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Pitching duel expected to be highlight of FGCU series
Lee Wilson
Lee Wilson

Thursday, April 15, 2010

They have the best record in the Atlantic Sun Conference and one of the best pitchers in the country.

Florida Gulf Coast visits Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Eagles are 21-11 overall and lead the conference with a 12-3 record. The Bisons are 12-22 overall. They are 4-5 and in sixth place in the A-Sun.

Florida Gulf Coast holds a 4-2 edge overall in the young series. Last season the Bisons were swept by the Eagles.

The Eagles lead the conference in both hitting (.341) and pitching (5.12 earned run average).

“They are the best team in the league,” Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand said. “There is no denying that. I told our players at practice Thursday that we have to respect Gulf Coast, but it is not a team we can’t compete with.”

Friday night Florida Gulf Coast will send left-hander Chris Sale to the mound. He has a 5-0 record and leads the A-Sun with a 1.41 ERA. The Bisons will counter with right-hander Josh Smith, 6-1, 2.98 ERA. The first pitch is scheduled for 6.

Saturday’s game will start at 1. Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand is not certain who will pitch the second game. Right-hander Davey Hackett, 3-3, 5.47 ERA, will start for the Bisons Sunday at noon. Hackett has spent the last couple of weekends as the No. 2 starter.

Smith is first in the conference and fourth in NCAA Division I in strikeouts with 70. Sale trails him in strikeouts with 67. Smith also leads the A-Sun in wins with six. He is second in the conference in opposing batting average with a .226 average. Sale is third with a .232 average.

“Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the league,” Forehand said. “He is going to be a top round draft pick. He has proven that he is their guy.

“Josh has been pitching well for us. We like our chances anytime Smith goes out there. Hopefully, it is going to be a good match-up. We don’t want to make Sale better than he already is.”

Sale is known for his fastball which he consistently throws at 90-plus miles per hour.

“Sale is a high strikeout, low walk guy,” Forehand said. “We have to make him work and earn everything he gets. We will have to go up there and make our own breaks.

“Through his seven starts it has been proven that anybody can get to him. It is our turn to be able to get to him.”

But Florida Gulf Coast is more than Sale. Offensively, they have a number of weapons. Zach Maxfield leads the Eagles in hitting with a .405 average. Six other players, all regulars, are batting more than .300.

“They are a veteran team, especially in the infield,” Forehand said. “Maxfield, the first baseman, is the preseason All-Conference Player of the Year. If he is not the best player, he is one of the best players in the conference. Their outfielders are solid too. “They are well-coached. They know how to win games.”

Offensively, the Bisons are led by Lee Wilson, who is also 10th in the conference with a .381 batting average. Tyler Wilson (.346), Ryan Wilkins (.306) and Cory Hale (.305) round out the top hitters for the Bisons.

“We are swinging the bats pretty good right now,” Forehand said. “Our players like to defend our park. We have a great place to play. They ought to be proud of it.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.