WEST PALM BEACH – Concerned that he may have overused pitcher Alex House thus far this season, FAU coach John McCormack has removed the junior righty from this weekend’s starting rotation with hopes of having him fresh for next week’s Conference USA tournament.
“We probably taxed him a little too much,” McCormack said. “We probably should have skipped him one time during the year.”
House will operate from the bullpen this weekend when Old Dominion comes to Boca Raton for a series with critical seeding implications for the C-USA tournament. Should the Owls sweep the Monarchs FAU will be the No. 2 seed in Biloxi. An ODU sweep could drop FAU all the way to the seventh seed.
ODU enters the final series alone second place, while FAU is tied for third with Louisiana Tech. Southern Miss clinched Conference USA’s regular season title last weekend.
“Right now we’re playing for seeding,” McCormack said. “We’d like to get into that two spot where the seeding is a little bit easier for you. Although, between two and seven, there’s not much difference between records.”
Normally a reliever, Kyle Marman will get the series-opening start on Thursday that would have gone to House. The sophomore righthander owns a 1-1 record with a 4.71 ERA in 17 appearances this season – all out of the bullpen. It will be his first collegiate start.
Blake Sanderdson is expected to start on Friday. The starter of Saturday’s regular-season finale is to be determined. Regular Sunday starter Jake Miednik has been dealing with a personal issue this week and his availability is uncertain.
House threw 7 1/3 innings as a freshman followed by 37 1/3 innings last season. This year he’s exactly doubled the total from his sophomore season, currently sitting at 74 2/3 innings.
This season has been an inconsistent one for House. He sports a 5-3 record, tying him for the most wins among FAU pitchers, along with a 5.06 ERA. When he’s been on, House has been tough. He’s tossed two complete games, and the 6-3 victory over UAB on March 24 featured 10 strikeouts, earning him Conference USA Pitcher of the Week honors.
In House’s last outing, Friday at last-place Western Kentucky, he labored through six innings, allowing five runs on 10 hits and taking the loss in a 6-4 Hilltoppers victory.
“He hasn’t pitched great,” McCormack said. “We’re going to need a start out of him. I thought it was a good idea to give him some time off before the conference tournament – refresh his arm a little bit.”
House worked a scoreless inning of relief in Tuesday’s 9-4 victory over UCF at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, needing only 15 pitches while allowing one hit and striking out two.
Afterward McCormack noted an improved breaking ball from House.
House isn’t expected to be used more than once for an inning or two this weekend. The move, McCormack said, is intended to give House, “A little mental rest, a little physical rest.”
Prior to the upcoming starting rotation shake-up McCormack shook up the batting order on Tuesday, moving the hot-hitting Jared Shouppe to the lead-off spot and sliding Tyler Frank, the Owls’ most consistent and productive hitter, to the No. 3 slot – a spot in the order that’s lacked production over the past few weeks.
As a team FAU is hitting .292, but the No. 3 spot in the line-up – the spot usually reserved for one of, if not the most, productive hitter on the team – is only producing at a .272 clip, striking out 40 times in 204 at-bats.
Frank, who had hit lead-off all season, didn’t immediately take to the move, going 0-for-5.
“That three hole still baffles us – the black hole,” McCormack said. “We’ll probably stay with this [batting order] on (Thursday), see how it goes.”