Eight Straight at Swanson Begins with A-Sun Foe USC Upstate for FGCU Baseball
Thursday, April 18, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
Photo by Dennis Snyder
Photo by Dennis Snyder
USC Upstate (22-17, 7-9 A-Sun)
FGCU (21-13, 7-6 A-Sun)
4/19/2013 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 310
USC Upstate0002000000261
Win: PATRICK (1-0) 2.000000
Loss: SOBOTKA (0-2) 2.242123
GREER (UPST) 403100
REEVES (FGCU) 513000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU baseball team will look to get back on track as it prepares to open an eight-game home stand at Swanson Stadium, beginning with a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference weekend series with USC Upstate on Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.

The two teams return to the field for a 2 p.m. first pitch on Saturday before closing the series on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Sitting in a share of fifth in the A-Sun standings with a 6-6 league mark and currently 34th in the RPI rankings by WarrenNolan.com and Boyd’s World, the Eagles head into the weekend set with a 20-13 overall record following a 5-3 loss at the hands of No. 19 Florida on Tuesday night at Hammond Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins spring training and Fort Myers Miracle minor league affiliate. The loss was the fifth straight for the Eagles, after dropping three A-Sun meetings at Mercer (L 7-6, L 4-3 (10 inn.), L 7-3) last weekend in Macon, Ga.

Having used the same three starters in all four A-Sun series this season, the Eagles continue this weekend with junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) on Friday, freshman righty Michael Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forest Hill HS) on Saturday and junior left-hander Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) in the Sunday finale.

Tabbed the A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year entering the season, Knapp heads into the Friday opener with a 6-2 record through his eight starts, holding the third-best ERA in the league at 1.88. With the fourth best A-Sun opponent batting average of .227, the Port Charlotte, Fla. native has totaled 57.1 innings of work and accumulated 42 strikeouts, ranking seventh and eighth in the conference, respectively. While allowing the third fewest earned runs (12) in the league, Knapp has gone six of more innings in seven of his eight outings, including eight or more in four of those games.

Starting his ninth contest on Saturday afternoon, Murray sits at 4-1 in his first year on campus with a 2.92 ERA in the second-most innings on the team (52.1). Allowing the third fewest walks in the conference, the West Palm Beach, Fla. product has retired 25 batters by way of strikeout, including 14 looking punch-outs to sit in a share of sixth in the A-Sun category. Through his nine appearances this year, Murray has issued just nine walks while establishing a .257 opponent batting average.

Ranked fifth in the nation with 12.39 strikeouts per nine innings, the Eagles will turn to Bixler to close out the weekend set with the Spartans. The Oviedo, Fla. native has a 3-2 record in his seven starts this season with a 2.27 ERA, ranking first in the A-Sun with a .195 opponent batting average. In only 36.1 innings of work, the third-year pitcher has amassed an even 50 strikeouts, retiring 16 batters looking to hold a share of fourth in the A-Sun ranks. Additionally, Bixler has allowed the fourth fewest runs allowed (13) in the conference and totaled the least amount of hits (24) among A-Sun arms.

At the plate, the Eagles’ efforts have been spearheaded by junior utility infielder Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) hitting .352 with team-highs of 30 RBI and 31 runs scored. Totaling 15 extra-base hits, the third-year player holds a .493 slugging percentage and a .400 on-base percentage while also leading the team with five stolen bases. Bednar ranks among the league leaders in seven offensive categories, including average (10th), runs scored (T8th), hits (50, 5th), RBI (T8th), doubles (11, T5th) and triples (3, T3rd).

Senior catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) is hitting at a .328 clip with 14 RBI and 21 runs scored, and redshirt senior Brooks Beisner (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Auburn) has established a .325 mark with 24 RBI and 21 runs scored, holding a team-best five home runs, .508 slugging percentage and .413 on-base percentage.

FGCU holds an all-time record of 110-52 in A-Sun contests, a mark which has seen the Eagles establish a 9-6 advantage in the all-time series with USC Upstate. In last season’s series between the squads, the Spartans got the better of the Eagles, taking two of three contests (L 6-0, W 4-3, L 10-2) in Spartanburg, S.C.

USC Upstate travels to Swanson Stadium with a 22-16 overall record, which includes a 7-8 mark in A-Sun play to sit eighth in the league standings. Sitting at 5-5 over its last 10 games, the Spartans most recently earned a 12-0 shutout at Wofford last Wednesday evening after dropping a 5-4 meeting on the road at UNC Asheville on Tuesday. Last weekend at Stetson, USC Upstate opened the A-Sun series with a 8-6 victory before falling in the final two contests (L 10-2, L 6-2) to drop the league set.

Senior infielder Brandon Patterson holds a team-best .354 average for the Spartans, recording 22 runs scored and a .414 on-base percentage while leading the team with 37 RBI. Gaither Bumgardner has established a .322 average with 29 runs scored and 25 RBI, while Tyler Lesch is hitting .318 with a team-high 33 runs scored. Bringing in 33 RBI and leading the team with a .569 slugging percentage, Try Richardson is also hitting at a .315 rate this year.

On the mound, the Spartans have announced a starting rotation of senior right-hander Brandon Lee (6-3, 3.15 ERA) on Friday, with junior lefty David Roseboom (5-2, 4.04 ERA) and senior righty Gaither Bumgardner (3-1, 3.21 ERA) to follow on Saturday and Sunday.

Live stats, in-game Twitter updates (@FGCU_Baseball), box score results and recaps will be available at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com for each contest in the series. Tickets for all home contests are available online at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com/tickets or by calling the FGCU ticket office at 239-590-7145.

FGCU Probable Pitchers
Fri. – RHP Ricky Knapp, Jr. (6-2, 1.88 ERA, 57.1 IP, 42 K, 11 BB, .227 B/Avg.)
Sat. – RHP Michael Murray, Fr. (4-1, 2.92 ERA, 52.1 IP, 25 K, 9 BB, .257 B/Avg.)
Sun. – LHP Brandon Bixler, Jr. (3-2, 2.72 ERA, 36.1 IP, 50 K, 28 BB, .195 B/Avg.)

USC Upstate Probable Pitchers
Fri. – RHP Brandon Lee, Sr. (6-3, 3.15 ERA, 68.2 IP, 51 K, 6 BB, .274 B/Avg.)
Sat. – LHP David Roseboom, Jr. (5-2, 4.04 ERA, 55.2 IP, 34 K, 25 BB, .250 B/Avg.)
Sun. – RHP Gaither Bumgardner, Sr. (4-1, 3.21 ERA, 33.2 IP, 27 K, 13 BB, .230 B/Avg.)