Baseball takes two of three from Old Dominion

The Owls sit behind MTSU by one loss for first in Conference USA.

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Baseball takes two of three from Old Dominion

FAU players celebrate  after a win vs Old Dominion on April 26. The Owls beat ODU 6-4 during the tournament. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

FAU players celebrate after a win vs Old Dominion on April 26. The Owls beat ODU 6-4 during the tournament. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Michelle Friswell

FAU players celebrate after a win vs Old Dominion on April 26. The Owls beat ODU 6-4 during the tournament. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Michelle Friswell

Michelle Friswell

FAU players celebrate after a win vs Old Dominion on April 26. The Owls beat ODU 6-4 during the tournament. Photo by Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Ryan Lynch, Staff Writer

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No. 14 ranked Florida Atlantic (33-10, 15 – 6 C-USA) took two of three from Old Dominion during their weekend series, but are still behind Middle Tennessee by a loss for first place in the Conference USA standings. FAU could gain ground in the series if MTSU drops at least one of their two games against Marshall.

The Monarchs (20-23, 7-14 CUSA) are now second -to-last in the conference standings, and risk missing the conference tournament, which starts May 20.

During the weekend, the Owls became the last team in C-USA to hit double digit losses. FAU still holds the best overall record in the conference with 13 regular season games left to play.

FAU hit a total of five home runs this weekend, tying their record for a series. Previously, the Owls hit five against Rutgers during their series from March 6-8.

Junior right fielder Brendon Sanger had a huge offensive weekend, picking up six hits in 10 at-bats to go with with five RBIs. Sophomore shortstop CJ Chatham was also strong for the Owls, going 5-for-10.

The Owls, who are ranked as low as ninth in some national polls, could possibly be the top seed in the NCAA Regional tournament if their good play continues through the remainder of the season.

Here’s what you need to know from the three games this series:

 

Game One:

Esteban Puerta. Michelle Friswell| Associate Editor

Esteban Puerta prepares to field a ground ball during the third game of the series. Michelle Friswell| Associate Editor

ODU 15, FAU 3

Kyle Miller made his 11th start of the season for the Owls on Friday, but had trouble getting out of the first inning. The junior pitcher gave up four runs (one earned) on three hits in an inning of work, giving the Monarchs a very early 4-0 lead.

“He didn’t have it,” Head coach John McCormack said of Miller, who had his shortest outing of the season. “Didn’t feel good, didn’t feel like he had anything, so there’s no reason to put him back out there.”

David McKay took over for Miller in the top of the second, and began with a rough inning of his own, giving up three runs on two hits. McKay would end up lasting four innings giving up four runs on four hits with two strikeouts and two walks

FAU did not register a hit until the third inning, when freshman catcher Ryan Miller hit a solo home run (the first of his career) to put the Owls on the board 7-1. Sophomore designated hitter Stephen Kerr and junior second baseman Brett Lashley were the only other Florida Atlantic players to record an RBI during the game.

Sophomore first baseman Esteban Puerta had a rough night in the field, making two errors in the first two innings before getting his bearings back.

“He’s intermittently played over there, and he’s played a good first base.” McCormack said of Puerta. “Except for tonight. That should not have been an error. If [Kyle] Miller covers the base, it’s not an error. He got caught being a spectator on the play.”

“The other one [Puerta] got caught in between. He started to charge it and then he was gonna play it back. Once you start doing that, you’re done.”

Sophomore pitcher Sam Sinnen was a major factor for Old Dominion’s success. He pitched seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits while preventing FAU from driving in the runners they had on base.

Freshmen pitchers Blake Sanderson and Alex House Weston Clemente each gave up four more runs in the final four innings for the Owls, while Weston Clemente gave up none.

The 15 runs the Owls gave up is the most they have surrendered this season. The last time  they had given up double-digit runs this year was at UTSA on March 28, in a 14-3 loss.

Sinnen was the winning pitcher, gaining his fourth win of the year and improving to 4-2. Kyle Miller received the loss for FAU, his second of the season, falling to 4-2 on the year.

“We weren’t sharp,” admitted McCormack “We hadn’t played in a week. We didn’t really get to practice because of the weather and exams. But, its no excuse. [ODU] did a great job.”

