FGCU's Atlantic Sun Tournament Run Ends With Loss to Kennesaw State
Saturday, May 26, 2012 | by Patrick Pierson (@pierson_sid)
Bixler struck out six batters, but the Owls plated seven runs off the sophomore lefty. (ASunPhotos.com)
Bixler struck out six batters, but the Owls plated seven runs off the sophomore lefty. (ASunPhotos.com)
Florida Gulf Coast (26-31)
Kennesaw State (34-24)
5/26/2012 | DeLand, Fla. | Attendance: 0
Florida Gulf Coast000100003494
Kennesaw State40124110X13120
Win: Dean (4-1) 8.061121
Loss: BIXLER (3-7) 3.137576
Dobbs (KSU) 432120
Hart (KSU) 422100
Almonte (KSU) 432110
Chriscaden (KSU) 412711

DeLAND, Fla. – Surrendering runs in all but two innings in the first game of Championship Saturday at the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament proved to be too much, as the fourth-seeded FGCU baseball team dropped its elimination game to third-seeded Kennesaw State, 13-4, on Melching Field at Conrad Park.

FGCU’s season comes to a close with a 26-31 overall record, falling two games short of an A-Sun Tournament crown and NCAA Tournament berth. Meanwhile, the Owls move on to the A-Sun Championship game to face top-seeded Belmont at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Coming into the league’s postseason tournament off a series sweep at Stetson, the Eagles carried the momentum from their three straight wins in the final weekend of regular season play into the A-Sun Tournament where they opened with a 12-4 win over Kennesaw State. FGCU returned a night later and became the only team in the field of six to win its first two games with a walk-off win over fifth-seeded Mercer, 4-3.

On Saturday, the Owls jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the game on a grand slam off the bat of A-Sun All-Conference second teamer Andy Chriscaden, who went on to set a A-Sun Tournament single-game record with seven RBI.

After KSU plated another run in the third to take a 5-0 advantage, the Eagles responded with a run of their own in the top of the fourth. Playing in his final collegiate contest, senior Ryan Gebhart (Waco, Texas/Midway HS/Missouri) drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Following a groundout to first base from sophomore Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) which moved Gebhart to third, sophomore Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) continued an outstanding weekend, plating Gebhart with his ninth hit of the tournament to cut the KSU lead to 5-1.

The Owls answered back with a pair of runs in the fourth and another four-run inning in the fifth to extend their advantage to 11-1. KSU tacked on one more insurance run in both the sixth and seventh to move ahead 13-1.

With bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth, FGCU added three more runs on a bases-clearing double to right center off the bat of Dwyer, which was also his ninth hit of the tournament. It would prove to be the final runs in the contest as the Owls recorded the final out to finish off the 13-4 victory.

Falling to 3-7 on the year, sophomore Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) was pinned with the loss after tossing 3.1 frames and allowing seven runs (five earned) on just three hits and seven walks, while accumulating six strikeouts.

The bottom of the eighth inning ended on a positive and emotional note for the Eagles, as redshirt senior Patrick Nathanson (Maitland, Fla./Trinity Prep) came out of the pen to record the final two outs of the frame. Nathanson suffered a significant elbow injury just two outs into the first start of his final campaign with the Green and Blue and hadn’t pitched since thinking his career was over. On Saturday, the 6-foot-5 lefty came on in the eighth and retired two of the three batters he faced, highlighted by an inning-ending strikeout to cap his collegiate career.

With a solid offensive performance throughout the tournament, Bednar maintained his hot bat on the final day, going 2-for-4 with a walk and his program A-Sun Tournament record sixth RBI. For the tournament, Bednar went 9-for-14, while his team record nine hits in the A-Sun Tournament was equaled by Dwyer. Dwyer also had multi-hits in each of the four contests, going 9-of-19 with two doubles and five RBI.

Additionally, A-Sun All-Freshmen team pick Brady Anderson (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto County HS) went 3-for-4, while Gebhart scored two runs and reached base three times. Gebhart was a terror at the plate during the four games, scoring a tournament-high seven times after reaching base in 12-of-20 plate appearances.

Kennesaw State right-hander Travis Dean tossed eight solid innings in his sixth start of the season to improve to 4-1. Dean allowed just the one run in the fourth and gave up six hits with one strikeout.