Baseball: Owls Fail to Advance in NCAA Regional Final

Fall to Florida Gators 2-1, Finishing season with 42-19 record

Pitcher+Kyle+Miller+delivers+a+pitch+during+the+Owls%27+May+8+game+against+Rice+.+Miller+was+one+of+six+Owls+picked+during+the+three+day+draft.+Photo+by+Michelle+Friswell
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Baseball: Owls Fail to Advance in NCAA Regional Final

Pitcher Kyle Miller delivers a pitch during the Owls' May 8 game against Rice . Miller was one of six Owls picked during the three day draft. Photo by Michelle Friswell

Pitcher Kyle Miller delivers a pitch during the Owls' May 8 game against Rice . Miller was one of six Owls picked during the three day draft. Photo by Michelle Friswell

Michelle Friswell

Pitcher Kyle Miller delivers a pitch during the Owls' May 8 game against Rice . Miller was one of six Owls picked during the three day draft. Photo by Michelle Friswell

Michelle Friswell

Michelle Friswell

Pitcher Kyle Miller delivers a pitch during the Owls' May 8 game against Rice . Miller was one of six Owls picked during the three day draft. Photo by Michelle Friswell

Ryan Lynch, Staff Writer

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The No. 20 ranked Florida Atlantic Owls ended their season Sunday night with a 2-1  loss to the Florida Gators in the final of the NCAA Regional tournament in Gainesville, Florida.

FAU made the Regional stage for the first time since joining Conference USA. Previously, their last appearance in 2013 was as a member of the Sun Belt conference.

The Florida Gators will move on to the NCAA Super Regionals, with the remaining teams after that going to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Owls finished the season 42-19 , a stark improvement from last year when they went 28-25 and missed the regional altogether. Here’s what you need to know from the Owls’ tourney run:

Game One:

USF 5, FAU 3

The Owls opened their regional with a game versus the South Florida Bulls (33-25-1).Senior Drew Jackson was the starting pitcher, working his second start of the postseason.

Jackson pitched five innings for the Owls, giving up four runs on seven hits while striking out three and walking two. A major concern for Jackson was his control. Of his 100 pitches thrown, 55 were strikes.

Trouble began early for the Owls, starting with two consecutive USF hits to score a run in the top of the first and notch their first lead 1-0.

FAU found an answer for the Bulls in the bottom of the inning, scoring two on a sacrifice fly by junior right fielder Brendon Sanger and a double by freshman center fielder Roman Collins to take control of the game 2-1.

USF scored two in the top of the second, on a single by senior shortstop Kyle Teaf. The lead once again changed hands, with the Bulls up 3-2.

The Owls tied the game at three in the bottom of the third, on a throwing error to third that scored junior left fielder Christian Dicks.

USF went on to score another run in the following half inning, on a double by freshman second baseman Kevin Merrill. The Bulls took the lead once again 4-3, and the Owls could not find an answer.

Sophomore designated hitter Luke Borders drove in an insurance run on a single in the seventh, extending the South Florida lead to 5-3. That’s where the score would stay, as the Owls would have only one baserunner reach in the final four innings.

Jackson went on to receive the loss, his fourth of the season. Meanwhile, junior Jimmy Herget earned the win for the Bulls, his 10th of the year.

Herget pitched seven innings for USF, surrendering three runs (two earned) on nine hits. Sophomore Tommy Peterson earned the save, tossing two hitless and scoreless innings.Peterson struck out three and walked one en route to his 16th save.

Game Two:

FAU 8 , FAMU 1

FAU Baseball’s next opponent would be the Florida A&M Rattlers (23-25), who had lost to the Florida Gators 19-0 during the previous day. The loser of this matchup would be sent home, and the Owls played off this need to perform.

Junior Kyle Miller received the start for the Owls, and gave his team a quality appearance out of the gates. Miller pitched five and 2/3rd innings, only giving up a single run on three hits. He struck out three and walked a batter.

The Owls took the first lead of the game in the top of the fourth, on sophomore first baseman Esteban Puerta’s double that scored Brendon Sanger.

Another run scored on Sophomore shortstop CJ Chatham’s fielder’s choice to second pushed the lead to 2-0.

