Bats catch fire setting program regional play record
After Friday’s poor hitting performance, Florida Atlantic came into Saturday afternoon’s game against Bethune-Cookman knowing one thing: they had to win. And they did just that in a record setting offensive showcase.
The Owls produced eighteen hits, including five doubles, en route to a 12-6 win that eliminated the Wildcats (35-22). The eighteen hits were the most they had all season, and the five doubles set a Florida Atlantic regional play record.
“We had a little bit more of urgency today, this was the first time all season that we could say, if we don’t win today, we go home,” said head coach John McCormack.
Wasting no time, the Owls (36-23) scored runs in the first two innings. Eddie Cassidy drove in Andy Mee with a single, which was then followed up by Colby Gratton’s triple to lead off the second inning. Sean Bukovich then hit a sacrifice fly to score a run, as FAU hitters were all over B-CU starting pitcher, Roman Lancara.
Lancara was never a match for the Owls, as Mee and Dan Scheffler hit two more singles off of him before Gratton’s RBI double brought in the works of relief pitcher, Rayan Gonzalez in the third. Buckovich then added his second and third RBI’s of the game with a single off Gonzalez.
“All season long, we have struggled to get the two-out bases clearing hits, but Colby was able to do that today, and that really took the pressure off,” remarked McCormack.
FAU starter Ryan Garton, comfortable with the teams early five-run lead, worked his way through the Wildcats lineup with easy, sticking out three batters in the first two innings, until a third inning that provided trouble.
Garton, surrendered two singles and then threw a pitch past catcher Mike Albaladejo, bringing in B-CU’s first run of the game. Three more hits produced two more runs, and the Wildcats had all of the sudden cut FAU’s lead down to two-runs entering the fourth.
First team All-Sun Belt performer, Scheffler, then drove a ball off the wall for an RBI double giving the Owls a 6-3 lead in the fourth, and a bit breathing room. FAU would add two more runs before the sixth inning of the game.
“I was just trying to get the ball in play, and put the bat to the ball rather than hitting it as far as I can,” Scheffler said.
That proved true for FAU’s entire lineup, as almost everyone recorded a hit and an RBI. Albaladejo didn’t record a hit, but he did have a sacrifice bunt.
Bethune-Cookman however, wouldn’t go away, as Brandon Turner, hit his first career homerun and brought the Wildcats within three runs.
FAU’s offense and pitching would respond. Anthony Mesa had two extra base hits in final three innings, adding three more runs, while Mee hit a sacrifice fly to add another. The Owls now had scored twelve runs, the most they have had in a regional since 2004.
Garton’s day was over in the seventh, after striking out five batters and working his pitch count past 100.
“It’s great going out there with a big lead, it just makes me want to beat the offense and be the best I can be and attack batters,” Garton said.
Relief pitcher Hugh Adams, came out and threw together a nice inning of work before a fly ball to centerfield was lost in the sun by Mesa and a run scored.
To finish out the game, Adams retired the last three Wildcat batters, giving Florida Atlantic its first regional play win since 2005.
Next up for the Owls is either Oregon State or Florida, which means better pitching and hitting lie ahead. FAU has already lost to both teams this season.
“Were just going to deal with what’s in front of us,” said McCormack.
FAU is set to play in the 1:00 p.m. game Sunday, but if they do win the elimination game, they would play another game against the winner of the Florida-Oregon State matchup at 7 p.m.
“Our goal is to not think about that, were going to focus on inning by inning and not look at the bigger picture,” McCormack expressed about Sunday.