MACON, Ga. – FGCU junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) has been named Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year and one of three unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Conference team, announced by the league on Thursday. In the Preseason Coaches Poll, the Green and Blue were picked as a co-favorite along with Mercer, garnering two first place votes.
The Eagles return eight positional starters and two weekend starting pitchers from last year's club that won 26 games and finished third at the A-Sun Tournament. FGCU won five of its last six games to advance to the postseason last year, including a three-game sweep at Stetson. The Green and Blue tied for first in the A-Sun coaches poll with each receiving 81 total votes.
The Atlantic Sun also held voting on its Facebook page where fans could vote for Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Preseason Player of the Year and the 2013 A-Sun Champions. Junior infielder Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) earned the fan vote for Preseason Player of the Year, while FGCU took home the team vote for preseason favorite.
Knapp, who became the third Eagle in the last five years to win A-Sun Pitcher of the Year in 2012, finished with nine wins and an ERA of 2.34, which ranked 55th nationally. 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.
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 percentage 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.
The Blue and Green will get the 2013 season underway on Feb. 15 in Sarasota, Fla. when they take on BIG EAST foe St. John’s as part of the Snowbird Baseball Classic. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. 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.
Atlantic Sun Preseason Awards
Player of the Year: Gaither Bumgardner, USC Upstate
Facebook Fan Vote Player of the Year: Brandon Bednar, FGCU
Pitcher of the Year: Ricky Knapp, FGCU
Facebook Fan Vote Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Moore, North Florida
A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team
SP – *Ricky Knapp, FGCU
SP – Chris Anderson, Jacksonville
SP – Tyler Moore – UNF
RP – Chad Sobotka, USC Upstate
C – Corey Bass, UNF
1B – Clinton Freeman, ETSU
2B – Andy Almonte, Kennesaw State
2B – Joe Wielbruda, UNF
3B – Chesney Young, Mercer
SS – Evan Boyd, Mercer
OF - *Tyler Marincov, UNF
OF - Derrick Workman, Mercer
OF - Gaither Bumgardner, USC Upstate
DH - *Nick Backlund, Mercer
*-Unanimous Choice **-A tie in voting resulted in a 14-person team
2013 Preseason Baseball Coaches Poll
T1. Mercer (3) – 81
T1. FGCU (2) – 81
3. USC Upstate (3) – 78
4. Kennesaw State (1) – 72
5. North Florida – 65
6. Stetson (1) – 61
7. ETSU – 38
8. Lipscomb – 36
9. Jacksonville – 28
10. Northern Kentucky – 10
2013 Preseason Baseball Facebook Fan Poll
1. FGCU – 95
2. Mercer – 76
3. USC Upstate – 50
4. North Florida – 44
5. ETSU – 35
6. Lipscomb – 23
7. Jacksonville – 14
8. Stetson – 12
9. Kennesaw State – 10
10. Northern Kentucky - 8