FGCU Sweeps Series-Opening Doubleheader with Belmont
Saturday, May 12, 2012 | by Caleb Baker (@calebaker)
Tillery had the game-winning RBI in both games, including the walk-off single in game two. (Photo by Dennis Snitly)
Tillery had the game-winning RBI in both games, including the walk-off single in game two. (Photo by Dennis Snitly)
Belmont (30-20, 13-9 A-Sun)
Florida Gulf Coast (20-28, 11-11 A-Sun)
5/12/2012 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 207
Florida Gulf Coast10000000X140
Win: KNAPP (7-4) 9.080015
Loss: BROOKSHIRE (6-3) 7.041156
BEATY (BEL) 402000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sophomore right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) tossed his third complete-game shutout of the season in the opener and freshman Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) sent the FGCU baseball team into Sunday’s series finale in style with a walk-off RBI single in game two to complete an Atlantic Sun doubleheader sweep of Belmont at Swanson Stadium. FGCU took the opener 1-0 behind Knapp, and followed with a 5-4 victory in game two.

The two wins move the Eagles’ A-Sun record to 12-11 on the season, good for sole possession of sixth place in front of Mercer (10-12). FGCU is also just one game back of Belmont (30-21, 13-10 A-Sun) and Kennesaw State (24-26, 13-10 A-Sun) in fourth place in the tight A-Sun race. Just two games separate teams 2-6 in the A-Sun, which boasts five teams in the top 100 of the RPI and three more ranked 101-121.

Due to Friday night’s opener being rained out, the two teams opened the series with a doubleheader. In the opener, Knapp lowered his season ERA to 2.03, as he broke 2010 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year and current Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale’s single-season record with his third shutout of the season. Knapp also passed Sale in career complete games with his fourth of the year. Oddly enough, Sale (3-1, 2.73) will make his sixth start of the year tonight against Kansas City at 7:10 p.m.

Supplying the game-winning RBI in both games, Tillery went a combined 4-for-8 at the dish over the doubleheader. Sophomore Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) had a hit in each game, extending his current streak to seven contests. Dwyer went 3-for-6 on the day, including his team-best 12th double, and reached base a total of six times in nine plate appearances. Redshirt freshman Kirby Retzer (Boca Raton, Fla./Boca Raton HS) went 2-for-4 in the opener and had three hits on the day, but most importantly scored three of the six runs, including both game-winners.

Over the two games, FGCU had 17 hits, thanks to 13 in the nightcap, its second-best total of the season. The Eagles are 7-3 this season when reaching double-digit hits.

Knapp scattered eight hits, issued one walk and struck out five en route to improving to 7-4 on the year. On the flipside, Belmont left-hander Chase Brookshire fell to 6-3 with the tough-luck loss after working seven innings, giving up one run in the first inning. Brookshire gave up four hits, walked five and struck out six.

FGCU was able to manufacture a run in the bottom of the first, as Retzer worked a one-out walk and came around to score. A single by Dwyer put runners on first and second before a walk to junior Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) loaded the bases. Tillery wasted little time putting FGCU on the scoreboard, ripping a single into center field to score Retzer and make it 1-0.

Half of Belmont’s eight hits in the game came in the first three innings, but Knapp was able to work out of the jam each time. In the first and second inning, Knapp got the final out via strikeout as the Bruins were 0-for-5 with runners on the base in the first two frames. In the third, Knapp got some help from the FGCU defense, getting an inning-ending double-play.

Knapp settled down over the next five innings, retiring 14 of 15 batters from the fourth through eighth inning, including a five-pitch fourth frame.

Seeking his fourth complete game in A-Sun action, Knapp gave up a pair of single to put runners on the corners with one out. Faced with his first threat since the third, Knapp got a foul pop to the catcher for the second out and the inning by getting a groundout to secure the 1-0 victory.

In game two, FGCU starter Jason Forjet (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Nova HS) was in command in the first five innings, holding the Bruins scoreless while the Eagles plated three runs in the bottom of the third inning. A pair of RBI singles by Retzer and sophomore Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) along with an RBI ground out from Tillery made it 3-0 in favor of the home team.

Belmont broke its streak of 15-straight innings without a run to open the series by plating three in the sixth to tie the game at 3-3. A costly error fueled the three-run frame for the Bruins, as two of three runs charged to Forjet were unearned.

The Bruins knocked Forjet from the game with one out in the seventh and were able to take their first lead of the game on a passed ball that made it 4-3.

FGCU bounced right back in the bottom half of the seventh, though, as a single down the right field line by Retzer loaded the bases and a miscue by the right fielder on the play allowed junior Tito Mendoza (Miramar, Fla./Cooper City HS/Cowley CC) to score from second to tie the game at 4-4.

After getting the final two outs of the seventh, junior lefty R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) struck out the side in the eighth and worked out of a scoring opportunity for Belmont in the ninth to set the stage for the walk-off win.

Just like the first inning of game one, Retzer jumped started the game-winning frame in the nightcap with a one-out walk followed by a hit-by-pitch to Dwyer and an infield single by Bednar to load the bases. Tillery waited until the second pitch to rip a single up the middle to plate the game-winning run and send the Eagles storming onto the field with the walk-off win.

Forjet was pinned with a no-decision, going 6.1 innings with six strikeouts, no walks, nine hits and four runs (one earned). Brown struck out four batters in 2.2 innings of work and improved to 2-0 win the win.

Belmont starter Matt Hamann also went 6.1 innings with four runs allowed and was issued a no-decision. Entering in the ninth, Dan Ludwig got just one out and allowed two base runners before he was charged with the game-winning run.

The series will conclude on Sunday at 11 a.m. with sophomore lefty Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) scheduled to start for the Eagles, while left-hander James Buckelew will be on the mound for the Bruins. FGCU will also celebrate Mother’s Day by having the moms of FGCU’s student-athletes all throwing out the first pitch to their sons.