FGCU Drops Doubleheader Against Mercer to Open A-Sun Series
Friday, April 06, 2012 | by Pat Pierson (@pierson_sid)
Photo by Jerry Smith
Photo by Jerry Smith
Mercer (19-12, 3-7 A-Sun)
Florida Gulf Coast (11-19, 4-6 A-Sun)
4/6/2012 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 204
Florida Gulf Coast000100011381
Win: LOVE (4-3) 7.062135
Loss: KNAPP (4-3) 7.153222
DIAZ (FGCU) 403100

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A pair of late FGCU rallies came up short on an 18-inning opening day to its Atlantic Sun weekend series, as the Eagles dropped both games of a doubleheader against Mercer on Friday at Swanson Stadium. FGCU fell in game one by a 4-3 margin and a dropped the nightcap, 4-2.

The two teams will finish off the three-game series on Saturday with first pitch set for 2 p.m. Mercer (20-12) pulled even with the Eagles (11-20) in the A-Sun standings with a 4-7 conference mark.

The opener proved to be a pitching duel between sophomore righty Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) and Mercer lefty Brandon Love. Knapp entered the game with a 25.1 scoreless inning streak at home and extended that streak to an even 30 innings before Mercer tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fifth.

Mercer added another run in the sixth and eighth innings to take a 3-1 lead. Both runs were charged to Knapp with the one in the eighth being unearned. Knapp turned in a solid outing in his seventh start of the year, going 7.1 innings with just two earned runs allowed.

Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, FGCU was able to get within one, 3-2, when senior Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri) crossed the plate on a double-play ground out. Gebhart was a pain on the base paths all day, going 2-for-4 in the opener with a walk and his team-high seventh stolen base.

After getting FGCU out a jam in the eighth and recording the first two outs of the ninth, junior R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) gave up a two-out single that was followed a crucial RBI double by Mercer’s Nick Backlund that scored what proved to be the game-winning run as the score move to 4-2.

Redshirt freshman Alex Diaz’s (Miami, Fla./John A. Ferguson HS) RBI single in the bottom of the ninth not only made it 4-3, but also put the game-tying run on first and the potential winning run at the plate. Diaz singled home freshman Zach Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) and set the stage for Gebhart, who grounded out to second to end the game.

Love improved to 4-3 on the season with the win, giving up just one earned run over seven innings with five strikeouts. Knapp was the tough-luck loser, watching his record also move to 4-3.

The nightcap was all Mercer through the first seven and a half innings, as the Bears built a 4-0 lead behind starter Dimitri Kourtis. Mercer plated its first three runs of the game all of solo home runs, highlighted by two round-trippers in the fourth off freshman starter Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto County HS).

Kourtis limited the Green and Blue to just three hits in their first seven trips to the plate, but ran into trouble to start the eighth. Back-to-back singles by redshirt freshman Kirby Retzer (Boca Raton, Fla./Boca Raton HS) and Gebhart followed by a walk to freshman Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS) loaded the bases with no outs and forced Kourtis out of the game. Retzer was able to come around to score to make it 4-1 on sophomore Andrew Valencia’s (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) grounder that was dropped on the second baseman’s exchange, while the second run came in on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS).

FGCU’s eighth inning rally built up to a bases loaded situation with two outs and junior Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) at the plate. Reeves wasted no time trying to at least tie the game, as he swung at the first pitch from David Teasley, grounding out to first to end the threat.

Junior Andrew Poly (Broken Arrow, Okla./Tulsa Union HS/Cowley County CC) capped his 4.1 innings of relief with a scoreless top of the ninth, but the Eagles stranded their 10th and 11th runners of the game with a strikeout to end the doubleheader.

Kourtis improved to 6-1 on the season with the win, while Anderson (1-4) was dealt the loss in his first collegiate start that lasted 4.2 innings.

For the day, Mercer held a 19-15 edge in hits, but left a total of 26 runners on base. Gebhart was the offensive star of the day for the Eagles, going 3-for-9 with three runs scored. Diaz went 3-for-4 in game two for his team-best eighth multi-hit contest.