Eagles sweep double header to begin 2018 season
The FGCU baseball teams opened their 2018 season with a pair of wins in a double header on Friday with a 6-5 win and a 13-4 win.
“It was not pretty at all, but we played hard and we played with energy,” head coach Dave Tollett said. “As I said earlier, this team is going to get better as we go, but I would rather get better in the win column than the loss column. It makes practice much more fun on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We had some guys go out there and compete.”
In game one, the Eagles and Eastern Michigan were tied at five in the home half on the ninth, and sophomore Alex Brait ended it with a walk-off hit to give the Eagles their first win of the season.
Josh Dye made the start for FGCU and left the game with a 5-2 lead, but did not get a win. He allowed 2 runs (0 earned) and struck out six. Kenton Herring picked up the win in relief.
FGCU started rusty out of the gate as the Eagles allowed an unearned run in the first game after a pair of errors in the opening inning. They ended up making six errors in the two games.
Eastern Michigan’s lead would only last till the third, as FGCU would load the bases and score five runs capped off by a two run triple by Richie Garcia. Along the way, Kohl Gilmore knocked in his first career RBI.
“It’s been a grind since August and six months in, we’re finally in it,” said Garcia. “This has been the moment I have been waiting for: to hit a triple in my second at bat.”
Eastern Michigan got a run back in the sixth, but Dye worked out of trouble in the sixth with a strike him out, throw him out double play to get through the sixth with a 5-2 lead.
That lead would shrink to one after Christian Townsend started the seventh. Sebastian Gruszecki allowed both inherited runners to score and Tollett went to his third arm of the inning, but with the bases loaded Parker Hamilton got Kolton Schenker to fly out to left field with the Eagles still up one.
However, that lead would not last, as Eastern Michigan tied the game at five after (how many?) consecutive hits to start the eighth and Herring was brought on with a runner on third and two out and got a strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, FGCU loaded the bases and would win on Brait’s first career walk off hit.
Also for the Eagles, Christian Profit made his debut at shortstop, walked four times and was hit by a pitch in his first five at-bats. He also made a couple of stellar plays at shortstop.
Mario Leon made the start in game two, was able to make it through five innings and get a win thanks to the Eagles offense exploding for 13 runs.
“I thought I threw okay,” Leon said. “If I had to work on something, it would be minimizing pitch and not be so high. My team is going to need me to go deeper into ballgames, but I thought I did a good job of minimizing some of the mistakes I made early on.”
FGCU started out this game right where they ended the last game with four early runs in the first and Jake Smith coming through with a two-run single with the bases loaded to double the Eagles’ lead from two to four.
Eastern Michigan was able to get one back in the third on a wild pitch, but FGCU added two from Marc Coffers on an RBI single and a second run scored on an error by the center fielder before Coffers wound up with a third. He would score on a safety squeeze by Gage Morey to put the Eagles up 7-1 after the fourth.
FGCU added two more in the fifth on an RBI triple from Brait and Garcia brought him home on a groundBryan Wilcox made his debut in the sixth and immediately started his collegiate career with back-to-back strikeouts in a perfect sixth inning.
Brait continued his hot start with another extra base hit and drove in two more runs, as FGCU went up 11-1 and Wilcox continued to shut down Eastern Michigan. The Eagles added one more in the eighth and Eastern Michigan added two in the ninth, but FGCU was able to move to 2-0 on the season.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Garcia said. “It’s a new group of guys. We lost a lot last year, so to start 2-0 on a Friday is amazing. It is an amazing feeling.”
The series will continue on Saturday with the two teams facing off at 1 p.m. as the Eagles look to win the series.