Three Run Sixth Dooms Mocs in Sunday's Series Finale at Eckerd
ST. PETERSBURG - Florida Southern closed out the 2014 regular season here Sunday afternoon by suffering a 3-2 loss to Eckerd in the second game of a Sunshine State Conference twinbill at the Turley Athletic Complex on the Eckerd campus.
The Mocs, who won the first game of Sunday's doubleheader 4-0 behind a complete game three-hit shutout by senior hurler Brian Johnson (Oldsmar, Fla.), led 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning of the nightcap, before the Tritons touched sophomore Ben Richardson (Orlando, Fla.) for three runs and took advantage of two hit batsmen to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Eckerd's Jimmy Gutowski retired the Mocs in order to seal the victory and win the final game of Eckerd coach Bill Matthews' career. Matthews announced prior to the beginning of this season that he would be retiring as Eckerd's coach after 24 seasons at the helm of his alma mater. In his 24 years with the Tritons, Matthews won 504 games and leaves as the school's all-time winningest coach.
With the setback, the Mocs conclude the regular season with a 32-17 overall record and a 14-10 mark in the SSC, while Eckerd closes the season with a 27-22 overall record and an 11-13 mark in the SSC.
Prior to the sixth inning, Richardson (7-5) was cruising along as he allowed just four hits in the first five innings and was tossing a shutout as he had recorded five strikeouts and had walked just one batter. For the game, Richardson allowed seven hits and three runs, while walking one and striking out five.
The Mocs got on the scoreboard in the first inning thanks to a lead-off single by senior second baseman Conor Szczerba (Titusville, Fla.), moved to second on a groundout by senior first baseamn Trey Vavra (Menomonie, Wis.) and would score on a double down the left field line by junior third baseman Chris Dennis (Rockledge, Fla.) off of Gutowski.
In the third inning. the Mocs put runners on first and third thanks a walk, two errors and a stolen base, before Gutowski got out of the jam by inducing Dennis to fly out left to end the inning.
FSC would get an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning as Vavra reached on a one-out single and would advance to third on a wild pitch by Gutowksi that went back to backstop. Dennis would drive home Vavra's with the Mocs second run on his sacrifice fly to left.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Shane Bishop and Chris Hanson reached on back-to-back singles to open the frame and Richardson would load the bases after hitting Mike Abraham with a pitch. The right-hander would get two outs on the next play as he induced Lincoln Dunham to ground into a 6-4-3 double play that allowed Bishop to score the Tritons first run. With two outs and the tying run on third, Richardson would hit Mike Vavasis with a pitch and then he allowed a single through the right side off the bat of Matt MacMahon that tied the game. Prior to that at-bat, MacMahon had gone 0-for-4 at the plate in the doubleheader with two strikeouts. The single by MacMahon ended Richardson's day on the mound and the Mocs brought senior Nate Carter (Boca Raton, Fla.) into the game out of the bullpen. Carter would surrender a two-out single up the middle by James Petika that allowed pinch runner Jake O'Rourke to score the go-ahead run, but MaMahon was gunned down at third base to end the inning.
Gutowski (11-2) earned the complete game win for the Tritons as he scattered five hits over seven innings and allowed two runs, while walking one and fanning six.
Five Mocs recorded a hit in the game and Dennis drove home both of the runs in the loss.
Lucas Luopa led the way offensively for the Tritons as he had two of Eckerd's eight hits in the win.
The Mocs will now play the waiting game to see their postseason fate as they were ranked fifth in last week's NCAA Division II South Regional rankings. The South Region will send six teams to the NCAA Tournament this season as three teams will earn automatic bids and three others will be at-large selections. The automatic selections that have already been determined is Tampa (SSC champion) and Stillman (SIAC Tournament champion). The Gulf South Conference is currently conducting its tournament in Birmingham, Ala., and that champion will receive the final automatic bid. The next regional ranking will be released this coming Wednesday, while the selection show for the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament will be conducted online at www.NCAA.com next Sunday, May 11 at 10 p.m. Eastern.