Game Two:

Brett Lashley. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Brett Lashley slides safely into home during the second game of the series. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

FAU 8, ODU 1

Sophomore Sean Labsean was slated as FAU’s starter for Saturday, but pitched only 2 ⅓ innings due to two separate weather delays in the first and third innings.

“Labsean did all he could do,” explained McCormack on Labsean’s exit. “But by the time the second rain delay was over, he had warmed up at 3:30 and it was 6:00. We couldn’t send him out there again.”

Labsean gave up four hits but did not surrender a run, setting the stage for John Sebelle.The senior pitcher pitched 3.2 innings of shutout baseball in the longest appearance of his career. Sebelle did not surrender a hit on a walk and four strikeouts.

“He’s come in and got two outs here, an out there.” McCormack said. “But to go 3 ⅔ was impressive.”

The Owls’ offense came alive in the first two innings. An RBI single by junior centerfielder Roman Collins in the first and a sacrifice fly by Brett Lashley put the Monarchs’ starter Nick Heartman on his heels early.

Senior Greg Tomchick replaced Heartman in the third after the second weather delay, giving up a solo home run to Esteban Puerta in the third and extending the FAU lead to 3-0. It would prove to be the only run and hit Tomchick would give up in his two innings of work for ODU.

Brendan Sanger had two home runs for himself throughout the game, one in the fifth inning and one in the eighth.

“No, not really,” McCormack joked when asked if Sanger had a good day. “Left on left is never easy, and then to do it twice … The first one got us to four, and then the next one gave us some breathing room. He’s swinging the bat well, he’s seeing it well. Hope he continues tomorrow, they’re throwing another lefty.”

Sanger went 3-for-3 by day’s end, with three RBIs and two walks.

Shortstop Zach Rutherford had the Monarchs only run when he hit a home run off Owls senior reliever Riley Monkman. Monkman was replaced by senior pitcher Bo Logan after the home run. Logan, who was originally brought in for a save opportunity, had his save was nullified when the Owls went on a four-run offensive push in the bottom of the eighth, including the two-run Sanger home run.

“This is his third time since being back, and its been good.” McCormack said of Logan’s return to consistency.“He was phenomenal at FGCU last Tuesday, and then Sunday he was really good at Southern Miss.”

Logan pitched one and a third innings to close out the game, only giving up one hit while striking out one.

Sebelle received the win for the Owls, his third of the year. Heartman received the loss for Old Dominion, his fifth this season.

 

Game Three:

Brandon Rhodes. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

Brandon Rhodes delivers a pitch during his start. He earned his second win of the season on Sunday in an 8-2 win. Michelle Friswell | Associate Editor

FAU 8, ODU 2

Junior Brandon Rhodes was called on to start the rubber game against the Monarchs, and kept his team’s momentum. In the five and two thirds innings he pitched, he gave up one run on six hits while striking out two and walking one.

Rhodes got some early help in the bottom of the first, when Brendon Sanger drove in the first run of the game on a double to put the Owls up 1-0.

Esteban Puerta drove in another two runs in the fourth with his double to add to the FAU lead 3-0. Puerta went on to finish the game 3-for-3.

Reily Monkman came on to pitch for the second day in a row, entering midway through the top of the sixth, after Rhodes gave up a run to the Monarchs in the fifth. Monkman only faced two batters, forcing one to ground out and walking the other.

Junior leftfielder Christian Dicks drove in a run with a single in the sixth to keep FAU ahead 4-1. The RBI was Dicks’ 34th this season.

In the top of the seventh, trouble reared its head when junior Devon Carr pitched himself into a bases loaded jam with an out.Seth McGarry replaced Carr, and was able to get out of the jam while surrendering only one run (Carr was charged with the run).

McGary got into another jam in the top of the eighth after walking the first two batters, but the junior retired the next three batters to escape once again. McGarry finished the game, pitching two and two-thirds innings, giving up no runs on one hit, while walking two and struck out one.

FAU put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four runs on a Brendon Sanger single, two-run Stephen Kerr home run and a CJ Chatham single to give the Owls an 8-2 lead.

Rhodes got the win, his second of the year. Sophomore starting pitcher Adam Bainbridge received the loss, his second of the season.