Stranded runners prove costly
Florida Atlantic finally got the opportunity to take the field during the postseason for the first time in five years. However the Owls (35-23) couldn’t erase an early six-run deficit by Oregon State, losing 6-4 and stranding seven runners in the process.
“We’ve struggled a little bit recently with stranding runners, but that’s what you get when you face pitching this late in the season.” head coach John McCormack expressed.
FAU starter Mike Gipson was all set to take on the Beavers until, thunderstorms and rain forced both teams off the field for a three hour and fifteen minute rain delay.
“It was kind of bad luck, but it didn’t really affect me, I got to go out there and do my thing,” Gipson remarked about the rain delay.
Once the game eventually got started at 4:15, Gipson was in control, getting out of the first inning unscratched. FAU would in turn put two runners in scoring position with no outs, only to strand them.
“In the first inning, we had first and second with no outs and we couldn’t capitalize, which hurts,” said McCormack.
The second inning is where trouble began for the Owls. Oregon State’s Tyler Smith connected on one of Gipson’s fastballs and hit it deep over the left field bleachers, for his second homerun of the year, giving the Beavers an early two-run lead.
After that, FAU couldn’t respond. Oregon State (32-22) starter Greg Peavey worked his way through the first three innings easily, recording four strikeouts to only four hits by the Owls batters.
Gipson had looked recovered from the early homerun, sitting down the top of the Beavers' order in the third, until a fourth inning that he would like to forget. Smith once again found contact on Gipson and hit an RBI single to deep right, which was then followed up by an RBI double from Carter Bell.
“I got a little tired, and he just put a good swing on it,” Gipson thought of Smiths hit.
The Beavers who had been hitting a PAC-10 worst, .266 on the year, managed eight total hits off of Gipson’s six innings of work.
FAU’s Nick Delguidice sparked what had looked to be the works of a rally late in the sixth with a two-run homerun to left field, cutting Oregon State’s lead down to four.
What had hurt was that First Team All-Sun Belt Andy Mee had struck out earlier in the inning eliminating another potential run. Mee finished the day 0-4 with two strikeouts.
With the start of the seventh inning, McCormack decided to go into the bullpen and called on pitcher Barry Rooks, who pitched a scoreless and hitless inning and a third. After Rooks came out, senior reliever Lou Morey came in to pitch the remainder of the game.
First Team All-Sun Belt performer Dan Scheffler did all he could down four runs, and drove a ball deep over the right field wall, for his fifteenth homerun of the season. The next pitch Eddie Cassidy followed up Scheffler with a solo homerun of his own to cut the lead to 6-4 going into the ninth.
“We had one homerun and then another to cut the lead to 6-4, and that’s our comfort zone, we can work with that” said McCormack.
At this point it began to feel like the Owls were in the drivers seat as they had come from behind to win games numerous times during the season.
Morey held the Beavers in check in the ninth inning after loading the bases, and set it up for a potential big inning by FAU. However, Nathan Pittman, Raymond Church and Mike Albaladejo all flew out to record the final three outs of the game.
Florida Atlantic now finds themselves in the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament, with at least one more game to play.
The good news though, is that FAU will face a team they have seen before Saturday afternoon when taking on the loser of Friday night’s Florida vs. Bethune-Cookman contest.
“It’s helpful, when you’ve seen that team before, and you know who and how you are going to pitch against them,” McCormack said.