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Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament Preview

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Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament Preview

The message is clear for the Florida Atlantic baseball team –– win and you’re in.

With the Sun Belt Conference tournament commencing this week in Lafayette, Louisiana, the Owls will look to extend their seven-game win streak and secure a bid into the NCAA Tournament.

After a dismal finish to the month of April, FAU (35-20, 19-11) was able to turn things around and close out the regular season with sweeps of both Western Kentucky and Florida International. Now, the club finds itself in position to further pamper an already impressive resume, which could eventually garnish an at-large bid.

Head coach John McCormack is content with his team’s position on paper, but he understands the importance of winning at the conference tournament.

“I don’t want to say we have to win one or two, I don’t want to put a number on it, but we have to play well,” McCormack said.

The Owls will open the double-elimination tournament Wednesday morning against Western Kentucky, in what will be a familiar situation. The two teams have met in the first round of the conference tournament each of the past three seasons, and will square off for the fourth time this month.

McCormack has decided to keep things simple and stick with a pitching rotation that leads the conference with a 3.63 earned run average this season. Sophomore Austin Gomber (photo above) will get the ball on Wednesday, before Jeremy Strawn will take the mound on Thursday. If either of the two should find trouble, McCormack is prepared to reach into the bullpen early.

Hugh Adams, who leads the conference with 15 saves on the year, could see extended action like he did a few weeks ago when tossed a rare four innings of relief.

“We’re going to go out there and play to win every game. There is no saving guys for tomorrow or the next day. If Hugh has to come in during the seventh –– so be it. We’re in a situation now were I don’t want to say there is no tomorrow, but there is less tomorrows than there were four weeks ago,” McCormack said.

Adams has been solid in his last few outings, but it’s Gomber who McCormack is most concerned with.

“His (Gomber) role should be to go out Wednesday morning and give us a good start and not worry about wins and losses. Just give us a good start, get us into the sixth or seventh inning and do what he does,” McCormack said.

With the double-elimination format in place, winning the team’s first two games will be essential. If the Owls are able to win on Wednesday and then Thursday, the club will be awarded with a much needed rest on Friday.
McCormack isn’t clear who will start the team’s third contest, but reaching that scenario is important.

“If we lose two games it’s going to be a long weekend to see if we get in, and then we are at the mercy of seeing what else goes on around the country. One of my fears is someone that comes out of the five, six, seven or eight hole in the Sun Belt and wins it all, and then would they (the committee) take five teams from the Sun Belt?,” McCormack said.

While it’s unclear what would happen if a lower seed were to win the Sun Belt tournament, a majority of projections have the Owls making the tournament. FAU has been playing a strong brand of baseball lately, and that should continue in the conference tournament.

“These guys have a good feeling about themselves, so I don’t see why that would change,” McCormack said.

FAU is 24-7 this season when scoring first in a game, and 15-8 on the road. The program is 3-7 the last three years at the conference tournament.

Twitter: @andrewrivins
Email: [email protected]
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