single to center field and was followed by a sacrifice bunt from senior Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) and a groundout. With two outs in the frame, it was Alvarez again scoring Dwyer from third base on a single up the middle, lowering the Belmont lead to just one run.
The Bruins extended their lead to 4-2 in the home half of the fifth on a solo homerun to left center by Nate Woods.
Three runners moved around the bases in the visitor’s side of the seventh as the Eagles jumped head on the scoreboard 5-4. Sujo led off the frame with a double to right field and runners were found on the corners after a single up the middle from Dwyer. A well-placed bunt from Foley brought Sujo in from third and moved Dwyer to second base. Trailing 4-3, Alvarez then singled to center field leveling the game at 4-4 and inking his name in the record book. Alvarez then swiped second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher on the play, setting up an RBI single by freshman Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) and giving the Eagles a 5-4 lead.
Allowing just two hits, the Eagles held the Bruins scoreless over their final three chances at the plate to come away with the 5-4 game one victory.
Senior right-hander Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla./Northeast HS/South Florida CC) got the start for FGCU and went four innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts in a no-decision. Improving to 3-0, sophomore southpaw RJ Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) earned the win in relief, tossing 2.1 frames and surrendering just one earned run on a pair of hits to go along with two strikeouts. Junior fireballer Jacob Barnes (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg HS) picked up his third save of the season, hurling 2.2 scoreless innings and sitting down three batters faced to close out the game.
Belmont starter Chase Brookshire (4-3) was issued the loss after seven innings pitched, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits.
The A-Sun weekend series continues on Saturday with a 5 p.m. EST opening pitch in game two. The Eagles are scheduled to send freshman righty Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) (5-1, 4.40 ERA) to the mound. Live stats, results and recaps will be available at www.FGCUAthletics.com.