Florida Atlantic rides four-run first inning to 5-4 win over Miami

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic scored four early runs and, with help from a hot bullpen, kept a dangerous Miami Hurricanes offense from coming back in a 5-4 win on Wednesday night.

Winning for the sixth time in seven games, FAU (6-1) jumped out to a hot start against the Hurricanes (3-5), batting around in the first inning. Junior shortstop Tyler Frank led off with a double, his fifth hit in nine at-bats since moving to the leadoff spot on Saturday, and finished with his third multi-hit performance in as many games.

“It’s what you dream of, playing in front of crowds like this,” Frank said of a night on which FAU attracted nearly 1,900 fans. “In front of your university, students, it’s awesome. It’s a good time.”

Sophomore Nick Prather pitched four innings, allowing four hits and three runs while recording four strikeouts. Throwing only 63 pitches, Prather is the only Owls starter this season to have fewer than 10 total innings pitched.

“As he matures, he’s gonna get better because his delivery has a lot of stuff in it,” Owls coach John McCormack said. “Guys that physically aren’t mature yet have a hard time repeating that type of delivery. I think he’s gotta continue to work on his mechanics and physical conditioning.”

Relievers Jordan Poore, Blake Sanderson and Weston Clemente held the Hurricanes to one run before Miami loaded the bases with no outs in the 8th. Drew Peden proceeded to strike out two then induce a lineout to end the threat.

Miami again threatened to tie things at 5 in the ninth, but a lineout to second baseman Eric Rivera gave the Owls their first win in four games against the Hurricanes.

FAU improved to 7-18 against Miami under McCormack, an impressive improvement from the 7-54 record the Owls had against the Hurricanes prior to 2009.

Morris honored: McCormack announced shortly before first pitch that FAU would be giving longtime Hurricanes coach Jim Morris a week-long, expenses paid stay at the Boca Resort. Morris will be retiring following this season after 27 years and nearly 1,100 wins with the Hurricanes.

“He was ahead of the curve and he knows what he’s doing,” McCormack said. “I wanted to do it for me, for our fans and for him.”

FAU baseball prepares for annual home showdown with Miami Hurricanes

Manager John McCormack speaking during the Owls’ media day event. (Jake Elman for The Palm Beach Post)

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic baseball players are happy to have won six of their first seven games to begin the 2018 season. But even with Conference USA play still weeks away, there’s one annual game that the Owls have had circled on their calendars.

FAU (6-1) will welcome the rival Miami Hurricanes (3-4) to Boca Raton for the first of three games the teams will play this season. Miami will later host the Owls on March 21 and April 4.

Despite never playing in the same conference, these two teams have plenty of experience against each other, with Miami dominating the overall series 62-14. FAU has at least made things closer against under current head coach John McCormack, going 6-18 since 2009 and even upsetting the then-No. 1 Hurricanes in April 2016. Miami swept all three games against FAU last season, outscoring the Owls 20-8.

“That will be a good experience, (against a) historic program,” FAU third baseman Joe Montes said. “(It will be my) first time playing them so we’ll see how it goes.”

McCormack said he will start sophomore Nick Prather against the Hurricanes and did not consider starting Owls ace and usual Friday night pitcher Jake Miednik (Stoneman-Douglas). Miednik ranks eighth in the country with 21 strikeouts following a 14-strikeout gem against Delaware on Friday night.

As FAU will play a rare four-game series in Oregon against the Ducks from Friday to Monday, McCormack wanted to keep his pitchers in a routine and has yet to decide who will start the final game out West.

“The way it falls is the way it falls,” McCormack said.

Owls shortstop Tyler Frank, having played Miami five times in two years, is approaching the rivalry like any other game. Frank had only two hits in 12 at-bats against the Hurricanes last season.

“We want to go in there, get a W and move forward into Oregon,” Frank said.

Frank finding his footing: After an unexpected rough start to his junior season, Frank seems to be settling in, raising his average from .055 Friday night to a more-acceptable .192 by the end of Sunday. McCormack originally considered giving Frank a day off to clear his mind, but instead moved his star shortstop from the No. 2 hole back to the leadoff spot, where Frank hit most of last season.

In his two games hitting leadoff this year, Frank has gone 4-for-8 with a walk. Frank remains homerless after hitting 11 last season, while the Owls only have three total.

“You always want to succeed and help your team any way you can,” Frank said after Sunday’s win. “Just trying to do less. Less is more sometimes and just being relaxed.”

McCormack said Frank will continue to hit leadoff for the time being. Montes, who began the year hitting leadoff, had two hits and three RBIs in the two hole on Saturday.

Miednik honoredFAU has its first C-USA honoree of the regular season, with left-hander Jake Miednik being named Pitcher of the Week by conference media members. Miednik, a preseason All-CUSA pitcher, recorded 14 strikeouts in Friday’s 6-2 win over the Blue Hens and is tied with teammate Kyle Marman for second in the conference with 21 strikeouts. Only Southern Mississippi junior Nick Sandlin has more, with 23 punchouts in 14 innings.