SERIES THREAD: Notre Dame @ FAU - Feb 15-16, 2014
What: Notre Dame (0-0, 0-0) at Florida Atlantic (0-0, 0-0)
When: Sat, Feb 15th at 1:00 PM
Sat, Feb 15th at 6:00 PM
Sun, Feb 16th at 1:00 PM
Where: FAU Baseball Stadium
The teams have met twice before, both contests going in favor of the Irish. The last meeting was in 2004 when no. 10 Notre Dame took down Coach Cooney and the then ranked no. 12 Owls 3-2.
Projected Starting Pitchers:
Sat: ND - RHP Sean Fitzgerald (0-0, 4.89 ERA)
FAU - LHP Austin Gomber (0-0, 2.97 ERA)
Sat: ND- RHP Nick McCarty (0-0, 5.20 ERA)
FAU - RHP Jeremy Strawn (0-0, 3.46 ERA)
Sun: ND- RHP Scott Kerrigan (0-0, 12.00 ERA)
FAU - RHP Drew Jackson (0-0, 2.76 ERA)
*ERA based on 2013 season
The Owls open the 2014 season with a three game stint at home against Notre Dame, with a double-header Saturday. The reigning Sun Belt champs are looking forward to the coming year and are slotted to finish second in the Conference USA behind no. 15 Rice.
On the subject of rankings, the Owls were shown some love from Perfect Game. The contributors of Perfect Game gave FAU a top 25 preseason slot, and think the Owls are destined for big things in 2014.
The surefire strength of this young team is pitching. FAU is returning four pitchers from the rotation as well as a JUCO transfer, and many familiar faces in the bullpen. Leading the charge is Austin Gomber, the LHP was named C-USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year. The Owl's ace is a southpaw and held the lowest ERA in the Sun Belt last season with 2.97.
Filling the number two slot is Jeremy Strawn. The junior compiled a 3.46 ERA in 2013, while racking up five wins, two of which were shutouts. The Owls have a new face on the mound from Seminole State College. Drew Jackson will be the teams number three, and comes into the season with a pretty impressive pedigree. Jackson made 13 starts for the Raiders last season, and took down 22 batters.
FAU returns two reliable arms in the bullpen with Kevin Alexander and Bo Logan. Alexander made his way onto some preseason watch lists, and it well deserved. The senior is the Owls closer, who struck out 44 batters in 53 innings. Bo Logan, a well-groomed set up man, gave up only 39 hits in 43.2 innings pitched last season.
The Owls are still piecing together their defense for this season, with three significant spot still up for grabs. With junior Ricky Santiago is making the move to first, that leaves third base open for the taking. Santiago spent all of 2013 at third and is looking to make a smooth transition after the departure of Mark Nelson.
Freshman CJ Chatham is likely to play third this season. Chatham played primarily shortstop in high school, though the 6’4” freshman has a better chance of solidifying a role at third due to his size. The freshman was named All-County in high school after batting .416 with 8 homeruns and 32 RBI’s.
Second base is between senior Robert Buckley and freshman Stephen Kerr, but with both players having solid off seasons it is up in the air for who will get the start. Though Buckley’s seniority has him as the front-runner.
Junior Mitch Morales is the entering his second year as FAU’s shortstop. The junior is poised for a big season, after he hit .301 last season and racked up 20 multiple hit games.
The Owls return two key players to run the outfield his season. Tyler Rocklein will anchor left field for the second year. The senior brings the biggest bat coming into 2014. Rocklein led the team in homeruns with 10 last season, and had the second best team slugging percentage with .504.
Sophomore Brendon Sanger is following a break out freshman year that earned him preseason all-Conference USA honors. Sanger’s speed aids him in more than the outfield. The Owl’s right fielder had four triples last season along with the second most runs scored (49).
Center field is up in the air after senior Geoff Jiminez quietly transferred to Nova Southeastern, for reasons unknown. With that, sophomore Billy Endris and freshman Jose Bonilla Traverso are competing for the starting gig. Endris saw some action last year, and was utilized as a pinch runner in certain situations.
The Owls are secure behind the plate. Catcher will be left in the hands of team co-captain Levi Meyer. The senior only commited five errors in 2013 and caught 31 runners stealing.
Head Coach John McCormack is entering his sixth year with the Owls, and holds an impressive 173-119 record. Turnaround has never been an issue for McCormack, and he has pieced together a nice roster for the 2014 season, despite losing key players to graduation.
As for Notre Dame, the Irish travel to Boca Raton for the second time in program history, in the team’s inaugural ACC season. They are depleted after losing two Big East All-Americans and six experienced seniors to the MLB draft and graduation. Where Notre Dame isn’t hurting is the catcher.
Co-captain Forrest Johnson filled the void last season and fielded an impressive .986 fielding percentage. The Irish also have some huge potential coming with freshman Ryan Lidge, who batted .381 with 8 home runs, and .711 slugging percentage his senior year of high school.
The Irish believe they have an outfield that can compete with the best in the country. Described by head coach Mik Aoki, the athleticism and speed sophomore Zak Kutsulis and Kyle Richardson bring to the outfield gives the team an advantage over the deep ball, and open field drops.
Leading the Irish on the mound is senior Sean Fitzgerald. The co-captain enters his senior season with big shoes to fill after the departure of Adam Norton this offseason. Fitzgerald will need to “eat-innings” for the Irish due to youth in the rotation.
Leading the team in South Bend is Mik Aoki, who holds an 88-80 record in 4 seasons with the Irish. Aoki has overhauled the Notre Dame roster, and led the team to the Big East championship game, but inevitably lost to UCONN.
The Irish are scheduled to take on 13 of Baseball America’s preseason top 25 in 2014.
Mid 1st: After striking out the first batter of the season, Austin Gomber gives up a 2-run home run to the Irish.— The Owl's Nest (@TheOwlsNest_ITB) February 15, 2014
Mid 1st: After taking down the first two Owls, the Irish make an untimely error, and give Sean Labsan than chance to drive in Tyler Rocklein— The Owl's Nest (@TheOwlsNest_ITB) February 15, 2014
End 1st: Levi Meyer takes a tip from Sean Labsan and drives one to right to give Ricky Santiago his first run of 2014.— The Owl's Nest (@TheOwlsNest_ITB) February 15, 2014
Mid 2nd: Brandon Sanger comes to the plate with Stephen Kerr on first. Lets see what the Owls big bat can do.— The Owl's Nest (@TheOwlsNest_ITB) February 15, 2014
End 2nd: Owls can't make anything of the free base runner and the Irish take down the final two batters.— The Owl's Nest (@TheOwlsNest_ITB) February 15, 2014