FAU outfielder Nathan Pittman (top) celebrates with first baseman Mark Nelson (front) after scoring the game-winning run in the Owls 4-3 victory vs. Western Kentucky on Wednesday in Bowling Green, Ky. (Photo courtesy of Sun Belt Conference)
Owls win throwdown
FAU's Nathan Pittman scores in the bottom of the ninth inning after a failed WKU pick-off attempt to give the Owls a victory in the Sun Belt tournament on Wednesday.
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In his 22 years as an assistant or head coach, FAU coach John McCormack had never seen a victory quite like the one the top-seeded Owls pulled out against No. 8 seed Western Kentucky on Wednesday night in the Owls' Sun Belt Conference Tournament opener.
Nathan Pittman scored the game-winning run from second base after a failed pickoff attempt by WKU in the ninth inning to lead the Owls to a 4-3 victory in Bowling Green, Ky.
WKU reliever Taylor Haydel made an errant throw to first base to try to pick off Mike Albaladejo, but the throw missed badly, bouncing in the infield before rolling into foul territory, allowing Pittman to come all the way home.
"It was amazing," McCormack said. "On a pickoff play like that, on first and second, there's a serious miscommunication. But I'll take it. With the way we swung the bat tonight in some situations, we'll take it and try to move on tomorrow."
Said Pittman: "It was something I've never seen."
The Hilltoppers (24-32) struck early in the first inning on back-to-back RBI singles to take an early 2-0 lead.
But the Owls (33-20) answered with three runs in the third inning. Kyle Newton tied the game at 2-2 with an RBI double that scored Pittman and Albaladejo. Mark Nelson followed with an RBI single to give the Owls their first lead.
FAU's one-run lead would last until the seventh inning when David Simmons scored the game-tying run off a sacrifice fly by Scott Wilcox. The game remained tied until the ninth inning when Pittman scored the game-winning run.
The Owls had opportunities in the seventh and eighth innings with runners at third base, but they couldn't drive them home.
"We struggled getting our bunts down, but we haven't played in a while so maybe that's what we needed to get us over the hump," McCormack said.
FAU pitcher Ryan Garton labored early, but McCormack said that he settled down as the game wore on. Garton allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) in seven innings. Relief pitcher Ahmed Garcia worked the final two innings to get the win.
McCormack said that he'd certainly like to see his team play better, but in the conference tournament any victory is a good one.
"It's not like earlier in the year when you say, 'We've got to work on some stuff.' There is no working on stuff," he said. "We're here and we've got to play to win."
GameBrowser: FAU 4, WKU 3
- Owl-Star Performance: 2B Mike Albaladejo went 4-for-5 and scored a run.
- Moving Forward: 3B Kyle Newton went 1-for-4 with 2 RBIs and a run scored...LF Nathan Pittman went 1-for-3 and scored two runs, including the game-winner.
- Moving Backward: SS Mitch Morales went 0-for-4 and struck out four times...CF Geoff Jimenez went 0-for-4 and struck out once.
- Key Stat: The Owls had 10 hits in the victory.
- Up Next: FAU will play No. 5 seed Louisiana-Monroe Saturday at 4 p.m.
Need to Knows: Owls vs. Warhawks
(5) Louisiana-Monroe (29-27)
vs. (1) FAU (32-20*)
- When: 4 p.m. Thursday
- Where: Bowling Green Ballpark, Bowling Green, Ky.
- Listen: FAUSports.com
- Tournament Central: SunBeltSports.org
- Scouting the Warhawks: ULM scored the last five runs of the game to beat South Alabama 7-4 on Wednesday in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. ...The Warhawks lost 2-of-3 games vs. FAU this season. ...ULM has won its last four games and five of its last six.
- Pitching probables:
FAU RHP Kevin Alexander (5-1, 2.87)
vs. RHP ULM Cale Wine (6-4, 3.96)