Six-Run Sixth Powers FGCU to A-Sun Tournament Win Over Kennesaw State
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 | by Patrick Pierson (@pierson_sid)
Play Video Tillery was one of seven Eagles with a hit in the win. (A-Sun Photos)
Tillery was one of seven Eagles with a hit in the win. (A-Sun Photos)
Florida Gulf Coast (25-29)
Kennesaw State (31-24)
5/23/2012 | Deland, Fla. | Attendance: 0
Florida Gulf Coast20001612012120
Kennesaw State0010210004115
Win: KNAPP (9-4) 5.064433
Loss: Carr (9-3) 5.176543
BEDNAR (FGCU) 513210
Dobbs (KSU) 523100

DeLAND, Fla. – Behind a six-run sixth inning that broke a 3-3 tie, the fourth-seeded FGCU baseball team opened its second-ever appearance in the Atlantic Sun Tournament with a 12-4 win over third-seeded Kennesaw State on a steamy Wednesday afternoon on Melching Field at Conrad Park.

The Eagles’ fourth straight win sets up a meeting with fifth-seeded Mercer (38-19) on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Bears defeated second-seeded USC Upstate, 11-2, in the first game of the day. FGCU now stands at 25-29 on the season and has taken five straight meetings against Kennesaw State (31-24).

“It’s great to get a win in our first game for several reasons, but it’s really important for our young club so we can continue to build our confidence,” said head coach Dave Tollett. “Hopefully we can keep this momentum going because this league is full of good teams and it’s a long tournament.”

In a game that pitted a pair of A-Sun All-Conference first team pitchers against each other, it was the FGCU bats that proved to the difference, helping the Eagles plate a season-high 12 runs. The Green and Blue finished with 12 hits, marking the fifth time in the last six contests it has come up with double-digit base knocks. FGCU accomplished the feat just nine times over the team’s first 47 games.

Despite having his most brief outing of the year, sophomore right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) picked up his ninth win of the season (9-4), going five innings with six hits, four runs, three walks and three strikeouts over 95 pitches. The A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, Knapp hadn’t gone less than 6.1 innings in his previous 13 starts this year, owning the program single-season record for innings pitched with 111.1.

On the flipside, KSU senior right-hander Josh Carr (9-3), who was bidding for his 10th win, was roughed up for six runs over 5.1 innings on seven hits and four walks.

Sophomore Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) led the 12-hit charge with a 3-for-5 night that included a pair of RBI singles. Senior Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri), who hit in the 9-hole, reached base all five times, scoring three runs and had an RBI single. Sophomore Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) continued to build on his .323 batting average since April 1, going 2-for-5, highlighted by a two-run double, which was his team-high 16th double of the season.

Batting leadoff for the first time this season, A-Sun All-Freshmen team choice Kirby Retzer (Boca Raton, Fla./Boca Raton HS) went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk. During FGCU’s current run of six games, in which it has 68 hits, Retzer is 10-for-24 at the dish with a .517 on-base percentage. Sophomore Andrew Valencia (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) was the fourth Eagle with a multi-hit night, thanks to a 2-for-5 performance that included an RBI.

With the score tied 3-3 through four innings, an FGCU groundout to first base started the frame before nine straight batters were able to reach base as the Green and Blue took a 9-3 lead following the game-changing six-run sixth inning. Junior Tito Mendoza (Miramar, Fla./Cooper City HS/Cowley CC) was hit by a 1-2 delivery and was followed by a single to centerfield from Dwyer and a walk to Gebhart to load the bases. Retzer then connected for an RBI single through the right side and was followed by an RBI walk issued to freshman Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto County HS) to make it a 5-3 game. Dwyer came back to the dish and laced a two-RBI double to the warning track in right field to extend the lead to 7-3, and the Eagles’ eighth run crossed the plate when All-Freshmen team selection Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) sent a towering fly ball to left field which was lost in the sun. With the bases still full, Reeves, who led off the inning for the Green and Blue, trotted 90-feet to first base with another RBI walk. This proved to be the final damage in the inning, as the Eagles headed back out to the field with a 9-3 advantage.

Knapp was replaced by junior lefty R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) with two runners and no outs in the fifth, but the left-hander worked out of the jam with just one run charged to Knapp and went on to toss a scoreless seventh. Sophomore right-hander Harrison Cooney (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS) finished off the final two innings, striking out two while allowing just one base runner.

FGCU is now 2-2 all-time in the A-Sun Tournament … the Eagles have defeated Kennesaw State five straight times and own a 12-4 advantage in the all-time series … the 12 runs were not only a season-high, but FGCU’s most in the last 68 games … FGCU has double figure hits in five of last six games … Knapp’s 9th win puts him in a tie for second in single-season history … Gebhart’s three runs scored are tied for the most by an FGCU player in the A-Sun Tournament, while Dwyer’s three hits are also tied the record … Gebhart’s three runs scored put his team-high total at 41 for the year.