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Baseball Preview: 2010 Auburn Classic

Owls hit the road
The season did not get off to a rocking start, as a late inning rally fell short and the Owl dropped their home season opener 5-3 to Cincinnati.   They might have been trying a bit too hard - been a bit over anxious and energized with a large opening crowd on hand - wanting to show what they could do.   However, once the team settled down the players strutted and overwhelmed the Bearcats the rest of the way.

John McCormack was very pleased on his starting rotation's performance. “Pitching was surely very good.  The starting pitching gave us six strong innings of work and the relief effort was excellent", said McCormack.

This weekend, the Owls make their first road trip of the season as they head to Auburn to play in a three-game tournament.

“The teams we are going to play in the SEC [Auburn], ACC [Boston College] and the Big-12 [Mizzouri] will definitely be a greater challenge for the team”, said Owls head coach John McCormack.

Inside the Mizzou Tigers Dugout

Series: Never played Florida Atlantic.

Auburn is the only familiar foe of the three opponents Mizzouri will face this weekend.  Mizzou took the Tigers 5-4 back in 1996 during the South Alabama Tournament in Mobile, Alabama.

Mizzou started the year with a ton of new faces on the roster. Ten newcomers saw their first playing time for the Tigers last weekend in Tucson, Az.  Playing in the Collegiate Cactus Classic, Mizzou fell in their opener to Gonzaga (6-10) rebounding to win their next two against Washington (17-6) and New Mexico State (2-1, 10 innings).

Lead by one of only two seniors on the squad this season, Micheal Liberto opened the year hitting .692 during the Classic.  Liberto would finish the weekend going 9-13, with a double, a triple and 3 RBI, matching his career showing in 4-for-5 performance against Gonzaga.

Some of the newcomers making an immediate impact for the Tigers is a pair of freshman;  Dane Opel (5-for-8) and Blake Brown (4-for-8) making the most of their opportunities at the plate.  Another freshman getting his first career start against Washington was Brandon Champagne going 2-for-4 in that game.

Inside the Eagles Dugout

Series: Florida Atlantic lead series 5-2

Boston College traveled to New Orleans for their opening weekend, taking two of three games from Tulane.  The Eagles showed some dominance on the mound where they won their first two games by a combined 20-5.  Their starting duo of  Jr. RHP Pat Dean and So. RHP Mike Dennhardt, allowed just two runs on eight hits in 14 innings of work.

The offense was powered by Seniors CF Robbie Anston, hitting .429 with four RBI and sporting a slugging percentage of .714, and So. OF John Spatola, who hit a pair of solo home runs. Also contributing was IF Anthony Melchionda who batted .400 with a homer and seven RBI.

The Eagles will be making a 13 day swing in Florida, visiting Boca Raton for a three game series with the Owls on March 5th.

Inside the Tigers Dugout

Series: Auburn leads the series 2-1.

Auburn is hosting a regular-season tournament for the first time in school history.

The last time Florida Atlantic played Auburn, the Owls bounced the Tigers out in the first round of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional with a 16-11 victory.

The only other time the two teams have met was in a two-game series in the early part of the 1998 season.

A couple of Tigers are on a hot streak. Junior OF Brain Fletcher carries an eight-game hitting streak into Friday’s contest with Boston College, and Sophomore IF Dan Gamache brings a five-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in six straight games.

The Tigers hit a school record 102 home runs last season and return their top two performers from last season in Jr. OF Brian Flecther and Jr. OF Trent Mummey.

On the mound, two of the six newcomers for the Tigers pitched during the opening weekend; Junior LHP Cole Nelson, pitched 6-1/3 strong innings without giving up any runs, surrendering only three hits and registering 3 strike outs and Junior RHP Stephen Lohscheen earning a save in a 6-1 victory over Southeast Missouri in the series clincher.

Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski is in his second year with Tigers, finishing the 2009 season with a 31-25 mark.

Auburn has been picked to finish fifth in the SEC West in all three major publications.

Inside the Owls Dugout

The Owls won thier opening series against Cincinnati on consecutive shutout games with outstanding efforts by its pitching staff.  Mike Gipson, pitched7 shutout innings while registering four strikeouts in FAU’s 3-0 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday. Kevin Alexander was stellar in his collegiate deput, earning his first victory as an Owl.  The freshman tossed six innings of shutout baseball in FAU’s 9-0 blowout win over Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon.

This allowed for some of the youngsters to see playing time on their home turf.   "It's always important if you can get some of the guys some on the field experience, especially at home. It gives them an easier transition", said McCormack.

2010 Auburn Classic Weekend pitching match-ups for the weekend

Friday's Match-up: Feb. 26th - 3:00pm ET

Missouri projected starter: Freshman  RHP Eric Anderson (0-0, 0.00ERA)

Florida Atlantic projected starter: Junior RHP Taylor Everist (0-1, 1.50ERA)

Saturday's Match-up: Feb. 27th - 12:00pm ET

Florida Atlantic projected starter: Jr. Mike Gipson (1-0, 0.00ERA)

Boston College projected starter: So. RHP Mike Dennhardt (1-0, 0.00ERA)

Sunday's Match-up: Feb. 28th - 4:00pm ET

Florida Atlantic projected starter: Fr. Kevin Alexander (1-0, 0.00ERA)

Auburn projected starter: Jr. LHP Cole Nelson (1-0, 0.00ERA)