Baseball: Your guide to the Sun Belt Tournament, with FAU set to play Western Kentucky Wednesday night

Rolando Rosa

Second baseman Mike Albaladejo. Photo by Michelle Friswell.

For the second straight year, the Owls play the opening game of the Sun Belt Tournament against Western Kentucky, but this time as No. 1 seed.

FAU (31-20 overall, 19-8 in conference games) plays eighth seeded Western Kentucky on Wednesday, May 23, at 8 p.m.

Site of the tournament?  Bowling Green Ballpark, in Bowling Green, Ky.

“It’s tough when you are playing the host team in that stadium, where they always play well,” FAU head coach John McCormack said to OwlAccess.com. “It also makes it easier when they are the No. 8 seed, and they don’t have any pressure.”

From there, FAU plays Thursday against fifth seeded Louisiana-Monroe at 4 p.m, followed by a game Friday at 8 p.m. against fourth seeded South Alabama.

The tournament is split into two four-team pools (A and B) and the winners of each meet for the championship. In pool A: (1) FAU, (4) South Alabama, (5) Louisiana-Monroe and (8) Western Kentucky. In pool B: (2) Arkansas State, (3) FIU, (6) Troy and (7) Middle Tennessee.

For the Owls to advance to the championship game, they must have the most wins out of the three games in the tournament of the teams in pool A. If there is a tie between two teams in a pool, the team which wins the head-to-head game moves on. If a three-way tie occurs, the highest seeded team advances.

FAU took two out of three games in the regular season series from each of its pool opponents (Western Kentucky in May at home, South Alabama in April at home,  and Louisiana-Monroe in April on the road.)

As the first seed, the Owls will have Saturday off after they play their three pool games. The championship game is Sunday, May 27, at 2 p.m. The tournament winner automatically gains a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Last season in the Sun Belt Tournament in Monroe, La., the fifth seeded Owls fell to Western Kentucky 11-10 in 12 innings, eventual champion Troy 9-6, and finally University of Arkansas at Little Rock 5-3.

This season, Owls second baseman Mike Albaladejo is fourth in the conference in batting average (.354) and eighth in hits (70). Owls pitcher Ryan Garton is fifth in ERA (3.13) and has the best winning percentage of any starter in the conference with a 9-3 record. Overall, the Owls have the best team ERA (4.33) and most home runs of any team in pool A (41).