FGCU Baseball Opens 2013 Campaign at Snowbird Baseball Classic
Thursday, February 14, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
Photo by Brown & Co. Sports Portraits
Photo by Brown & Co. Sports Portraits
FGCU (1-0)
St. John's (0-1)
2/15/2013 | Sarasota, Fla. | Attendance: 310
St. John's000000000030
Win: KNAPP (1-0) 6.020015
Loss: HAGAN (0-1) 5.254414
BETHEA (STJ) 301000
BRENNAN (STJ) 301000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Opening its 11th season in program history, the FGCU baseball team heads north to Sarasota, Fla. to take part in the Snowbird Baseball Classic this weekend. The Eagles get the event underway with a 2 p.m. first pitch against St. John’s on Friday and continue with a 2:30 p.m. start on Saturday versus Notre Dame at Ed Smith Stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles Spring Training. FGCU wraps up its trio of contests with one final tilt with St. John’s on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Live stats will be provided for all three games, while live audio is available at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com for the Saturday and Sunday contests with David Moulton on the call.

It will mark the first ever meetings between FGCU and St. John’s, however it will be the second time the Eagles will square off against Notre Dame. While still a member of Division II in 2007, the Green and Blue defeated the Irish by a score of 5-3 at Swanson Stadium, establishing the first victory over a BCS school in program history.

FGCU holds an all-time record of 7-3 in season openers, including a 3-2 mark since moving to Division I. Opening the season away from its home venue for just the second time in school history, the Green and Blue has also outscored its opponents 98-33 in season openers, a total which includes a 37-20 advantage against D-I foes.

Picked to finish atop the league standings in the Atlantic Sun Preseason Coaches Poll, the Eagles welcome back 22 players, including eight position starters and two starting pitchers, from a squad that finished 26-31 overall and advanced as a No. 4 seed into the A-Sun Conference Tournament last season.

Reigning A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, sophomore right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) is set to make his first start of the season in the Friday afternoon opener. Knapp, who became the third Eagle in the last five years to win the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year in 2012, finished with nine wins and an ERA of 2.34, which ranked 55th nationally last season. Knapp set single-season program records in innings pitched (111.1) and complete-game shutouts (3). He ranked second in the A-Sun in ERA and innings pitched while his nine wins were a league-high. At one point during the season, Knapp held a streak of 21.1 scoreless innings pitched. Knapp garnered the A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors from the league coaches, Perfect Game, as well as Baseball America. Additionally, the Port Charlotte, Fla. product was named the A-Sun Pitcher “you least want to face” by College Baseball Insider, and was also selected the league’s No. 10 draft prospect by Baseball America.

In the Saturday contest, sophomore right-hander Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) will get the start for the Green and Blue. Making six appearances with two starts last season, the Naples, Fla. product held a 1-1 record with a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings of work. Also likely to see time in the infield this weekend, Tillery earned A-Sun All-Freshmen team honors last season after appearing in 52 games and hitting .226 with 13 runs scored and 18 RBI.

Both teams have yet to announce a starter for the Sunday afternoon contest.

The Green and Blue also welcome back three of the top four hitters from last season in junior infielder/outfielders Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) and Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS), and senior catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary). All three players earned preseason recognition from various media outlets, as Bednar and Dwyer were both named a top returning hitter by the A-Sun. Bednar was also tabbed the best defensive infielder and Reeves was selected as the best defensive catcher and the catcher with the best arm, according to the league office. Additionally, Baseball America named Dwyer the No. 6 draft prospect in the A-Sun.

Bednar started all 57 games as a true utility player and played all four infield positions at least once in 2012. He led the team in batting average (.306), hits (66) and at-bats (216). Bednar scored 29 runs and drove in 33 RBI while holding a .389 on-base and a .352 slugging percentage. During the season, he put together a team-best 13-game hit streak (April 4-27) and recorded 18 multi-hit and six multi-RBI games. Bednar earned A-Sun All-Tournament team honors after going 9-for-15 at the plate to lead the tournament with a .600 batting average.

Dwyer started all 57 games last season, primarily at first base. He finished the year with a .297 batting average and led the team in extra-base hits (21), total bases (92) and slugging percentage (.434). Dwyer was second on the team in RBI (39), while holding a .393 on-base percentage. He earned A-Sun All-Tournament Team honors after accumulating a .474 batting average (9-for-19) with multi-hits in all four games. He was selected to the College Sports Madness Preseason Atlantic Sun All-Conference team for the upcoming season.

