TAMPA The FGCU baseball team (27-15, 11-4 Atlantic Sun) came up with a clutch inning when it needed it most, scoring four runs in a tie game in the top of the ninth to put away South Florida (22-18, 8-7 American) and come away with a 5-3 win on Tuesday night in Tampa.
Nick Deckert 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, Mario Leon, Adam Eggnatz, Sterling Koerner, Andris Gonzalez and Zack Tillery would hold off the Bulls the rest of the way. Gonzalez would earn his first victory of the season as he would toss a season-high 1.2 innings without allowing a hit and strike out two.
Colton Bottomley picked up three hits and drove in three runs with a long home run in the top of the ninth that provided the difference in this one. Jake Noll 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.
With one away in the fifth, Bottomley ripped a double down the left field line and came around to score for the first run of the game on a Rivera double to deep left-center. Tillery followed with a single but no more runs would come across for FGCU in the top of the fifth and it would take a 1-0 lead into the bottom half.
Eggnatz put two runners on in the fifth and worked out of it before turning the ball over to Koerner in the sixth who also put two runners but ultimately struck out the side. The Fort Pierce native struck out the first batter he faced in the seventh but subsequently gave up a double and a single to put runners on first and third with one out. Nik Alfonso came to the plate and laid down a bunt that Rivera fielded and threw home. The throw would be a bit high allowing the runner from third to slide in under the tag and tie the score, 1-1. Gonzalez came in the game after that and struck out both batters he faced to escape further damage.
The Bulls sent their closer, Jordan Strittmatter out to pitch the eighth and he worked through the heart of the FGCU order easily. Gonzalez returned to pitch the eighth picked up two ground balls and a lineout to keep this one locked up on the scoreboard, 1-1.
Gage Morey led off the ninth with a single up the middle off Strittmatter and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Alex Diaz bounced a ball to short and beat out the throw to put runners on first and third for Noll who laid down a bunt a scored Morey from third to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Bottomley followed with a long home run over the left field wall, driving in three and giving Tillery a chance to close this one out in the bottom half.
USF would make things difficult on Tillery in the ninth however. The Naples native would get the leadoff man to pop out but a single and a home run made things interesting down the stretch for the Green and Blue. The Bulls would pick up a pinch-hit single and bring the tying run to the plate twice but Tillery settled in and shut down the treat to close out this one and secure the 5-3 victory.
The Eagles return home this weekend for a series that will go a long way towards determining the 2014 A-Sun Regular Season Championship. Mercer (31-10, 14-4 A-Sun) will come into Swan-son Stadium atop the A-Sun standings with FGCU in second.
The series will begin Friday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. and Eagle ace Mike Murray will likely be on schedule to start on the mound.
The second game will take place the next day at 2 p.m. and the series is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, April 27, at 1 p.m.