FAU Baseball: Owls sweep three-game series over Western Kentucky

FAU outscored WKU 22-13 over the three games.

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Nicholas Windfelder

University Press stock photo of sophomore right fielder Gabriel Rincones Jr.

The FAU Owls baseball team (24-13, 10-5 C-USA) faced the Western Kentucky University (WKU) Hilltoppers (13-22, 4-11 C-USA) in Boca Raton for a three-game series. The series took place from Thursday, April 14, through Saturday, April 16. FAU won all three games.

Game 1 (Thursday, April 14): FAU 5, WKU 3

The Owls won Thursday’s contest over WKU 5-3.

WKU built a hill quickly by plating all three of its runs in the first inning. Junior second baseman Tristin Garcia singled up the middle to lead off the game, and sophomore shortstop Aidan Gilroy slammed a ball past the right field wall for the first two runs of the game. Freshman designated hitter Ty Batusich singled and was brought home via an RBI double from senior third baseman Justin Carlin.

“It wasn’t good… But I had faith,” head coach John McCormack said. “We’ve got to be better coming out of the bullpen or starting the game. That’s two weeks in a row we’re down 3-0 Friday night, but [Hunter] Cooley was able to rally and get it done.” 

FAU climbed back in the bottom of the second and tied the game at three apiece. Sophomore third baseman Jackson Ross singled up the middle and freshman second baseman Dom Presto was hit by a pitch. Sophomore shortstop Armando Albert smacked an RBI single to clear the bases. Albert advanced to second after a throwing error and was brought home after sophomore left-fielder Gabriel Rincones Jr. advanced to first on a throwing error.

“We got some hits and then we were fortunate that they made an error and we were able to capitalize on it,” McCormack said.

The Owls added a run in the fourth inning. Sophomore center-fielder Jalen DeBose singled and Albert reached on a fielding error, and Rincones Jr. grounded into a fielder’s choice.

FAU continued to fly in the seventh, as they scored another run. Sophomore catcher Caleb Pendleton fired a two-out double and Presto singled to bring him home.

“The big hit of the night, I thought it was [Presto] making it a 5-3 game. Offensively, it’s been a little bit of a struggle for him and to be able to get in there after some rough at-bats to whack a single to score one,” McCormack said. “If that ball drops, it’s a double or a triple, now you’re in a little bit of a pressure cooker.”

In the bottom of the ninth, WKU’s leadoff batter fired a ball down the right field line that could have resulted in extra bases, but Rincones Jr. made a diving catch to prevent it.

“It’s more impactful because it’s the first out of the inning and it takes some hope away from [WKU],” McCormack said.

Senior left-hander Hunter Cooley pitched a complete game and gave up all three runs in the first inning on four hits. He finished the evening with 119 pitches and eight strikeouts. 

“It was his game, he’s old enough, he’s a grown man,” McCormack said. “I left it up to 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 (Friday, April 15): FAU 8, WKU 7

The Owls defeated WKU 8-7 on Friday evening in a back-and-forth game. 

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Sam Drumheller got the start for the Owls, as he pitched perfectly in the top of the first inning. The offense got going early for FAU, as sophomore left-fielder Dylan Goldstein drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. 

Drumheller gave up an RBI single in the second inning, allowing WKU to tie the game. He survived the second inning but was pulled from the third inning after allowing another RBI single, surrendering the lead to WKU. The score was 2-1 when FAU made the pitching change.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Nicholas Del Prado was brought in to relieve Drumheller. Del Prado quickly surrendered three runs to WKU, increasing the Owls’ deficit to four. 

The Owls wasted no time making up the deficit, as sophomore first baseman Nolan Schanuel drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the third inning. 

In the third, FAU plated two more runs on a slew of mishaps by WKU which saw two FAU batters hit by pitches. Two runners scored on an error thrown by the Hilltoppers to make the score 5-4 headed into the fifth inning. 

Junior left-hander Evan Waterbor allowed a home run in the fourth inning to increase WKU’s lead to 6-4. He allowed another homer in the fifth inning, in what was a rough outing for the pitcher. 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Owls’ bats began to percolate. Sophomore shortstop Armando Albert launched a solo homer to lead off the bottom half of the fifth inning, as Schanuel followed with a home run of his own to make the score 7-6.

Junior third baseman Jackson Ross came in the clutch with an RBI single to tie the game at seven apiece. A highlight play occurred in the top half of the eighth inning, as sophomore right-fielder Gabriel Rincones Jr. made a running catch in foul territory before crashing into and toppling over the fence. 

The clutch hitting continued for the Owls, as senior designated hitter Shane Magrann bolted a homer to have FAU up 8-7 in the eighth inning, keeping the Hilltoppers silent to secure the series victory. 

Kevin Garcia is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email him @[email protected], or tweet him @kevingar658.

Game 3 (Saturday, April 16): FAU 9, WKU 3

The Owls fired a barrage of four home runs as they dominated the Hilltoppers 9-3 to end the series Saturday afternoon.

“I thought we could have pitched a little better at times and we left a few runners on base throughout the weekend,” head coach John McCormack said. “But we got it done. Happy to get a sweep, keep pace with the league at 10-5, and at the halfway point, it’s pretty good.”

FAU committed a fielding error that allowed freshman designated hitter Ty Batusich to reach home plate for an unearned run, giving WKU the first lead of the game in the first inning.

Senior catcher Nicholas Toney made up for FAU’s aforementioned mistake by hitting a sac fly to center field in the bottom of the second, getting senior catcher Shane Magrann home to tie the game at one apiece.

The Owls’ offense exploded with five runs in the third inning. Gabriel Rincones Jr. launched his 13th home run of the season to right field, sophomore left fielder Dylan Goldstein smacked a two-run homer to right field that got him and sophomore first baseman Nolan Schanuel home, and Toney got an RBI single to left field to drive Magrann to home plate.

FAU added another run in the bottom of the fourth. Even though WKU completed a double play that got Goldstein and Schanuel out, Rincones Jr. managed to reach home to put his team up 7-1.

The Owls continued getting their home runs in the fifth inning, as Magrann struck one into right field for his second of the series and third this season.

Having a solid performance after five innings, Graduate left-handed pitcher Tyler Burnham came off the mound for redshirt senior right-hander Jacob Josey to check in. Burnham threw 67 pitches for eight groundouts, six flyouts, and one strikeout.

After a scoreless sixth inning, sophomore right-hander Tibur Rivero subbed in for Josey, who finished with 11 pitches, two flyouts, and a groundout.

WKU snapped its streak of five scoreless innings in the top of the seventh. Junior second baseman Tristin Garcia singled down center field as he brought sophomore outfielder Andrew Delaney home. As a result, redshirt sophomore left-hander Marc DeGusipe took Rivero’s place on the mound.

Junior infielder Jackson Ross fired a brilliant homer to right field in the bottom of the seventh, earning his fourth of the season and extending FAU’s lead to seven.

Even though WKU got a run back via a sac fly from Aidan Gilroy in the ninth inning, FAU prevented any chance of a comeback from happening as the Hilltoppers were unable to overcome the three errors they committed in the first half of the game.

The Owls stay in Florida for a quick stop to Fort Myers, taking on Florida Gulf Coast University on Tuesday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on YouTube.

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