Knapp and Longball Lead FGCU to Series-Opening Win Over ETSU
Friday, March 23, 2012 | by Patrick Pierson (@pierson_sid)
Photo by Dennis Snyder
Photo by Dennis Snyder
East Tennessee State (11-9)
Florida Gulf Coast (9-13)
3/23/2012 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 578
East Tennessee State000000000060
Florida Gulf Coast30001000X440
Win: KNAPP (4-1) 9.060008
Loss: LONG (4-2) 8.044426
GREEN (ETSU) 401000
PRATT (ETSU) 401000
DOANE (ETSU) 401000
BEDNAR (FGCU) 411000
DIAZ (FGCU) 311101

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind sophomore Ricky Knapp’s (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) second straight complete-game shutout and three home runs, the FGCU baseball team opened its Atlantic Sun weekend series against ETSU with a 4-0 win on Friday night at Swanson Stadium.

The reigning A-Sun Pitcher of the Week, Knapp’s shutout also featured a career-high eight strikeouts, no walks and six hits over the 120-pitch outing that pushed his scoreless innings streak to 19.2 innings. The righty is now 4-1 on the season with a 1.30 ERA.

FGCU moved to 9-13 with the win, but more importantly 3-1 in A-Sun action, while the Buccaneers (11-9) are now 1-3 in league action. The teams will meet on Saturday for game two of the three-game set with first pitch set for 2 p.m. Sunday’s series finale has been moved up to a noon start.

The Green and Blue used the long ball to provide Knapp with three runs of support in the bottom of the first, as senior Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri) blasted a 0-1 offering over the right center field wall for his first career round-tripper as an Eagle. After a single by sophomore Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) in the next at-bat, classmate Andrew Valencia (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) gave FGCU a 3-0 lead with one swing, taking the first pitch of his at-bat over the left wall for his team-leading fifth home run and second in as many games. Valencia also extended his hit streak to 12 games with the homer.

Owning a 3-0 lead, Knapp settled in, retiring the side in order in the second, third and fourth inning in the middle of sitting down 12 straight batters.

FGCU took a four-run lead in the bottom of the fifth, when redshirt freshman shortstop Alex Diaz (Miami, Fla./John A. Ferguson HS) blasted a one-out solo home run to make it 4-0. Like Valencia, Diaz now has a home run in two straight games and three for the season.

ETSU’s best scoring chance came in the seventh when back-to-back singles put runners on first and second with no outs. Knapp calmly got the second out of the inning on a fly ball to right field before equaling his then-career high with his sixth strikeout to end the frame.

Knapp sat down the Bucs in order in the eight with two strikeouts to set a new career-high and worked around a single in the ninth for his second straight Friday night complete-game shutout in A-Sun action.

All four of FGCU’s hits came in the first five innings, as ETSU starter John Long was impressive on the mound in eight innings of work. All four of Long’s runs given up came on home runs, while the right-hander fanned six batters and walked two en route to slipping to 4-2 on the season. On two occasions during the game, Long retired a string of 11 straight batters.

A-Sun TV, live stats, in-game Twitter updates, results and recaps of all FGCU events will be available at www.FGCUAthletics.com.