BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Florida Atlantic University baseball team notched their most victories since 2004, advanced to the Gainesville Regional championship, and made a boatload of history in the process. Today is a look at the season that was, both below, and at the embedded link above, for the latest episode of Head Coach John McCormack's podcast, "Mac's Musings" (you can also listen directly at http://bit.ly/MacPodEp14).
On the last day of the regular season, the Owls saw their Senior Day game get washed out, but the program still celebrated the careers of eight players that took the FAU Baseball Stadium field for the last time the day prior: Kevin Abraham, Weston Clemente, Matt Harris, Jake Miednik, David Miranda, Mark Nowatnick, Drew Peden and Marc Stewart. As it turns out, now that the MLB Draft is in the books, three more Owls may have also said their final goodbyes: Tyler Frank, Kyle Marman and Cody Wilson.
The 43-19-1 squad finished third overall in the Conference USA standings, and would go 3-0 in elimination games to eventually finish as the league's runner-up during C-USA's postseason championship. Gainesville was a similar track, winning three straight, including a victory on the final day of the regional over No. 1 Florida to force a deciding game against the homestanding Gators.
All told, the Owls won 12 series this season, eight by sweeps, including for the first time ever over perennial powerhouse Miami. They went 7-2-1 in conference series, 23-6 at home, and won 70 percent of their neutral site games, all in postseason play.
On the all-time yearly stat lists, as a team, hitters struck for 79 home runs, the fifth-highest mark in history, and were struck by 74 pitches, fourth highest. Pitchers struck out 505 opposing batters, good enough for third place all-time, as was their mark of 8.16 strikeouts per nine innings. Five relievers combined for 22 saves, the best mark in the program's 38-year history, and the Owls' defense made for 1670 putouts, the third-highest mark, while their fielding percentage of .969 ties for fourth best ever.
On the career individual lists, hitting-wise, Frank finishes second all-time in walks (120) and 10th in doubles (43), Miranda places sixth in triples (seven) and 11th in slugging percentage (.560), and Abraham ranks third in HBP (31). Rising junior Eric Rivera will look to climb that list as well, as he is ninth currently with 23. Defensively, Abraham also finished ninth on the career putout list (758), while two returnees make the fielding percentage ledger: Andru Summerall (1.000, first) and Gunnar Lambert (.992, eighth).
On the pitching side, Nowatnick now has the program's third-lowest career ERA (2.87) and is fifth in fewest walks per nine innings (2.19). Peden's 13-3 win-loss record makes for a percentage of .813, fifth-best, while Miednik's .750 (15-5) ties for 10th. Miednik is also 11th in strikeouts per nine (8.9). And Zach Schneider has the opportunity to come back for a senior season already third in saves (15).
Some 2018 season marks made the all-time ledger as well, beginning with Joe Montes, second in at-bats (263), while Wilson placed 10th there (249). Frank's 70 runs scored is seventh and 20 doubles is 10th, and his 52 walks ranks fourth. He also tied the program record for longest hitting streak of 24 games. Peden and Schneider make the pitching annals, with the former's 36 appearances third, and the latter's 15 saves second.
Here is a breakdown of this year's leaders in every category:
- Average - Miranda, .326
- Runs - Frank, 70
- Hits - Montes, 77
- Doubles - Frank, 20
- Triples - Miranda, 3
- Home Runs - Wilson, 14
- RBI - Rivera, 50
- Walks - Frank, 52
- Stolen Bases - Wilson, 19
- Slugging - Frank, .547
- On-Base - Frank, .436
- ERA - Miednik, 3.31
- Wins - Peden, 9
- Games - Peden, 36 (Total); Coletti, 15 (Starts)
- Saves - Schneider, 15
- Innings - Miednik, 81.2
- Strikeouts - Miednik, 91
Beyond the nearly dozen players that will not be returning, a nucleus of position players will be back, most of which were spoke of during this episode of Mac's Musings. Seniors will include first baseman/catcher Lambert and third baseman Montes. Lambert reached base in each of his last 30 games, and finished among the league leaders with 12 home runs and 42 walks; Montes was a model of consistency, wrapping at .293, leading the team in hits, and starting every single game on the hot corner. Catcher Pedro Pages and leftfielder/second baseman Rivera will lead the juniors, both back for their third year, batting .309 and .277, respectively. Pages finished second on the team in hitting and showed improvement in nearly every offensive category, and Rivera led the team in RBI and will be second among returnees in getting on base.
That duo will be joined by another junior in second baseman Richie Nizza, who earned his role there by starting the last 17 games, including the entire postseason, and making a great deal of highlight-reel plays in the field. Freshman Jared DeSantolo solidified the DH slot with a .342 average, 12 extra-base hits and 24 RBI, and earning a nod on both postseason All-Tournament teams, and redshirt frosh Andru Summerall wrapped the year with nine home runs and a .467 slugging percentage while playing a flawless first base.
The pitching staff will see a bulk of returnees, mostly coming out of the bullpen, but many with starting experience. Vince Coletti led the team in starts and will be back for his senior year, as will fellow final-year hurlers Blake Sanderson and Nick Swan. Those two have a combined seven years and 97 appearances under their belts heading in next year.
The team's closer, Schneider, will be another member of the senior class, and pitchers moving up to their junior year include Jordan Poore and Mike Ruff. Beyond Schneider's 15 saves, he was 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Both of those latter names started and relieved (and in Poore's case, played outfield as well), with Poore's relief ERA prior to the finale a scant 0.69, while Ruff led all on the staff with a .216 batting average against.
The Owls' returnees and incoming class will soon be back on campus in preparation for the fall and the 2019 campaign, in what will be McCormack's 11th year as head coach, and 29th year overall with the program.