Atlantic Sun Conference Action Opens at ETSU this Weekend for No. 26 FGCU Baseball
Thursday, March 21, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
Jr. RHP Ricky Knapp (4-0, 0.87 ERA) gets the nod to start the series on Friday night at ETSU (Photo by J. Meric)
Jr. RHP Ricky Knapp (4-0, 0.87 ERA) gets the nod to start the series on Friday night at ETSU (Photo by J. Meric)
#26 Florida Gulf Coast (14-4)
ETSU (12-7)
3/22/2013 | Johnson City, Tenn. | Attendance: 460
Florida Gulf Coast020000001390
Win: KNAPP (5-0) 8.072218
Loss: KRIEG (2-1) 8.193227
REEVES (FGCU) 402000
BEDNAR (FGCU) 422000
SUCHY (FGCU) 202110
RIVERA (FGCU) 402100
TAYLOR (ETSU) 402100

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The No. 26 FGCU baseball team is set to begin its sixth season in the Atlantic Sun Conference as it travels to Johnson City, Tenn. to open league action with ETSU in a three-game set. The Eagles and Bucs are scheduled to begin the trio of weekend contests with a 7 p.m. first pitch on Friday evening.

The two teams continue the series with a 2 p.m. start on Saturday before closing the series at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Following a loss to Ave Maria, 8-6, last Sunday at Swanson Stadium, FGCU slid three spots to No. 26 in the latest release of the Collegiate Baseball Top 30 poll, announced by the media outlet on Monday afternoon. The Green and Blue were also ranked No. 30 according to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), and were listed among “others to watch” by Perfect Game for the third-straight week. After landing at No. 6 last week, the Eagles dropped to No. 11 in the latest edition of the College Baseball Daily Mid-Major Poll. Additionally, FGCU received six votes (T-36th) in the USA Today Top 25, while dropping out of the Baseball America Top 25 ranks.

The Eagles are currently ranked 11th in the NCAA with a 2.14 team ERA. The Green and Blue pitching staff has accumulated 120 strikeouts and 45 walks in 159.2 innings of work, while keeping opponents to a .209 batting average at the plate.

Named the A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year entering the season, junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) is set to take the mound in the Friday night opener. Knapp currently ranks 21st in the country with 0.87 ERA, adding 22 strikeouts and just two walks in a team-high 31 innings of work. Having held opponents to a .185 average at the plate, the Port Charlotte, Fla. native is also ranked 13th in the nation with a 0.71 WHIP. Improving to 4-0 in his previous start against Western Michigan (Mar. 8), Knapp went eight strong innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on nine hits and no walks with six strikeouts in an 108-pitch performance.

Junior lefty Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty) has been announced as the game two starter in the series for the Eagles. It will mark the fourth start of the season for the third-year arm, who holds a 0.56 ERA and a team-best opponent average of .137 at the plate.  Bixler sits third on the team with 21 strikeouts and has surrendered just seven hits and one run in 16 innings of work. In seven innings on the mound in his last start against Manhattan (Mar. 3), the Oviedo, Fla. product allowed just three hits while striking out 11 batters in a 93-pitch performance. The 11 strikeouts mark the third time in his career that he has fanned double-digits in a game.

The Eagles have yet to name a starter for the Sunday afternoon contest.

Offensively, the Green and Blue are led by redshirt senior Brooks Beisner (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Auburn), leading the squad and ranking 18th nationally with a .439 average, adding a team-best .727 slugging and .500 on-base percentage. Driving in 11 runs scored, the Punta Gorda, Fla. native has connected for a team-high four home runs and also matched a team-high 17 RBI.

Scoring a team-high 18 times, junior utility man Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) has also driven 17 RBI to match Beisner’s total. While leading the team with three stolen bases, Bednar holds a .384 average, good for second on the team, with a .521 slugging percentage and a .425 on-base percentage.

With 15 RBI and 15 runs scored, junior Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) is connecting at a .359 clip, adding a trio of home runs and a .450 on-base percentage. Senior catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) and freshman Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) are hitting .338 and .311, respectively, combining for 21 runs scored and 14 RBI.

The Eagles hold an all-time record of 104-46 in A-Sun conference contests, including a 12-3 mark in league-opening series. Marking just the third time the Green and Blue have opened the conference slate away from Swanson Stadium, FGCU holds a 5-1 mark when beginning A-Sun play on the road. Additionally, the Eagles have established an 11-5 advantage in the all-time series against ETSU.

ETSU enters the weekend with a 12-6 overall record following a 2-1 loss at Winthrop on Tuesday.  The Bucs currently sit at 9-3 when playing at home this season, and hold a 2-1 record in A-Sun play after opening the league slate at USC Upstate (W 8-0, L 6-3, W 10-4) last weekend.

Offensively, junior Clint Freeman leads the Bucs at the plate, hitting .423 with a .915 slugging and .512 on-base percentage, driving in a team-high 21 RBI and scoring a team-best 19 times on the strength of seven home runs, also a team-high. Alex Reynolds (.343), Andrew Green (.329) and Jeremy Taylor (.323) have also produced at the plate this season for the Bucs.

ETSU will open the series with freshman right-hander Griffin Krieg (2-0, 4.30 ERA) on Friday, followed by senior right-hander Kerry Doane (3-1, 2.03 ERA) on Saturday. The Bucs have also yet to announce a starter for the series finale on Sunday.

Probable Starters
Friday, Mar. 22 – 7 p.m.

FGCU – RHP Ricky Knapp, Jr. (4-0, 0.87 ERA, 31.0 IP, 22 K, 2 BB, .185 B/Avg.)
ETSU – RHP Griffin Krieg, Fr. (2-0, 4.30 ERA, 23.0 IP, 11 K, 14 BB, .210 B/Avg.)

Saturday, Mar. 23 – 2 p.m.
FGCU – LHP Brandon Bixler, Jr. (2-0, 0.56 ERA, 16.0 IP, 21 K, 7 BB, .137 B/Avg.)
ETSU – RHP Kerry Doane, Sr. (3-1, 2.03 ERA, 40.0 IP, 20 K, 5 BB, .255 B/Avg.)

Sunday, Mar. 24 – 1 p.m.

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