#FGCU Hosts Mercer in Battle for First Place at Swanson Stadium
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | by Matt Moretti III (@Moretts13)
Photo Courtesy: Linwood Ferguson
Photo Courtesy: Linwood Ferguson
Mercer (32-11)
FGCU (28-15)
4/25/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 357
Win: MURRAY (10-0) 7.094433
Loss: BARKER (3-3) 3.076124
MASSI (MER) 413100
NOLL (FGCU) 514000

April 25-27, 2014 | 6:30 PM, 2 PM, 1 PM | Swanson Stadium

GAME LINKS | Live Stats | Tickets

SOCIAL | @FGCU_Baseball | FGCU Baseball

STATS | FGCU | Mercer

Probable Starters – Friday, Apr. 25 – 6:30 p.m.
FGCU | Mike Murray (9-0): 0.82 ERA, 76.2 IP, 55 H, 14 R, 7 ER, 7 BB, 62 SO
MU | Brandon  Barker (3-2): 3.52 ERA, 46.0 IP, 53 H, 25 R, 18 ER, 12 BB, 39 SO

– The stage is set for a battle for first place in the Atlantic Sun when the FGCU baseball team (27-15, 11-4 A-Sun) welcomes current league pole-sitter and defending A-Sun regular season champion Mercer (32-10, 14-4 A-Sun) into Swanson Stadium for a three-game set this weekend. On Friday night, any fan wearing Green or Blue or both will be admitted to Swanson Stadium for free.

The Green and Blue have split the all-time series with the Bears, 9-9. Last season, Mercer swept FGCU in Macon but the two finished in the top two of the A-Sun standings at the end of the regular season. Neither would advance to the tournament final however as both were ousted early. Mercer advanced to the NCAA Tournament but did not win a game in its regional.

Mercer is currenlty holds the No. 25 RPI in the nation and is 5-0 against teams ranked in the top 50. That includes a 2-0 mark against No. 31 Georgia Tech and a three-game sweep of No. 40 High Point. Third baseman Chesney Young is considered by Baseball America to be the fifth-best professional prospect in the A-Sun. He hit .401 last season which was good for sixth in the nation and is currently hitting .377 with three homeruns and 31 RBI. 

The Bears were one of two teams chosen to finish ahead of FGCU when the preseason A-Sun rankings came out. Mercer received 97 points overall to finish just ahead UNF (86) and 24 points clear of FGCU (73). Mercer has the second best pitching team behind the Eagles with a 3.17 team ERA. To go along with that pitching the Bears have the second best hitting team in the A-Sun with a collective batting average of .291. Brandon Barker will start on the mound on Friday night for Mercer. Barker is currently 3-2 with a 3.52 ERA in 10 starts. In 46.0 innings, Barker has struck out 39 and walked 12 while opponents are hitting .285 against him.

Mike Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forrest Hill HS) will take the mound on Friday night in search of his league-leading tenth-consecutive victory. The sophomore rests atop the A-Sun and fourth in the nation with his 0.82 ERA and is in hot pursuit of the A-Sun single-season record of 1.14 set by Kennesaw State’s Steve Janas just last season. His 62 strikeouts also lead the A-Sun and have already surpassed his freshman season total of 54. The FGCU single-season record for wins is 11 set by Chris Sale in 2010.

Earlier this season Murray became just the second pitcher in FGCU history to throw back-to-back complete games. Ricky Knapp did so in March of 2012 when he went the distance against North Florida and East Tennessee State in consecutive outings. During his streak of 43.1 innings without allowing an earned run that was snapped at Stetson, Murray’s ERA dropped as low as 0.18 at one point. The West Palm Beach native was named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award 50-man midseason watch list. The award recognizes the top amateur baseball player in the country.

