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Diaz Sparks Late Offensive Surge as Eagles Defeat Bethune-Cookman, 7-3
|Florida Gulf Coast||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||3||X||7||9||5|
|Win: KNAPP (1-0)||1.2||1||0||0||0||2|
|Loss: RIVERA (0-1)||0.1||3||2||2||1||1|
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU baseball team exploded for five runs over the final three innings to pull away from Bethune-Cookman, 7-3, at Swanson Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Eagles picked up their first win of the season and redshirt freshman shortstop Alex Diaz (Miami, Fla./Ferguson H.S.) was the catalyst, belting a homerun in the seventh and picking up two more RBI in the eighth.
“Unfortunately we had to go to the bullpen a little earlier than expected this afternoon, but I was pleased with the way they came in and pitched effectively,” said head coach Dave Tollett. “Offensively, Diaz stepped up and had a really strong day at the plate. Now we just have to carry this momentum over to tomorrow’s finale and try to come away with a series win to open up the year.”
Bethune-Cookman struck first in the contest, taking a 1-0 lead with a RBI single up the middle in the fifth inning by Brandon Turner.
The Green and Blue stormed right back, as Diaz led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk and quickly moved to third on a throwing error by the pitcher on a failed pickoff by B-CU starter Montana Durapau. Later in the frame, freshman second baseman Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto County H.S.) drove in the game-tying run on a sac fly, picking up his first career RBI.
FGCU was back to business in the sixth when junior catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) and sophomore left fielder Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares H.S.) led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Reeves would come around to score on a bases loaded sac fly from sophomore Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork H.S.), giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
B-CU regained a 3-2 lead temporarily in the top of the seventh, plating a pair of runs on two hits and a pair of FGCU defensive errors. With two runners on and just one out, FGCU turned to 2011 A-Sun All-Freshmen team choice Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) to get it out of the jam.
The Eagles responded in the bottom of the seventh when Diaz dumped a leadoff blast over the left field wall, tying the game at 3-3 and giving the Miami, Fla. product his first career round-tripper. FGCU picked up two more hits in the inning, while pushing another run across the plate on the strength of freshman Zack Tillery’s (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier H.S.) first career RBI, scoring Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri) from third base on a sac fly to left field and moving the lead to 4-3.
FGCU would extend its advantage to 7-3 in the home half of the eighth as three more runs came across the dish. Junior Tito Mendoza (Miramar, Fla./Cooper City HS/Cowley CC) led off the frame with a single to left field, and was followed by a walk to freshman Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS). Diaz then approached the dish and recorded his second and third RBI of the contest, lacing a double down the left field line. A failed pickoff throw from the B-CU catcher Carlos Delgado advanced Diaz to third, and a sac fly to left field by Anderson brought Diaz in to score. The Green and Blue would hold the Wildcats scoreless in the visitor’s side of the ninth to claim the afternoon victory.
The Green and Blue had to rely on the pen for most of this game after redshirt senior Patrick Nathanson (Maitland, Fla./Trinity Prep) exited in the first inning after recording two outs. Junior southpaw Andrew Polly (Broken Arrow, Okla./Union HS/Cowley County College) saw his first action of the season, pitching 5.2 innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits. Surrendering just one hit and tallying a pair of strikeouts, Knapp improved to 1-0 on the season after going 1.2 innings on the mound. Retiring the side in order, Anderson closed out the ninth for the Green and Blue.
FGCU were able to push across seven runs on nine hits in this contest. Diaz led the team offensively going 2-3 with three RBI. Reeves also picked up two hits going 2-for-4, while Anderson drove in two runs.
The two teams will close out the series on Sunday afternoon with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. at Swanson Stadium. Left-handed sophomore Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) is the probable starter for the Eagles.
Sunday, Feb. 19 – 1 p.m.
FGCU – LHP Brandon Bixler, So. (0-3, 8.69 ERA, 26.1 IP, 22 SO, 26 BB, .325 B/Avg.)*
B-CU – RHP Rayan Gonzalez, Sr. (0-3, 4.86 ERA, 46.1 IP, 49 SO, 24 BB, .319 B/Avg.)*
Live stats, in-game Twitter updates (@FGCUEagles and @FGCUBaseball), results and recaps from all FGCU events are available at www.FGCUAthletics.com.