The Rattlers answered back in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run from freshman designated hitter Brian Davis, putting their first run in and coming within one run 2-1.

Christian Dicks hit a solo home run of his own in the top of the sixth, a team leading eighth home run of the season. His timely hitting extended his team lead to 3-1, and they would not look back from there.

A two run double by senior Ricky Santiago (his seventh of the year), and a three-run homerun by Esteban Puerta in the ninth gave their team an 8-1 lead and put FAMU in an almost impossible deficit to counter.

Every Owls starter reached base at least once, and every player except freshman center fielder Roman Collins and junior pinch hitter Brett Lashley had at least one hit.

Miller received the win for his efforts, his seventh of the year. Freshman Ryan Anderson received the loss for the Rattlers, his fourth of the year.

With the loss, Florida A&M was eliminated from the regional and the Owls moved on to a rematch with the USF Bulls.

Game Three:

FAU 8, USF 4

It was deja vu for the Owls, who were once again knocking on the door of elimination with the team they had just lost to in their way.The stakes were high, as the winner would advance to face the Florida Gators in the finals.

FAU got on the board in the very first frame to start things off with a two run home run from Brendon Sanger to take a 2-0 lead.

After leaving four runners on base the first two innings, the Bulls bats went to work in the bottom of the third. Three straight USF runners reached base to load the bases, leading to a two-run double for Luke Borders that tied the game at two. A single by senior Austin Lueck drove in the go ahead run and made it 3-2.

Once again the Bulls loaded the bases on Owls junior starter Brandon Rhodes, and a two out single from senior first baseman Buddy Putnam made it 4-2. South Florida junior rightfielder Lucky Maglich tried to also score on the play, but a throw from Roman Collins to cut off man Esteban Puerta led to a play at the plate that ended the inning.

Rhodes went on to be replaced in the fifth by David McKay after surrendering four runs on eight hits while striking out two. His four walks hindered his ability to get out of innings and be effective, also being one of the main reasons he faced 23 batters over that short span.

In the top of the sixth, Roman Collins changed the Owls fortunes around. With the bases loaded, he hit a grand slam over the right field wall to give his team the lead once more 6-4. The home run was his seventh of the year.

A Ricky Santiago single scored a run with two outs in the top of the seventh, adding insurance to the Owl lead 7-4. Another two-out hit (a single by Collins) made it 8-4. The Owls would keep the bases loaded, but would not score again.

The Owls bullpen combined to pitch the final five innings without surrendering a run. McKay would pitch two innings while giving up only a hit, earning his fourth win. Bo Logan earned the save after pitching three innings without giving up a hit. He struck out  the final batter on his way to his sixth save of the season.

Junior Casey Mulholland received the loss, his ninth of the year. He gave up six runs on five hits in six innings of work. With the loss, USF was eliminated from the regional, finishing the season at 34-26-1. with the win, FAU improved their all time record against USF to 2-12.

Game Four:

UF 2, FAU 1

The Owls faced the no. 3 ranked team in the nation and hosted Florida Gators (47-16) in the final, needing to win to force a final game Monday.

Previously, the two teams met on Feb. 24. Florida took a 10-8 come from behind victory in the early season matchup.

Sophomore Sean Labsan was the choice of coach McCormack to start coming into the game, with much of his primary starting rotation used over the past few games and unable to pitch. Labsan kept his team in the game during his five inning appearance, giving up two runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out none.

Junior left fielder Billy Endris tripled to start the first inning. After a Ricky Santiago single that drove Endris in, the Owls had a 1-0 lead.

UF evened things at one in the fourth, on a throwing error to first by sophomore second baseman Stephen Kerr.

In the sixth, the Gators took their first lead. Freshman catcher JJ Schwarz singled home a run to make it 2-1, putting FAU’s season in the balance once again.

A lightning delay forced the tarp on the field before the ninth, but there was not a storm brewing for the Owls’ offense. There would only be a single from Esteban Puerta before the Owls were shut down by junior closer Taylor Lewis.

Labsan received the loss, his third of the year. Meanwhile, freshman Alex Faedo earned his fifth win this season. Faedo pitched six innings, giving up one run on three hits. Lewis earned his seventh save of the season.

The Gators moved on to the super regional stage of the NCAA tournament, and the Owls season was over.