Quite the opposite.
“They care too much,” McCormack said. “They’re trying to do too much. We’ve got to get them to care less and just relax and let their stuff naturally do their thing.”
Strong at the start of the season, FAU’s bullpen is faltering during the stretch run, prompting a shakeup.
“All those guys are trying to do too much,” McCormack said. “They’re all trying to throw no-hitters when they go out there instead of what they’re capable of doing. Just do what you do.”
Zach Schneider had been the Owls’ closer, but in Tuesday’s victory over Central Florida Drew Peden recorded the save.
“I don’t think we have a closer now,” McCormack said.
Peden actually pitched Tuesday on somewhat of a short leash. He entered at the start of the ninth, relieving Jordan Poore. But Poore, who didn’t allow a run in 2 2/3 innings, didn’t leave the game. A good defensive outfielder, Poore moved to left field, with Eric Rivera moving from left to second base, thereby vacating the Owls’ designated hitter.
A righty who throws sidearm, Peden has a history of vulnerability to left-handed power hitters. With two out, two runners on and left-handed designated hitter Brody Wofford on deck, McCormack was close to employing his back-up plan: bringing Poore back to the mound for a lefty-lefty match-up.
“He was going to come back in to face the next lefty,” McCormack said.
That move wasn’t necessary. Peden struck out Jackson Webb to end the game.
Also a right-handed sidearmer, Schneider wasn’t a option late on Tuesday because McCormack used him earlier, wanting to ensure his closer pitched while the game was still competitive. Schneider hadn’t appeared in any of the Owls’ previous six games and wanted to see him in action before this weekend’s trip to Middle Tennessee.
Schneider’s 13 saves lead Conference USA and his 2.18 ERA is more than respectable, but few of those saves have come easily. He’s surrendered 21 hits and 11 walks in only 20 2/3 innings.
Peden’s seven wins, all in relief, lead the Owls and his 2.70 ERA is second on FAU behind only Schneider among qualified relievers.
“Drew, he’s been really good for us in his two years,” McCormack said.
While the Owls have been shaky of late in the final innings, middle relief have been a larger problem throughout the season.
Four relievers with double-digit appearances – Matt Harris, Marc Stewart and Nick Swan, Weston Clemente – own ERAs above 6.00. Their struggles are magnified by the rash of injuries to FAU’s starting rotation. With Friday starter Jake Miednik (shoulder) and Sunday starter Mark Nowatnick (oblique) recently missing weekend starts, FAU has pulled Blake Sanderson and Mike Ruff into the weekend rotation, depleting the bullpen.
Ruff started Tuesday’s win but on a limited pitch count so that he could start Sunday’s game if needed.
Both Miednik and Nowatnick are traveling with the team this weekend, but their availability remains uncertain. All that’s known at this point is that Vince Coletti will make his second-consecutive Friday start.
FAU enters the weekend series in Conference USA’s second place with a 15-7-1 record, one half game ahead of Louisiana Tech. Mathematically the Owls still have a shot catch first place Southern Miss, but they likely have to win their final six games and receive significant help from Southern Miss’ opponents.
Only the top eight C-USA teams qualify for the conference tournament, and MTSU is fighting for that eighth spot. If the tournament started today, the Blue Raiders wouldn’t qualify.
The Owls’ ability to advance beyond the Conference USA tournament to the NCAA tournament may be carried by injured or recently-unsuccessful arms.
“We’ve got to do a better job on the mound,” McCormack said. “The bullpen’s really struggled the last two weeks.”