A-Sun Championship Seedings on the Line as FGCU Hosts Stetson in Final A-Sun Series
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | by Caleb Baker
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Linwood Ferguson photo
Linwood Ferguson photo
Stetson (26-27, 15-10 A-Sun)
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FGCU (35-18, 17-8 A-Sun)
5/16/2013 | Fort Myers, Fla. | Attendance: 189
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Stetson000000000041
FGCU10030400X8111
PitchingIPHRERBBSO
Win: KNAPP (9-2) 7.030006
Loss: Josh Powers (1-7) 6.0108701
BattingABRHRBIBBHR
Konner Lutz (STET) 402000
TILLERY (FGCU) 423000

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Only three games remain on the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season slate and the FGCU baseball team finds itself in a battle to the finish as it welcomes rival Stetson to Swanson Stadium for a three-game league series beginning on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

The two teams return to the field for another 6:30 p.m. start on Friday before closing the set at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, following the Senior Day ceremony.

The Green and Blue have already clinched a spot in the eight-team A-Sun Championship but a number of scenarios can play out over the final weekend of A-Sun play and, depending on the Eagles’ results from the trio of games combined with other outcomes around the league, FGCU could finish anywhere between a No. 1 seed and a No. 5 seed in the A-Sun Tournament which is set to commence next weekend (May 22-26) in DeLand, Fla.

Currently in a share of second place in the A-Sun standings alongside North Florida, the Eagles (34-18) will bring a 16-8 league record into the final series. The Hatters (26-26) sit a game back of the Eagles to hold sole possession of fourth place in the conference standings with a 15-9 A-Sun mark.

FGCU is coming off a 6-4 loss at the hands of USF on Tuesday evening at Swanson Stadium. The Eagles rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the game at 3-3 in the sixth, but the Bulls tacked on two in the seventh and one in the ninth to provide enough insurance for the two-run victory.

Last weekend in A-Sun action, FGCU took two of three games on the road at North Florida, who sat atop the league standings entering the series. Moving into a share of second place in the A-Sun standings, FGCU fell in the opener of the set in 11 innings, 8-7, before recording back-to-back wins to earn the series victory, 7-5, 10-7.

The Eagles have been led offensively by junior utility infielder Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS), with a .347 average, 48 runs scored, 45 RBI, 104 total bases and seven stolen bags. The third-year player also holds a team-best 21 extra-base hits, and has established a .462 slugging and .404 on-base percentage this year. In the midweek meeting with USF, the Stuart, Fla. product recorded his 200th career hit as a member of the Green and Blue.

Also producing at the plate for the Eagles, senior catcher Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) is connecting at a .338 rate while holding a team-high .426 on-base percentage, scoring the second most runs on the team (43) and driving in 24 RBI. Reeves’ average remains consistent in A-Sun action, hitting .337 with seven runs scored and 12 RBI while maintaining a .412 on-base percentage and leading the squad with 12 sacrifices on the campaign.

Named the A-Sun Player of the Week for his efforts last week at FAMU (May 8) and UNF (May 10-12), junior Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) has raised his average to .312 as of late, scoring 41 times and driving in 39 RBI. With 20 extra-base hits on the year, including six home runs and a team-best five triples, the third-year outfielder also leads the Eagles with a .497 slugging percentage and leads the A-Sun with 36 walks and nine sacrifice flies this season.  Over the five-game road swing last week, Dwyer hit .455 (10-for-22), bringing in five RBI and recording team-highs of eight runs scored and three home runs. Also leading the team with a .864 slugging percentage, the Tavares, Fla. product reached base at a .520 rate in those contests.

Additionally for the Eagles, redshirt senior Brooks Beisner (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Auburn) is hitting .310 this season while sophomore Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS) and freshman Tyler Selesky (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) both hold averages at .301. Providing some offensive power in the lineup, Beisner and Suchy hold five and seven home runs, respectively, on the year. 

Freshman Nick Rivera (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) has also been instrumental in the Eagles recent success, hitting .291 with a team-leading eight home runs, matching Dwyer for the team’s highest slugging percentage of .497. In the series at UNF, River helped spark the offense with a 1.067 slugging percentage on the strength of three home runs. The Cape Coral, Fla. product collected a team-high 16 total bases over the three games, adding four RBI and a team-best five runs score while reaching base at a .400 clip over the three-game set. 

The Eagles are prepared to utilize a starting rotation of junior right-hander Ricky Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla./Port Charlotte HS) on Thursday, and follow with freshman righty Michael Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forest Hill HS) and junior right-hander Harrison Cooney (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS) on Friday and Saturday.

Named the A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Knapp holds an 8-2 record and a 2.18 ERA through his 12 appearances this season. In 86.2 innings of work, the third-year arm has recorded a team-high 64 strikeouts and issued just 15 walks while keeping opponents to a .241 average at the plate. Knapp’s numbers vary slightly when facing A-Sun competition, as he sits with a 2.91 ERA and a 4-2 record in eight starts, totaling 55.2 innings and registering 42 punchouts and 13 walks.

