NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Propelled by a 7-run seventh inning, the Lipscomb baseball team opened an Atlantic Sun Conference series with league-leading Florida Gulf Coast with an 11-6 victory on Thursday night at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
“That was such a great baseball game for us,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “They (FGCU) were able to get out of a couple jams early before taking the lead, but then we responded with four runs in the bottom half of that inning, that is just how baseball is. There were two good teams out there tonight and it was a very exciting win for us.”
The Bisons would mount the first major threat of the ballgame in the fourth inning loading the bases against FGCU starter Michael Murray, who entered the game 12-0 and the league leader in ERA with a 1.41 mark. Murray would escape the jam to survive until the fifth when Lipscomb would get to the sophomore again and give him his shortest outing of the season.
Lipscomb junior shortstop Grant Massey got things started in the fifth with a 1-out single right back up the middle before he came home to tie the game a batter later when junior centerfield Jonathan Allison laced a double into the right center field gap. Senior right fielder Drew Adams then swapped places with Allison with a two bagger of his own giving Lipscomb a 2-1 advantage.
Redshirt junior Josh Lee then singled to right moving Adams 90 feet from home before moving into scoring position himself with his fourth stolen base of the season. That set the table for junior designated hitter Tyson Ashcraft and he delivered in the clutch with a 2-run double plating both Adams and Josh Lee.
“Murray has had such a great year for them and you have to feel fortunate anytime you can get runners on base,” Forehand said. “He is such an effective pitcher, but I thought we had a great approach to him and I was excited for the team when we were able to put up some runs.”
The Eagles countered back in the top of the seventh with a lone tally but the Bisons were able to escape a bases-loaded jam to keep a 4-2 cushion.
The Bisons answered right back in the bottom of the frame by plating seven runs and sending 11 batters to the dish. Allison got things started with a single to left before Adams put down a perfect bunt inside the grass on the third baseline for a base hit. A bad throw trying to nab Adams saw both runners advance 90 feet as they moved into scoring position.
The Eagles then opted to intentionally walk Josh Lee to load the bases setting the table for freshman third baseman Hunter Hanks and the rookie delivered a smash into the left-center gap clearing the bases with his third triple of the season. A single down the left field line by Ashcraft followed keeping the rally going as Hanks came home.
“I tried to stay short and not let my emotions get to me in that at-bat and I found my pitch” Hanks said. “Coach Phillips always says ‘short to it and long through it’ so I kept that in the back of my mind and I was able to get one pitch up and take it for a ride.
“When we have the confidence, we begin to play with a chip on our shoulder and that seems to get our bats going and then everything starts flowing.”
Senior catcher Nick Rome then drew a walk ahead of junior second baseman Mike Korte, who dropped down a bunt single to third base that allowed Ashcraft to score from second and Rome to move up to third on an errant throw by the Eagles. A passed ball then brought Rome home to make it a 10-2 lead and moved Korte 90 feet from scoring.
Redshirt sophomore first baseman Adam Lee then kept the hit parade going with a single to center field that scored Korte easily from third and rounded out the scoring in the game for the Bisons.
With the game seemingly in hand for the Purple and Gold, the Eagles made things interesting in the ninth by pushing across four runs thanks to a pair of Lipscomb errors. Redshirt-senior righty Jacob Knott was able to get out of the jam however and picked up his sixth save of the season.
Junior right hander Ian Martinez-McGraw picked up the win on the hill for the Bisons to improve to 8-3 tying the school record for wins. The victory ties Martinez-McGraw with former Bison and current Louisville Bat (AAA) Josh Smith, who went 8-4 in 2010. Martinez-McGraw went six and one-third innings scattering 10 hits and issuing only one walk. The knuckleballer struck out four Eagles in the win.
“It was exciting to see Ian give us another great start tonight,” Forehand said. “He was doing everything we were asking him to do. I am proud of how he pitched tonight.”
Murray took his first loss of the season lasting five innings. The righty surrendered a season-high four runs, eight hits and a walk while fanning five.
Allison led the Bisons at the dish with a 3-for-5 night including one run driven in and a pair scored. Lipscomb also got 3-RBI nights from Hanks and Ashcraft as the duo posted 2-hit efforts.
“Jonathan and Hunter had great games tonight,” Forehand said. “Allison got the first RBI for us tonight and that really got us going. I can’t say enough about what he did for our team tonight.
“And what a great at-bat by Hunter. He battled and battled in an eight-pitch at-bat and finally got a bases-clearing triple. He really broke the game open for us.”
The Bisons and Eagles continue the 3-game set on Friday at 5 p.m. at Dugan Field. A pregame ceremony before the contest will feature the awarding of the Ken Dugan Award.
“FGCU is a great team so we can’t enjoy this win too long because we have to come right back at it tomorrow and try to repeat tonight’s performance,” Forehand said.