The 2023 Florida Atlantic Baseball Team will begin their season this Friday, Feb. 17, taking on the Monmouth Hawks at FAU Baseball Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6:30 PM.
FAU has enjoyed strong progress in Conference USA since joining the league in 2014. After nine seasons, the Owls stand with a convincing 305-178-1 record (150-87-1 against C-USA opponents) having become regular season champions twice in 2016 and 2019 and making four appearances in the NCAA Regionals in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019.
Head coach John McCormack spoke on FAU's time in the conference last Thursday during Baseball Media Day at the Tom Oxley Center heading into the start of the 2023 campaign. He sees a great opportunity for the team to end their 10th and last season in the league with a championship and to punch their ticket onto the national stage for the fifth time (15th overall).
"We would certainly like to put a closed book on this thing and win it on our way out. That would be ideal," head coach John McCormack said. "It's gonna be a dogfight. Everyone's going to be good, and everyone is getting better."
The Owls had a solid 2022 season, finishing with a 35-23 record (19-11 C-USA) before bowing out of the conference tournament after a 5-0 loss to No. 14 Southern Miss.
FAU will need players to step up offensively following the departure of Gabriel Rincones Jr. The outfielder torched opponents last year, converting 69 RBIs and batting 19 home runs (both team-highs) while winning C-USA Newcomer of the Year as he went on to be drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the third round of the MLB Draft.
They also went through some coaching changes. Jordan Tabakman will be the team's pitching coach this year following three seasons at Fairfield University, after Brady Kirkpatrick left to serve the same role at Duke University. This is the third change at the position in three seasons. Another coach who left is Greg Mamula as he became the head coach at the University of Delaware. Ricky Santiago, who played for FAU from 2012-15, will take Mamula's place as the Owls' hitting coach.
"It was very bittersweet because I'm excited they're getting new opportunities. Part of our job is to let everybody get out an experience and become a bigger and better version of themselves, and in both of those cases, they were able to do that," McCormack said.
To help in the quest for their 2023 goals, the Owls brought in 13 newcomers during the offseason, which includes a whopping number of eight pitchers joining the team. The rest of the incoming players consist of a first baseman, a second baseman, a center-fielder, an infielder, and a catcher.
The full listing of the newcomers by position type is below:
Indian River RHP C.J. Williams
Martin County RHP Tyler Murphy
Stoneman Douglas RHP Sammy Beir
Johnson County CC RHP Danny Trehey
Westmount CI RHP Dylan Oborne
NW Florida State RHP Brandon Smith
Bossier Parish CC RHP Sean Goodwin
Miami Dade LHP Tyler Monzon
Indian River 1B Christian Adams
Newsome HS 2B Lucas Phelps
Clemson CF Spencer Rich
Jensen Beach HS IF Patrick Ward
UPenn C Andrew Hernandez
- Key Batters Returning
The Owls have a strong group of returning batters despite the loss of Gabriel Rincones Jr., which includes Dylan Goldstein and Jackson Ross. Goldstein seized his opportunity to shine last season, finishing with a .333 batting average which included 66 hits and 18 home runs. Ross came through through with his moments offensively, batting the ball 62 times for seven home runs. Junior outfielder Nolan Schanuel also returns after terrorizing opponents with his offensive prowess last year, hitting the ball 83 times with a .369 BA (both team-highs) while firing away 16 homers. "We got big shoes to fill with [Rincones Jr.], but the new guys are definitely going to fill their spot really well and put up some big numbers this year," Schanuel said.
- Rollin' with Nolan
One might expect a spectacular campaign from Nolan Schanuel (photo right), who will be a top batting option for the Owls. Schanuel returns to his traditional position from high school after the departure of Gabriel Rincones Jr. He was originally going to play in the outfield before playing at first base last season due to the abundance of depth they had in the position. He stayed there as the season went on thanks to his effectiveness there and how the team experienced success with the fielding rotation being the fourth best in C-USA. With his amazing performances last year, C-USA listed him as the Preseason Player of the Year heading into this season. He is proud of the recognition and hopes to continue getting better for the benefit of the team. "I owe it to the coaches and my teammates for pushing me as a player," Schanuel said.
- Must-See Matchups
The opponents FAU will be facing in non-conference play will be quite the challenge, and good ones at that. Within one week, they have their in-state rivals taking on UCF on Feb. 21, hosting a three-game series against USF during the weekend, and then playing Miami on Feb. 28. The strong caliber of opponents continues when they play UConn at home, and they will head to the Swamp for a two-game series against Florida on March 7 and 8. "[UConn's] Jim Penders is one of the best coaches in college baseball. He's done an amazing job and we've played him over the years and I like watching him coach," said John McCormack.
