The 2020 Florida Atlantic Baseball Team will begin their season this Friday, February 14th, as they face the Delaware Blue Hens at FAU Baseball Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6:30 PM.
As usual, there are high expectations attached to the squad, which is one of the most successful programs in University history.
Last season, FAU finished with a record of 41-21 (22-8 C-USA) and won the C-USA regular season title. Followed by finishing second place in the C-USA postseason tournament losing to a very talented Southern Miss club. The Owls earned a trip to the Athens for the postseason, before falling short to the University of Georgia in regionals.
This years team will have much production to replace as last year's team had five drafted players. Pedro Pages (STL), Mike Ruff (COL), Eric Rivera (TOR), Vince Coletti (OAK), Blake Sanderson (TOR). “The key is to have guys on the roster to be able to step up, that know what it looks like,'' said head coach John McCormack.
Changes to the coaching staff include the addition of assistant pitching coach Tristan McGinnis, the Dwyer HS Alum spent last season on staff at Concordia University. Also, joining the staff is Gunnar Lambert who will be the Graduate Director of Baseball Operations. Lambert just completed his playing career with the Owls and is currently in the FAU Health Administration Masters Program.
The 2020 FAU Roster includes sixteen newcomers. Eight are true freshmen, seven are junior college transfers and one graduate transfer.
- Key Bats Returning FAU will be returning several key players from last year's squad, including redshirt junior 1B/OF Andru Summerall and senior OF Bobby Morgensen. Summerall, from Palm Beach Gardens HS, hit .295 last season with 8 home runs and 55 RBI and was named Second Team All CUSA. Lefty slugger Morgenson (TH 11 HR, 55 RBI 2019) was raking during the Athens regional where he hit 4 home runs. Senior INF Frankie Urbaez also returns after going .322 with 10 home runs and is hoping to be a boost in run production on the basepath. “I focused more on my speed this off season, so I can create more opportunities for the team.” said Urbaez.
- On The Rise As mentioned above, almost half of the roster is new. McCormack praised Catcher Nicholas Toney and Chipola transfer Alex Aruz behind the plate. "Toney is one of the more athletically gifted players we've had here", said McCormack. Toney is a rising sophomore from Royal Palm Beach HS who was limited to only 18 at bats last season. Tucker Mitchell is a talented true freshmen from powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton who was named to the 2019 Perfect Game World Showcase Top Prospect list. In Center Field, look out for newcomer Jackson Wenstrom, who had a very successful JUCO career at Hudson Valley where he was named the 2018-2019 Lea Plarski Award recipient for his efforts on and off the field. “He's gonna get the first opportunity out there to show us what he can do", McCormack said.
- Key Matchups The 2020 non-conference slate for FAU features several high profile matchups. In fact, both Miami and Florida grace a Top 5 ranking in D1 Baseball's preseason poll. “Its going to be a good challenge", said McCormack of the the caliber of opponents. The gauntlet begins with a visit from Alligator Alley rival FGCU on February 18th, which the Owls return favor on later in the season on May 5th. The Owls will be making their return to Tallahassee February 28th and 29th for the first time since 1998 when they will participate in a round robbin against Florida State and Texas Tech. The Owls will also take a trip to the Ballpark of The Palm Beaches to face the Florida Gators on March 3rd. “The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has been very gracious over the years, and its a beautiful facility", said McCormack. The following day on March 4th FAU will take on the Miami Hurricanes in Boca Raton with a return trip of Coral Gables for a duel on April 15th . "Its an amazing opportunity for us and the program" said OF Andru Summerall. You can view the entire 2020 Schedule Here.
- Behind The Dish Following a very successful career in Boca Raton, C Pedro Pages was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 6th round. “What you see week one might not be the same as what you see in week two” said McCormack of the expected rotation behind the plate. Expected to be in that rotation at catcher are Nicholas Toney, Alex Arauz, and Tucker Mitchell. "He really understands what winning is about, went to two JUCO world series", McCormack said of Arauz.
- Conference Outlook FAU is projected to finish second in CUSA conference and have three players that were named to the C-USA Preseason-All Conference team: 1B/OF Andru Summeral, INF Frankie Urabez and OF Bobby Morgensen. C-USA play begins March 13th, with a three game road series at Old Dominion. The C-USA Championship will be held May 20-24 in Bilioxi, Mississippi.
- Eye On The Mound FAU has a real good crop of pitchers who pitched last year as true freshmen and held their own. This list includes Jacob Josey, Michael Schuler (4.67 ERA in 34 innings 2019), and Jon Jon Kostantis (4.22 ERA in 32 innings 2019). Josey held station with a 3.38 ERA while splitting time as a starter and a reliever and will get the nod in the Owls' opener this Friday. The the other two arms slated for opening weekend are LHP Matt Sparling, who is coming off a medical red-shirt in 2019, and RHP Corey Ireson. Sparling boasts a well commanded fast ball to both sides of the plate and a plus curve to keep hitters off balance. Ireson had a very successful sophomore season at Manatee-Sarasota, where he went 8-2, with a 1.85 ERA and 91 strikeouts. In the pen, Redshirt Sophomore Dylan O'Connell had a very sporty 8.49 strikeouts per 9 innings last year for FAU. The Flanagan HS alum could be in line for an increased role in midweek action along side RHP Dylan Carter, who had a 2 saves in 36 innings of in 2019.
- True Freshmen Coach McCormack has 8 true freshmen joining the club for the upcoming season. One of the freshmen expected to make an impact is INF Cade Parker, the Panama City Beach native was named to the 2019 Perfect Game World Series All Tournament Team at JetBlue Stadium in Fort Myers. "He plays very athletic, very competitive, and a great teammate”, said Summerall. Early impact pitchers could be RHP Dante Visconti and LHP Jack Stroud. "I feel like they will be able to compete” said P Dylan`O`Connell. Visconti, joins FAU out of Bartram Trail High school where he was named to the St. Johns County All Country First Team as a senior, sporting a 2.86 ERA with two shutouts. Stroud, a lefty from IMG Academy in Texas, showed great pitch ability during his time at IMG and was named the IMG Pitcher of the Year during his senior campaign.
Below are appearances by Head Coach John McCormack and clubhouse leaders Andru Summerall, Frankie Urbaez and Dylan O'Connell at the Owls' 2020 Media Day.
Written by Ryan Rubloff & Rick Henderson