Another Power in the Sunshine
By Andrew Finley
When coach Dave Tollett arrived at Florida Gulf
Coast University six years ago, he began from scratch. In 2003,
the Eagles did not have any facilities, so they played all 50
games on the road or wherever they could find a field. They were
competing at the NAIA level then, with minimal money for
Six years later Florida Gulf Coast is leading a
Division I conference, is on pace to win 35 games and took the
best team in the country to extra innings. FGCU now plays its
games in 1,500-seat Swanson Stadium, has a full range of
athletic facilities and is fully funded for scholarships.
In their first season as a Division I program,
the Eagles are 26-12 overall and have a two-game lead over
Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun with a 16-5 conference record. Last
Tuesday, FGCU lost to top-ranked Miami in the eleventh inning.
Tollett attributes his squad's success to
outstanding team chemistry. The team is led by a group of eight
talented seniors, many of whom will be drafted in June. “We have
eight seniors and they are all just awesome,” Tollett said,
“they all lead in their own way.”
“We weren't sure where we should be (in terms of
talent) – so we're very pleased with the success we've had,”
The offense is led by first baseman Jason
Peacock, a senior transfer from Polk Community College. Peacock
is leading the Atlantic Sun with a .465 average and a .551 on
base percentage. Senior outfielder Ozzie Borrell and junior
outfielder Josh Upchurch have also been important cogs in the
Eagles offense. Both are hitting over .350 and the trio has
combined for 94 RBI this season.
Crumbley is the career leader in pitching
appearances with 79 so far. “There has definitely been a huge
transfer from the time I got here,” he said. The Tampa resident
recalls how much the campus has grown and the atmosphere has
changed in four years. The team has also gotten many new
facilities, “they (the school) have supported us all the way.”
Crumbley is 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA and of course leads the team
with 17 appearances. He leads a relatively young pitching staff
that has had great success this year.
Tollett thinks that his weekend starters, who
have a combined record of 14-4, could pitch anywhere in the
country, as could senior closer J.J. Crumbley. FGCU boasts the
best pitching staff in the Atlantic Sun, with a team ERA of
3.44, more than a run better than the second-best team.
“We set our goals high, especially with the
pitching staff,” Crumbley said.
Casey Coleman has been another key man for FGCU.
The junior is the number two starter and the starting second
baseman on days he does not pitch. He is 4-2 on the mound and
has a .336 average at the plate with 16 extra base hits and 27
Coleman had offers from several Division I
schools out of Cape Coral, Fla., but chose FGCU because he
wanted to hit and trusted that the coaches would let him. At the
time he had no idea he would end up in games against schools
like Florida and Miami. “It's been awesome, playing some of the
bigger schools” he said of moving to Division I.
However, Tollett, Crumbley and Coleman were all
quick to note that the Division II competition is nothing to
scoff at, noting that there are many quality players at that
level. However, they all agreed that the depth of Division I is
what sets it apart.
After the Top 50 teams there is a dropoff in
Division II, Tollet said, but in Division I anybody can beat
Both Crumbley and Coleman noted that in Division
II the one through five hitters are solid, but in Division I all
nine hitters in an order are tough. The pitchers are typically
“harder throwers, consistently,” Coleman said.
“For the first part of the year we were always
underdogs, nobody knew us,” Coleman said. Now the Eagles are
typically favored, “this is the year we put the school on the
map,” Coleman said.