FAU Baseball: Owls take two of three against UTSA

This was the first C-USA series victory for the Owls in the 2022 campaign.


Eston Parker III

Photo of senior left-hander Hunter Cooley pitching his way to a career-high 10 strikeouts on Friday night.

The FAU Owls baseball team (16-9, 3-3 C-USA) hosted the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Roadrunners (13-10, 2-4 C-USA) for a three-game set over the weekend. This was the first Conference USA (C-USA) series in Boca Raton this season.

Game 1 (Friday, March 25): UTSA 5, FAU 4

The Owls fell to the Roadrunners in the series opener on Friday, marking the fifth loss in the last six games.

UTSA plated two runs in the top of the third to open the scoring. Freshman designated hitter Isaiah Walker took a free base, then senior third baseman Jonathan Tapia slammed the ball past the left-field wall.

FAU responded in the bottom half with a run of its own. Sophomore shortstop Armando Albert singled and sophomore right fielder Gabriel Rincones Jr. walked to put two runners on with two outs. Sophomore first baseman Nolan Schanuel brought Albert home with a single on the next at-bat.

The Roadrunners kept the momentum going in the next inning, adding two more runs. Starting left-handed pitcher Hunter Cooley walked the first batter, then gave up a single and an RBI double.

The game remained quiet until Schanuel homered into the Owls’ bullpen just past the right field wall in the sixth inning. This reduced UTSA’s lead to a two-run advantage.

With the Owls trailing by three, heading into the final frame, head coach John McCormack decided to put a relief pitcher in. Redshirt sophomore right-hander Robert Wegielnik came in for Cooley.

Cooley threw 112 pitches and earned all five runs on eight hits and three walks. He also posted a career-high 10 strikeouts. 

“He’s an older guy, he deserves it,” McCormack said. “Our bullpen has been a little suspect and I thought he gave us the best chance to keep it at zero.”  

The Owls tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth but came up short, scoring two runs. Redshirt sophomore second baseman Steven Loden grounded a leadoff single and two at-bats later, sophomore left fielder Dylan Goldstein homered to right field.

“You rally in the ninth… I think it’s positive, and we played a good game defensively,” McCormack said.

FAU had a chance to stay alive, as sophomore catcher Caleb Pendleton walked in the next at-bat. Following him, sophomore centerfielder Jalen DeBose grounded into a fielder’s choice that forced Pendleton out at second base. McCormack didn’t agree with the call.

“[Pendleton] looked safe to me,” he said. “He looked like he kind of slid up on the base, but I don’t know.”

Schanuel finished the night 3-for-4 at the plate including two RBIs and a home run. 

“He’s really good, that’s what he does,” McCormack said. “I wish we had more of them like him.” 

Bryce Totz is the Sports Editor at the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected], or tweet him @brycetotz.    

Game 2 (Saturday, March 26): FAU 12, UTSA 9

FAU won the second game of the series Saturday night.

“After last night’s tough loss, it was good to bounce back and rebound,” said head coach John McCormack. “UTSA is a tough team… They are very well-coached.” 

UTSA wasted no time by getting runs on the board in the first inning. Senior third baseman Jonathan Tapia smashed a home run over the left field fence on the first pitch of the game. Senior first baseman Ryan Flores followed up with a two-run homer later in the inning, giving the Roadrunners an early three-run lead.

In the bottom of the second inning, sophomore shortstop Armando Albert hit a three-run home run, leveling the game at three apiece. Sophomore third baseman Jalen DeBose singled and sophomore left fielder Dylan Goldstein walked earlier in the inning.

“Armando Albert played with a sense of urgency today, got a couple of hits, and really got us going with the three-run homer,” said McCormack. “And on top of that, he played really good in the field.”

The Roadrunners did, however, reclaim their lead by the third inning with freshman shortstop Matt King’s single down left field, giving junior center fielder Shane Sirdashney the opportunity to run home. 

In the bottom of the third inning, junior third baseman Jackson Ross was on base and sophomore second baseman Steven Loden cracked one over the fence to take back the lead once again for the Owls, 5-4.

FAU kept the pressure from then on, getting RBIs from sophomore right fielder Gabriel Rincones Jr., Albert, and Ross. DeBose and senior designated hitter Shane Magrann scored in the fourth to extend the Owls’ lead to 8-4. 

The Owls didn’t stop there. In the sixth inning, Loden hit his second home run of the game with Ross already on first base. Sophomore first baseman Nolan Schanuel hit his first solo home run of the game as well, bringing their lead to 11-5. 

“Steven Loden has been getting his hits but hasn’t been driving the ball,” McCormack said. “He comes up today and hits two opposite-field home runs.”

In the seventh inning, Rincones Jr. hit his second RBI of the game, driving in DeBose to score FAU’s 12th run. 

In the final innings, UTSA got a few runs back, closing the gap slightly to 12-9.

Game 3 (Sunday, March 27): FAU 8, UTSA 4

FAU won the weekend series Sunday afternoon.

The Owls took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore left fielder Dylan Goldstein smacked a three-run home run with graduate designated hitter Tyler Kelder and sophomore second baseman Steven Loden scoring on the play.

The lead didn’t last, however, as UTSA responded quickly, first with a solo home run from freshman first baseman Isaiah Walker at the top of the third inning. Then, junior catcher Sammy Diaz scored from senior right fielder Chase Keng’s RBI. Senior third baseman Jonathan Tapia hit an RBI double with a line drive down left field, Walker and Keng scored, and gave UTSA a 4-3 lead.

Senior catcher Nicholas Toney homered in the fourth with Kelder on base to give the Owls a 5-4 lead.

“Offensively, we did what we needed to do. The Goldstein home run really helped, and Nick Toney came up with a couple of big hits too,” said head coach John McCormack. “He hasn’t had a whole lot of playing time recently so I’m really proud of him.”

The game slowed down for a few innings until the bottom of the seventh where junior third baseman Jackson Ross hit a two-run home run with sophomore first baseman Nolan Schanuel on base, making it 8-4.

The Owls held onto their four-run lead with great pitching from reliever sophomore right-hander Jacob Josey.

“Josey kind of bailed us out again,” said McCormack. “He did the same thing last Sunday. He was really good. He threw strikes. The one thing he does is he competes, and it was great to see.”

Josey threw 95 pitches across six innings and allowed one run on three hits and three walks.

The Owls will travel to Orlando to face the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights on Tuesday, March 29, at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Matthew Aguilar-Lizzi is a staff writer at the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected], or tweet him @mattaguilarUP.