First Road Trip Sends FGCU Baseball to No. 1 Florida for Three-Game Weekend Set
Thursday, March 08, 2012 | by Caleb Baker (@calebaker)
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Photo by Dennis Snyder
Photo by Dennis Snyder
Florida Gulf Coast (6-6)
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#1 Florida (13-1)
3/9/2012 | Gainesville, Fla. | Attendance: 3001
123456789RHE
Florida Gulf Coast000200000270
Florida00000202X471
PitchingIPHRERBBSO
Win: Rodriguez (3-0) 0.200001
Loss: ANDERSON (1-1) 1.022201
BattingABRHRBIBBHR
BEDNAR (FGCU) 402000
VALENCIA (FGCU) 412201
P. Tucker (UF) 412000
Zunino (UF) 422402

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Hitting the road for the first time, the FGCU baseball team will make the trip to Gainesville, Fla. this weekend for arguably its toughest test of the season as it squares off with the nation’s No. 1 team, the University of Florida. The three-game set opens with a 7:00 p.m. game on Friday, followed by a 4:00 first pitch on Saturday and 1 p.m. start on Sunday afternoon.

The Sunday afternoon contest between the Eagles and the Gators will be aired live on Fox Sun Sports, channels 653 on Directv and 402 on Comcast Xfinity, while the Friday and Saturday games will be broadcast live on the radio with Tom James (Play-by-Play) and Bill Banfield (Analyst) on the call.

Following an 11-game homestand to begin the season, the Eagles enter the weekend with a 6-5 record. The Green and Blue are coming off a three-game set with Boston College last weekend, in which BC took the opening two contests (3-0, 11-8) and FGCU closed the series with an 8-5 victory at Swanson Stadium.

Through the weekend, the Eagles will use a starting rotation of sophomore right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) on Friday, sophomore lefty Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) on Saturday and senior righty Jason Forjet (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Nova HS) in Sunday’s finale.

No stranger to formidable opponents, Knapp will make his third straight start against a BCS foe in the Friday opener. Upping his mark to 2-1 in his last start, the second-year player finished with four strikeouts and no walks, accounting for the lone earned run in an 8-1 victory over Michigan. The Port Charlotte, Fla. product allowed just four hits through his eight innings on the hill. Through three appearances this season, Knapp holds a 2.16 ERA with 10 strikeouts and no walks in 16.2 innings of work.

Earning victories in his last two starts, Bixler (2-1) most recently led the Green and Blue to an 8-5 win over Boston College to close out the series. The Oviedo, Fla. product tallied seven punch outs in five innings of work, walking four while surrendering a pair of runs on as many hits. This season, the southpaw owns a 1.02 ERA with a team-leading 24 strikeouts, while issuing 11 walks in 17.2 frames on the mound. Having allowed just four hits this year, Bixler has also held opposing hitters to a .070 batting average.

Heading the Eagles’ rotation over the previous two series, Forjet (0-1) will toe the rubber for the FGCU in the Sunday contest on Fox Sun Sports. In his third start of the season against Boston College, the Pembroke, Pines, Fla. product was issued the loss in the 3-0 contest. Holding a solid 2.50 ERA, Forjet has accumulated 16 punch outs and allowed just four walks while holding the opposition to a .260 average through 18 innings on the hill.

At the dish, FGCU is hitting .237 with 56 runs scored and 49 RBI. Sophomore Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) and senior Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri) lead the Eagles at the plate, hitting .317 and .300, respectively, with a combined 12 runs scored and 12 RBI. Leading the team 12 runs scored, sophomore Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) is batting .286 with seven RBI and eight walks, while junior Dane Wisneski (Jupiter, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens HS/Daytona State College) holds a .281 mark at the plate.

The top-ranked Gators come into the weekend with a 12-1 record, and are coming off a weekend road sweep of No. 8 Miami (7-5, 13-5, 8-5) and a pair midweek wins over FAU (16-1) and FAMU (15-2). Florida also took two of three with No. 16 Cal State Fullerton (W 7-3, W 5-2, L 8-5) to open the season, and defeated No. 19 UCF in another midweek contest. The Gators other four wins this year were in a sweep of visiting William & Mary (4-1, 5-1, 5-3) and a single-game victory over Bethune-Cookman (8-6).

Florida intends to use a starting rotation of junior right-hander Hudson Randall (2-0, 4.15 ERA) on Friday, junior lefty Brian Johnson (1-0, 3.95 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore righty Jonathon Crawford (1-1, 6.94 ERA) on Sunday. Offensively, UF is hitting a combined .331 with 11 players at or above the .333 mark. Starting 12 contests for the Gators, Cape Coral, Fla. product Mike Zunino holds a .435 average and a .870 slugging percentage, with five home runs, five doubles, 14 runs scored and 15 RBI. Additionally, four other players hold double-digit figures in both the runs and RBI columns for No. 1 Florida.

In the all-time series between the two schools, the Gators hold a 3-1 lead over the Eagles. Florida has been nationally ranked in the last three meetings, and FGCU’s lone victory in the series came in the form of a 17-5 win in 2009, when the Gators were ranked No. 9 in the country.

Select games this season will be using CoverItLive to connect with fans during the contests. Live audio, live chat, live stats, in-game Twitter updates (@FGCUBaseball), results and recaps for the three contests in Gainesville will be available at www.FGCUAthletics.com.

Probable Starters
Friday, Mar. 9 – 7:00 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Ricky Knapp, So. (2-1, 2.16 ERA, 16.2 IP, 10 SO, 0 BB, .233 B/Avg.)
UF – RHP Hudson Randall, Jr. (2-0, 4.15 ERA, 17.1 IP, 11 SO, 1 BB, .254 B/Avg.)

Saturday, Mar. 10 – 4:00 p.m.
FGCU – LHP Brandon Bixler, So. (2-1, 1.02 ERA, 17.2 IP, 24 SO, 11 BB, .070 B/Avg.)
UF – LHP Brian Johnson, Jr. (1-0, 3.95 ERA, 13.2 IP, 9 SO, 4 BB, .314 B/Avg.)

Sunday, Mar. 11 – 1:00 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Jason Forjet, Sr. (0-1, 2.50 ERA, 18.0 IP, 16 SO, 4 BB, .260 B/Avg.)
UF – RHP Jonathon Crawford, So. (1-1, 6.94 ERA, 11.2 IP, 16 SO, 5 BB, .333 B/Avg.)