The Osprey’s (37-17) quest for their first Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship begins today at 3:00 p.m. with an opening matchup against Florida Gulf Coast University (24-30).
The double elimination tournament will take place May 25-28 at Dugan Field in Nashville, Tenn.
UNF: The second-seeded Ospreys are red-hot coming into the tournament, having outscored New Jersey Institute of Technology 37-4 in the final series of the regular season. Over the last month of the season, the Ospreys went 17-3 and averaged over eight runs per game to opponents four.
FGCU: FGCU, a fifth seed, is entering the tournament following three-consecutive losses to number one seed Kennesaw State. The Eagles are making their fifth-straight appearance in the tournament and were eliminated by UNF in the semifinals last season.
UNF: The Ospreys won two out of three games against FGCU during the regular season. UNF lost the first meeting 4-2, but followed with an 11-10 thriller that went 12 innings and a 6-3 series-clinching win. Chris Thibideau dominated the Eagles, recording seven hits and stroking three home runs on his way to being named Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week.
FGCU: The Eagles are 20-11 all-time against North Florida, but the Ospreys hold a 12-8 advantage since head coach Smoke Laval took over.
UNF: 6-foot-6-inch junior Brian Baker will make the opening game start for the Ospreys. Baker, who was unanimously picked as an All-Conference First Team Pitcher, boasts a league-low 2.20 ERA in 13 starts this season. Baker took a loss in his previous start against FGCU on April 29, giving up four runs, three earned, in a complete game where he threw 115 pitches. Baker leads the team in strikeouts with 78, including a career-high 11 strikeouts in just four innings of work against Penn on March 4.
FGCU: Redshirt-senior Brady Anderson will take the hill for the Eagles for the first time since May 13, when he gave up three , just one earned, in seven innings of work. Anderson’s 90.2 innings pitched is second in the conference and his 3.8 era is fifth.
UNF: Five Ospreys received A-SUN First Team All-Conference honors and eight total received awards Tuesday. Shortstop Kyle Brooks was named A-SUN Defensive Player of the Year and Second Team All-Conference after he led the league in assists (175) and became the all-time school leader in assists (542). Brooks recorded a hit in 16 of the last 17 games of the season, including three four-hit games.
Corbin Olmstead was given first team honors from two positions (DH & RP) for the second year in a row, becoming the first player ever to accomplish that feat. Nick Karmeris earned first team honors thanks to 10 home runs and 50 RBI, as well as a conference leading eight assists from the outfield. Catcher Keith Skinner was unanimously named First Team All-Conference and is one of 15 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award. He leads the A-SUN in batting average (.395) and on-base percentage (.481).
FGCU: Redshirt-Junior Jake Noll was named Atlantic Sun Conference Baseball Player of the Year following a season in which he led the league in runs scored (57), hits (86), and total bases (145). He ranked second in batting average (.372), slugging percentage (.628), RBI (61) and home runs (12). Senior third baseman Tyler Selesky was unanimously chosen as a First Team All-Conference Selection, after batting .333 and recording 12 homers, 11 more than he hit the year before.
Key to the Game
The Ospreys must get off to a quick start. The Ospreys are 20-2 when they score in the first inning and 26-5 when they score first. If they get an early lead, the pitching staff has proven they can protect it. When the Ospreys have a lead after six innings, they are 26-1 this season. After seven innings they are 28-1 and after eight innings they are a perfect 29-0. A fast start is critical to a first-round victory.
The Eagles have played the Ospreys close all season and this game will be no exception, so expect a nail-biter. If the Osprey bats can force Anderson out of the game early, UNF will be in great position to win.
Final score: UNF 8 FGCU 6
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