Baseball: Owls fly through rain, UAB

FAU sweeps the University of Alabama at Birmingham in series that saw a game postponed and another delayed over two hours due to weather.


Max Jackson

Shortstop C.J Chatham (10) high fives rightfielder Brendon Sanger (23) as he scores the tying run in the top of the eighth during the Owls 5-3 win over the university of Miami on Feb. 18, 2015. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

The Florida Atlantic baseball team sat through a rain out on Thursday and a rain delay on Friday, but still managed to sweep the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers to stay at the top of the Conference USA standings.

Thursday’s game was postponed to Friday, which became a doubleheader. The No. 18 Owls (18-4, 5-1 Conference USA) led 5-3 in the eighth inning when the game was forced to stop due to lightning in the area. After a delay lasting 2 hour and 16 minutes, the game resumed and the Owls ended up victorious, 5-3.

Sophomore pitcher Marc Stewart started the second game of Friday’s doubleheader. He entered with a 1.55 ERA, but was forced out of the game after giving up three runs in the first four innings. Senior pitcher Robbie Coursel relieved Stewart and went on to baffle the Blazers offense, allowing one hit in five shutout innings.

After two straight days of miserable weather, Saturday’s sun shined on FAU. The team scored four runs in the first inning, beginning with junior second baseman Stephen Kerr — Conference USA’s reigning hitter of the week — who reached base on an error.

Kerr’s first-inning run was all his pitchers would need as junior Sean Labsan, sophomores Alex House, Mark Nowatnick and senior Devon Carr threw a four-hit combined shutout.

“It was fantastic day,” head coach John McCormack said. “I’m proud of the guys, they got a sweep, it’s never easy to sweep, especially in conference play.”

The Owls became a lot more efficient in Sunday’s game, stranding only four runners after leaving a combined 23 runners on base on Saturday.

“Left on base is a funny stat,” McCormack said. “The good news guys are getting on, bad news is no one’s driving them in. We’re excited that we’re getting guys on, but we do have to do a better job hitting with runners in scoring position.”

Senior center fielder Billy Endris — who entered the weekend tied with teammate junior shortstop CJ Chatham posting the highest batting average on the team was not available this weekend due to a sore foot.

“He’s gotta see the doctor tomorrow and it’s in their hands hopefully he’ll be able to get back on the field tuesday,” McCormack said.

Hitter of the Weekend: CJ Chatham: The junior shortstop collected six hits, scored two runs and recorded three RBIs.

Pitcher of the Weekend: Sean Labsan: The senior pitcher threw six shutout innings in Sunday’s series finale, improving to 3-0 on the season.

“Goat” of the Weekend: N/A: Every Owl contributed over the weekend.

“We all played well,” McCormack said. “We played very good defense, we turned about six double plays, I think we did OK.”

The Owls have a busy week ahead on their schedule. They travel to Fort Myers, Florida, to take on Florida Gulf Coast University on Tuesday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. One day after that game, FAU will host the No. 4 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes. The week will finish with a three-game weekend series at Old Dominion University.

“They’re all big from here on out. Anytime you play the other state teams, they’re mini rivalries. You certainly want to win those games,” McCormack said. “Then of course, Old Dominion is having a great year and really playing well. We’ll eventually get to Norfolk, but we got some work to do before that.”

Here’s a recap of each game from this weekend:

Game One: UAB 3, FAU 5

The Owls started the series in a rather unorthodox way, scoring a run before recording their first hit. Kerr and senior right fielder Brett Lashley led off the game with back to back walks, then stole third and second base, respectively.

Kerr would score on a groundout by senior left fielder Christian Dicks, as the Owls captured the first run of the game for the 16th time this season.

UAB answered immediately against Rhodes, scoring two runs in the second inning on singles by sophomore designated hitter Holt Davis and freshman second baseman Blake Johnson.

In the fourth inning, the Owls responded with two runs of their own to recapture the lead 3-2. Junior first baseman Esteban Puerta, Labsan and junior third baseman Austin Langham loaded the bases with three consecutive singles. Freshman catcher Tyler Frank drew a walk to drive in a run and tie the game at two before Kerr drove in Labsan with a sacrifice fly.

Labsan singled in Dicks in the seventh inning before both teams put up a run in the eighth.

After the weather delay, junior pitcher Cameron Ragsdale notched his eighth save of the season.

Langham went 2-for-3 in the game with a walk and one run scored.

Senior Brandon Rhodes started the game on the mound for the Owls. He allowed two runs in seven innings of work and picked up his fourth win of the season.

Game Two: UAB 3, FAU 7

Stewart started the game on the right foot for the Owls, striking out the first three batters he faced. With his offense scoring two runs in the first two innings — via a Puerta single and a home run by sophomore catcher Gunnar Lambert — it appeared that he was in line for his fourth win of the season.

However after giving up a run in the second and two in the fourth, Stewart was removed from the game. Coursel entered the game in the fifth and shut down the Blazer offense for the rest of the game, allowing one hit in five shutout innings.

Kerr singled in the fourth inning to tie the game at three, which is where the score remained until the bottom half of the sixth inning.

Labsan led off the sixth, reaching base on a throwing error by UAB pitcher junior Dylan Munger. Langham, Lambert and sophomore center fielder Jose Bonilla Traverso followed Labsan with three straight walks. Kerr then drove in Langham with a sacrifice fly, the second run of the inning and third of the day without FAU recording a hit.

Chatham singled in the Owls third run of the inning. Two innings later he tripled in Kerr for FAU’s seventh and final run of the game.

He finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Game Three: UAB 0, FAU 5

For the third straight game of the series FAU pounced on the Blazers early, this time scoring four runs in the first inning.

“After a long day yesterday we got some rest and set the tone early with the four runs,” McCormack said.

The Owls received some help from UAB senior shortstop Adam Smith, who committed an error and allowed Kerr to reach base to lead off the inning. That helped create the momentum that led to four runs crossing the plate. All four were unearned.

FAU scored its fifth run in the eighth inning when Lashley scored on a Dicks’ bloop single that fell in between the UAB shortstop and center fielder.

Lasban threw the first six innings of the game. He was followed by House, Carr and Nowatnick.

“Today we were able to use four guys and everybody put up their zeros,” McCormack said

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @feeney42.