FAU baseball spent Sunday night in New Orleans awaiting Monday’s return flight to Boca Raton and contemplating the consequences of a lost weekend.
There wasn’t any reason to hit Bourbon St. Nothing to celebrate.
The Owls spent the weekend in Hattiesburg, Miss., looking to bolster their NCAA resume with wins over No. 20 Southern Miss. Instead, they were swept, losing the final two games of the three-game series in walk-off fashion.
“If we hold onto those two games we’re (an NCAA Regional) team,” FAU (29-16-1, 15-9 C-USA) coach John McCormack said.
Now the Owls have left themselves little room for error over the regular season’s final games. The good news for FAU? Even with the three losses, FAU actually climbed six spots in RPI to No. 55 (Which begs the question, How is RPI even a consideration when selecting teams for the NCAA tournament?).
With three of FAU’s remaining games against Old Dominion (RPI No. 39) and another against Central Florida (RPI No. 30), there is opportunity to push the Owls RPI into the 40s, where McCormack believes it needs to be to give the Owls a chance at an at-large berth.
McCormack also thinks FAU needs to complete the regular season among top three teams in the Conference USA standings. Right now the Owls are in third place, four games back of leader Southern Miss, which likely can’t be caught by the Owls, and one behind ODU.
He’s looking for no worse than a 5-2 finish over the final seven games, the first three of which come this weekend at C-USA cellar dweller Western Kentucky (14-35, 4-20), or a 4-3 finish with a run to the C-USA tournament title game as potentially being enough to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
Of course, FAU can remove all doubt by winning the Conference USA tournament, which begins on May 24 in Hattiesburg.
FAU has reached the NCAA Tournament in three of the past four seasons.
Closer Concerns: Senior Cameron Ragsdale blew his third and fourth saves while taking the loss on Saturday and Sunday. Overall, Ragsdale has converted seven of his 11 save chances. On Monday McCormack said he’s considering matching pitchers’ strengths to hitters’ weaknesses at Western Kentucky when the next save opportunity arises.
That could mean right-handed sidewinder Drew Peden faces a right-handed hitting lineup, lefty Weston Clemente faces a left-handed line-up or Kyle Marman against a team that struggles against fastballs.
Ragsdale’s seven saves are tied for second most in C-USA. McCormack could still give him another chance.
“We’ve got to get him back out there at some point,” McCormack said.
Rotation Stabilized: McCormack intends to keep reliever Blake Sanderson in the rotation this weekend. Forced into a Saturday start after another reliever-turned-starter, Mark Nowatnick, cracked a bone in his foot in a victory celebration two weekends ago, Sanderson allowed four runs over four innings against Southern Miss. Alex House will remain the Friday starter, with Jake Miednik drawing the Sunday start.
League Leaders: FAU shortstop Tyler Frank currently ranks second in C-USA in on-base percentage (.462) thanks in large part to his 38 walks – which is also the second most in the conference. …Frank is one of three Owls among the C-USA leaders in walks. Stephen Kerr (33) is fifth, while Austin Langham (31) is ninth. …David Miranda, who didn’t begin the season in the starting lineup, is tied for fifth in the conference with 11 home runs. As a team FAU has hit the second most home runs in Conference USA with 57. …House’s 74 2/3 innings pitched are the fourth most in C-USA.