Reeves appeared in 55 games, making 52 starts between catcher and designated hitter. He finished with a .250 average, adding 18 runs scored, 14 RBI and a .370 on-base percentage. Reeves upped his batting average to .271 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. He recorded a seven-game hitting streak from May 13-25 as well as provided 10 multi-hit games and a pair of multi-RBI games. Behind the plate Reeves had a .981 fielding percentage.

Also seeing recognition this offseason for his play in the Northwoods Summer League, sophomore Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS) was named the No. 2 overall prospect in the A-Sun by Baseball America. Appearing in 45 games and making 36 starts in 2012, Suchy batted .195 with 24 hits, four doubles, six RBI and 17 runs scored in his first season with the Green and Blue. Tabbed a top prospect by multiple media outlets this summer for his play in the Northwoods League, Suchy landed as high as No. 4 among the players in the league according to Baseball America. Playing in 66 of 69 contests with the Willmar Stingers, Suchy ranked among the league’s best in multiple categories. The Bradenton, Fla. product hit .349, which was the eighth best average in the league, with 62 RBI and 57 runs scored, to rank second and sixth overall, respectively. Suchy connected for 22 extra-base hits, including eight home runs, and also ranked in the top 15 in the league with 37 walks.

Highlighted by it the deepest NCAA Tournament run since 1980, St. John's wrapped up the 2012 campaign with a 40-23 (18-9 BIG EAST) overall record. Advancing to its first-ever Super Regional and winning its first NCAA Regional since 1980, the Red Storm claimed both the BIG EAST Tournament and regular season crowns in the same season for the first time in program history and reached the 40-win mark for the sixth time in the past eight seasons. Senior Sean O’Hare is the leading offensive returner, coming off a season hitting .341 with 43 RBI, 42 runs scored and three home runs. Beginning his senior season in the Friday contest, left-hander Sean Hagan is the Red Storm’s top returning arm, wrapping up 2012 with an 8-3 record and 2.90 ERA through 16 appearances and 108.2 innings. St. John’s was picked to finish second in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll, with O’Hare and Hagan each earning All-BIG EAST Preseason nods.

Slotted third in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll, Notre Dame concluded the 2012 season with a 31-27 (14-13 BIG EAST) mark. The Irish’s 2012 came to a close in the BIG EAST Tournament with a 2-1 semifinal loss to eventual tourney champion St. John’s. A trio of Notre Dame juniors was named to the All-BIG EAST preseason squad in first baseman Trey Mancini, third baseman Eric Jagielo and right-handed reliever Dan Slania. Last season, Mancini hit .317 with 47 runs scored, 10 doubles, 12 home runs and 45 RBI, while Jagielo batted .310 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 43 RBI. On the mound, Slania held a 3-0 record with a 2.03 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 31.0 innings of relief work. Junior right-hander Sean Fitzgerald will get the Saturday start for Notre Dame, coming off a 2012 season that saw him post a 7-3 record and a 3.82 ERA in 27 appearances, accumulating 57 strikeouts in 70.2 innings of work.

Probable Starters
Friday, Feb. 15 – 2 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Ricky Knapp, Jr. (9-4, 2.34 ERA, 111.1 IP, 61 K, 19 BB, .246 B/Avg.)*
STJ – LHP Sean Hagan, Sr. (8-3, 2.90 ERA, 108.2 IP, 68 K, 30 BB, .233 B/Avg.)*

Saturday, Feb. 16 – 2:30 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Zack Tillery, So. (1-1, 3.63 ERA, 17.1 IP, 4 K, 3 BB, .258 B/Avg.)*
ND – RHP Sean Fitzgerald, Jr. (7-3, 3.82 ERA, 70.2 IP, 57 K, 14 BB, .268 B/Avg.)*

Sunday, Feb. 17 – 1 p.m.

* 2012 statistics

Fans can get updates and information on FGCU baseball all season long by visiting www.FGCUATHLETICS.com or by following the team on twitter @FGCU_Baseball. Additional information on the Snowbird Baseball Classic is available at www.snowbirdbaseball.info.