Kinker Walks Off Rutgers in The 11th Inning

Kinker Walks Off Rutgers in The 11th Inning


FORT MYERS, Fla. – A walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th inning by freshman Joe Kinker (Northport, FL/Venice HS) awarded the FGCU baseball team (12-5) with a 4-1 win over Rutgers (4-10) Friday night at Swanson Stadium.

"It was a pitching duel tonight," head coach Dave Tollett said. "(Rutgers' pitcher) was really good and Lumbert matched him. Shuck, Seb and McGarry were great on the back end and kept us in things. We had several chances to win it and we just couldn't buy a hit. It's amazing to watch Kinker. He strikes out three times and it just doesn't faze him. He comes up with the game on the line and puts one out of the ballpark. That says a lot about a freshman."

For a game that was almost five hours long, there was not a lot of action as both teams struggled to string something together on offense. The Eagles took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Junior Richie Garcia(Davie, FL/West Broward HS) singled to right center field, bringing in junior Alex Brait (Viera, FL/Viera HS) who had reached on a single of his own.

The Scarlet Knights were not able to come up with a response until the top of the fourth when David Soto doubled to left field, scoring Victor Valderrama. The RBI double tied the score at 1-1.

FGCU had a solid chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Garcia reached on a walk and was followed up with a single by junior Kohl Gilmore(Fort Pierce, FL/John Carroll HS/Indian River). Freshman Jalen Townsend(Oviedo, FL/Winter Park HS) reached on a throwing error and Garcia was in a position to score for the home team but got caught in a rundown that ended the inning.

Senior Evan Lumbert (Orlando, FL/Boone HS/South Florida State), who made the start for the Green and Blue, pitched five innings before being retired. Lumbert struck out five, walked three and allowed one run on five hits, leaving the game with a no-decision.

Sophomore Tyler Shuck (Cape Coral, FL/Canterbury HS) took over the mound to start the sixth and sat down the first three Rutgers batters he faced. He made it through two innings before the Eagles called up junior Sebastian Gruszecki (Dudley, MA/Shepherd Hill Regional HS) from the bullpen. Shuck finished the night with two strikeouts and let up two hits.

Gruszecki cruised through his first frame of work and, after allowing two on in the ninth, was replaced by junior Hunter McGarry (Bradenton, FL/Bradenton Christian School/State College of Florida). Gruszecki had already recorded two outs, one on a strikeout, and McGarry wrapped things up with a K of his own.

With the teams knotted up at 1-1 through nine, the game was sent into extra innings. Neither side was able to get itself into scoring position until the bottom of the 11th. Sophomore Christian Proffitt (Cape Coral, FL/Ida Baker HS) and senior Eric Gonzalez (Miami, FL/American HS/ASA College) both reached on back-to-back singles. Brait reached on a fielder's choice that sent Proffitt to third. Gonzalez was out on the play.

With two runners on and two outs, Kinker stepped into the batter's box. The freshman, who was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, homered to left field on a 2-1 count for the walk off win. Kinker's homer was his fourth of the season and ties for the team lead with Jay Hayes (Altamonte Springs, FL/Lyman HS).

McGarry (2-0) earned the victory on the mound after tossing a hitless and scoreless final 2.1 innings. The Scarlet Knights advanced a base runner to third base in the third, fifth and eighth innings but were stalled every time by the Eagles.

Both teams finished with eight hits. Brait and Garcia had two each to lead FGCU. Brait also scored twice.

The teams will be back in action tomorrow for the second game of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Swanson Stadium. The finale is slated for an 11 a.m. start on Sunday.