FGCU sweeps nationally ranked Florida, moves into the Top 25
Take out your brooms, Eagles. This past weekend FGCU baseball swept the University of Florida on the road. The Gators had not been swept in a three-game series at home since the 2009 season, in which the University of Miami swept them.
“We not only won, we did something special,” said FGCU head coach Dave Tollett.
With the victories FGCU created a first for the school gaining the attention of the nation. This week they received their first- ever Top 25 rank by Baseball America; the Eagles sit at No. 23.
“It’s a tremendous honor. We’re happy for it, but we have to stay grounded and keep going,” Tollett said.“We don’t want to settle for 23.”
Baseball America wasn’t the only media outlet that ranked the Eagles. FGCU was ranked 25th in both Collegiate Baseball’s and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s Top 30 polls, while also ranking No. 27 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Top 30. They were also named among the teams to watch in the latest edition of the Perfect Game poll.
“Getting any type of praise from everyone around the nation is definitely good for the program. We’re definitely not satisfied; we want to keep moving up. Obviously, we think we’re a better team than where we’re ranked now, but it’s a start,” said junior RHP Harrison Cooney. “We’re going to keep the foot on the gas and keep going.”
At the start of the season, Cooney was named the No. 2 after starter sophomore Brady Anderson had an ACL injury and Cooney gained the closer role.
With scores of 8-2, 8-3, and 7-4, the Eagles dominated the weekend. After the sweep, the all-time series record against the UF improved to 6-4.
“We have players to be really successful, and we have the right kind of team chemistry to do it. It definitely shows on the field, and it definitely showed this weekend,” said junior RHP Ricky Knapp.
Starting on Friday night, RHP Ricky Knapp threw 92 pitches in his fifth career complete game. This led to FGCU’s first win of the series over UF 8-2.
“That’s what I want to do when I go out and pitch,” said Knapp. “I get to play one day a week as a start, and I want to be out there on the field as long as possible.”
Knapp was also named the A-Sun Pitcher of the Week after his performance at UF. This marks the third time in his career Knapp has received this honor.
“He matched up with Jonathon Crawford, who is supposed to be one of the top five picks of the major league draft,” Tollett said. “Crawford pitched for the USA team this summer and beat Cuba. The kid is just the real deal, and Knapp went up there and matched up with him.”
Knapp has a 1.20 ERA with nine strikeouts and one walk, in 15 innings of work. He has also been able to hold opposing hitters to a .163 average.
“I’m not exactly a strikeout pitcher so I definitely need my defense to play well behind me, and they do. They know that’s the kind of pitcher I am,” said Knapp regarding the stats seen from him so far this season.
A complete team effort is what brought home the sweep against the previously ranked No. 13 Gators.
“Everybody in our whole dugout thought we were going to go in there with nothing less than to win the series, if not sweep,” said sophomore third basemen and RHP Zack Tillery.
First baseman, redshirt senior Brooks Beisner, also received A-Sun recognition after the weekend by being named Player of the Week for the first time.
“I’ve played this year with pretty much no pressure,” said Beisner. “It’s my senior year, my last go round, I’m just trying to have fun. I want to win.”
This weekend Beisner held a .500 average with two doubles, two homeruns, six RBIs, and three runs scored.
“He’s been our go-to guy with the bat. He’s been a great, great addition to our lineup,” Tollett said.
Although Knapp and Beisner were the only two Eagles to receive A-Sun awards this weekend, the sweep would not have been completed without a few other key elements. During the fifth inning of Saturday’s game, senior catcher Mike Reeves delivered a single, allowing senior Alex Diaz to score. The single gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead. They held this lead the rest of the game to win by a score of 8-3.
Sunday was the only game that UF was able to take FGCU into extra innings. However, this did not seem to pose a problem for Cooney.
“I knew as long as I kept zeros on the board, we’d end up scoring,” said Cooney.
Cooney threw five innings of shutout relief with just two hits. During the 10th inning, Cooney faced bases loaded with no outs, but he was able to get out of the jam.
“I didn’t feel that much pressure,” said Cooney. “I knew if I threw all my pitches where they were called, I’d be successful. It ended up working out.”
The sweep was brought home Sunday 7-4, when junior left fielder Sean Dwyer hit a three-run home run in the 11th.
“Throughout my four years, Sunday was the biggest team effort I’ve seen from every single guy,” said Reeves.
The Eagles, who were swept by the Gators in Gainesville just last season, turned around and not only got the sweep on the road this season, but they also knocked UF out of Baseball America’s Top 25 ranking. But they are not ready to stop with the Gators.
“We’re still hungry,” said Reeves. “We’ve still got FAU, FIU, USF; they’re always in our way. It’s either us or them if we have to get into an at large bid, and we’re going to get them.”