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No. 9 FGCU baseball rides strong performance from Mario Leon to beat Miami

No. 9 FGCU baseball rides strong performance from Mario Leon to beat Miami
(EN Photo / Brad Young)

Following a series sweep of Jackson State, the No. 9 FGCU baseball team defeated Miami 3-0 thanks to a strong performance on the hill by Mario Leon.

The Eagles have now completed a sweep of the big-three Florida schools with wins vs Miami, Florida State and Florida. They’ve also beaten USF and FAU to sweep the state of Florida.

Mario Leon, who has been called upon to pitch in the midweek games, threw his best outing of the season, going seven innings, two hits and giving up no runs in front of a Swanson Stadium record 2,074 fans.

“Honestly, I think it was like in the second or third inning coach Toe [Tollett] and I were sitting in the dugout, and he goes ‘holy smokes, I didn’t see those people over there,’ and I look to center field and there’s people in the hil,l and I’m like wow, I’ve never seen that. So I went out and looked to my left down the line, and there were hundreds of people against the fence,” Leon said. “It fired me up. I’m not going lie. I live for moments like those, and I think they were a huge help for me tonight.”

Julio Gonzalez broke a scoreless game in the seventh with a two-run single with the bases loaded to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.

“He’s the best player in the state of Florida,” FGCU head coach Dave Tollett said. “I haven’t seen anyone better. He can do it defensively. He has been a blessing for FGCU. He’s hitting .364, and he is one of the most valuable players we ever had in this program. It’s his energy that he brings to us. He has been one of the best to ever wear the blue and green.”

The Eagles went up against freshmen right-hander Gregory Veliz. FGCU had a chance in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out, but Veliz was able to get two fly outs to end the inning.

Veliz went on to retire nine in a row before Spencer Levine singled in the fourth.

The pitchers matched zeroes until Gonzalez drove in two in the seventh. Nick Rivera added to the Eagles’ lead with an RBI double to put FGCU up 3-0.

With the Eagles ahead by three runs, Kenton Herring came into the game and struck out two in a scoreless eighth inning.

Sterling Koerner matched Herring’s performance on the mound, striking out two in the ninth and getting Carl Chester to ground out Gonzalez to end the game.

FGCU now will get ready for conference play when they welcome in Jacksonville on Friday night for the start of a three-game series.

“It’s just another game,” Gonzalez said. “We have no pressure. We’ve played against the best and we know how important conference is. We have a big matchup coming up, but we have a game plan and we’re getting ready for that. We look forward to conference.”

Catch Mario Leon on the next episode of ENTV’s Beyond the Nest on eaglenews.org. Friday, March 31.

(ENTV Video / Katie Hopkins)

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