BOCA RATON – The Owls showed once again that if their pitching can keep them close early, they have the power to pound their way to a victory against opposing bullpens.
FAU rallied from a 4-0 deficit on Friday to defeat Middle Tennessee 7-6 in the Conference USA opener for both schools.
In the sixth, Eric Rivera turned disappointment into FAU’s first lead of the night. He lashed what appeared to be an RBI double down the left field line that would have tied the game only to have the ball called foul. Rivera walked back to the plate, picked up his bat and promptly pounded the next pitch over the left field wall, putting the Owls up 5-4.
MTSU tied the game with a run in top of the eighth, but FAU responded right away.
With runners on first and second, David Miranda pulled a single through the right side that brought home Tyler Frank. Stephen Kerr’s grounder to third brought in Austin Langham to give the Owls a much-needed two-run advantage.
Closer Cameron Ragsdale allowed one run on three hits and a walk, recording the final out of the night with the bases loaded for a shaky save.
FAU coach John McCormack elected to shake up his rotation for the first weekend of conference play.
Marc Stewart made his first weekend start of the year, allowing four runs on seven hits, with all four runs scoring in the first two innings. He struck out four and walked three in five innings and did not factor in the decision.
Alex House, formerly the Owls’ Friday starter, will start on Saturday, with Jake Miednik moving from Saturday to Sunday.
GameBrowser: FAU (12-5-1, 1-0) 7, MTSU (8-9, 0-1) 6
Moving Forward: Second baseman Stephen Kerr returned to the lineup after missing a couple weeks with an oblique injury. He didn’t get a hit in three official at-bats but did drive in three. …Langham had three hits, scored twice and drove in one. …Frank scored three times. …Reliever Mark Nowatnick allowed only one hit in two scoreless innings.
Sliding Backward: Esteban Puerta went hitless in four at-bats. After a scorching start to the season, Puerta’s average has now dropped below .300 for the first time. …Catcher Pedro Pages went hitless in three at-bats and his passed ball in the ninth placed the Owls in a precarious position. …FAU can hit with anyone in the country but right now the Owls don’t have the quality starting pitching they’ve enjoyed in past years.
Key Stat: 3 – Of FAU’s seven runs that scored on plays where the Owls weren’t credited with hits.
Up Next: FAU and Middle Tennessee play the second game of their weekend series on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.