NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A day after walking across the stage to receive his corporate management degree with honors, Lipscomb baseball redshirt junior Josh Cotham walked between the lines at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh stadium and delivered the first complete game shutout for the Bisons in over two years with an 11-0 rubber-game, shutout of Atlantic Sun Conference foe Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.
After getting a week off last weekend as Lipscomb (22-25, 11-10 A-Sun) stepped out of league competition, Cotham came back sharp allowing only four hits and no walks while striking out seven FGCU (19-28, 10-11 A-Sun) batters on the day. The first shutout for the Bisons since the 2010 season improves Cotham’s record to 4-4 on the season.
“Anytime you come into a game with a 1-1 tie in the series and you get a complete-game shutout from your starter, you can’t ask for any more than that,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “Josh was great today. Seven strikeouts and no walks, he was just solid from start to finish. I’m proud of him.”
After missing a pair of scoring chances early in the contest, the Bison offense finally got rolling in the middle innings plating a run in the fourth and then ripping the game open with a six-run fifth inning that ended the day for FGCU starter Brandon Bixler (3-5), the reigning A-Sun Pitcher of the Week.
The fourth inning saw junior designated hitter Ricky Coleman reach on an infield single before the Eagles misplayed a sure double play allowing junior shortstop Aaron Sandoval to reach and Coleman to move up to third. Junior third baseman Gray Hutchinson then hit a deep fly ball to center that allowed Coleman to tag up easily from third for a sacrifice fly and give Lipscomb a 1-0 lead.
A leadoff walk by junior catcher Taylor Stewart followed by a free pass for senior right fielder Shawn Mehring got things started in the sixth for LU. That ended Bixler’s day and LU senior left fielder M.L. Williams rudely greeted Harrison Cooney with a single through the right side to load the bases.
That set the table for senior first baseman Zak Messer and he delivered a single through the left side to score both Stewart and Mehring. Junior centerfielder Zach Lowery then ripped a blast into the right-center gap that cleared the bases and put the Bisons out in front 5-0. Lowery would later score in the inning on a single back up the middle by Sandoval, who would also come across the dish on a base hit by junior second baseman Jonathan Craycraft that ended Cooney’s stint on the mound.
“They got the big inning yesterday but we got the big inning today,” said Forehand. “We got some clutch hits and I’m proud of our offense and how we reacted.:
The 7-0 score held until the eighth inning when LU got things rolling again. Mehring was the first batter to reach with a one-out , hit-by-pitch by Mehring before Williams walked to put two aboard. Messer and Lowery then came through again as Messer singled through the left side to scoring Mehring before Williams scored on a Lowery double as he went shopping in the right-center gap again.
A sacrifice fly by Coleman kept the scoring going in the frame as Messer scored his second run of the game before Sandoval drove Lowery home to round out the scoring in the contest.
“Anytime you take a series, whether it’s the first series or the last series it’s pretty big,” said Forehand. “As we fight for what’s going to happen down the line, each win is important. Series wins are important. I don’t want to put too much importance on this particular one but anytime you get a series win it’s pretty good.”
The Bisons step out of A-Sun action on Tuesday night for the final regular-season trip out of the city of Nashville with a jaunt to take on in-state rival Austin Peay at 6 p.m. in Clarksville.