4/9/2014 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 326
|Loss: Reily Monkman
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU baseball team (21-12, 7-2 Atlantic Sun) returns to the field on Tuesday evening at Florida Atlantic University (17-14, 5-10 C-USA) in the first of a two-game home-and-home series with the Owls that will conclude on Wednesday at Swanson Stadium.
These two programs have met 11 times and FGCU leads the series 7-4 entering this week’s pair of games. Last season was the first time that the Eagles did not come away with at least one win, dropping both meetings with the Owls by a combined score of 18-8.
The Owls will come into the brief series with FGCU having lost seven of their last ten but one of those three victories came at No. 12 Florida on Apr. 1. Three players in the FAU lineup currently boast a batting average above .300 with Stephen Kerr leading the way at .320 in 31 games. Drew Jackson has been the gem on the mound for FAU has rolled out a 2.52 ERA and a 4-0 record. Kevin Alexander leads the team with four saves and has struck out 14 batters in 16.0 innings pitched.
HEAD COACH MATCHUP
In 12 seasons of work, FGCU head coach Dave Tollett has compiled a 415-228-2 record as the only head coach in the program’s history. He will match up with John McCormack who is in his sixth season as FAU head coach after serving 11 seasons as associate head coach and has picked up 173 wins during his tenure as head coach.
The Eagles have not fared well in games played on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s this season, posting a 1-5 record against the likes of USF, Michigan, No. 20 Miami (2x), No. 1 Florida and Florida A&M. FGCU has been outscored 34-17 in mid-week games entering the matchup with FAU.
LAST TIME OUT
FGCU committed seven errors on Sunday afternoon allowing Kennesaw State (15-20, 3-9 A-Sun) to erase an early 6-1 deficit and ultimately come away with an 11-9 victory at Swanson Stadium and avoid the weekend sweep.
Jack English (Delray Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman HS) started on the mound for the Green and Blue, coming into the game with a 2.10 ERA which stood third in the A-Sun and cruised through his first four innings of work but struggled through the fifth, allowing three runs to come across, cutting the FGCU lead to 6-4. English would finish with 5.0 innings pitched to his credit after giving up six hits and four runs.
English left with the game with the lead and turned the ball over to Garrett Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto HS) who struggled mightily, only getting one out in the sixth and giving up six runs. Three errors in the frame however kept any of the runs from going down in the books as earned. Sterling Koerner (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carrol HS) took over on the mound in the seventh and allowed just one more run to come across but the damage had already been done.
Colton Bottomley (Davie, Fla./Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS) stayed hot at the plate, going 3-4 with a run, raising his season average to .475 in 15 games since returning from injury. Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS) drove in three runs in a 1-3 effort and scored once as well while three other FGCU players each added a pair of hits. In all the Green and Blue would spray 14 hits, their second most in a loss this season.
Mike Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forrest Hill HS) took the mound for the Eagles on Friday night against one of the nation’s top hitting teams in Kennesaw State and continued to show why he is one of the top hurlers in the nation as he worked his second-consecutive complete game, this time in shutout fashion, allowed just four hits, struck out four, walked none and picked up his seventh straight win, 5-0.
Murray is 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. The sophomore has lowered his A-Sun best ERA to a miniscule 0.43 which isn’t even the lowest that it has been this season. During his streak of 43.1 innings without allowing an earned run that was snapped last week at Stetson, Murray’s ERA dropped as low as 0.18 at one point. His 57 strikeouts also lead the league and have already surpassed his 2013 total of 54.
PRESEASON A-SUN AWARDS
The coaches of the A-Sun have chosen FGCU to finish third out of 10 in the preseason voting. The Eagles received two first-place votes and finished behind only reigning Regular Season Champion Mercer and North Florida, respectively.
Mercer received 97 points to go with seven first place votes followed by North Florida with 86 points and one first place vote. The Eagles finished with 73 points and two first place votes. ETSU (69), Kennesaw State (64), Stetson (60), Lipscomb (34), USC Upstate (30), Jacksonville (27) and Northern Kentucky (10) round out the 10-team poll. Both Mercer and 2013 A-Sun Tournament Champion ETSU advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.
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.
ATLANTIC SUN RANKINGS
1 – Mercer (26-7, 10-2)
2 – Lipscomb (21-12, 10-2)
3 – FGCU (21-12, 7-2)
4 – North Florida (15-17, 6-6)
5 – ETSU (14-17, 4-5)
6 – Northern Kentucky^ (10-19, 4-5)
7 – Jacksonville (10-20, 5-7)
8 – Stetson (13-20, 3-6)
9 – Kennesaw State (15-20, 3-9)
10 – USC Upstate (10-24, 2-10)
35 – Mercer
126 – North Florida
145 – Lipscomb
174 – FGCU
196 – Kennesaw State
198 – Jacksonville
212 – Northern Kentucky
217 – ETSU
248 – Stetson
260 – USC Upstate
ATLANTIC SUN CHAMPIONSHIP
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.