2/16/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 363
WP | Sterling Koerner (1-0) – 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO
LP | Ty Sterner (0-1) – 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
SAVE | Brady Anderson (1) – 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU Baseball team (3-1) trailed 2-1 through three innings of Sunday afternoon’s series finale with Rhode Island (1-3) before head coach Dave Tollett handed the ball to freshman pitcher Sterling Koerner who went on to toss 5.2 innings of relief that Tollett would call “the best long relief appearance I’ve ever had here,” sparking the Eagles to a 4-3, come-from-behind, series clinching victory.
Starter Brad Labozzetta (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland HS) made his first appearance for FGCU after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2012 and struggled a bit to keep his pitch count low though three innings, giving up three hits, two runs and striking out four. Koerner (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carrol HS) would get the ball to start the fourth with a 2-1 deficit and essentially put the team on his back the rest of the way.
“It was a great come-from-behind win against a real good quality starter,” Tollett added after the game. “We stayed with it, we hung with our approach, we got to him and got into their bullpen and I’ll tell you what; Sterling Koerner, in all my years here, I’ve never had a long relief appearance like that. It’s the best long relief appearance I’ve ever had here. The kid was phenomenal.”
The Eagles made their charge in the bottom of the sixth, trailing 3-1, thanks to a rally that resulted in three runs, giving Koerner and subsequently Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto HS) all the cushion they would need in this one. Mike Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS), Jake Noll (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotts HS) and Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) each continued their torrent starts to 2014 going a combined 5-12 on the day, but it was Andrew Valencia (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) who came up with the big hit to give the Eagles the lead in the sixth. He went 2-4 with a pair of RBI’s after being moved from fifth to seventh in the batting order following a 1-10 mark over the first three games.
Rhode Island struck first in the third inning by getting things started with a leadoff double off the bat of Mike Sherburne for the team’s first hit of the ball game. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt, Tim Caputo singled to bring home Sherburne to put the Rams up 1-0. Rhody would follow that up with a bunt single and after a hit batsman to load the bases; Labozzetta let loose a wild pitch that allowed the second run to score. The redshirt-freshman struck out the last two batters to escape the jam but that would be all from Labozzetta, leaving the game down 2-0.
Ryan O’Malley (San Jose, Ca./College of San Mateo) started of the third with a double down the right field line that was followed up by an Alex Diaz (Miami, Fla./John A. Ferguson) bunt single. Adam Eggnatz (Tampa, Fla./Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS) would rap into a 5-4-3 double play, but O’Malley was able to come in to score, 2-1.
Koerner came on in the fourth and quickly worked a 1-2-3 inning but the FGCU bats would remain silent in the fourth and fifth. An error would allow the leadoff man for URI to reach in the top of the fifth. Suchy lost a high fly ball in the afternoon sun that fell by his side. A sac bunt would move the runner to second before a single advanced him to third. Rhody first baseman Connor Foreman sent a ground ball rolling back to Koerner who turned and made the throw to second but FGCU was unable to spin the double play, allowing the run to score from third.
Following a quick top half of the sixth, Suchy started the bottom of the inning off sitting on a changeup from Ty Sterner and singling right. Rivera doubled down the left field line to put runners on second and third with no outs. Kevin Young (Ponte Verde Beach, Fla./Ponte Verde Beach HS), batting in the five-hole for the first time this season, rolled a ground ball to the third baseman who throws home wildly allowing Suchy to score and moving Young and Rivera to second and third only to see Tyler Selesky (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) walk to load the bases with no outs. Sterner would be pulled from the game and replaced by Ben Wessel at this point and that is when Valencia strolled to the plate in the big spot and smoked the ball down the left field line scoring two and giving the Eagles a 4-3 edge.
Koerner shut the door from there. He recorded a strikeout, put out and an assist in the seventh then picked off a runner in the eighth before striking out one more and nailing down the first two outs of the ninth for Anderson who came on and closed out the Rams, striking out the only batter he faced for his first save of the year.
The Eagle pitching was outstanding as a whole in the season-opening series. Over four games (36 innings) FGCU pitchers combined for a 1.25 ERA, allowed just five earned runs, struck out 29 and walked only three batters.
The Green and Blue take a short break on Monday before coming back to Swanson Stadium on Tuesday to square off with in-state rival South Florida at 6:30 p.m.
Single-game tickets for FGCU Baseball are available at a cost of $6 for adults and $3 for children. Season tickets are also available. For more ticket information and additional deals, visit FGCUathletics.com/tickets, or call or visit the ticket office at 239-590-7145.