Baseball: Pitchers shine in series against Middle Tennessee

Owl pitchers strike out 39 as FAU loses two of three in the second conference series of the year

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Baseball: Pitchers shine in series against Middle Tennessee

Sunday's starting pitcher Brandon Rhodes pitched six innings while striking out two batters and allowing two runs to start off Sunday's 7-6 loss. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Sunday's starting pitcher Brandon Rhodes pitched six innings while striking out two batters and allowing two runs to start off Sunday's 7-6 loss. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Michelle Friswell

Sunday's starting pitcher Brandon Rhodes pitched six innings while striking out two batters and allowing two runs to start off Sunday's 7-6 loss. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Michelle Friswell

Michelle Friswell

Sunday's starting pitcher Brandon Rhodes pitched six innings while striking out two batters and allowing two runs to start off Sunday's 7-6 loss. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Ryan Lynch, Contributing Writer

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A sick pitcher, extra innings, the first conference losses of the season and strikeouts galore all awaited the no. 19 ranked Florida Atlantic Owls in their three-game series against the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Blue Raiders.

FAU (20-5, 4-2 C-USA) picked up one of three wins in the series, striking out a total of 39 MTSU (13-8, 5-1 C-USA) batters over those contests. This is the first time this season the Owls have lost a series, but they have now won four of their six conference games through two series.

Shortstop CJ Chatham picked up one run and one hit in Friday's 4-2 victory over Middle Tennessee. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Shortstop CJ Chatham picked up one run and one hit in Friday’s 4-2 victory over Middle Tennessee. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Game 1:

FAU 4- MTSU 2

Junior pitcher Kyle Miller was called on for the sixth time this season to start for the Owls, looking to to improve upon his 3-1 record. Miller was not feeling well before the game started due to a stomach bug.

“We were happy to get what we got out of him,” said head coach John McCormack. “He was throwing up in the bullpen before the game.”

Miller lasted four and a third innings despite the sickness, giving up two runs on seven hits. He struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.

Reily Monkman relieved Miller in the fifth inning, and helped FAU keep runs off the scoreboard in his longest outing of the season. In three and two thirds innings of work, Monkman struck out nine, walked none and gave up no runs.

FAU’s pitchers (Miller, Monkman, and senior Bo Logan) combined for 18 strikeouts, a new school record for a single game. All three pitchers did not walk a single batter the whole game.

Down 2-0 in the fifth inning, FAU rallied around two two-run innings.  Freshman center fielder Roman Collins, Junior left fielder Christian Dicks, sophomore shortstop CJ Chatham and sophomore second baseman Stephen Kerr each had a single in the fifth, while designated hitter Esteban Puerta, freshman catcher Ryan Miller and Dicks each hit a single in the sixth.

“It’s the second time around, we have older guys, they understand what to do,” said McCormack on his team’s experience helping them get things going late. “These guys know how to generate runs. We got some big hits.”

Puerta, Dicks, and Kerr each had an RBI to finish the game. Monkman was the winning pitcher, his fifth of the year. Logan received the save for his inning of relief, his fourth of the season. MTSU pitcher Jonathan Frebis received the loss, his second of the year.

 

Game 2:

MTSU 5- FAU 3 (11)

Senior pitcher Drew Jackson got the call for the Owls in the second game, looking to take momentum into his outing. In seven innings of work, Jackson gave up three runs (two earned) while striking out seven and walking one.

Meanwhile, Nate Hoffman started things on the mound for the Blue Raiders. Pitching five and two thirds innings, Hoffman surrendered three runs (two earned) on four hits. He struck out and walked two each.

MTSU scored two runs in the third to put the first runs of the game on the board, but FAU junior and right fielder Brendon Sanger hit a solo home run, his second of the year, to bring the Owls within one, 2-1.

Another Blue Raider run in the fourth gave MTSU a 3-1 lead. After a single by Roman Collins and a walk by Esteban Puerta, CJ Chatham singled  Collins home to bring the Owls closer, 3-2.

Chatham tied the game at three in the sixth inning by driving in Puerta, who reached on an error and got to third after Christian Dicks doubled.

After both teams failed to score before the end of the ninth, the game went to extra innings. The Blue Raiders scored two runs off a double, an intentional walk, a fielder’s choice and a single by Ronnie Jabavy put MTSU up 5-3.

FAU was unable to score in the bottom of the inning, resulting in their first conference loss of the season.

Middle Tennessee’s Sam Aldon earned the win after three and two thirds innings of work, his third of the year. Nathan Forriest earned a save for the Blue Raiders, his fourth of the year. Bo Logan received his first loss of the season after giving up two runs in an inning of work.

Game 3:

MTSU 7 – FAU 6 (12)

Brandon Rhodes started the final game of the series, pitching four previous starts without earning a win. The junior pitched six innings, giving up two runs on nine hits with two strikeouts with a walk.

Garrett Ring began the game on the mound for MTSU, but was quickly taken off after giving up five runs in three innings of work. Ring walked two and struck out one.

FAU’s largest offensive inning came in the fourth. Stephen Kerr, Ricky Santiago, Esteban Puerta and Brett Lashley each had a hit in the inning, helping the Owls go up 5-2 against the Blue Raiders.

After walking earlier in the inning, Santiago was driven by a Christian Dicks’ groundout in the fifth, bolstering the Owls lead, 6-2.

In the top of the ninth, Bo Logan came out to try to secure the win for FAU, holding a 6-3 lead in hand. Logan let MTSU back into the game, giving up three runs in his only inning of work.

“It’s definitely worrisome,” said head coach John McCormack of his senior pitcher’s struggles. “But you look at his career with us, his consistency in the past gives us confidence to go with him.”

The Owls were unable to score in the bottom of the inning, bringing the game into extra innings for the second time in two games.

FAU and Middle Tennessee battled it out until the twelfth, when the Blue Raiders broke the game open with a RBI single by catcher Michael Adkins to put MTSU up 7-6.

The Owls were unable to score in the bottom of the 12th, giving Middle Tennessee their second win in a row in extras and fifth conference win of the season.

John Sabelle was charged with the loss after pitching the final three innings, his first of the year. Nathan Foriest received the win for Middle Tennessee after pitching the final five innings for the Blue Raiders, his second of the season. Foriest had pitched in the second game as well.

“If you had told me we’d be 20-5 and 4-2 in the conference at the start of the season, I’d be completely fine with that,” said McCormack on his team’s early success. “We definitely were not going to be undefeated in conference play.”

FAU will next play a three game series at UT-San Antonio starting March 27.