DELAND, Fla. - Behind a stellar bullpen and three-run ninth inning, #6 Stetson opened the ASUN Conference Baseball Championship with a 7-5 victory vs. #1 FGCU to advance into the winner's bracket Thursday. With the loss, FGCU drops into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
Stetson (25-30; 11-12) had been building towards a potential swing in the lead all game, starting with leaving ducks on the pond in the first, second and third innings before striking for a pair in the fourth. At that point, FGCU (34-20; 16-7) had built a 4-0 lead behind a pair of runs driven in on balls in the infield and then a two-run homer from Kohl Gilmore. Right after Stetson cut the lead in half, FGCU answered with its fifth run of the afternoon, looking to be in total control and on the way to an opening day victory.
The tide swung towards Stetson when the bullpen took over, receiving five shutout innings from All-Freshmen Team member Danny Garcia and then closer Vlad Nunez, limiting the Eagles to a pair of hits over the final 15 outs of the game. The Hatters trimmed the deficit in the middle innings behind an RBI from All-Freshmen Team honoree Noah Dickerson and then a solo homer to lead off the sixth from Austin Bogart. With chances to tie the game or take the lead in each of the next two innings, it looked like FGCU would just escape inning-after-inning.
After retiring the Eagles in the eighth, Stetson came to bat and quickly set up a chance to tie the game, getting runners to second and third with no one out following a walk to Jacob Koos and double from Eric Foggo. The tying run came in on a sac fly from Jorge Arenas that nearly fell in after the FGCU outfielders lost the ball in the bright DeLand sun. Baylen Spark's sac bunt drove in the go-ahead run and insurance was provided on a single from Austin Bogart to make the score 7-5 for the Hatters first lead of the day.
The ASUN leader in saves with 12 coming into the game, Vlad Nunez had two runners reach base after an error in the infield and hit batter, but retired the other three without any additional damage on the scoreboard, striking out the final hitter of the afternoon to seal the win.
Stetson now awaits the loser of tonight's contest between Jacksonville and Lipscomb, facing that team tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM ET on ESPN+. FGCU moves into the loser's bracket and awaits the loser of the next game of the triple-header opener between Liberty and North Florida with first pitch for tomorrow's contest slated for 11 AM ET on ESPN+.
FGCU vs. Stetson Game Notes
- Stetson becomes the first six seed to win in the opening round since the Hatters did so in 2016, topping Kennesaw State
- FGCU's Kohl Gilmore collected the first home run of the 2019 ASUN Baseball Championship, a two-run homer over right field
- This marks the first opening round win for Stetson when the ASUN Championship has been in DeLand since 2012
- FGCU suffers its first loss in the ASUN Championship since 2016, an opening round defeat to North Florida