FAU Baseball: Owls suffer series sweep on the road against Charlotte

FAU was outscored 34-27 in the series against Charlotte.

Photo+by+Eston+Parker+III.

Photo by Eston Parker III.

The FAU Owls baseball team (15-13, 4-4 C-USA) went on the road this weekend, getting swept in a four-game series against the Charlotte 49ers (17-10, 7-1 C-USA). 

Here’s the University Press game-by-game recap of the action.

 

Game 1 (Friday, April 2, 2021): Charlotte 9, FAU 5

The Owls’ five-game winning streak was snapped Friday afternoon against the University of Charlotte, as the 49ers rode sophomore third baseman Austin Knight’s offensive explosion to a 9-5 comeback victory in the series opener.

The game started well for FAU, as it scored two runs in the first inning to jump on top of Charlotte. The Owls had four straight hits on 3-2 counts, including a double into the right field gap by freshman first baseman Nolan Schanuel and an RBI single by sophomore third baseman BJ Murray.

In the bottom half of the first, Knight’s offensive wizardry for the 49ers started. He hammered a hanging curveball into the trees beyond the left-field fence, cutting the Owls’ lead in half. It was Knight’s fifth homer of the season and extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

After FAU’s sophomore left-handed pitcher Hunter Cooley escaped a jam in the second inning, FAU struck for a run in the top of the third. Murray hit a one-out solo home run to right field, his fifth of the season, to put FAU back on top by two. 

Knight blasted an RBI double off of the wall in center field to cut FAU’s lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the third and then scored on a shallow sacrifice fly to redshirt freshman second baseman Sam Low. Low appeared to rush himself when he saw Knight tagging up, and threw the ball wide past sophomore catcher Nicholas Toney.

Cooley struggled throughout the game, failing to strikeout a batter and giving up seven hits, including four doubles in three innings of work.

The Owls had traffic on the bases in each of the first six innings, scoring five runs and building a two-run lead on two separate occasions, but it wasn’t enough to withstand the offensive eruption from Charlotte in the bottom of the fourth inning. 

FAU scattered eight hits off of Charlotte’s sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Bryce McGowan, but were unable to come up with the timely hits when they needed it. McGowan’s defense was solid behind him, as FAU hit into two double plays in crucial situations, letting McGowan off the hook. Sophomore shortstop Jack Dragum made two spectacular plays in the field to keep the Owls off the board.

The Owls briefly regained the lead in the top of the fourth, scoring two to make it 5-3, but the 49ers responded in the bottom of the fourth. Charlotte batted around the order, scoring five runs on four hits. After an RBI double from freshman center fielder Jake Cunningham and a single by senior second baseman Carson Johnson tied the game, Knight crushed a two-run double off of the left field wall, giving Charlotte the lead for good. Charlotte added another run on a sacrifice fly.

FAU’s last chance to get back into the game came in the top of the sixth inning, but Schanuel hit into a double play with two men on and one out to end the threat.

McGowan went six innings and gave up five runs with four strikeouts for the 49ers.

The Owls did not record a hit in the final three innings, as Charlotte’s bullpen slammed the door shut on any attempt of a comeback.

Knight tormented the Owls all game long, going 3-5 with two doubles, a home run, and four RBIs. Freshman designated hitter Will Butcher added three RBIs. The 49ers had 11 hits on the offensive end. 

Murray and Schanuel had two RBIs apiece for FAU. Schanuel is now riding a five-game hitting streak. Redshirt junior relief pitcher Thomas Haggerty left the game with an apparent injury after relieving Cooley. Five FAU batters were hit by pitches in the game.

 

Game 2 (Saturday, April 3, 2021): Charlotte 9, FAU 8

The first inning held little action for the visiting Owls. With no recorded base runners, Charlotte’s sophomore pitcher Austin Marozas made quick work of the Owls. 

The 49ers earned one run in the bottom of the first, courtesy of freshman infielder Gino Groover reaching second and driving in one run. 

Third baseman BJ Murray hit a home run over the fence in the second inning to even the game at 1-1, his second of the series. 

FAU’s pitching highlighted the second frame with marvelous work on the mound from freshman Dante Visconti as he took out two batters following a ground ball to close the inning. 

Carson Johnson came to the dish and hit a home run to help Charlotte move ahead 2-1 in the third inning. Murray flashed the leather for a quality out at first base, and freshman catcher Caleb Pendleton gunned down an attempted steal of second to retire Charlotte and end the inning. 

Visconti struggled in the fourth inning against Charlotte.  Pendleton committed a throwing error to first base, allowing the runner to reach first and the lead-off hitter to advance all the way to third. Charlotte then put down a bunt and it was poorly executed, resulting in a flyout and an onslaught of runs began. 

Charlotte scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth. A crucial double steal play put Pendleton in a situation in which his throw down to second allowed a runner from third to steal home. The 49ers tallied six hits in the inning and pitcher Brock Helverson replaced Visconti as a result. Helverson weathered the storm to the best of his ability but conceded one run. 

Johnson had a gem of a performance for the 49ers, going 5-5 and hitting the eventual walk-off hit.

Wenstrom hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning after junior infielder Jared DeSantolo reached on a catching error in center field that appeared to be a routine catch but ended up on the ground, helping the Owls reduce the deficit to four.

The sixth inning included fireworks for the FAU offense. Mitchell Hartigan reached second on a lead-off double, then Nolan Schanuel moved him to third on a tricky groundout. Murray then came to the plate and continued his hot batting streak and drove in Hartigan from third with an RBI single. 

