FGCU wins 5-4 with Nick Rivera walk-off
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU baseball team (24-19-1, 7-4 A-Sun) did it again on Sunday afternoon, this time by erasing a four-run deficit over the final two innings on the strength of a three-run double off the bat of Blake Berger in the eighth and a walk-off two-run home run from Nick Rivera in the ninth. The 5-4 victory gave the Eagles a four-game sweep of Massachusetts (11-20, 7-8 A-10) and extended their win streak to a 2015 best five games.
The Eagles now turn their attention to a date with No. 14 FAU (33-10, 15-6 C-USA) on the road on Tuesday before welcoming Lipscomb (26-15, 6-6 A-Sun) to Swanson Stadium for a three-game set starting on Friday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m.
“I love how this team battles,” head coach Dave Tollett said. “We are proving week in and week out that we are never out of any game we play. We were not very good at the plate for seven innings today but that didn’t faze us. We chipped away, put runners on – Berger’s hit was huge in the eighth. Then Rivera’s moment doesn’t happen if Selesky doesn’t draw that walk. I’m proud of our guys and I hope this gives us some momentum for the rest of the conference season.”
Each of the top seven hitters in the FGCU lineup recorded at least one hit on Sunday. Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) and Colton Bottomley (Parkland, Fla./Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS) each collected two hits. It was Blake Berger (Jacksonville, Fla./Santa Fe College) who came up with the hit that put the Eagles back in the game in the bottom of the eighth. His three-run, bases clearing double in the gap in left brought his average for the season to .292 and gives him eighth RBI. Rivera’s walk-off blast gave him his team-leading ninth homer of the season and leaves him with 53 RBI which are a career-high already.
Tyler Selesky (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) finished his career weekend with a 1-4 effort at the dish with a walk and a run scored. He finished the weekend going 12-20 at the plate which is a .600 average. He scored eight runs, collected six doubles, a triple and drove in 10 runs while walking twice. The junior is now sitting third among FGCU hitters with a .335 average after entering the weekend at .299.
Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto HS) was on the bump for the Eagles on Sunday afternoon and worked through 6.0 innings while giving up two runs on eight hits and striking out four against no walks. Three relievers would cover the rest of this one but it was Sterling Koerner (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carrol HS) who picked up his fifth victory of the season after tossing a scoreless ninth.
The Minutemen would strike first for the third time in the series in the top of the first. Adie singled though the left side on the second pitch he saw and moved up to second a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout Anderson surrendered a single to right, scoring Adie to give UMass an early 1-0 lead. Selesky would get his 12th hit of the weekend in the bottom of the first but that would be all for the Green and Blue in the frame.
FGCU would strand a runner in both the second and third innings, brining UMass back to the plate in the top of the fourth. A leadoff single and one-out double from Picard turned into the second run of the afternoon and pushed UMass ahead 2-0, giving it its largest lead since owning a 3-0 advantage in the first on Friday night. It was also the latest in any of the four games that UMass had maintained a lead. FGCU would pick up back-to-back hits to lead off the bottom of the fourth but neither would come around to score.
Anderson would work out of jams in the fifth and sixth. In the bottom of the sixth, Rivera came to the plate and led off with a double to deep right that missed being a homerun by a couple of feet. However, two subsequent ground outs and a strikeout would strand the FGCU first baseman at second base.
Garrison Vandeventer (Ocala, Fla./North Marian HS) took over on the mound to start the seventh and would find himself in a first and third jam after getting the first batter to ground out to Rivera at first. The fourth batter of the inning laid down a squeeze bunt with the runner at third charging home. The bunt was down successfully scoring the run but Rivera overthrew the second baseman covering first causing everyone to be safe. Vandeventer would get a groundout for the second out but a single from the next batter pushed the Minutemen ahead 4-0.
With a new pitcher on the mound for UMass to start the seventh, the Eagles would go down in order. Garrett Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto HS) worked a clean top half of the eighth, bringing Selesky to the plate to lead off the bottom half for the Green and Blue. He would bounce out to short but Rivera and Spivey followed with walks and Bottomley singled through the left side to load the bases. Berger stepped in and worked a 2-2 count before fouling off four-straight pitches. He would drive the next pitch into the gap in left-center, clearing the bases and cutting the deficit to 4-3. Adam Eggnatz (Tampa, Fla./Middle Georgia College) followed with a walk and the first pitch to Brian Pruett (Sarasota, Fla./Coastal Carolina) would be in the dirt and kick away from the UMass catcher. Eggnatz moved up to second and Berger attempted to reach third but a good throw and tag got him for the second out. Pruett worked a four-pitch walk and Anderson worked a full count before walking as well to load the bases once again. Matt Reardon (Palm City, Fla./Martin County) stepped and battled to a full count as well but he would ultimately fly out to center to end the FGCU threat in the eighth.
Koerner came on to pitch the ninth and worked around a pair of hits to escape with no damage. Selesky led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, bringing up Nick Rivera. The Cape Coral native watched strike one fly by before turning loose on the very next pitch and sending a long homerun over the right-center field wall to give the Eagles the walk-off victory and the sweep.
FGCU will head to Boca Raton to visit No. 14 FAU on Tuesday before welcoming the team that eliminated them from the A-Sun Tournament last season, Lipscomb, for a three game set May 1-3. The Bisons would fall to KSU last season in the A-Sun Final after putting a 33-28 record on the board with a 17-10 mark in the A-Sun. Despite being the only team to take a series from FGCU last season, the Bisons still trail the Green and Blue in the all-time series, 14-11. So far in 2015, Lipscomb is 26-15 overall and 6-6 in A-Sun play.