FT. MYERS, Fla. – Pitching on two days’ rest, Lipscomb junior knuckleballer Ian Martinez-McGraw led the Bisons to the finals of the 2014 Atlantic Sun Conference Championships with a complete-game 11-4 win over top seed Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday evening at Swanson Stadium.
With the win, the third-seeded Bisons (33-27) advance to take on No. 3 seed Kennesaw State on Sunday needing two wins to win the tournament crown. The first game of the day begins at Noon CDT and will air on ESPN3.
“I have to give that win to Ian,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “He just took it over on short rest and saved our bullpen for tomorrow. That was a huge performance by him.
“The offense finally got going in the second inning and Drew (Adams) had a big hit. And then we got the 5-run fifth that really helped.”
With his ninth victory of the season, Martinez-McGraw claimed the season wins record surpassing Josh Smith’s eight-win total in 2010. The righty scattered 11 hits over the course of the nine innings of work allowing four runs and four walks while fanning three. Martinez-McGraw also snatched another season record away from Smith in the game surpassing Smith’s 103.1 innings pitched. With the complete-game effort, Martinez-McGraw now has 112.1 innings pitched on the season.
After giving up a run in the first, the Bisons decided to take early control of the contest with a 5-run second. Freshman third baseman Hunter Hanks got the rally started with a leadoff walk before redshirt-junior left fielder Josh Lee doubled down the left field line to move both runners into scoring position.
Senior catcher Nick Rome then drew the game even with a groundout before junior second baseman Mike Korte gave the Bisons a 2-1 lead with an infield single to short that plated Josh Lee. An Adam Lee walk then ended the day FGCU starter Mario Leon.
Junior shortstop Grant Massey kept the rally going however with a single to short to load the bases for senior right fielder Drew Adams, who launched a blast off the wall in left field just missing a grand slam but still clearing the bases for a 5-1 lead.
FGCU would cut into the deficit with a 2-run bottom of the fourth but the Bisons answered right back with a 4-run top of the fifth to give a little breathing room. Adams got the frame going with a single to right center before junior designated hitter Tyson Ashcraft moved him to second with a perfect sacrifice bunt.
Hanks then hit a bounding ball to third that slipped under the glove of Zack Tillery and allowed Adams to score from second. A Josh Lee single put runners on the corners for Rome and the backstop delivered a double down the left-field line to make it an 8-3 game. Rome then scored on a sacrifice fly by Adam Lee to cap off the 4-run frame.
The Bisons went on to add a run in the eighth on a beautiful safety squeeze by Hanks that scored Adams. An Adam Lee groundout in the ninth capped off the scoring on the afternoon as Rome came home for the second time in the game.
Adams and Josh Lee led the way at the plate with both going 3-for-5 at the plate as Lipscomb pounded out 14 hits against the Eagles. Adams also drove in a trio of runs as did Rome.
“Nick absolutely stepped up and played great,” said Forehand. “He and Drew kind of felt like their backs were against the wall and might be their last time to come out and do it. They just performed well today. I’m really proud of them and it’s so fun to watch them play that way, to play excited and for them to get the big hits when they have to get them.”