The Owls ride a streak of four consecutive games with double-digit scoring into the first Conference USA weekend of the season.
“Most importantly the guys are starting to feel better about themselves,” FAU coach John McCormack said.
During the season’s early weeks no one struggled more than preseason All-Conference USA selection Tyler Frank.
Hitting from the second spot in the lineup during the opening five games, Frank stumbled to start the season. He’s caught fire, though, since moving to the lead-off spot and currently leads the Owls with four homers with an average now above .300.
Frank doesn’t take many pitches and work deep into counts like a prototypical leadoff hitter would, but McCormack doesn’t intend to move him deeper in the lineup to comply with baseball norms
“We don’t churn butter anymore either,” said McCormack, citing another convention improved by modernization.
Joe Montes began the season as the Owls’ leadoff hitter, but he too, benefited from the change in the batting order.
More relaxed the No. 2 spot, Montes racked up seven hits during the weekend sweep of Seton Hall and blasted his first homer in Wednesday’s defeat of North Florida. Montes, Frank and Pedro Pages are the lone Owls hitting better than .300.
“We tried to get him to take a few more pitches and try to be a lead-off guy because he’s so good with two strikes – and he’s not comfortable,” McCormack said. “Here in the two spot he can swing the bat and we can give him things to do – bunt, hit an run, hit behind Tyler if he hits a double – so I think it’s better for his mind that he goes up there with something to do.”
While the top of the order struggled, Diamond Johnson launched a surprisingly inconsistent start for the Owls. Batting ninth, Johnson’s only hitting .182, but his RBI ground out against North Florida on Thursday temporarily tied him for the team lead at 12.
Later on Tuesday Pages drove in a run to retake sole possession of the team lead with 13 RBI.
FAU enters conference play owners of a 13-4 record and winners of five straight.
Traditional power Old Dominion didn’t get off to the start it would have have liked, losing seven of its 16 games. The Monarch’s 5.32 ERA is second-to-last among C-USA teams.
McCormack understands, however, that the start of conference play can bring out the best in a team.
“Once you get into league play it’s totally different,” McCormack said. “People change, people get a little different, people get a little hungrier.”