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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Baseball: Looking to meet and exceed expectations, the Owls Media Day shows a ready team

Head coach John McCormack, senior pitchers Braden Ostrander and C.J. Williams, senior outfielder Spencer Rich, and junior catcher John Schroeder spoke to the media Wednesday before the Owls’ inaugural AAC season.
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Erika Fletcher
Head baseball coach John McCormack talking to the media at FAU Baseball 2024 media day

On Wednesday, head baseball coach John McCormack, seniors pitchers Braden Ostrander and C.J. Williams and outfielder Spencer Rich, and junior catcher John Schroeder talked to the media prior to the 2023 AAC Season.

The four players first spoke to the media. Ostrander, coming off of a career-high 20.2 innings pitched and 24 strikeouts, noted the team’s overall goals heading into their first season in the American Athletic Conference.

“Managing expectations. In years past, we kind of fell short. We have very high expectations going into this year’s team. I think we’re not only going to meet those expectations but exceed them. I think our biggest challenge is not stopping until we reach that goal,” Ostrander replied.

Rich, among the nine seniors on the Owls roster, talked about how he plans on utilizing their final season at FAU.

C.J. Williams (left) and Spencer Rich (right) both speaking to the media (Erika Fletcher)

“Just taking it day-by-day. Not looking too far ahead. Taking one step forward, and just try to help my teammates as much as possible,” stated Rich, who finished his first year at FAU after transferring from Daytona State with .327 BA, 33 hits, 25 runs, and five home runs.

Playing more games last season compared to his freshman year in 2022, Schroeder finished the season with career-highs in hits with 54, runs with 30, RBIs with 39, and one stolen base. Schroeder expects to have a much larger role on the team, since starting catcher Caleb Pendleton signed with the MLB’s Los Angeles Angels.

“Just being a role model, going out early and setting standards for everybody and working as hard as I can. Taking it day-by-day, getting a little better every day, and play my game and play for the team,” Schroeder said.

Williams and McCormack both stated that the team’s end goal for this season is the NCAA Division 1 Baseball Tournament.

Ostrander says that the team isn’t unfazed by the schedule the Owls will be going on, which features three ranked schools, a couple of rounds against the University of Miami, and the 2023 AAC Baseball Champion Tulane University.

“College baseball for the most part is college baseball. We’d played teams many times out of the conference and had success. We just got to show up ready to play no matter who our opponent is. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to beat the other team in the dugout regardless of what conference they’re in,” Ostrander stated.

Former pitcher Hunter Cooley graduated from FAU last season and has taken the role of special assistant. Cooley was brought up during the media day.

Cooley will have an advisory role, stated McCormack, who is entering his 34th season at FAU, his 16th as head coach. McCormack said that Cooley will help pitching coach Jordan Tabakman with arm-care for the pitchers.

“We’re using him, along with the training staff as more healthcare, arm-care. And then we have some more conversations. He’ll let me in on stuff that he sees. He’ll let Jordan in on stuff that he sees,” said McCormack. “I think it’s important for the players to look at someone that spent five years here and did everything correctly, both on and off the field, and had success and they can go to him and ask him and say, ‘Hey, how did you feel about this or how did you feel about this?’ So, I think it’s very important. I always enjoy any of our previous guys getting into coaching.”

During the offseason, the Owls lost multiple players. Most notably, former infielder and first baseman Nolan Schanuel, who was the highest draft pick in the program’s history at No. 11 to the Los Angeles Angels. Another key contributor to the Owls’ success last season was junior outfielder Dylan Goldstein, who transferred to the University of Georgia.

The Owls bring along about 18 newcomers, including seven freshmen. For McCormack and the staff, they don’t want to pressure the players into filling those positions that Schanuel and Goldstein left behind.

“The most important thing is we can’t expect them to be someone that they’re not. We have to allow them to be them,” said McCormack.

According to McCormack, 6-foot-1 freshman pitcher out of Merritt Island, Fla. Kide Adetuyi won’t play this season due to an operation. McCormack didn’t go into further detail as to what operation.

Junior pitcher Zach Abbey, a Northwood University transfer, was mentioned by McCormack as a possible key contributor to this Owls team.

“I think Zach Abbey is the next newcomer that has an ability to impact us in many ways,” McCormack said. McCormack also brought up that Abbey might pitch more on the road.

According to McCormack, freshman left-hander Trey Beard, redshirt senior switch-pitcher Brandon Smith, right-hander Williams, sophomore right-hander Tyler Murphy, and sophomore right-hander Dylan Oborne look to be the starting pitchers heading into the season.

McCormack talked about the strength of the team this season, which is the bullpen, the depth of pitching, and the team itself.

“Being on a team is very unique and the way that you’re managing individuals through the season,” said McCormack. 

McCormack further went into some of the pressures they’ll face outside of baseball might affect them, making it harder to coach individuals, including with social media.

“The baseball part sometimes becomes the easier part. The rest of it becomes a little bit harder to help them through because they have a lot of pressures on them throughout the year,” McCormack stated.

Last season, the Owls finished their final season in Conference USA 34-25, were 25-9 at FAU Baseball Stadium, and 16-14 in conference play. The Owls fell to double elimination against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers on the third day of the Conference USA baseball tournament.

In their inaugural season, the Owls face some familiar foes and some new foes in conference play. Tulane and Memphis University are two schools FAU has not faced in program history that’ll be on their schedule later in the season. East Carolina University and FAU will meet again this season after having not played for nearly a decade.

This season, the Owls open their season against No. 6 Vanderbilt University on Friday, Feb. 16. The weekend series ends on Sunday, Feb. 18.

“We have to deal with us first and then when the season starts, we’ll deal with them,” McCormack stated. 

Maddox Greenberg is a staff writer at the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected] or DM him through Instagram @maddoxblade04 or X @MaddoxGreenberg.

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About the Contributors
Maddox Greenberg, Sports Editor
Maddox started writing sports for the UP in Summer 2022 with the intention of improving his journalistic writing. He is a sophomore majoring in multimedia journalism and plans on becoming a sports broadcaster. He is a broadcaster for FAU Owl Radio.
Erika Fletcher, Lead Photographer
Erika is a junior majoring in multimedia studies with a minor in photography. She loves shooting sports and street photography and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, skateboarding, playing soccer, listening to music, and being with her friends and family. She joined the UP on a whim to make new friends and to get better at photography. In her time here, while not long, she's made connections and learned so much about herself already and can't wait to continue her journey with such great people.

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