The FGCU baseball team suffered a heartbreaking defeat during its first extra-inning game of the season on Sunday, March 25, falling 2-1 in 10 innings to conference opponent ETSU in the rubber game of a weekend series.
ETSU scored the first run of the game in the fourth on a suicide squeeze, the only run given up by Eagles starter, right-hander Jason Forjet, and FGCU’s Brandon Bednar’s two-out single to right center tied the game at one in the eighth.
With neither side able to score the go-ahead run in the ninth, ETSU (13-9) picked up the series victory with a perfect bottom of the 10th inning after scoring the winning run on a double play return throw that got past FGCU (9-15) pitcher Brady Anderson in the top half of the frame.
It was a tough end to a week where the Eagles had already lost four out of their last five ball games coming in.
“You lose five out of your last six, I mean we’ve got to find a way to turn this thing around,” coach Dave Tollett said. “I’m tired of using us being young as an excuse and we need to swing the bats a lot better than what we have the last five of six, but we turn around, play Wednesday, and then go play the number one team in the conference this weekend (USC Upstate, 18-5 overall, 5-1 conference). So, I mean it doesn’t get any easier, but we’ve got to figure out a way.”
After losing their second consecutive road game to Texas Tech on Wednesday, March 21, 14-8, Eagles right hander Ricky Knapp’s monster performance on Friday, March 23 got his team back in the win column with a 4-0 complete-game shutout.
It was Knapp’s (4-1) second consecutive outing where he went the distance and did not surrender a run.
“Its easy (to stay locked in) when the defense is playing really well behind me and I just go out there and kind of focus on locating and throwing the ball down and then see what happens with the defense,” Knapp said. “When they’re playing well, it’s easy for me to just kind of go out there and see what happens when they hit it. I’ve been pretty successful here when they’ve been doing that so it’s easy when I just go out there again and again and just try to repeat what I’m doing.”
The Eagles lost 7-2 to ETSU in the middle game of the set on Saturday, March 24, as left- handed starter Andrew Polly allowed four runs on five hits in three innings of work. The relief core gave up all three of its runs over the final two innings.
“Without laying blame anywhere, I think we’ve had a little trouble in the bullpen and closing some games out there recently,” Knapp said. “I mean, I know we’re kind of tough for runs, but hitting is also really, really hard. So it’s not an easy thing those guys are going out there to do. I know that, as a pitcher, all we can do is go out there and try to throw zeroes on the board and give our offense a chance to score some runs.”
Tollett also agreed that the bullpen has been having its fair share of struggles, but stated that he is “definitely more concerned offensively.”
He believes that hitting will be the key for the Eagles in their upcoming six-game road trip starting on Wednesday, when they visit FIU for one game, followed by a three-game series at USC Upstate, and two games against No. 8 Florida State.
“We just want to play well. We want to hit,” Tollett said. “We don’t want to average four hits, or five hits. If we hit, we can be in any ball game. So that’s the whole goal, to get better offensively.”
Despite their 0-5 road woes, catcher Mike Reeves believes that being the away team for a while could benefit this group.
“Yeah, you know, it’s just good to get away,” Reeves said. “And we’re all together talking our way through it and stuff like that. So it should be good.”
“Well, I mean, everybody’s just got to keep their head up,” Knapp said when asked how the team remains positive during these trying times. “It’s a really long season and you’re going to go through some ups and some downs.
“We’re kind of young, so right now we’re on a little bit of a down. But it’s only really a matter of time before we figure it out and then we’ll be on the up, and things will be going good.”