Florida Atlantic Baseball will participate in their 8th and final C-USA Championship on Wednesday night at 8:30 PM when taking the field against Western Kentucky in game four of the day's action in Houston, Texas.
FAU arrives in Houston with a 16-14 overall record in C-USA Championship play and will be seeded 5th. This is the second time that they will begin the tournament as the 5th seed, the first occurring in 2021. It's the 3rd-lowest seed they have received having previously made two appearances as the top seed, one as the second, two as the third, and one as 4th which happened last year.
The team's best performance was in 2019, when they went undefeated with three straight wins until the Championship game when they lost to Southern Miss by a score of 4-0.
The Owls got swept by the Hilltoppers at Bowling Green in April, losing the first two games despite leading for most of those outings. Western Kentucky wound up winning the scoring battle 19-14 for the entire series. FAU's starting pitcher for Wednesday will be CJ Williams (2-1, 3.31 ERA). He pitched a total of 5.1 innings in two games against the Hilltoppers, striking out seven batters and allowed no earned runs throughout the series matchup.
On the other side, the Hilltoppers will have Dawson Hall (7-4, 3.08 ERA) taking his place on the mound. Hall struck out four batters and conceded no earned runs in five innings of action to give Western Kentucky the win over FAU in the series finale on April 23.
Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky have battled each other nine times in tournament action, stretching back to their days in the Sun Belt Conference. The Owls lead 6-3 all-time against the Hilltoppers in the postseason, including beating them twice in the C-USA edition (7-5, 9-8) to send them home in both 2016 and 2021.
It would be expected for opposing teams to place most of their attention on junior outfielder Nolan Schanuel (pictured below) to begin the tournament. In the running for C-USA Player of the Year, he has headlined as the Owls' star batter throughout the course of the season, finishing with stats that involve a .460 batting average (1st in the country), a .623 on-base percentage (1st), an .888 slugging percentage (3rd), 86 hits (tied-19th), 68 runs (tied-17th), and 67 walks (1st).
Other FAU batters who could make key contributions throughout the tournament would be senior infielder Jackson Ross, sophomore catcher John Schroeder, and junior outfielder Spencer Rich. Ross closed the regular season getting four home runs in his last five games, Schroeder found his place in the starting lineup providing stability as a right-fielder, and Rich is on a 10-game hitting streak after becoming crucial to FAU's wins for the latter part of the season.
Having solid and consistent performances from the bullpen will be important to the Owls potentially making a deep run in the tournament. Robert Wegielnik has shined as a closer for the team, having the best ERA (1.48) and the third-most strikeouts (48) in 42.2 innings of action. Tyler Murphy, Hunter Cooley, Nicholas Del Prado, and Evan Waterbor are other pitchers who could receive significant time on the mound as starters or relievers to assist the Owls in limiting the effectiveness of opposing offenses.
This year's C-USA Championship tournament features the top eight teams in regular-season league play. The format is two double-elimination brackets, with four teams each, and the winners of each bracket will meet in a single-elimination championship game. Louisiana Tech is the defending champion, while C-USA newcomer Dallas Baptist enters this tournament as the top seed.
The tournament is set to begin at 10:00 AM EST on Wednesday when No. 3 seed Charlotte battles No. 6 seed Louisiana Tech. The 49ers won five straight contests including a three-game sweep over Middle Tennessee to finish third in the standings. Going 1-2 in their series matchup against charlotte, the title-holding Bulldogs will look to find momentum after losing four of their last six games to finish the regular season.
Wednesday’s second game features No. 2 seed UTSA against No. 7 seed Middle Tennessee. Finishing second behind Dallas Baptist with a strong 38-17 record (21-8 C-USA), the Roadrunners handily outmatched the Blue Raiders by outscoring them 30-13 in a three-game sweep back in mid-April. MTSU slid down to 7th to after losing four straight, getting swept by Charlotte this past weekend.
Dallas Baptist will play the 5:00 PM game, matching up with host and No. 8 seed Rice. The Patriots excelled in their first season in C-USA by obtaining a 42-13 record (25-5 C-USA) while taking care of business on the road in Houston by sweeping Rice in April. On the other hand, Rice clawed their way to clinch the last spot of the tournament, edging out FiU 2-1 in their last series matchup of the regular season.
The 2023 C-USA Championship Game will be played on Sunday, May 28th at 2:00 PM and will be nationally-televised by CBS Sports Network, while all other games will be available on ESPN+.
Below is the currently available slate for the full five days of action in Houston.
Game Schedule - Eastern Standard Times
Wednesday, May 24 ESPN+
Game 1 (3) Charlotte vs (6) Louisiana Tech 10:00 AM
Game 2 (2) UTSA vs (7) MTSU 1:30 PM
Game 3 (1) Dallas Baptist vs (8) Rice 5:00 PM
Game 4 (4) Western Kentucky vs (5) Florida Atlantic 8:30 PM
Thursday, May 25 ESPN+
Game 5 Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 10:00 AM
Game 6 Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 1:30 PM
Game 7 Loser G3 vs. Loser G4 5:00 PM
Game 8 Winner G3 vs. Winner G4 8:30 PM
Friday, May 26 ESPN+
Game 9 Winner G5 vs. Loser G6 3:00 PM
Game 10 Winner G7 vs. Loser G8 6:30 PM
Saturday, May 27 ESPN+
Game 11 Winner G6 vs. Winner G9 10:00 AM
Game 12 Winner G8 vs. Winner G10 1:30 PM
Game 13 Same Teams as G11 - if needed 5:00 PM
Game 14 Same Teams as G12 - if needed 8:30 PM
Sunday, May 28 CBSSN
Championship TBD 2:00 PM