Do It All Gardner Helps Bucs Earn Split at Early Bird Classic

Joel Gardner (Photo by Roy Allen)
Joel Gardner (Photo by Roy Allen)

AUBURNDALE, Fla.- Reminiscent of opening day on Friday, the Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers split a pair of games at the Juco Early Bird Classic in Auburndale on Saturday, dropping a 7-1 early morning decision to #10 Chipola before responding for an 8-6 win over former Suncoast Conference rival Polk State in their second contest of the day.  

In their first game of the day, the Bucs took on perennial state power and 10th ranked Chipola. 

The Bucs had a chance right away to take the lead, putting their first two hitters on in the top of the 1st, but they would remain stranded at inning's end after the meat of the FSW order couldn't come up with a run scoring hit. 

Chipola cracked the scoreboard first with a solo home run in the 2nd and it remained a 1-0 game in a pitcher's duel to the 4th.

With one out in the 4th, FSW first baseman Derek Williams got into an 0-1 pitch and sent it sailing over the left field wall for a solo shot to level the score at 1-1. 

The Bucs momentum was short lived as Chipola responded with five in the bottom of the inning, getting a pair of home runs and three singles to push back in front 6-1.

The Bucs never threatened again as their final nine hitters were retired in order by Indian pitching while Chipola added a run on a two out single in the 6th to close out a 7-1 win.

The Bucs offense struggled in the loss, managing just four hits and failing to draw a walk while striking out 10 times.  Marty Gair produced a solid start in his first time in a Bucs uniform, going three innings and allowing just two hits and a solo home run while striking out five.  Kevin Rodriguez suffered the loss, yielding six runs on seven hits in three innings of work to fall to 0-1 on the year.


The Bucs got off to an inauspicious start against Polk State in their second game of the day as the Eagles plated a 1st inning run on a hit, a walk, and an FSW error to take an early 1-0 lead.

It didn't take long for the Bucs to answer though as Joel Gardner drilled a two run shot out to right in the bottom of the 1st to put FSW in front 2-1 with one swing of the bat.

The Bucs were right back at it in the 2nd as Johnnie Lopez lined his first career home run out to right for a two run shot to make it 4-1 and later in the inning Gardner doubled home two to stretch it to a 6-1 FSW advantage. 

A Buccaneer error allowed Polk to plate a run in the 3rd to make it a 6-2 game and a solo home run for the Eagles in the 4th cut the FSW lead to 6-3.

Polk trimmed the Bucs lead all the way down to two at 6-4 with another lone tally in the 5th, but the Bucs finally responded in the bottom of the inning as Alberto Serrano nailed his first homer as a Buc out to left to cushion the lead back to 8-4.

The Eagles threatened to get right back in it, putting two on with just one out in the 6th, but the Bucs bullpen limited them to just one to hold an 8-5 lead at the end of 5 ½.

Polk scored for the fifth straight inning in the 7th, but once again it was just one run and Gardner came in out of the bullpen to put out the fire and preserve the win for the Bucs as FSW took it 8-6 to salvage a split for the day.

Gardner put up a Shohei Ohtani like final line in the win, going 2-2 with a double, a homer, and four RBIs at the plate before coming in from third base to pick up a save to close things out.  Serrano and Lopez each went 1-2 with a home run and two RBIs. Tyler Kennedy earned the win on the mound, going two innings and allowing just one hit and an unearned run in his FSW debut.