-- FAU Baseball (@FAU_Baseball) February 28, 2017
BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Florida Atlantic University baseball team will play on both coasts on consecutive days this week, traveling west to Fort Myers to face Florida Gulf Coast Tuesday, then returning home to host Miami on Wednesday night. Both games start at 6:30 p.m.
The Owls (4-1-1) are coming off of a true series split against Indiana at home, losing for the first time this season Friday, rebounding with a win Saturday, then falling victim to travel curfew in an 11-inning 6-6 tie on Sunday afternoon. That marked the first tie for the squad since 2008.
The FAU bats continue to sizzle, as the team's batting average is still a healthy .333. Six batters are hitting .300 or better, and they have hit 11 home runs as a squad, led by three each from Tyler Frank and Esteban Puerta. The two have combined to knock in 25 runs (13 for Puerta, 12 for Frank), and Frank paces the squad with 19 hits and 11 runs scored.
This past weekend against IU, Frank was 9-for-14 including a 5-for-5 showing in the game two win. He had multiple hits in each game (going 2-for-4, 5-for-5 and 2-for-5), had home runs in each of the first two games in the series, and scored at least one run and had at least one RBI in all three games (runs: 1/3/1, RBI: 2/2/1). The Loxahatchee, Florida native is now hitting .613 on the season through six games with three home runs and 12 RBI.
When the Owls face FGCU (6-2) Tuesday, they will send senior Sean Labsan to the hill in a starting nod for the first time this season. The lefthander pitched an inning in relief against Indiana this past Friday night, allowing two hits and a run while striking out a batter. In 2016, he was 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA, with 39 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched. The two-way player was named C-USA Preseason All-Conference as a utility player.
He will go up against the Eagles' Mario Leon, a redshirt junior righthander. It will be Leon's second start of the season; he comes into Tuesday's matchup at 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA. In the season opener, a loss to Sacred Heart, he pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and four runs (just one earned), walking four and striking out four. A year ago, he was 4-4 with a 5.12 ERA, with 56 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings pitched.
To this point, FGCU has played all eight of their games at Swanson Stadium, most recently winning 2-of-3 against Bethune-Cookman. The squad's leading hitter is Richie Garcia at .360, and Spencer Levine is batting .348 with a team-high 11 RBI. Eight Eagles have at least seven hits on the year.
All-time, FGCU has a slight edge in the series, 10-6. Last year, the teams split games: FGCU won an extra-inning affair in Fort Myers on April 12 (3-2 in 11 innings) and in Boca Raton on April 19, it was a 5-2 decision in favor of the Owls.
On Wednesday night, as the Owls return home, they will welcome back junior righthander Marc Stewart, making his 2017 debut after a 6-0 campaign last season with a 3.58 ERA. He tied for the team lead with 15 starts, and opposing batters managed just a .240 average against him.
Miami (2-4) will counter with freshman Greg Veliz, making his collegiate debut. Veliz is a 6-2, 205-pound righthander from North Broward Prep. He was ranked No. 19 in the state of Florida by Perfect Game, and Baseball America had him as the No. 304-ranked MLB draft prospect following his senior season.
The Hurricanes have lost four in a row, the last three in Gainesville, a sweep at the hands of No. 2 Florida. Prior to that, Rutgers took a 17-6 victory on UM's home field on Feb. 19. As a team, they are batting just .173, with only James Davison (3-for-9, .333) and Michael Amditis (4-for-13, .308) above .300.
In 73 all-time meetings, Miami has won 59. Head coach John McCormack has six wins against the Hurricanes, including four wins out of the last 10. Just as with FGCU, the Owls split last year against UM, winning in Coral Gables on April 20, 4-3, while the 'Canes took the matchup in Boca on May 5, 5-2.
Tickets for Wednesday's game with Miami can be purchased by calling 1-866-FAU-OWLS or visiting https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/fau/EN/link/buy/browse?i%5B0%5D=251.