Three innings into the third ballgame Wednesday evening of the 2015 Conference USA Baseball Championship, Florida Atlantic seemed on the brink of a runaway.
Old Dominion had other ideas.
The second-seeded Owls rolled out to an early 5-0 lead but had to hold off the seventh-seeded Monarchs to claim a 6-4 victory at Taylor Park.
For FAU (39-15), which is ranked as high as 19th in the national polls, the win was the first for the program in the C-USA postseason.
"It was a good win because if we don't win this thing, you show the (NCAA selection) committee that, `Hey, they went there to play. They got a `W,'" FAU coach John McCormack said. "It was a good win."
But not an easy one.
Old Dominion scored three runs in the fifth inning and pulled to within 5-4 on Connor Myers first home of the season in the sixth.
But the Monarchs (27-28) left the tying run at third base in that inning, and two wild pitches helped the Owls score an insurance run in the seventh inning.
"You can't throw the wild pitch there," ODU coach Chris Finwood said. "There's a big difference between a one-run game and a two-run game and that wild pitch made a big difference."
FAU will play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's final game between Southern Miss and UAB. ODU faces the USM-UAB loser at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in an elimination game.
"This time of year, it's you win or you lose," Finwood said. "We've got to bounce back. We lost a close game last year the first day, and bounced back and won the next three, so we've just got to come back and be ready to play."
The Owls grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Stephen Kerr doubled and came around to score on Brendon Sanger's sacrifice fly.
FAU made it 5-0 in the third inning on consecutive, two-run doubles by Ricky Santiago and Roman Collins (photo).
It might have been an even bigger inning had not third baseman P.J. Higgins corralled a well-struck ball y C.J. Chathman to start an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
"C.J. hit that ball hard, and I'm standing over there thinking, `If C.J. gets this ball (through), which he's done all year, it might be 7-0, 8-0,' and then we kind of are cruising," McCormack said. "But credit to them."
Just when it looked the game was slipping away from ODU, the Monarchs struck back in the fifth on Higgins' two-run double and a run-scoring single by Josh Eldridge.
When Connor Myers first home run of the season cleared the left-field wall with one out in the sixth inning, ODU had closed to within a run.
But that was as close as the Monarchs would get.
FAU starter Brandon Rhodes (4-1) picked up the win, allowing three runs on six hits over five innings, while Sean McGarry carded his fourth save. Sam Sinnen (6-3) took the loss for ODU, surrendering five runs on seven hits.
ODU had eight hits, five that went for extra bases. Higgins led the way with a pair of doubles. Kerr, Collins and Christian Dicks led a nine-hit FAU offense with two hits apiece.
ODU vs FAU Box Score 05-20-15