Pendleton went to first after being struck by a fastball. Charlotte switched from Marozas to Christian Lothes for pitching, but it didn’t even matter. Senior outfielder Bobby Morgensen immediately reached on an infield single and the bases were loaded. Up came Nicholas Toney as he hit a grand slam for the Owls to lead 8-7. 

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Murray made a good throw on the run, but the Charlotte runner beat it out and earned a safe call. Braden Ostrander was then brought in to pitch for the Owls. Johnson knocked in a run for the 49ers and it was tied 8-8.

The game saw Charlotte’s Carson Johnson hit a walk-off hit to center field after the 49ers loaded the bases with no outs, getting the needed run in the bottom of the 8th to win the game. 

 

Game 3 (Saturday, April 3, 2021): Charlotte 5, FAU 4

FAU was unable to bounce back in the second game of the doubleheader, losing in the final moments against the 49ers.

The Owls started the first inning with two home runs from Hartigan and Murray, having the score be 2-0 in FAU’s favor. Charlotte responded with an RBI single to left field by first baseman Will Butcher, who drove in Carson Johnson to get a run back.

After two scoreless innings, Jared DeSantolo got an RBI in the top of the fourth inning after sacrificing a groundout to bring Nicholas Toney to home plate. Sam Low then hit a single to left field, driving in Bobby Morgensen to have the Owls up 4-1.

The 49ers quickly responded with two RBIs of their own in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore catcher Aaron McKeithan first hit a double to left field to drive junior catcher Craig Keuchel home, and then freshman outfielder Jake Cunningham hit a triple to center field to get McKeithan to home plate, keeping the score at a one-run deficit.

Redshirt junior pitcher Matt Sparling subbed out near the end of the fourth inning for junior Mike Entenza to come in. Sparling finished his day throwing 68 pitches and having an ERA of 6.3.

Charlotte tied the game in the sixth inning when senior outfielder Todd Elwood hit a single to right field, driving sophomore outfielder Hunter Baker to home plate as a result.

FAU faltered terribly in the top of the final inning, suffering a groundout from Jackson Wenstrom, a flyout from senior infielder Wilfredo Alvarez, and a strikeout from Hartigan.

The 49ers got the game-winning run by a single to left field from Keuchel, driving home freshman outfielder Dominic Pilloli to end the game.

Entenza ended his pitching play throwing 56 pitches and getting an ERA of 4.2.

 

Game 4 (Sunday, April 4, 2021): Charlotte 11, FAU 10

The same story was told once again in the final game of the series, as Charlotte completed the sweep at FAU’s expense.

FAU struck first with a single to right field from BJ Murray that brought Nolan Schanuel and Mitchell Hartigan to home plate.

Having conceded two runs, the 49ers subbed out sophomore pitcher Hale Sims in favor of sophomore Kolton Scherbenske. Sims ended his day early throwing 45 pitches and striking out three FAU batters.

After a scoreless second inning, the Owls scored again in the top of the third inning when Bobby Morgensen got an RBI after getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, bringing home Hartigan as a result.

Charlotte got their first runs in the bottom of the third when Todd Elwood hit a single to center field driving home Jake Cunningham and a double RBI from Will Butcher, tying the game at 3 runs apiece.

The Owls took back the lead in the top of the fourth via a single to center field by Schanuel that brought home freshman infielder Cade Parker.

FAU added another run to the game in the fifth inning after Caleb Pendleton sacrificed a groundout that advanced Nicholas Toney to home plate.

Charlotte refused to give up despite FAU’s efforts. That was proved evident in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore infielder Austin Knight batted a two-run home run to have the game tied once again.

After that, FAU replaced sophomore pitcher Javi Rivera with freshman Sam Drumheller. Rivera pitched 4.1 innings, threw 91 balls, and struck out three Charlotte batters.

Unfortunately, the Owls could not keep the 49ers away from taking the lead when a wild pitch from Drumheller allowed Gino Groover to get to home plate, taking the lead for Charlotte.

Schanuel continued his breakout season with a spectacular home run in the sixth inning that allowed FAU to tie the game once again.

Charlotte just wouldn’t go away in this game getting a triple to center field from Knight to bring Elwood home and then Groover sacrificing a flyout that allowed Knight to score as well, giving Charlotte the 8-6 lead to end the sixth.

After pitching 2.1 innings, Drumheller came off the mound for Brock Helverson to check-in. Drumheller threw 50 pitches and got two strikeouts.

The Owls were unable to prevent the scoring onslaught brought to them in the seventh inning as Elwood doubled to center field to bring Dragum home and Carson Johnson got a double RBI after hitting a single to left field, extending Charlotte’s lead to five.

FAU found a lifeline in the top of the final inning, getting back-to-back home runs from Schanuel and Murray and a single to left field by Jared DeSantolo that brought sophomore catcher Shane Magrann home. Unfortunately, it was not enough as Charlotte caught a pop-out from Wilfredo Alvarez that ended the game and the series.

The Owls return home to FAU Baseball Stadium to host the next four-game series against the Old Dominion Monarchs on April 9 at 5 p.m., April 10 at 2 p.m. (doubleheader), and April 11 at noon. The series will be broadcast on C-USA TV.

Michael Gennaro is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or follow him on Instagram @mycoolgennaro

Alex Downing is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or follow him on Instagram @alex_ddowning

Richard Pereira is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Rich26Pereira.