LakePoint, Ga. - No. 24 FGCU posted 10 runs to win its first-ever NCAA College Baseball Championship game against No. 22 Michigan. The Eagles entered Friday's regional contest after winning the ASUN Conference Baseball Championship the previous weekend, and are currently on a run of five straight wins.
ASUN Player of the Year Nick Rivera tallied his conference-best 18th and 19th home runs of the year against the Wolverines, finishing the afternoon with a game-high four RBIs. Third-seeded Michigan jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Eagles, before Jake Smith opened the scoring for his club on a second inning single, to score ASUN Championship MVP and Conference All-Freshman Marc Coffers. The two sides would trade blows before Rivera went deep in the fifth to make things 4-3, and notch his second tater of the evening with a three-run shot in the sixth. Rivera's second knock of the day would give his side the deciding runs of the afternoon, while Richie Garcia's two-RBI single gave the Eagles some insurance in the bottom of the eighth.
Eight of FGCU's nine starters recorded hits while the entire lineup reached first safely at least once. Smith and Spencer Levine both went 3-for-4 on the day, with the former recording his second triple of the 2017 campaign. Julio Gonzalez continued the hitting streak he started in the conference postseason with a single in the sixth frame. The All-Conference Shortstop has registered a knock in his previous six performances, and currently leads his club with a .358 average on the season.
A few miscues from the FGCU defense added a few digits to starter Kutter Crawford's pitch total, forcing the righty to leave after just 4.1 innings of work.. The junior gave up two earned runs during his time on the mound, while sitting down eight Michigan batters on strikes. His K total gives the righty 99 on the year, putting him second only to Boston Red Sox hurler Chris Sale (104 & 146) for the most strikeouts by an FGCU pitcher in a single season. His early departure would deny the starter the win, as Mario Leon entered in relief of Crawford. Leon moved to 5-3 on the year with 2.1 inning win, while Kenton Hering gathered the third save of his last four appearances.
With their win the Eagles advance into the winner's bracket of the Chapel Hill regional. They stand to face the winner of Friday's evening matchup between hosts No. 2 North Carolina and Davidson. FGCU would be playing either club for the first time in program history. The 2017 ASUN Championship title holders are yet to have lost a game in the state of North Carolina since joining Division I in 2008.
No. 24 FGCU vs. No. 22 Michigan Notes
- Rivera's homer in the fifth inning was just the ninth long ball Michigan lefty Oliver Jaskie has given up all season (94.0 IP).
- Nine of FGCU's 10 runs were scored on two outs. The side went 6-for-10 (.600) with runners in scoring position against the Wolverines.
- Hering has not allowed a run since April, while giving up just five hits in 13 innings.
- FGCU tallied just three more hits than its opponents, however Michigan was able to muster only four hits on 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.307).
- Marc Coffers struck a single in the second to extend his hitting streak to 10. The freshman is averaging .425 (17-for-40) during that span.
- The Eagles averaged .378 against a Michigan pitching staff that has averaged just .228 against on the year.
Chapel Hill Regional Scores - Friday, June 2nd
No. 24 FGCU 10, No. 22 Michigan 6; Box Score
W: Leon (5-3) SV: Hering (7) L: Jaskie (8-3)
No. 2 North Carolina vs. Davidson - 6 PM (ESPN3)
Chapel Hill Regional Schedule - Saturday, June 3rd
No. 22 Michigan vs. Loser No. 2 North Carolina/Davidson - 1 PM (ESPN3)
No. 24 FGCU vs. Winner No. 2 North Carolina/Davidson - 6 PM (ESPN3)