FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With the game tied 3-3 in the ninth, Columbia scored twice in the top of the inning to gain a 5-3 lead and Tim Giel nailed down his second save in as many tries as the Lions defeated Florida Gulf Coast, 5-3.
Rookie David Speer made his first collegiate start and allowed Florida Gulf Coast to score twice in the first inning but shut down the Eagles from that point.
Speer threw 74 of 111 pitches for strikes, striking out six batters in six innings of work. After the first inning, Speer allowed just three singles, only one of which reached the outfield.
Trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning, the Lions mounted a rally with one out. Nick Cox singled to center and promptly stole second base. With the tying run in scoring position, Jon Eisen drilled a double the other way down the left field line to bring home Cox, making it a 2-2 game.
Dario Pizzano also doubled to the opposite field, smacking one into the left-center field gap that plated Eisen and put Columbia in front for the first time in the game, 3-2.
Speer hung up zeroes in the fifth and sixth innings, ending his day when Enmanuel Cabreja, making his first start behind the plate, nailed Jake Foley trying to steal second base for the final out of the frame.
The Eagles tied the game in the bottom of the eighth on a bases-loaded walk, but the Lions came back to regain the lead in the top half of the ninth.
Cox got the inning started by lining a 3-1 fastball from Craig Crumbly back through the middle. Eisen then dropped down his second sacrifice bunt of the game to move Cox into scoring position with one out.
With Pizzano at the plate, Crumbly's pickoff attempt to second base one-hopped the shortstop and kicked into short left field, allowing Cox to advance to third base. Florida Gulf Coast brought its infield in and Pizzano lined a 2-2 curveball into right field to score Cox with the go-ahead run.
Alex Godshall entered to run for Pizzano at first and moved to second on a walk to Jason Banos with two outs. Godshall and Banos then executed a double steal, pushing both runners into scoring position.
At the plate was Eric Williams, who already had three hits for the second straight game. A 3-1 pitch got away from catcher Mike Reeves, just far enough to allow Godshall to sprint home for a critical insurance run.
Ahead 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Giel came on to close the door. He struck out Mikel Alvarez but Zach Maxfield blooped a one-out single into right field to get the tying run to the plate.
Tim Roberson followed and cracked one over the head of Banos in left field. Maxfield rounded the third as Banos made a perfect relay throw to shortstop Alex Ferrera in shallow left field. With Maxfield headed toward the plate, Ferrera fired a perfect strike to Cabreja at the plate to throw out Maxfield for the second out.
With the Columbia dugout buzzing, Giel got Javi Sujo on a soft grounder to Williams at first base for the final out, nailing down a hard-fought all-around victory for the Lions.
Zach Epstein gained the win for Columbia, the first of his career, after he allowed one run on two hits in two innings of work. Epstein retired the final batter of the eighth on a popup to leave the bases loaded. Crumbly was saddled with the loss for Florida Gulf Coast in relief of starter Richard Knapp.
Columbia and Florida Gulf Coast will finish their brief two-game series on Wednesday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Swanson Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla.
Columbia and Florida Gulf Coast met for the first time ever ... the Lions totaled 13 hits, posting double figures in hits for the fourth straight game ... the four stolen bases were a team high this season ... Nick Cox had a multiple-hit game for the sixth time this season ... Dario Pizzano has hit safely in each of his first seven games ... Columbia left 10 men on base while Florida Gulf Coast had 11 left on base ... Columbia's top three hitters went a combined 8-for-13 with three runs scored and three runs batted in.