FAU scores 8 runs after rain delay to stun USM 9-6 Sunday
Golden Eagles fall in regular-season finale, lose C-USA West Division crown in the process
BOCA RATON, Fla. (WDAM) – For the better part of a drizzly Sunday afternoon at FAU Baseball Stadium, the University of Southern Mississippi seemed poised to pick up a signature victory that not only would clinch the four-game Conference USA series with Florida Atlantic University, but also the conference’s West Division title.
Then the skies opened up, and after a 4-minute rain delay, FAU washed away USM’s hopes, as its bats first bloomed, then boomed, carrying the Owls to a 9-6, come-from-behind victory in the regular-season finale for both teams.
FAU (29-23, 18-14 C-USA) beat up USM’s bullpen for eight runs in two innings. The Owls sent 12 men to the plate in a six-run seventh inning that turned a four-run lead by the Golden Eagles into a 7-5 FAU edge, and then tacked on two more runs for good measure in the eighth inning.
No. 17 USM (35-16, 22-9) could manage only a single run in the ninth inning, setting the stage for Louisiana Tech University to win the West.
The No. 14 Bulldogs (35-14, 22-8) entered Sunday trailing the Golden Eagles by a half-game. Tech’s only hope was a USM loss and a win by the Bulldogs, which is exactly what happened, as Tech piled up runs in a 17-7 victory at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
Tech will enter the 2021 Conference USA Baseball Championship May 25-May 30 as the No. 2 seed in the eight-team field.
USM slipped to third seed with the loss.
For 90 minutes or Sunday, that didn’t seem likely, as the Golden Eagles built a 5-1 lead.
USM starter Drew Boyd checked the Owls for six innings, allowing one run on six hits. He walked no one and struck out eight.
USM built a 4-0 lead on run-scoring triples by Will McGillis and Danny Lynch and a two-run home run by Reed Trimble his fourth of the series and 14th of the season.
FAU’s lone run in the first six innings came when Nolan Schanuel led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a home run, his 11th of the season.
With the rain picking up, USM loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning. Lynch picked up his second RBI of the day when he walked to force in a run and give the Golden Eagles a 5-1 lead.
With a 2-0 count on McGillis, the rain picked up and the game was called for a relatively short delay. About the same time was spent removing the infield tarp and working on the field as the actual duration of the rain itself.
Once play resumed, reliever Dante Visconti had come on for the Owls, and McGillis looked at three strikes to end the top of the seventh.
The delay ended Boyd’s day, with Aubrey Gillentine coming in from the bullpen.
Gillentine gave up Jackson Wenstrom sixth home run of the year to lead off the inning, then surrendered a double and a bunt that turned into a single.
That was all for Gillentine, who was replaced by Blake Wehunt.
Another bunt, this one against the grain of an infield shift, turned into another infield single and scored a run to pull FAU within 5-3.
A single loaded the bases and Steven Loden’s two-run single was the fifth consecutive hit for the Owls and tied the game.
That ended Wehunt’s day, bring in Garrett Ramsey from the pen.
Ramsey issued a walk to reload the bases, then surrendered the go-ahead single to Mitchell Hartigan as the first eight FAU batters reached base without recording an out.
Ramsey got a grounder that ended up in a forceout at home, followed by a strikeout, but a USM error on a groundball allowed a final run to score and give FAU a 7-5 advantage.
The Owls added two more runs on a two-run single by Bobby Morgensen to extend their lead in the eighth inning. Charlie Fischer closed the gap with a solo shot in the ninth to right-center, his seventh of the year.
Wehunt (1-2) took the loss, allowing three runs in three hits without recording an out.
Visconti (4-2) got the win, allowing a run on a hit in 2 1/3 innings. He walked none and struck out three.
USM will open postseason play at 7:30 p.m. on May 26 at J.C. Love Field in Ruston, La., against sixth-seeded Western Kentucky University.
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