What: FAU (7-1) vs. UCONN (3-3)
When: Fri, March 3rd @ 6:30 PM
Sat, March 4th @ 4:00 PM
Sun, March 5th @ 12:00 PM
Where: FAU Baseball Stadium
Video: C-USA TV
UConn Team Site: Here
Series: Owls lead 4-2 all-time against the Huskies. First matchup since 2015 (5-4 FAU).
Projected Starting Pitchers:
UCONN - RHP Ian Cooke (0-1, 5.73 ERA)
FAU - LHP Hunter Cooley (1-1, 2.92 ERA)
UCONN - RHP Jack Sullivan (1-1, 5.59 ERA)
FAU - RHP Jacob Josey (1-0, 2.08 ERA)
UCONN - LHP Andrew Sears (0-0, 3.60 ERA)
FAU - RHP Nicolas Del Prado (0-0, 4.70 ERA)
FAU are off to a marvelous 7-1 start to the season, and made sure to frustrate certain in-state teams prior to entering this matchup. Not only are they receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Top 30 Poll, they have seen their RPI rise to the top 10 (9th as of March 2) in the country according to Warren Nolan.
Getting their first loss last Friday against USF, the Owls bounced back by winning the remainder of the three-game showdown by a tight margin of 16-13. After hitting the ball just six times in the opener, they went off for 28 hits in the next two games thanks in part to reserve catcher John Schroeder and shortstop Armando Albert coming through with eight of those hits.
Nolan Schanuel (pictured) basked himself under the spotlight and showed why he is the best batter on the team Tuesday night, against No. 22 Miami no less. After a slow start of only getting one home run in the first 7 games of the season, Schanuel launched two homers that proved to be crucial for the Owls to complete the 6-5 upset over the Hurricanes for their first win against them since May 2021. He finished with a .750 batting average and had 4 RBI, which put himself back at the top of the team with a .419 average and a 1.389 OPS.
Armando Albert was arguably the unsung hero on Tuesday. While he may not have had the performance Schanuel put up, he was responsible for making an excellent double play to shut out Miami in the 7th, leading up to Schanuel's home run which turned the momentum back to FAU's favor.
The win against Miami wasn't perfect, however. An early 4-1 lead for FAU quickly disappeared when starting pitcher Evan Waterbor came off the mound after five innings for Braden Ostrander to check in, which the Hurricanes immediately took advantage of. It took a few more pitching changes for the Owls to regain their rhythm which saw Sam Drumheller, Marc DeGusipe, and Robert Wegielnik get their turns to pitch. The Owls' bullpen, particularly the relievers, must be ready to handle what the Husky offense can throw at them to ensure their team's leads don't go to waste when the starters get their rests.
Infielder Jackson Ross has also maintained his standing as a breakout player this season, being runner-up behind Schanuel in terms of batting average (.394) and OPS (1.367). He has also frustrated opposing pitchers whenever he steps up to the plate only getting struck out once in 33 at-bats, which ties him for second in the country behind Jackson State's Daniel Bannon with one strikeout in 40 at-bats.
FAU has some players to manage health-wise. Caleb Pendleton has an upper-leg injury and is expected to return after 1-2 weeks, and center-fielder Spencer Rich will be unavailable for the series due to injury.
The starters (in non-batting order) for game one should be that of the below:
RF John Schroeder
CF Jalen DeBose
LF Dylan Goldstein
1B Nolan Schanuel
2B Christian Adams
3B Jackson Ross
DH Mitchell Hartigan
SS Armando Albert
C Andrew Hernandez
P Hunter Cooley
For a team that won back-to-back Big East titles and made a run to the NCAA Super Regionals last year, UCONN baseball has been inconsistent to begin their campaign this season.
They split the opening four-game clash against Ohio State which saw them get outscored 25-22 by the Buckeyes, survived an 11-10 dogfight against Cal Poly that lasted for 10 innings, and were unable to get the bats going in a 4-2 loss against California.
UCONN has struggled with their batting unit, having a .241 average compared to opponents' .257. They do have two capable hitters in Korey Morton and Dominic Freeberger. They have a majority of the team's 33 RBI with 17 of them, and Morton currently leads the team in hits with 8 after making last year's First Team All-Big East with a .411 batting average.
FAU batters will have to be careful when facing Husky pitcher Ian Cooke. Even though his 5.73 ERA leaves him vulnerable to conceding runs, he leads the team in strikeouts by a wide margin with 17, tying him at 27th as one of the best in the country. With Cooke getting the start to open the series for UCONN, the Owls will want to make sure they land the first punch with their batting unit.
This may be the first matchup between both teams since 2015, but the Owls have two people on staff who played in that game. Jordan Tabakman, FAU's pitching coach, will enjoy taking on his alma mater where he played as a pitcher from 2012 to 2015, getting the start in the series finale against the Owls and pitching six innings without conceding a run. Not to mention Ricky Santiago, who had the walk-off hit to get the Owls the win, and is now their assistant coach.
The Huskies will return home to Connecticut to host Hartford on Tuesday following the conclusion of this series.