LakePoint, Ga. - ASUN Baseball finished .500 this Saturday as the the conference took five of its 10 competitions. No. 21 FGCU used home plate as a launch pad while Lipscomb swept its doubleheader. NJIT put up season-highs offensively and North Florida's pitching staff was near impossible to score against.
No. 21 FGCU's batters broke a handful of individual milestones against Rutgers in a 13-4 victory. Julio Gonzalez became the first player in the ASUN to hit for the cycle in 2017, clinching the feat with a triple in the bottom of the eighth inning. Despite Gonzalez' amazing night it was somewhat overshadowed by the performance of Nick Rivera, who tied a program record with nine RBIs. The senior registered a three-run homer in the fourth inning to bring the Eagles within a run of the visiting Scarlet Knights before hitting a grand slam in the fifth to put the home team at a 7-4 advantage. Rivera and Gonzalez both went four-for-five, with Rivera moving into a tie for second in the ASUN with five long balls on the year.
Josh Dye is the third Eagle arm this year to claim a third winning decision, posting a season-high eight strikeouts over five and two-thirds. Kenton Hering and Sebastian Gruszecki provided relief on the night, combining for 2.1 perfect innings. The FGCU pitching staff reached double-digits for the sixth time in the previous seven games as the Eagles have averaged 10.29 K/9 during that span.
Lipscomb swept its first non-conference doubleheader since winning back-to-back contests with Mississippi Valley State in March of 2016 on Saturday. The Bisons defeated Illinois State by counts of 10-8 and 3-1, with Denton Norman becoming the first Lipscomb hurler to record two saves in a single day since at least 2010. Von Watson and Jake Perry each hit long balls in the first matchup of the day, while Watson drove in four runs for the second time this year. Second baseman Lee Solomon went four-for-nine over the two games while hitting a pair of doubles in the afternoon affair. Cade Sorrells' on-base streak came to an end during Lipscomb's second victory, as the sphomore had touched first in his 17 previous appearances.
John Pryor and Jeffrey Passantino each won their first decisions of the season, with Passantino tying a career-high 10 strikeouts. Pryor, along with teammate Dallas Gibson, came from the pen in both games, as the two combined for three innings of relief. Pryor tossed 1.1 innings on the way to facing just two over the minimum and has made a total of eight scoreless appearances thus far in 2017.
Right-hander Frank German recorded his fourth quality start of the year on Saturday, in North Florida's 9-5 victory against Bradley. The sophomore sprayed six hits across seven shutout innings to move to 4-0 on the year, and is yet to give up more than a single earned run in each of his five appearances this season. German's ERA sits at a miniscule 0.88 and trails only Jacksonville's Chris Gau for first place in the ASUN. His five strikeouts on the night move him to 33 on the year, giving the Osprey hurler a 3.67 K/BB ratio.
Senior Christian Diaz went yard for the seond time this week with a two-run bomb to center field in the third inning. Playing in the designated hitter role on Saturday, Diaz finished the afternoon three-for-four with a pair of doubles in the seventh spot of the lineup. Chris Thibideau launched his fourth homer of the year and has been slashing .353/.436/.471 during the month of March. The center fielder places fourth overall in the ASUN regarding homers, despite participating in only 17 contests.
NJIT capped off the night for ASUN Baseball winning a marathon against James Madison that was delayed in the second inning for nearly two hours due to inclement weather. The Highlanders split their Saturday doubleheader with the Dukes, scoring a season-high eight runs in the early afternoon game before surpassing that number with an 11-5 victory just a few hours later. Sophomore Tom Brady went four-for-five during game two, while Michael Anastasia drove in four runs over the visitors' two contests.
James Sofield moved to 1-0 on the year after giving up just a single earned run in 2.1 innings of work. The righty gave up just two hits but allowed his first run of the season, giving him just one against over five and one-third in 2017. John Saviano finished off game two, recording seven of his eight outs on strikeouts, to give the New York native an average of 13.15 Ks per nine frames.
Stetson was blanked by visiting Fairfield while USC Upstate dropped an 11-3 decision to Quinnipiac. Kennesaw State grabbed a 6-0 lead headed to the third before falling to No. 12 Oklahoma 17-9. The game provided 23 hits between the two squads, as Chris Erwin registered his first homer of the season.
North Florida looks to sweep its series with Bradley on Sunday at noon, while No. 21 FGCU will attempt the same with Rutgers at 1 PM. Kennesaw State and Lipscomb get ESPN coverage as the Bisons try to keep Illinois State winless this weekend.
ASUN Baseball Scores
Saturday, March 18th
North Florida 9, Bradley 5; Box Score
W: German (4-0) L: Olson (1-2)
Lipscomb 10, Illinois State 8; Box Score
W: Pryor (1-0) SV: Norman (2) L: Lindgren (0-2)
No. 21 FGCU 13, Rutgers 4; Box Score
W: Dye (4-1) L: Brito (0-5)
Lipscomb 3, Illinois State 1; Box Score
W: Passantino (1-0) SV: Norman (3) L: Headrick (0-2)
NJIT 6, James Madison 2; Box Score
W: Sofield (1-0) L: Vassar (1-1)
NJIT 8, James Madison 9; Box Score
W: Kelly (3-0) L: Macmillan (0-1)
Stetson 0, Fairfield 6; Box Score
W: Wallace (3-1) L: Perkins (1-3)
USC Upstate 3, Quinnipiac 11; Box Score
W: Luciani (1-2) L: Hickey (2-3)
Kennesaw State 9, No. 12 Oklahoma 17; Box Score
W: Madden (3-0) L: Turner (1-2)
Jacksonville 3, UCF 10; Box Score
W: Pimentel (5-0) L: Gau (2-2)
Sunday, March 19th Schedule
North Florida vs. Bradley - 12 PM
Stetson vs. Fairfield - 12 PM
Kennesaw State vs. No. 12 Oklahoma - 12 PM (ESPN3)
No. 21 FGCU vs. Rutgers - 1 PM
NJIT at James Madison - 1 PM
USC Upstate vs. Quinnipiac - 1 PM
Jacksonville vs. UCF - 1 PM
Lipscomb vs. Illinois State - 1 PM CT (ESPN3)