Bixler's 14 Punch Outs Help Eagles Shutout Kennesaw State For A-Sun Series Sweep
Sunday, April 29, 2012 | by Caleb Baker (@calebaker)
Photo by Dennis Snyder
Photo by Dennis Snyder
Kennesaw State (28-20, 12-9 A-Sun)
Florida Gulf Coast (18-25, 9-9 A-Sun)
4/29/2012 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 174
Kennesaw State000000000020
Florida Gulf Coast03000300X6100
Win: BIXLER (3-4) 7.0100114
Loss: Kevin McCoy (1-4) 1.233342
Andy Almonte (KSU) 401000
Jordan Craft (KSU) 301000
RETZER (FGCU) 412300
DWYER (FGCU) 412010
BEDNAR (FGCU) 202330

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Behind a 14 strikeout performance from sophomore left-hander Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS), the FGCU baseball team completed the Atlantic Sun weekend sweep of Kennesaw State with a 6-0 shutout in the series finale on Sunday afternoon at Swanson Stadium.

“Our pitchers did an excellent job for us this weekend against one of the top teams in the conference,” said head coach Dave Tollett. “We got some run support offensively and were able pick up three wins against a sound Kennesaw State club. Bixler was very good this afternoon and I think his line speaks for itself. We combine that pitching effort with the offense we received from the top of the order today, and it was a solid all-around team victory. All things considered, I am pleased with the team’s performance this weekend.”

Recording the first A-Sun sweep of the season, the Eagles improved to 18-25 overall and climb into a share of fifth place in the league stands alongside Lipscomb at 9-9. Meanwhile, Kennesaw State dropped to 28-20 (12-9 A-Sun) this season.

Closing out the series on the mound, Bixler provided one of his best starts of the year, fanning 14 batters in just seven innings of work while allowing just one hit and one walk in his 105-pitch outing. While not surrendering a hit until the fourth inning, the Oviedo, Fla. product struck out the side in both the second and seventh innings and tallied a streak of six-straight strikeouts from the first through third innings while improving to 3-4 on the year. The 14 strikeouts were just one off the FGCU record of 15 set by former Eagle and current Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale, which he established in a complete-game one hitter against Belmont (April 23) in 2010 at Swanson Stadium.

Through 10 appearances, including eight starts, this season, Bixler holds a 4.24 ERA through 46.2 innings of work, accumulating 56 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .153 average at the plate.

The Eagles provided some run support for Bixler in the third inning, as three runs came across to score. After supplying the first two outs in the frame, the Green and Blue got the inning going with a walk to sophomore Andrew Valencia (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep), a single up the middle by junior Dane Wisneski (Jupiter, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens HS/Daytona State College) and a hit-by-pitch to senior Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri) to load the bases. Opening a solid offense performance, redshirt freshman Kirby Retzer (Boca Raton, Fla./Boca Raton HS) roped a two-RBI single into right field to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead. After a walk to sophomore Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) loaded the bases again for the Eagles, classmate Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) made it a 3-0 with an RBI walk.

Another three-run inning in the sixth pushed the Eagles’ lead to 6-0. Again with two outs in the frame, the Eagles began the rally with a single to center field by Gebhart. After stealing second and moving to third on a wild pitch, Gebhart extended his team lead in runs scored to 32 when Retzer drove in his third RBI of the game with a single to right field. Following a single by Dwyer that put runners on first and second, Bednar stepped back into the box and smashed a base-clearing triple to the alley in left center to move the Eagles’ advantage to 6-0.

This would prove to be the final scoring in the contest as freshman right-hander Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto County HS) entered in the eighth and finished off the combined shutout with a pair of scoreless relief innings. Retiring the side in order in the eighth, Anderson allowed no runs on one hit while adding one strikeout.

The Eagles scored six runs on 10 hits, led by two-hit afternoons from the first four hitters in the lineup. Leadoff hitter Gebhart (2-for-4) scored twice, two-hole Retzer (2-for-4) scored once with three RBI, three-hole Dwyer (2-for-4) scored one, and cleanup man Bednar (2-for-2) also drove in three RBI. Valencia (1-for-3) and Wisneski (1-for-4) accounted for the other two hits, each scoring once.

KSU totaled just the two hits in the contest, while sophomore righty Kevin McCoy (1-4) was issued the loss after tossing only 1.2 innings and allowing three runs on as many hits with four walks and a pair of strikeouts.

Through the series, FGCU had five hitters at or above the .300 mark. Each going 4-for-11, Tillery and Dwyer held .364 averages at the plate, combining for three runs scored and four RBI. Meanwhile, Bednar and Gebhart each went 3-for-9 (.333), as Bednar added four RBI and one run scored and Gebhart scored four times. Retzer (3-for-10) finished off a solid weekend with a .300 average, three RBI and one run scored.

The pitching staff should also be commended for a solid combined effort on the mound. Guiding the team to the weekend sweep, the Green and Blue recorded a 1.00 ERA and amassed 32 strikeouts and just three walks through the trio of victories while holding the Owls to a .144 average at the plate. Highlighting the effort on the bump was the complete game victory on Friday from sophomore righty Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS), the 12-strikeout outing from senior righty Jason Forjet (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Nova HS) on Saturday, and the 14 punch outs from Bixler in the finale.

The Eagles return to the field on Wednesday, May 2 as in-state foe FIU travels to Swanson Stadium for a non-conference contest beginning at 6:30 p.m. Live stats, in-game Twitter updates (@FGCUBaseball), results and recaps will be available at www.FGCUAthletics.com.