FGCU ranks third in the A-Sun in batting (.290) and first in pitching with a 2.93 team ERA. The single-season ERA record in the A-Sun is 2.40. Colton Bottomley (Parkland, Fla./Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS) has exploded into the third spot in the A-Sun with a .406 batting average while Jake Noll (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS) sits in 12th with a .352 mark and third in hits with 64. While Murray collects all the recognition on the mound, Jack English (Delray Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman HS) and Nick Deckert (Tallahassee, Fla./Tallahassee CC) are quietly putting together dominant seasons of their own, posting 2.37 and 3.10 ERA’s which rank third and sixth in the A-Sun, respectively. Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) is in a race for the league lead in doubles with 16 while Noll and Gage Morey (West Palm Beach, Fla./PB Central) have set the league standard in the stolen base department with 20 and 12 which rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

In 12 seasons of work, FGCU head coach Dave Tollett has compiled a 421-231-2 record as the only head coach in the program’s history. He will matchup with Craig Gibson who is in his eleventh year as a head coach with Mercer. He boasts an overall record of 321-251 record with the Bears.

Nick Deckert (Tallahassee, Fla./Tallahassee CC) took the mound for FGCU to make his 11th start of the year and his first during a mid-week game. The lefty came into the game carrying a 3.20 ERA which ranked seventh in the A-Sun with 56 strikeouts which ranked third. Deckert worked 2.0 innings of one-hit ball and would not end up factoring in the decision.

The combination of Garrett Anderson (Desoto, HS/Arcadia, Fla.), Mario Leon (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS), Adam Eggnatz (Tampa, Fla./Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS), Sterling Koerner (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carrol HS), Andris Gonzalez (Miami, Fla./Indian River State College), and Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) would hold off the Bulls the rest of the way. Gonzalez would earn his first victory of the season by a score of 5-3 as he would toss a season-high 1.2 innings without allowing a hit and striking out two.

Colton Bottomley (Parkland, Fla./Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS) picked up three hits and drove in three runs with a long homerun in the top of the ninth that provided the difference in this one. Jake Noll (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS) was the only other FGCU player to pick up multiple hits as the Green and Blue sprayed nine hits in all to do the job on Tuesday night.

FGCU saw seven players drafted off the roster last season into Major League Baseball. Head coach Dave Tollett has now had 20 players drafted over his 12-year stint heading up the program. The most notable of FGCU Eagles in the pros is two-time MLB All-Star Chris Sale who posted an 11-14 record for the Chicago White Sox last season with a 3.07 ERA. He struck out 226 batters in 214.1 innings pitched, picked up the win in the 2013 All-Star Game and ultimately finished fifth in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

1 - Mercer (14-4, 32-10)
2 - FGCU (11-4, 27-15)
3 - Lipscomb (12-6, 24-18)
4 - ETSU (8-6, 20-19)
5 - Kennesaw State (8-9, 22-20)
6 - Jacksonville (7-10, 14-25)
7 - North Florida (7-11, 17-23)
8 - Stetson (6-9, 17-26)
9 - NKU (5-10, 12-26)
10 - USC Upstate (4-13, 14-30)

25 - Mercer
110 - Kennesaw State
118 - FGCU
142 - Lipscomb
152 - Jacksonville
173 - North Florida
194 - ETSU
206 - Stetson
242 - Northern Kentucky
259 - USC Upstate

1 - Florida
26 - Miami
85 - Illinois
129 - Michigan
134 - South Florida
139 - Florida Atlantic
203 - Florida A&M
243 - Bethune-Cookman
271 - Rhode Island
289 - Manhattan 

Full coverage of each game including live stats and internet radio can be found at FGCUAthletics.com. If you can’t reach a computer, follow @FGCU_Baseball on Twitter or “like” FGCU Baseball on Facebook for daily news, photos and a constant stream of live updates during each game.

For the first time in program history, the FGCU baseball team will play host to the 2014 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship set to take place May 21-25 at Swanson Stadium. The top eight teams in the standings at the end of the regular season will advance to the championship and compete in a double-elimination style tournament to determine the A-Sun’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles are three-time A-Sun Regular Season Champions and finished second in the league last season.

Single-game tickets for FGCU Baseball are available at a cost of $6 for adults and $3 for children. Season tickets and tickets to the 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship are also available. For more information and additional deals, visit FGCUathletics.com/tickets, or call the ticket office at 239-590-7145.