After starting the season picked to finish second in Conference USA and being ranked in numerous preseason polls it is official: The Owls were overrated.
The Owls (28-25, 14-16) finished the season today losing to UAB (35-19, 20-10) 8-6 on senior day. With the win it is the Blazers, who came into the series ranked 30th in the nation, who will finish second in Conference USA and will have the chance to dethrone conference kingpin Rice Owls in conference tournament play. The Owls will finish ninth in their inaugural season in Conference USA.
For FAU it’s back to the drawing board. For the first time since 1995, when the Owls made the leap to Division 1 baseball, they will not play in a conference tournament.
Today’s game resembled a lot like the Owls season. Struggle early, get hot during the middle, and fade late.
“Throughout the year we’ve squandered opportunities,” said Coach McCormack. “So you can say that this game was a referendum of the season.”
FAU had runners in scoring position many times in the game but failed to make the Blazers pay. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Santiago struck out to close the game pushing the Owls’ tally of runners left on base to 14.
Throughout the season it has been the Owls bats who have failed to deliver in clutch situations. Today it was the pitching, as junior starting pitcher Drew Jackson (5-4) went 1.1 innings pitched, allowing five runs and three hits with three walks and recorded the loss.
With junior pitcher Austin Gomber potentially eyeing the MLB draft, the Owls will have to replace one of their most reliable pitchers on the staff.
With the season over the focus now shifts to recruiting for the Owls’ coaching staff as they try to improve their bats while keeping the pitching staff intact.
“We’ve signed 13-14 guys” said Coach McCormack, remaining mum on exactly whose coming and going. “Now we’ve just gotta make sure we get them in full [sic].”
The incoming class is being tabbed as one of the best McCormack has signed and with many of the incoming recruits being from the junior college ranks, Coach McCormack is aware of the ability of players to look elsewhere. “It is what it is. A lot of JUCO guys have opportunities. It’s important we keep recruiting them because they can either change schools, or go to the draft.”
Although silent on the positions of the players, McCormack was clear on one thing: the offense will be revamped.
“We have to add bats to the lineup. Our issues all season have been offensively driven,” said McCormack. “We signed guys who can swing,” assured McCormack. “We just have to make sure we bring them in.
Although the Owls lost today’s game, they did end up taking two out of three from the Blazers and helped Coach McCormack win his 200th game as FAU head coach.
“It’s nice to have a milestone like that,” said Coach McCormack with a forced grin. “Maybe someday I’ll look better on it but for now it’s just a number."