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Big weekend matchup against Mercer could affect conference race

The Eagles continue to streak this season coming off another Atlantic Sun Conference series win. Florida Gulf Coast University baseball (26-15, 11-4 A-Sun) recently moved into second place in the Atlantic Sun behind Mercer University (31- 10, 14-4 A-Sun).

This weekend, these two A-Sun forces will face off in a three-game series that will help determine seeding for the conference tournament at the end of next month in Swanson Stadium. The game will also be a huge factor in deciding the Atlantic Sun regular season champions. In a pre-season ranking, Mercer was predicted to win the Atlantic Sun regular season with FGCU in third.

Following the series with Mercer, the Eagles will head to Boca Raton to take on in- state foe Florida Atlantic University (21-18, 9-12 C-USA) on Tuesday. In its last meeting, FGCU came away with a 1-0 victory over the Owls behind a five-pitcher shutout.

The Green and Blue are coming out of the weekend with a conference series win over the University of North Florida (17-23, 7-11 A-Sun). The three-game series, which was meant to begin last Thursday but was postponed due to rain, began on Friday with a doubleheader.

The first of the three saw the Atlantic Sun’s leading pitcher take the mound for FGCU. Mike Murray, who’s ERA was second in the nation, tossed for eight innings, allowing just two runs on 10 hits by UNF. Strong run supports by the Eagles led Murray to his league-leading ninth straight win of the year to keep his record unblemished. The 9-3 victory brings Murray just two wins away from tying FGCU’s single-season record of 11 wins set by Chris Sale.

“Murray showed us all why we believe he’s one of the best pitchers in the country today with a gutty performance like that,” FGCU head coach Dave Tollett said. “Our bats came alive and gave him all the support he needed to get the job done.”

Four home runs were knocked in Swanson Stadium in game one. Mike Suchy hit his third bomb of the season before Cody Hoffner’s home run back-to-back gave the Eagles the lead in the fifth. Hoffner had two

in game one, his first two home runs of the season. The fourth long knock came off the bat of Nick Rivera late in the seventh, his second of the year, for the Eagles’ final run of the game.

In game two, the Eagles struggled on the mound and weren’t able to make up for it with their bats. Nick Deckert got the nod for the Green and Blue and threw for 5.2 innings with five runs allowed, four earned, on nine hits. UNF only scored once more following Deckert’s departure giving them the 6-1 game two victory.

The bats couldn’t get going in this one. Zack Tillery was the Eagles’ lone bright spot as he went two-for-five on the day and scored their only run late in the eighth inning. Colton Bottomley and Gage Morey also picked up two hits in game two.

The Eagles were able to turn it around in game three, knocking 18 hits and adding 11 runs to their line to pick up the series win for the ninth time this season. Five batters for FGCU were able to knock three hits in the game. Suchy and Tillery each had two runs to go with their three hits as well as one and two RBI respectively. Hoffner showed out yet again scoring three times along with his three knocks. Blake Berger led the scoring for FGCU as he managed to drive in three runs and score once with his three hits. Alex Diaz rounded out the strong offense performance for the Eagles as he had two RBI and a run on three hits. Jake Noll stole his 20th base of the season, which ties him with the single-season program record.

Jack English took the mound for FGCU in game three, tossing for 6.0 innings and allowing just one run on five hits.

“Jack pitched very well and our bats really came alive for us,” Tollett said. “We needed a strong effort today and these guys understood that. It was an important win for us.”

English picked up his third win of the year and drops his ERA to 2.37. Brady Anderson and Tillery came in relief to close out the game and give FGCU baseball its 26th win of the season.

The Eagles will be in Swanson Stadium again this weekend for the biggest series of the season against Mercer. The series will help determine the conference champions and will take place starting Friday and ending Sunday, barring any weather complications.

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