A-Sun Championship Gets Underway as No. 2 FGCU Battles No. 7 Kennesaw State
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
Linwood Ferguson photo
Linwood Ferguson photo
Kennesaw State (27-28)
FGCU (37-19)
5/22/2013 | Deland, Fla. | Attendance: 287
Kennesaw State001101000391
Win: JANAS (9-0) 7.081145
Loss: KNAPP (9-3) 9.093304
BRUCE (KSU) 402000
HART (KSU) 312100
LIQUORI (KSU) 402000
DIAZ (FGCU) 302000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Seeking the program’s first-ever Atlantic Sun Championship title, the second-seeded FGCU baseball will begin its quest when it goes up against seventh-seeded Kennesaw State on Wednesday, May 22 at 5 p.m. at Melching Field on the campus of Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

Winning 15 of their last 17 games and 13 of their final 15 A-Sun contests, the Eagles’ wrapped up the regular season holding a 37-18 overall record, which incorporates a 19-8 mark in A-Sun Conference action to earn the league’s No. 2 seed. The Owls enter the contest as the No. 7 seed after finishing up the year at 26-28 overall and 13-14 in the A-Sun standings.

Over the final five A-Sun series of the year, the Green and Blue combined to hit .330 with 117 runs scored and 105 RBI, with 49 extra-base hits and a .464 slugging percentage. During that stretch, the Eagles recorded 13 games with 10 or more hits, culminating with a team A-Sun single-game best 20 hits in the final contest of the season against Stetson. FGCU had eight players hitting above .300 in those 15 league games, highlighted by two over the .415 mark, as they connected for 11 home runs, including one grand slam, and earned three-straight A-Sun Player of the Week selections to wrap up the season.

Making its third appearance in the A-Sun Championship, it marks the second-highest seed by FGCU, who landed the No. 1 seed after winning the 2010 regular season crown. In the 2012 six-team bracket, the fourth-seeded Eagles defeated the third-seeded Owls, 12-4, in last year’s opening round, before KSU got the better of FGCU, 13-4, in an elimination game. In the all-time series between the two schools, the Eagles hold a 14-6 advantage, which includes a 1-1 mark in A-Sun Championship contests.

FGCU travels to the A-Sun Championship after sweeping in-state rival Stetson in a three-game series at Swanson Stadium. The Green and Blue shutout the Hatters, 8-0, in Thursday’s opener, before recording a 9-6 win on Friday and a convincing 15-2 victory in the Saturday finale.

With a .303 team batting average over the 55 games to rank second in the A-Sun. The Green and Blue also sit second in the league with a 3.43 team ERA and a combined 398 strikeouts, while holding the lowest opponent batting average of .244.

Junior Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) has been a true utility player for the Eagles this season, playing all four infield positions, and leading the Green and Blue at the plate. With team-highs of 51 runs scored and 46 RBI, the Stuart, Fla. native leads the squad with a .345 batting average, adding 21 extra-base hits while holding a .454 slugging and .404 on-base percentage. The third-year player has also swipe seven bases on the year and collected 108 total bases, both of which lead the team. Against A-Sun completion, Bednar is hitting .328 with a team-best 25 runs scored, adding 19 RBI and collecting 12 extra-base hits.

With a .302 career average and 200 career hits, senior catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) heads into his final postseason run with a .335 batting average this season, adding 47 runs scored and 27 RBI. Holding a .416 on-base percentage primarily from the leadoff position, the Peterborough, Ontario produce is also tied for third in the nation with 20 sacrifice bunts this season. Reeves average is consistent in A-Sun play, connecting at a .330 rate with 18 runs scored and 12 RBI.

Beisner and Dwyer are each hitting .324 with six home runs in the middle of the Green and Blue lineup this season. Beisner holds a .458 slugging percentage with a .409 on-base percentage, driving in 43 RBI and scoring 37 times. Earning A-Sun Player of the Week last week, Dwyer leads the team with a .505 slugging percentage, scoring 43 times and sitting second on the team with 46 RBI while matching Bednar with 21 extra-base hits. Against conference foes, Dwyer holds a .337 average and a .485 slugging percentage on the strength of 11 extra-base hits, with 17 runs scored and 23 RBI.

