WEST PALM BEACH – Florida Atlantic may want to consider making its new home-away-from-home its primary residence.
Playing their first game in the brand new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the Owls bludgeoned Florida Gulf Coast 13-1 on Tuesday.
“We should move here,” FAU coach John McCormack joked. “The venue itself was fantastic. I’d never been here. What a beautiful place. I wish we could lift this up and take it home with us, put this whole place in the bus. It was a good night. We got a lot of guys in the game. A lot of guys in theory, feeling good about themselves for the weekend.”
Four different Owls enjoyed multi-hit games and eight pitchers combined to shut down the Eagles at the plate. FAU achieved a modicum of revenge with the victory, having lost to FGCU 7-5 on Feb. 28.
Spring training home of the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches opened in February. Unlike Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, the spring training home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, neither the Astros or the Nationals have a minor league team that calls the ballpark home, so it’s been virtually unused since the end of March.
The Owls elected to move their final two midweek games of the season to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in hopes of starting a relationship that could pay dividends in future postseasons.
FAU’s outdated on-campus facility doesn’t meet the standards to host either a Conference USA tournament or an NCAA regional. While it’s likely too late for the Owls to play a postseason game here this season (the C-USA Tournament will be played at Southern Miss and FAU doesn’t have the resume to warrant consideration as an NCAA Regional host), the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches could become a viable host site in the coming years.
“You have the back fields here,” McCormack said. “There’s plenty of locker room space. There’s plenty of bullpens. There’s plenty of everything for everybody for an eight-team tournament. Great for the fans. It would be a really, really, really nice venue for a conference tournament. Airport’s right there. [President Donald] Trump might have everybody over to Mar-a-Lago, maybe?”
On Tuesday, in front of a sparse crowd, FAU smacked line drive after line drive that echoed throughout the venue that holds more than 8,000 fans when full.
David Miranda’s two-run single highlighted a five-run second inning that saw the Owls send 10 men to the plate. One inning later Miranda launched a bases-loaded triple to deep right-center field that cleared the bases, capping a four-run.
“It was awesome experience,” Miranda said. “Ir was a beautiful place to play at. It makes it even better that we won. 13 to one? It was a perfect night. It was beautiful. Great. Awesome.”
Esteban Puerta pounded a Matt Rumpf offering onto the berm beyond the left field wall for a fifth-inning grand slam that ensured the Owls would bus back to Boca with a victory.
While FAU hitters found their power strokes, the Owls’ pitchers overpowered the Eagles’ bats.
Making his first start of the season, Blake Sanderson tossed two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. Sanderson, who boasted a 1.50 ERA entering the game, could be heading to the weekend rotation, joining fellow former reliever Mark Nowatnick there.
Nowatnick tossed five shutout innings to earn the win over Texas-San Antonio on Sunday in his first start of the season.
Seven different relievers followed Sanderson on Tuesday, each throwing an inning. Only Kyle Marman surrendered a run – a solo homer in the ninth.
FAU will return to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on May 16 to face Central Florida.
GameBrowser: FAU (26-13-1) 13, FGCU (28-16) 1
Moving Forward: FAU Baseball hit a home run with this game. Great venue and the Owls played well. Fans should be looking forward to the May 16 game against Central Florida. …David Miranda went 3-for-3 and drove in five runs. …Austin Langham went 3-for-5 and scored twice. …Pedro Pages also enjoyed a three-hit night, scoring twice and driving in a run.
Sliding Backward: Kyle Marman allowed a solo homer and FGCU put two more runners on base before he recorded the final out. …Eric Rivera didn’t get in on the hit parade, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
Key Stat: 15 – Hits on the night for the Owls, who also didn’t commit an error.
Up Next: FAU returns to its actual home in Boca Raton to meet rival FIU in a weekend series. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.