FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind 15 hits and a solid six innings of work from sophomore R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) and junior Jacob Barnes (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg HS) out of the bullpen, the FGCU baseball team kept its postseason hopes alive on Thursday night at Swanson Stadium with a 9-5 Atlantic Sun win over Lipscomb in the series opener.
The Eagles improved to 25-28 on the season, but more importantly evened their mark in the A-Sun at 14-14. The Bisons fell to 19-34 and 10-18 in the conference.
With the win, FGCU moves within a game of Belmont (15-13) for the sixth and final A-Sun postseason berth with two games to go. Mercer (16-11) became the fifth team to qualify for the tournament tonight with its 10-8 win over ETSU (15-11) at home. The Eagles own the tie-breaker over Belmont due to their series win over the Bruins last weekend in Nashville.
Brown’s win on the mound gives him a 4-0 record on the season, while Barnes picked up his fourth save of the year by closing out the final three frames. Over the final six innings, the pair combined to give up just one run on six hits while striking out six batters faced.
While Brown and Barnes were keeping the Bisons’ bats at bay, the FGCU bats supplied their fourth straight game with double figure hits, finishing with 15. All nine positional starters had a hit for the Eagles, led by a 3-for-4 nights from junior Javi Sujo (Miami, Fla./Miami Sunset HS/Middle Georgia College), sophomore Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) and freshman Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS).
The lead changed hands twice over the first four innings with the last coming in the bottom of the fourth after a two-run inning by the Eagles gave them a 5-4 edge. Senior Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) drove home the second of his three RBI on the night with a ground out to second base that plated Dwyer to tie the game. Freshman Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) followed Alvarez’s groundout with a two-out RBI single to give the Eagles the lead for good at 5-4.
After another scoreless inning from Brown in the top of the fifth, the Eagles added to their lead in the bottom of the frame. Reeves led off the inning with a double to the right center field gap and Sujo wasted little time bringing him home with a single down the right field line to make it 6-4.
Lipscomb plated a run off Brown in the sixth to trim the Blue and Green’s lead to 6-5 before Barnes took over in the seventh en route to three scoreless innings of work. FGCU stretched its lead to four runs, 9-5, with two runs in the seventh and one more in the eighth. Leadoff singles by Reeves and senior Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) kicked started both innings.
The Eagles scored at least one run in five innings, while their leadoff batter reached six times. Reeves accounted for three of the leadoff hits, scoring two runs as a result.
Senior Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla./Northeast HS/South Florida CC) started on the mound for FGCU, lasting three innings while giving up four runs. All four runs came in the third inning with two outs.
The Bisons did finish the game with 12 hits, including four players with multi-hit evenings. Lipscomb starter Connor Sinclair, who entered the game with the third-best ERA (2.67) in the A-Sun, was touched up for seven earned runs on 12 hits over six innings in the loss.
Game two of the three-game set will begin on Friday at 4 p.m. Live stats along with live video can be found at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com. The series finale on Saturday at 1 p.m. will also be senior day for the Eagles. Kids get in free all weekend by wearing their little league jersey or school baseball jersey.