FAU wins 12-5 as UTSA’s season ends at the American Baseball Championship

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The FAU Owls entered Wednesday’s elimination game at the American Baseball Championship without much fanfare.

After all, they lost 16 of 22 games at the end of the regular season and then got hammered 14-2 Tuesday night against the Tulane Green Wave in the opener of the double-elimination tournament.

Faced with the task of bouncing back against the second-seeded UTSA Roadrunners, few gave the Owls much of a chance. FAU players had other ideas.

The tournament’s No. 6 Owls exploded for 18 hits en route to an easy 12-5 victory to end UTSA’s season.

“I’m very proud of the guys,” FAU coach John McCormack said on a zoom call from the tournament site in Clearwater, Fla. “You have your back against the wall against a really good team. They finished second in the league.”

McCormack credited pitcher Trey Beard, a freshman, for showing composure after UTSA took an early 3-1 lead.

“After the third,” McCormack said, “Trey settled down and gave the offense a chance to get moving. We put up that six spot. Took a little pressure off us, and we were able to score some more.

“Good day,” the 16th-year FAU head coach added. “I was happy with the guys. Very proud of ’em.”

For UTSA, it was a tough day. Perhaps the toughest of the season. They took the field without injured Mason Lytle, the Newcomer of the Year in the AAC and the team’s leading hitter. Lytle played in a 9-5, 12-inning loss to Charlotte Tuesday night but couldn’t go against FAU because of a hamstring injury.

UTSA coach Pat Hallmark, whose season ended with a 32-24 record, wasn’t making any excuses.

“We didn’t play very well,” he said. “Yeah, it’s disappointing. (Those are) my thoughts. Florida Atlantic deserved to win. We played better most of the season. It’s a disappointing end. But I’m proud of the team. We had a good year, and I’m going to miss these seniors.”

One day, Hallmark might look back on his fifth year at UTSA with a different perspective. It could be that the Roadrunners overachieved during a 17-10 run through conference, during which it beat East Carolina in a weekend series in San Antonio.

But after making a run for the AAC’s regular-season title though the last weekend and then losing twice in two days at the tournament, he admitted that “it’s a little sour” to leave Florida this way.

“I guess losing is less sour than not playing very well,” he said. “That’s the part that’s sour. But I love these kids. I’m going to miss ’em. Guys like (pitchers) Daniel Garza and Uli Quiroga. Gosh dang it, I wish I had ’em back.”

Paced by Christian Adams, who went 4 for 4 at the plate, the Owls proved to be unstoppable on offense.

Spencer Rich also had three hits, and Brando Leroux, John Schoeder and Jake Millan notched two apiece. Leroux hit a home run, and he joined Rich, Adams and Schroeder with two RBI apiece.

For UTSA, Caleb Hill homered and drove in two runs to highlight a 2 for 5 performance. Hill finished the tournament with five hits.

On the pitching side, Quiroga (8-2) took the loss. He worked the first three innings and yielded six runs, five of them earned, on eight hits.


FAU 27-28
UTSA 32-24


UTSA reliever Conor Myles was ejected in the eighth inning after he hit FAU batter Christian Adams with a pitch.

Myles threw three pitches, including one that sailed high and behind Adams and all the way to the screen in front of the grandstand. A pitch followed that was high and inside, and then another one that hit Adams in the low back.

Asked about the pitch that hit Adams and the ensuing ejection of Myles, FAU coach John McCormack downplayed it.

“He’s coming in, in a tough situation, and I don’t know how much time he had to warm up,” McCormack said. “A ball got away from him. It happens. I didn’t think anything of it.”

The sequence of events in the eighth followed a seventh-inning incident involving Adams, a base runner, and UTSA second baseman Diego Diaz.

Adams led off with a single. FAU’s Jake Millan followed by hitting a ball into left field. As Adams ran, he approached second base and ran into Diaz, who had his back to the base runner.

The force of the collision resulted in both players falling to the ground. The infield umpire called Diaz for obstruction, McCormack said later.

McCormack said Adams intended to attempt a first-to-third base advance following the hit. He said Adams was looking at the ball in the outfield “and they just collided. I didn’t see it until they were both on the ground (and) then the umpire ruled obstruction, and Christian was able to go to third.

“I didn’t see it,” the coach added. “Looks like it was just a collision, and those things happen.”

With Diaz shaken up on the play, UTSA took him out of the game momentarily to have him checked out by the trainer. He returned during the same inning and played the rest of the game.

Asked about what happened in the incident involving Myles, Hallmark said he didn’t know. Added Hallmark, “He hit him. Probably going fastball in and just missed (on location) a little bit.”

Hallmark said he didn’t see the collision involving Adams and Diaz in the seventh.

“I was looking at the ball and the relay (throw), and when I looked back, Diego was on the ground.,” the UTSA coach said. “Obviously I put two and two together that the kid ran him over. But I was watching the play in the outfield, to see if we picked it up clean and made an accurate throw to the first guy.”

Hallmark said Diaz wanted to stay in the game. But it was determined that he should come out to be examined further by a trainer. “The trainer told me he thought he was fine,” Hallmark said. “So he and I chatted and he seemed totally fine.”

Diaz, a freshman from Pharr and Sharyland High School, finished the game with two hits and a run scored, and he was also charged with two errors.

Early game

Parker Smith pitched into the seventh inning, and Jack Riedel hit two opposite-field home runs as the Rice Owls beat UAB, 9-0, eliminating the Blazers.

With the win, the eighth-seeded Owls bounced back from a tournament-opening 12-4 loss to the East Carolina Pirates. They’ll play again on Friday against either the Wichita State Shockers or the top-seeded Pirates.

Smith gave up six hits in 6 and 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking two.


UAB 26-29
Rice 23-35

Coming up

On Thursday afternoon, in the winners’ bracket, the Shockers and the Pirates will play the first game, followed by the Charlotte 49ers and the Tulane Green Wave.

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