They will next make a stop at Coral Gables to take on the Hurricanes on March 22 and play UCF at home on March 28. After two home-and-away matchups with Miami on April 19 and 25, they will finally face rival FGCU starting April 4 and 11 as their series against them will conclude on May 9 and 16. "We love going down there, we love playing those guys and competing with them," said Schanuel. During conference play, they will play host against new C-USA member Dallas Baptist from April 14-16, who will be noteworthy opponents considering they have made 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 2008. "Anytime you play better people, you're going to be better in the long run," McCormack said. You can view the entire 2023 schedule here.
- Up for Grabs at Second Base
The Owls have a spot to fill at second base after infielder Steven Loden left FAU for Southern Illinois looking for a new start. John McCormack said infielders Dom Presto, Lucas Phelps, Daulton Frank, and Patrick Ward will get their chances at covering the base to begin the season. "That is a constant question in the office of who we're gonna play at second base. I don't know who we're gonna write in the lineup next Friday at this point," McCormack said.
- Getting Stronger in the Bullpen
The Owls are going to have fun rotating between the solid crop of pitchers they have. They enjoy plenty of stability in leadership thanks to returning captain Hunter Cooley (photo center), who led the team last season as one of their best pitchers. He was complementary of the depth they now have at the position. "We had the injury bug last year with guys not at 100%. The roles are a bit undefined as of now, but it's encouraging to see that we have the stuff," Cooley said.
Incoming JUCO players C.J. Williams (1.91 ERA with 65 Ks in 61 IP) and Brandon Smith (50 Ks in 39 IP) could provide strength to the bullpen with their excellent ability in striking out opposing batters. "[Williams] has had a really nice preseason," McCormack said. Despite expressing excitement over JUCO product Danny Trehey, coming from Johnson County CC with 117 strikeouts in 74 innings, McCormack said he will miss the start of the season due to injury. "If we can get Danny back by late-March or April, that would be a win for us," McCormack said.
- Returning to Form
If there is a player bound for a comeback season, that would be outfielder Mitchell Hartigan (photo left). He looks to bounce back after being unavailable for the majority of last season due to injury. Missing 44 games, Hartigan struggled with a .191 batting average and managed just two home runs. Heading into this season, he is committed to returning to his level of play from 2021. "I made sure I got my work in but also let my hand rest. Even though I was on the field, I wasn't playing at 100% of my best so this year, I can do that," Hartigan said. He noted how Dylan Goldstein stepped up in his place last season with great performances and is looking forward to sharing the designated hitter spot with him. "We'll find each other in the lineup, but it's definitely helped me get back to playing form," Hartigan said.
Projected Starting Lineup
C Pendleton / Hernandez
1B Adams / Millan
2B Presto / Frank
CF DeBose / Rich
LF Goldstein / Hartigan
DH Goldstein / Hartigan
Pitchers - For opening weekend against Monmouth, McCormack said Hunter Cooley (8-4 record last season with 4.67 ERA and 79 K in 104 IP) will lead the way on Friday, then Jacob Josey (4-5 with 5.85 ERA and 42 K in 60 IP) or Nicolas Del Prado (3-1 with 3.65 ERA and 43 K in 44.1 IP) on Saturday, Dylan Oborne for Sunday, and Evan Waterbor (2-4 with 6.68 ERA and 25 K in 33.3 IP) for Tuesday's matchup against UCF.
Left Field - Hartigan and Goldstein will likely be sharing the left field as well as being the team's designated hitters.
Center Field - Jalen DeBose and new transfer Spencer Rich, who was primarily a pinch hitter at Clemson, and posted a .438 BA with 10 HR and 31 RBI at Daytona State before joining the Tigers, will control center field.
Right Field - With Rincones Jr. gone, Schanuel will command the right field as the team's power hitter.
First Base - First base will see newcomer Christian Adams, who batted .373 with 51 RBIs and 11 HRs last season at Indian River, leading the position as Jake Millan will serve as the backup.
Second Base - If McCormack were to go with experience at second base, Dom Presto or Daulton Frank will handle duties there.
Third Base - Jackson Ross mans third base providing depth in the hitting department.
Catcher - Incumbent returner Caleb Pendleton and incoming transfer Andrew Hernandez (batted .356 with 37 hits and 30 RBIs last year at UPENN) will share responsibilities at the plate.
Shortstop - Armando Albert retains his starting spot at shortstop, showcasing his combined fielding proficiency and effectiveness in getting on base with a .408 percentage last season.
The Owls will be at home 34 times for the 2023 season, and will kick-off the slate on Friday night under the lights against the Hawks. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets to the game or any other home event can do so by contacting 1-866-FAU-OWLS.
Schanuel is back to 1st B for tomorrow night. This is after thy announced his position change to the outfield at media day.
Coach Mac appears to want Rich and DeBose in the outfield at the same time. They both have some serious wheels.
They are moving Goldstein to right instead of Nolan. Same situation as last year, do what makes the best lineup.
Hartigan will DH.
What immediately jumps out is the speed gained by this move. Dare I say we may be somewhat of a base stealing club this year if they stick with this lineup.
Don't recall that much footwork on the base path at one time (possibly ever).