BOCA RATON – FAU coach John McCormack says he wasn’t employing delay tactics to force Sunday’s game at Rice to be called because of a curfew, pointing out that Rice coach Wayne Graham was responsible for some of the delay.
“We were coaching our game,” McCormack said of his actions. “We were very deliberate in what we were doing to make sure we got it right.”
Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth and rapidly approaching the agreed upon “drop dead” time of 4:15 p.m., Rice’s Chace Sarchet led off the inning with a double.
Before Trei Cruz headed to the box, Graham twice called him over for strategy conversations, eating into what little time remained.
FAU attempted two pick off attempts before McCormack sent pitching coach David Kopp to the mound telling pitcher Zach Schneider to intentionally walk Cruz.
Four pitches later Cruz reached first base as the stadium clock struck 4:15.
“It was 4:15 drop dead agreed upon by myself, coach Graham and the three umpires,” McCormack said.
Conference USA games feature a curfew on Sundays agreed to before the game to ensure visiting teams are on time for their flights home.
“I didn’t talk to coach Graham,” McCormack said. “The crew chief in the middle of the field said game’s over, that’s what we agreed upon. He started walking off. I went out to get our players, to get them off the field. I’m like, Come on we’ve got to go. Coach Graham followed the umpires down through the tunnel and I don’t know what went on there. I wasn’t down there. And they didn’t ask me to join the conversation.”
With a 1 p.m. scheduled start time, McCormack realized ahead of time that completing the game in three hours could be an issue.
He said he suggested moving the start time to noon – a common occurrence during Sunday games.
“We tried but they had military appreciation day and they had a fly over and they had a big American flag in the outfield and they had some stuff going on outside of the stadium, and they said they couldn’t move the stuff,” McCormack said.
With Sunday’s game declared a tie, FAU left Houston without a loss on the weekend, having won in come from behind fashion on Friday and Saturday.
As of Monday afternoon McCormack hadn’t heard from conference officials about the final inning. If he had, he would have certainly brought up a play in the top half of the inning,
With David Miranda on second, Pedro Pages blasted a drive down the left field line that the home plate umpire Jon Wolfe ruled landed in fair territory (with a three-man umpiring crew and a runner on second, the third base umpire positions himself between second and third base, near the pitching mound, making the play the home plate umpire’s call).
The double scored Miranda with what would have been the go ahead run, but Graham argued the call and following a lengthy discussion among the umpires first base umpire Trent Petrie overturned the call.
“I was like, how could this possibly be?” McCormack said. “That you would overrule a call from 250 feet away that you’re not even on the same sideline? I didn’t understand that.”
After Rice retired FAU without allowing a run, McCormack informed Wolfe of a pitching change – Schneider was taking the mound. McCormack asked at that point whether he could file an official protest regarding the call and was told he could not.
The tie dropped FAU into a tie first place atop the Conference USA standings with Southern Miss.
“All weekend we played very good defense, we got some huge hits and then we just couldn’t close out the victory on Sunday,” McCormack said.
Conference USA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rotation Update: FAU scratched Jake Miednik from his scheduled Friday start because of shoulder soreness, but Miednik did pitch in relief on Sunday, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings while throwing 43 pitches. He’ll throw a scheduled bullpen on Tuesday, and if that goes well it’s likely Miednik will make Friday’s start against UAB.
Mark Nowatnick’s situation doesn’t sound as promising. Nowatnick left Sunday’s start complaining of pain in his oblique.
“It’s still tender,” McCormack said.
Schedule Change: Tuesday’s scheduled game against Florida Gulf Coast at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has been switched to Wednesday at FAU baseball stadium because of expected inclement weather. Ballpark of the Palm Beaches already has another game scheduled for Wednesday.