Atlantic Sun Play Continues as No. 24 FGCU Baseball Travels to Kennesaw State
Thursday, April 04, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
Photo by J. Meric
Photo by J. Meric
#24 Florida Gulf Coast (18-8, 4-3 A-Sun)
Kennesaw State (18-13, 7-3 A-Sun)
4/5/2013 | Kennesaw, Ga. | Attendance: 456
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Win: JANAS (4-0) 7.071116
Loss: KNAPP (6-1) 7.082220
REEVES (FGCU) 302000
ALMONTE (KSU) 513000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The No. 24 FGCU baseball team continues the league slate over the weekend when it travels to Kennesaw, Ga. for a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series with Kennesaw State.

The series begins with a 6 p.m. opener on Friday before a 2 p.m. first pitch on Saturday. The two teams wrap up the trio of games with a 1 p.m. start on Sunday afternoon.

The Eagles (18-7, 4-2 A-Sun) continue to be ranked by multiple national outlets, landing as high as No. 24 this week by Perfect Game. FGCU is also slotted No. 25 and No. 28 in the Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) polls, respectively. The Green and Blue were among other receiving votes in the USA Today poll (30th) while also landing at No. 11 in the College Baseball Daily Mid-Major Top 25.  According to Boyd’s World, the Eagles are currently ranked No. 40 in the RPI, while coming in at No. 42 by WarrenNolan.com.

In their previous outing in a matchup of two ranked teams, No. 5 Florida State got the better of the Eagles, 12-9, in an offensive slugfest last Tuesday night at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.

FGCU enters the weekend with a .298 team batting average with 154 runs scored and 137 RBI. The Green and Blue have been led offensively by redshirt senior Brooks Beisner (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Auburn), hitting .360 with a .550 slugging and .417 on-base percentage. Leading the team with four home runs, the Punta Gorda, Fla. product has brought in 20 RBI and scored 18 times.

Junior utility man Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) is also producing at the plate, hitting .355 with team-bests of 26 runs scored and 24 RBI. The third-year player is reaching base at a .407 clip, while holding a .514 slugging percentage and a team-high four stolen bases.

Also above the .300 mark, senior Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) (.350), junior Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) (.348) and freshman Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) (.316) have combined for 20 extra base hits. Reeves has scored 19 times, while Dwyer has brought in 22 RBI and came across to score on 20 occasions. In his first season with the Green and Blue, Rivera has crossed the plate 13 times while recording nine RBI on the year.

The FGCU pitching staff has been efficient through the first 25 games, establishing a 2.86 team ERA with an opponent batting average of .226. The Eagles ranked No. 13 in the nation in team ERA (2.56) entering the mid-week trip to Tallahassee, Fla. to face No. 5 Florida State. Additionally, the Green and Blue has combined for 182 strikeouts in their 229.2 innings on the bump.

Tied for 15th in the country and leading the A-Sun with a 0.99 ERA, junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) will take the game ball for the Friday night opener. Sitting with a league-best 6-0 record through his six starts this season, the Port Charlotte, Fla. native holds a .199 opponent average, good for third in the A-Sun, through 45.2 innings of work, leading the team and ranking fifth in the conference with 37 strikeouts. In his last start against Lipscomb (Mar. 28), Knapp scattered five hits and fanned seven batters over 6.2 scoreless innings of work.

FGCU is set to send freshman right-hander Michael Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forest Hill HS) to the mound for the second game of the series.  In an even 40 innings of work, the first-year player holds a 3.15 ERA with a .245 opponent batting average and 19 strikeouts. Through seven appearances, including six starts, the West Palm Beach, Fla. product heads into the Saturday contest with a 3-1 overall record. Starting the Sunday finale last weekend with Lipscomb (Mar. 30), Murray allowed five hits and fanned five through six scoreless innings of work.

Closing the three games for the Green and Blue, junior southpaw Brandon Bixler (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty HS) will toe the rubber on Sunday afternoon with a 2.42 ERA and the second-best opponent batting average, .186, in the A-Sun. Through 26.0 innings of work in his five starts, Bixler holds a 2-2 record and has retired 33 batters via strikeout. Previously in his start against Lipscomb (Mar. 29), the Oviedo, Fla. native was pinned with the loss after surrendering five runs (three earned) on six hits and four walks while fanning eight batters.

The Eagles hold an all-time record of 108-48 in A-Sun conference contests and have established an 11-4 advantage in the all-time series against KSU.

Offensively, the Owls are led by junior outfielder Bo Way’s .339 batting average while scoring a team-high 21 times and adding 17 RBI. Freshman infielder Kal Simmons is also hitting .311 this season, bringing in a team-best 24 RBI and scoring 12 times.

On the mound, KSU has announced a rotation of junior right-hander Stephen Janas (3-0, 0.32 ERA) on Friday, followed by junior righty Travis Dean (3-4, 4.00 ERA) and lefty Kevin Kyle (5-2, 2.40 ERA) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Live video for the Friday contest will be provided at www.ASun.TV, while live audio will be available for all three games.

Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday, April 5 – 6 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Ricky Knapp, Jr. (6-0, 0.99 ERA, 45.2 IP, 37 K, 5 BB, .199 B/Avg.)
KSU – RHP Stephen Janas, Jr. (3-0, 0.32 ERA, 28.1 IP, 24 K, 5 BB, .210 B/Avg.)

Saturday, April 6 – 2 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Michael Murray, Fr. (3-1, 3.15 ERA, 40.0 IP, 19 K, 7 BB, .245 B/Avg.)
KSU – RHP Travis Dean, Jr. (3-4, 4.00 ERA, 36.0 IP, 30 K, 20 BB, .220 B/Avg.)

Sunday, April 7 – 1 p.m.
FGCU – LHP Brandon Bixler, Jr. (2-2, 2.42 ERA, 26.0 IP, 33 K, 16 BB, .186 B/Avg.)
KSU – LHP Kevin Kyle, Sr. (5-2, 2.40 ERA, 45.0 IP, 31 K, 7 BB, .223 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.