On a night when Florida Gulf Coast’s basketball team made national news, its baseball team took care of business as well.
Ricky Knapp out-dueled East Tennessee State freshman Griffin Krieg as the Eagles beat the Bucs 3-2 Friday night at Thomas Stadium.
Nick Rivera’s RBI single in the ninth inning broke a 2-2 tie and made a hard-luck loser out of Krieg, who held the Eagles to three runs (two earned) on nine hits over 81â„3 innings. Krieg (2-1) also struck out a career-high seven batters.
“I’m really proud of Griffin,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said. “He went pitch to pitch with one of the best pitchers in the country tonight.”
Knapp, the reigning Atlantic Sun Conference pitcher of the year, allowed seven hits and two runs in eight innings. He had eight strikeouts and improved to 5-0.
Afterward, Knapp admitted he learned of his school’s 78-68 victory over Georgetown in the NCAA basketball tournament before the baseball game was finished.
“I found out after I came out of the game in the ninth inning,” he said. “Our trainer came up and told me. I was pretty astounded. Hopefully they can keep it going.”
Florida Gulf Coast coach Dave Tollett was also being kept up to date on the happenings in Philadelphia.
“Our trainer was telling me, but he kept it quiet,” Tollett said. “That’s a great win, just for our whole university and our community. It’ll be nice to go home and watch those guys on SportsCenter.”
The Eagles (14-4 overall, 1-0 A-Sun) jumped out front in the second inning, scoring two runs thanks in part to a pair of ETSU errors. Krieg then pitched his way out of the jam, getting back-to-back strikeouts and a fly ball to right field to strand two runners in scoring position.
“They kind of had the momentum right there,” Krieg said. “That was tough. It could have gotten away there.”
Krieg’s heroics limited the damage, but with Knapp on the mound with his gaudy 0.87 ERA, Florida Gulf Coast figured that would be all the offense it needed.
But the Bucs (12-7, 2-2) had other ideas.
They tied it up in the fifth with a little help from an unexpected source. After Chris Riopedre and Jordan Sanford each singled, Knapp uncorked his first wild pitch of the season to score a run. After Knapp’s second wild pitch, Jeremy Taylor lined a shot to center field to score Sanford and hustled to second for a double.
Zach Thompson was hit by a pitch, bringing up Clinton Freeman, but the Bucs’ leading hitter grounded out to end the threat.
“They were able to capitalize on some mistakes I made there.” Knapp said. “I think I got a little bit outside of my game plan for a batter or two. That shows how quickly things can happen.”
Freeman, who hadn’t had a hit in his previous eight at-bats and had struck out in his first two trips on Friday, finally reached with a leadoff single in the eighth inning, but he was quickly erased on a superlative double play.
Andrew Green popped up a bunt attempt. Florida Gulf Coast catcher Mike Reeves snared it right in front of his mask and doubled Freeman off of first.
It was one of three failed sacrifice bunt attempts for ETSU.
“It’s crazy,” Skole said. “It bit us in midweek Wednesday. We practiced bunting on Tuesday and we did it again on Thursday. We didn’t hit. We just bunted. Because that’s a big part of our game. We’re not gonna bang the ball all over the park, so we have to execute.”
Brendan Bednar led off the top of the ninth with a ground-rule double to left field. After Michael Suchy successfully bunted him to third, Rivera stroked his winning hit to left. Another hit by Zack Tillery signaled the end of the night for Krieg, who kept ETSU in the game all night while throwing 125 pitches.
“Hey, hats off to their kid,” said Tollett, a graduate of Tusculum College. “That freshman’s legit. He was good. I’ll tell you what, they have something there for the next couple years.”
Taylor and Alex Reynolds each had two hits for the Bucs, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time all season.
Reeves, Bednar, Suchy and Rivera each had two hits for the Eagles.
The two teams have decided to play a doubleheader today, beginning at 2 p.m., because of impending a bad forecast for Sunday.