Baseball: Owls record fifth straight win with weekend sweep of Marshall

The Owls improve to 26-6 in the season after sweeping Marshall University, outscoring them 25-8 in the process.

Brendan Feeney, Contributing Writer

Coming off a victory over the number six ranked UCF Knights on Wednesday night, the Florida Atlantic University Owls (26-6, 9-3 C-USA), who are the number 22 team in the nation according the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association’s poll, hosted the Marshall Thundering Herd (9-21, 2-10 C-USA) for a three-game weekend series.

FAU entered the weekend in third place in Conference-USA behind Rice and Middle Tennessee, and hold the best overall record in the conference. The Owls could jump as high as tied for first place in the conference standings after sweeping Marshall, depending on the outcome of Rice and Middle Tennessee’s game on Sunday.

“The guys came out and took care of business,” coach John McCormack said. “Anytime you get a sweep its really good….our guys really want to win and they care about each other. They care about winning, they care about FAU and they care about each other.”

Game 1:

Marshall 4, FAU 9

Sunday’s starting pitcher, junior Brandon Rhodes, threw for seven innings while only allowing one run on six hits. Marshall Friswell | Associate Editor

Sunday’s starting pitcher, junior Brandon Rhodes, threw for seven innings while only allowing one run on six hits. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

With the bases loaded in the top half of the fifth inning, two outs and a tie-game, coach McCormack called in senior relief pitcher John Sebelle. Sebelle struck out Marshall catcher Matt Reed to end the inning with the score still tied 3-3.

“Sebelle was awesome,” McCormack said. He changed the game and “gave us the next two plus innings of work.”

Sebelle (2-1) came in relief of starting pitcher, junior Kyle Miller. Miller, who threw four and one third innings, only had his fastball working and left the ball up in the zone too often. He ended the game allowing three runs (two earned), six hits and struck out five Marshall hitters.

“You can’t be out there with one pitch at this level,” said McCormack. “[Miller’s] just got to be better. Get it down, get it down, get it down.”

The Owls started their scoring early with a two-run-triple from freshman center-fielder Roman Collins in the first inning. It was Collins fourth triple of the season, which leads the conference. Sophomore’s CJ Chatham and Esteban Puerta each added two RBIs of their own.

Senior Ricky Santiago finished the game batting 2-for-4 with two doubles, one RBI and one run scored. Collins also hit 2-for-4 including a triple and scored twice.

Game 2:

Marshall 3, FAU 10

Junior second baseman Bret Lashley scores in Sunday’s noon victory over Marshall. Usually starting at first base, Lashley was moved over to second base this series due to an injury to sophomore Stephen Kerr. Marshall Friswell | Associate Editor

Junior second baseman Bret Lashley scores in Sunday’s noon victory over Marshall. Usually starting at first base, Lashley was moved over to second base this series due to an injury to sophomore Stephen Kerr. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Esteban Puerta started the scoring early for the Owls in the second game with a bases clearing double in the bottom of the first, giving senior starting pitcher Drew Jackson an early 3-0 lead to work with.

Jackson threw seven innings in the game, allowing two unearned runs, four hits and struck out one Marshall batter. He earned his fifth win of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.64. Jackson is now tied with the most wins in Conference-USA and also has the third lowest ERA in the conference.

Santiago and Collins each hit their fourth homerun of the season, in back-to-back fashion, extending the FAU lead to 5-0 after three innings.

Juniors Brett Lashley and Brendon Sanger both finished the game with two hits and two runs scored for the Owls.

Juniors Robbie Coursel and Seth McGarry; and senior Bo Logan combined to throw the last two innings, allowing one run in the process.

Game 3:

Marshall 1, FAU 6

Redshirt sophomore first baseman Esteban Puerta attempts to throw out a runner to hold Marshall to one run in Sunday’s 6-1 victory. Marshall Friswell | Associate Editor

Redshirt sophomore first baseman Esteban Puerta attempts to throw out a runner to hold Marshall to one run in Sunday’s 6-1 victory. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Junior pitchers Brandon Rhodes and Devon Carr allowed one combined run in the third and final game, helping FAU complete the weekend sweep of Marshall.

Rhodes threw a career-high seven innings, three of which were three-up-three-down innings. He ended the game allowing six hits, one run and struck out three Marshall hitters. It was Rhodes first win of the season.

“Brandon was fantastic today,” said McCormack. “We thought going into the game that he was a good matchup for them.” Marshall is an “aggressive” hitting team and with Rhodes’ changeup and off-speed pitches, McCormack believed his pitcher would be able to “get them on their front foot” disrupting the rhythm of the Marshall lineup.

“I just went out there and our whole game plan was executed really well,” said Rhodes. “My changeup was good and my curveball was a lot better today. I threw a lot more [curveballs] than I usually do, keeping their hitters off-balanced.”

Carr relieved Rhodes to start the eighth inning. He pitched the final two innings, striking-out three batters without allowing a run to cross the plate.

Junior Christian Dicks stole home in the sixth inning, after sophomore Stephen Kerr was caught in a run-down between first and second. It was Dicks fifth steal of the season in as many attempts. Dicks reached base three times in four plate appearances and Kerr recorded two hits in five at-bats.

All nine starters for the Owls reached base in the game and five different Owls scored. Lashley recorded two singles and two walks, reaching base four times in five plate appearances. Collins and Santiago each added two RBIs.

FAU will visit the No. 15 Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday. The Owls have already beaten the Hurricanes this season, 5-3, in a game played on February 18.