In a very strong freshman campaign, Murray has established a 5-1 record and a 2.92 ERA in 13 appearances, 12 of which are starts. With the second-most innings on the team (77.0) behind Knapp, the first-year hurler has retired 50 batters by way of strikeout and surrendered only 16 walks while holding opponents to a .251 mark at the plate. With an unblemished mark of 3-0 in A-Sun play in eight starts, Murray has totaled 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 48.2 innings.

Transitioning to the starting rotation midway through the year from the closer role, Cooney sits with a 5-5 record and 3.12 ERA in his 19 appearances, which include a trio of starts. In 57.2 innings on the mound, the hard-throwing righty has 53 strikeouts, good for third on the team, and a .235 opposing batting average. Helping close out games for the Eagles to begin the season, Cooney also has a team-high five saves on the year. In A-Sun play, the third-year arm has the lowest ERA of 2.76 among the FGCU starters. In nine A-Sun appearances, which include all three of his starts, the Vero Beach, Fla. native has accumulated 29.1 innings of work, recording 27 strikeouts and keeping league foes to a .234 mark at the plate.

Holding an all-time record of 120-54 in the A-Sun, FGCU has a 10-6 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools. Last season between the two sides, the Eagles earned the series sweep of the Hatters in the final weekend of A-Sun play (W 6-2, W 5-4, W 5-4) to climb into the No. 4 seed in the league tournament.

The Hatters enter the series with a .269 team average and a 4.40 team ERA. Playing in every game thus far on the year, freshman Patrick Mazeika is hitting .396 with 38 runs scored and team-highs of 32 RBI, a .516 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base average. Sophomore Darby McCormick (.324) and senior James Rasmussen (.300) are also above the .300 mark on the year, with Rasmussen collecting 23 runs scored and 22 RBI.

Stetson has announced a rotation of sophomore right-hander Josh Powers (1-6, 3.02 ERA) and junior left-hander Austin Perez (7-1, 2.52 ERA) in the opening two games, respectively. While yet to confirm the Saturday hurler, the Hatters will go with either senior right-hander Chad Rood (0-3, 6.14 ERA) or freshman lefty Adam Schaly (2-3, 5.44 ERA) in the finale.

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

Probable Starters
Thursday, May 16 – 6:30 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Ricky Knapp, Jr. (8-2, 12 APP/12 GS, 2.18 ERA, 86.2 IP, 64 K, 15 BB, .241 B/Avg.)
STET – RHP Josh Powers, So. (1-6, 13 APP/13 GS, 3.02 ERA, 92.1 IP, 51 K, 14 BB, .284 B.Avg.)

Friday, May 17 – 6:30 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Michael Murray, Fr. (5-1, 13 APP/12 GS, 2.92 ERA, 77.0 IP, 50 K, 16 BB, .251 B/Avg.)
STET – LHP Austin Perez, Jr. (7-1, 13 APP/11 GS, 2.52 ERA, 78.2 IP, 59 K, 24 BB, .242 B/Avg.)

Saturday, May 18 – 1 p.m.
FGCU – RHP Harrison Cooney, Jr. (5-5, 19 APP/3 GS, 3.12 ERA, 57.2 IP, 53 K, 26 BB, .235 B/Avg.)
STET – RHP Chad Rood, Sr. (0-3, 14 APP/8 GS, 6.14 ERA, 36.2 IP, 19 K, 13 BB, .315 B/Avg.)
           or LHP Adam Schaly, Fr. (2-3, 17 APP/9 GS, 5.44 ERA, 46.1 IP, 30 K, 29 BB, .303 B/avg.)

Weekend Schedule
Mercer at Northern Kentucky
Kennesaw State at Lipscomb
North Florida at USC Upstate
Stetson at FGCU
Jacksonville at ETSU

Thursday Clinchings (High & Lows reflect seed options prior to Thursday’s games being completed)

ETSU - No additional clinchings available. Can finish as high as #3 (1-2 against all teams that could finish in a tie with and cannot finish in a two-way tie for first) & no worse than #6.

FGCU - No additional clinchings available. Can finish as high as #1 & no worse than #5.

Jacksonville - No clinchings available. Can finish #7, #8 or not qualify.

Kennesaw State - No additional clinchings available. Can finish as high as #5 & no worse than #7.

Lipscomb - Clinch tourney spot with win AND Upst loss or JU loss. Can finish #6, #7, #8 or not qualify.

Mercer - Clinch at least share of regular season title with win AND FGCU loss AND UNF loss. No additional clinchings available. Can finish as high as #1 & no worse than #4.

North Florida - No additional clinchings available. Can finish as high as #1 & no worse than #5.

USC Upstate - No clinchings available. Can finish #7, #8 or not qualify.

Stetson - No additional clinchings available. Can finish as high as #1 & no worse than #6.