NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After getting down four runs through six innings, the FGCU baseball team’s comeback effort to sweep the Atlantic Sun weekend series from Belmont fell one run short as it dropped a 4-3 decision on Sunday at Rose Park.
The Eagles entered the game one game back of the Bruins and with a win could have pulled into a tie with the Bruins for the sixth and final A-Sun postseason tournament berth. Instead, FGCU (24-28) is now two games back of Belmont (29-23, 15-12) at 13-14 in the A-Sun with one more weekend of conference play remaining.
FGCU will look to make a run at earning a postseason berth when it hosts Lipscomb in its final A-Sun regular season series. The two teams will begin the three-game set at Swanson stadium on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Senior Jack Wagoner (Berlin, Conn./Northwest Catholic/St. Petersburg) took the mound for his seventh start of the season and lasted 5.2 innings before leaving with the Eagles trailing 3-0. Wagoner scattered seven hits and struck out four before freshman Harrison Cooney (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS) came in and was touched up for a run in the three-run sixth that resulted in a 4-0 lead for the Bruins.
After coming away with just four hits over the first six innings, the FGCU bats started to warm up in the seventh when Belmont turned to its bullpen. Freshman Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) moved classmate Jake Foley (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS) and senior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) to second and third, respectively, with his 19th sacrifice bunt of the season after the duo led off with singles. Senior Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) made good on the RBI chance, smashing a single into left field to score both runners and pull the Eagles to within 4-2.
Sophomore R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) tossed a scoreless bottom of the seventh after getting the last out of the sixth, giving FGCU another chance to draw closer or take the lead. Senior Stephen Wickens’ (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) double brought home freshman Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS) from second to cut the score to 4-3 with just one out. With a pair of chances to knock Wickens in and tie the game, the Eagles stranded the senior shortstop and a total of 12 for the game.
The bullpen continued to do its job, as junior Jacob Barnes (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg HS) sat the Bruins down in order in the bottom of the eighth. Momentum stayed with the Eagles early in the ninth when Roberson’s one-out double followed by a single by Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) put runners at the corners. Sophomore Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) then laid down a bunt on the first pitch of his at-bat, but the play was unsuccessful as Roberson was thrown out at home trying to tie the game. Junior Javi Sujo (Miami, Fla./Miami Sunset HS/Middle Georgia College) had a chance to tie the game with a two outs, but he grounded out to second to end the game.
Despite the loss, FGCU won the weekend series with its wins on Friday and Saturday. The Eagles finished with 11 hits, including eight from its quartet of seniors (Alvarez, Maxfield, Roberson, Wickens) that have over 1,000 combined hits for their careers. Roberson led the way, going 3-for-4 with his 15th double of the season while pulling into a tie with Maxfield for the all-time RBI lead with 179. Wickens also had three hits.
Belmont had nine hits on the day and was issued just three walks. Starter Matt Haman improved to 7-1 on the season with the winning, working around six walks over six innings without allowing a run.
Looking into the A-Sun standings, four teams are fighting for the final three spots. Stetson clinched its first A-Sun regular season title since 2007, while Jacksonville and ETSU have earned spots in the postseason. Of the teams fighting for the final three spots, FGCU owns the tie-breaker over Kennesaw State (15-10) and Belmont (15-12). Mercer (14-11) took two of three from the Eagles in Macon.