Coming alive at the plate as of late, Suchy his brought his average up to .320 and has connected for a team-high nine home runs, tying a team-high 46 RBI and scoring 37 times. Also matching Bednar with seven stolen bases this season, Suchy is reaching base at a .391 rate and has a .484 slugging percentage. Additionally, sophomore Zack Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) and freshman Tyler Selesky (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) are above the .300 mark, hitting .307 and .305, respectively. In A-Sun play, Tillery has a .378 average at the plate, bringing across 13 and scoring nine times, while Selesky hits .316 with 18 runs scored against the league.

Making his second game one start at the A-Sun Championship, junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS/Auburn) will lead the Green and Blue into the opening game on Wednesday. Named the A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year entering the season, Knapp holds a 9-2 record and a 2.02 ERA, which is fourth in the conference. Sitting second in the league in wins, the Port Charlotte, Fla. is fourth in the A-Sun with 70 strikeouts this season and is keeping opponents to a .232 average, good for third in the A-Sun, in a team-high 93.2 innings of work. In nine A-Sun starts, Knapp held a 5-2 record and a 2.59 ERA in 62.2 frames, retiring a team-best 48 batters by strikeout and seeing a .253 opponent average.

Retiring a stretch of 15 batters from the end of the second inning through the start of the seventh, Knapp’s seven frames against Stetson last Friday saw just three hits by the opposition, as he issued no walks and recorded six strikeouts to earn his ninth win of the year.

In the regular season meeting between the two sides in Kennesaw, Ga., the Eagles fell in the opener, 6-1, but battled back to take game two, 5-3, and went on to clinch the series win with a 4-1 victory in the finale.

Through the three regular season games with the Owls, Tillery led the Eagles with a .455 average (5-for-11), adding a pair of RBI and scoring once. Redshirt sophomore Alex Diaz (Miami, Fla./Ferguson HS) hit .375 (3-for-8) with a team-high .545 on-base percentage, while freshman Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) established a .300 mark (3-for-10) with two runs scored, one home run and a pair of RBI, in addition to a team-best .700 slugging percentage.

The Owls (26-28, 13-14 A-Sun) head to DeLand after dropping all three games in the A-Sun at Lipscomb over the weekend. KSU fell in the opener 6-1 last Thursday, and was unable to salvage one in either game of the Saturday doubleheader, 16-6 (8 inn.), 4-3 (7 inn.).

The ace on the staff and game one starter for the Owls is junior right-hander Stephen Janas. Leading the conference with a 0.81 ERA, Janas has a .235 opponent batting average and an unblemished 8-0 record in 11 appearances, totaling 66.1 innings on the bump. Recording 47 strikeouts and issuing 10 walks, the third-year hurler has finished two complete games this season. Held out of the rotation in the final weekend of A-Sun play, Janas last started against USC Upstate and went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits and three walks while striking out five. In the regular season meeting against FGCU (April 5), Janas improved to 4-0 after going seven innings and allowing one run on seven hits and one walk, adding six strikeouts.

KSU is hitting .278 at the plate and is led by Bo Way’s .329 mark with 38 runs scored and 27 RBI, establishing a .400 on-base percentage and slugging percentage of .437. Kal Simmons is hitting .317 this season with 19 runs scored and 27 RBI, while Jacob Bruce (.306) and Andy Almonte (.305) are each over the .300 mark on the year.

The eight-team championship will get underway with four games on Wednesday, beginning with No. 4 ETSU (32-22, 17-10 A-Sun) challenging host and No. 5 seed Stetson (26-29, 15-12 A-Sun) at 10 a.m. Bookending the contest between the Eagles and Owls, No. 1 seed Mercer (42-14, 20-7 A-Sun) is slated against No. 8 seed USC Upstate (26-28, 9-18 A-Sun) at 1:15 p.m. and No. 3 North Florida (38-17, 18-9 A-Sun) and No. 6 Lipscomb (24-32, 13-14 A-Sun) close the opening day with an 8:15 p.m. first pitch.

All games will be available for free on ASun.TV, while the A-Sun Championship game will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN3. Links for live audio/video, live stats, in-game Twitter (@FGCU_Baseball), results and recaps will be available throughout the tournament at www.FGCUATHLETICS.com

Day passes for the 2013 A-Sun Championship will be available for $15 for general admission and $20 for reserved seating. Tournament Passes are available for purchase until May 21 for $45 for general admission and $55 for reserved seating by calling (386) 822-8110. Tournament passes will not be sold during the tournament.