@FGCU_Baseball Heads to Three-Game Set at No. 13 Florida
Thursday, February 21, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
Jr. RHP Ricky Knapp (Photo by J. Meric)
Jr. RHP Ricky Knapp (Photo by J. Meric)
FGCU (3-1)
#13 Florida (3-3)
2/22/2013 | Gainesville, FL | Attendance: 3643
Win: KNAPP (2-0) 9.062204
Loss: Jonathon Crawford (0-1) 5.102224
REEVES (FGCU) 422010
Justin Shafer (UF) 322000
Zack Powers (UF) 302000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Gearing up for the first true road trip of the season, the FGCU baseball heads to Gainesville, Fla. for a three-game set at No. 13 Florida, beginning Friday at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium. All three games will broadcast live, with Sunday’s series final airing on Fox Sun Sports.

The Friday and Saturday (4 p.m.) matchups between the Eagles and Gators will be available on GatorVision, a live streaming utility at www.GATORZONE.com. A subscription fee is required for access to the opening two contests. The series finale on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. will be aired live on Fox Sun Sports, channel 653 on Directv and 402 on Comcast Xfinity.

Additionally, free live audio for the Friday night matchup will be available at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com, with Tom James on the call.

Opening the season last weekend at the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Sarasota, Fla., the Eagles (2-1) picked up a 6-0 shutout victory over St. John’s on Friday to begin the 2013 campaign. Following a 6-5 loss to Notre Dame in 10 innings on Saturday, the Green and Blue closed out the weekend with another shutout win over the Red Storm, 4-0, on Sunday afternoon.

Named the Atlantic Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year heading into the season, junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) (1-0) will square off against Florida junior righty Jonathan Crawford in a marquee Friday night matchup. In his first start of the season last Friday, the Port Charlotte, Fla. product hurled six innings of scoreless baseball against 21 Red Storm hitters, totaling five strikeouts while surrendering just two hits and issuing just one walk in his first victory of thee season. In 38 career appearances with the Green and Blue, the Port Charlotte, Fla. product holds a 15-5 record with a 3.28 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 186.2 innings of work.

Junior southpaw Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) is set to make his second start of the year on Sunday afternoon. The Oviedo, Fla. product had a strong first outing for the Eagles last weekend in Sarasota, providing four hitless innings of work, allowing no runs and accumulating six strikeouts against 14 St. John’s batters in a no-decision.

Replacing Bixler in the fifth inning last Sunday, freshman righty Michael Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forest Hill HS) (1-0) earned the victory in his first career appearance for the Green and Blue. Finishing the final five frames, the West Palm Beach, Fla. product recorded a trio of punchouts and issued one walk while holding 19 St. John’s hitters to a .222 average at the dish. The first year pitcher is slated to make his first career start on Sunday afternoon.

Through the three games last weekend, the Green and Blue hit .262 with 15 RBI and 15 runs scored, adding nine extra-base hits and a .417 slugging percentage. Starting all three games, redshirt senior Brooks Beisner (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Auburn) led the way with a .538 batting average (7-for-13) and a 1.077 slugging percentage, recording five RBI, three runs scored, a pair of home runs and one double. Also highly productive at the plate last weekend, sophomore Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) is also sitting above the .300 mark after three games, hitting .375 with two runs scored and three RBI.

The Gators entered the year ranked as high as No. 7 according to the Perfect Game Preseason Top 25, while also appearing in multiple outlets’ top 25 rankings. UF finished 2012 with a 47-20 (18-12 SEC) record, earning the top national seed and advancing to the NCAA College World Series for the third consecutive season. The 47-win season marked the 21st time the program had reached at least 40 wins in a season. The Gators welcome back a pair of junior right-handers in Crawford (first team) and Karsten Whitson (third team), who were each named to Baseball America’s 2013 Preseason All-America team. Crawford made 19 appearances and 14 starts, recording a 6-2 mark with a 3.13 ERA and tied for second on the squad with 73 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. Suffering an injury early in the season, the Eagles are unlikely to face Whitson over the weekend.

After opening the season with a loss and a pair of wins against Duke in Gainesville, the Gators (3-2) followed with a pair of mid-week games at UCF (W, 5-3) on Tuesday and at home against Georgia Southern (L, 8-7) on Wednesday. Making headlines as a top MLB Draft prospect and slated to open the Friday night contest, Crawford took the mound last Friday and went 3.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and four strikeouts in a no-decision. UF also earned a no-decision last Saturday from right-handed freshman starter Tucker Simpson (4 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 3 K), who will be starting the Saturday afternoon contest. Freshman righty Eric Hanhold will be making his first career start for the Gators on Sunday.

The Florida offense was powered by sophomore infielder Zack Powers, brother to former FGCU women’s soccer Defensive Player of the Year Stephanie Powers. Returning to action after being sidelined for the 2012 season, Powers went 3-for-6 (.500) over the three games against Duke. In Sunday’s decisive third game of the series with the Blue Devils, he joined Preston Tucker as the only Gators in school history to hit a pair of grand slams in the same game. For his offensive surge, Powers was named one of Louisville Slugger’s National Players of the Week, as well as Co-SEC Player of the Week.

In the all-time series between the two schools, the Gators hold a 6-1 lead over the Eagles following a sweep of the three games in 2012. Last season as the nation’s No. 1 team, Florida was held to a season-low four hits and three runs in the series finale with the Eagles, while also establishing a new season-low three runs scored. Florida has been nationally ranked in the last four 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.

Probable Starters
Friday, Feb. 22 – 7 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Ricky Knapp, Jr. (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, .105 B/Avg.)
UF – RHP Jonathan Crawford, Jr. (0-0, 4.91 ERA, 3.2 IP, 4 K, 1 BB, .200 B/Avg.)

Saturday, Feb. 23 – 4 p.m.
FGCU – LHP Brandon Bixler, Jr. (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, .000 B/Avg.)
UF – RHP Tucker Simpson, Fr. (0-0, 4.50 ERA, 4 IP, 3 K, 2 BB, .143 B/Avg.)

Sunday, Feb. 24 – 12:30 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Michael Murray, Fr. (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 3 K, 1 BB, .222 B/Avg.)
UF – RHP Eric Hanhold, Fr. (0-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.1 IP, 2 K, 0 BB, .250 B/Avg.)

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.