Conference USA

Jake Miednik helps keep Florida Atlantic’s season alive, sends Old Dominion home

FAU pitcher Jake Miednik throws to first after fielding a ground ball during the Old Dominion-Florida Atlantic game at the C-USA tournament in Biloxi on Friday, May 26, 2017.
FAU pitcher Jake Miednik throws to first after fielding a ground ball during the Old Dominion-Florida Atlantic game at the C-USA tournament in Biloxi on Friday, May 26, 2017.

Florida Atlantic’s Jake Miednik followed up his best performance of the season by practically one-upping himself Friday.

Fresh off being named the Conference USA Pitcher of the Week, the FAU left-hander shut down Old Dominion in Friday’s first elimination game at MGM Park.

Miednik allowed two runs on four hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings to lead FAU to a 6-2 victory. He also struck out five.

The performance came less than a week after the 5-foot-10 southpaw threw eight scoreless innings against Old Dominion to earn the conference’s honors.

“Last week when I faced them I had good fastball command as well,” he said. “Just, hey, keep doing the same thing is the gameplan.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Though last week Miednik mixed in more curveballs to keep the Monarchs off balance, Friday he relied mostly on fastballs.

The adjustment paid off. The only time he ran into trouble was the seventh, when the Monarchs (37-21) led off the frame with a single and hit batter. Following a fly ball to center and a shot that was caught up against the 350-foot marker in left field, Miednik struck out Sinnen looking to end the threat and keep the shutout intact.

“In a tournament like this you need an outing like that,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “I know at this point it’s all hands on deck and for him to go out there and give us 7 1/3, it was fantastic.”

ODU finally broke through in the eighth. For the second consecutive inning the Monarchs’ first two batters reached base, this time on a double and a walk. Following a groundout, Kyle Battle singled to left, scoring ODU’s first run and ending Miednik’s day. Vinnie Pasquantino then plated another run when FAU’s left fielder Eric Rivera lost a fly ball in the sun. Rivera initially looked like he had secured the ball in his glove, only to watch it elude his grasp and tumble to the turf.

“We’ve been kind of streaky offensively this year,” ODU coach Chris Finwood said. “We’ve got it going and had a lot of big innings. They say hitting is contagious, good and bad, and we are a great example of that.

“When things are going bad for us we can’t seem to get out of our own way. And when things are going great we’ve been rolling people. The last two days we just couldn’t get the big hit.”

Following a Weston Clemente strikeout, FAU brought in Drew Peden. The Owls’ second reliever promptly spun around and picked off Battle, who had strayed too far from second base, to end the rally.

Opening the offense

The top of FAU’s batting order beat up the Monarchs, combining for nine of the team’s 10 hits.

“That’s why they’re there,” McCormack said. “David (Miranda) has had a great year and Tyler (Frank) is all-conference. … (Jared) Shouppe did a good job setting the table and (Stephen) Kerr really broke it open for us.”

FAU opened the scoring in the third inning, scoring two runs on singles by Kerr and Miranda. Kerr added to FAU’s lead in the fifth with another RBI-single.

Things went sideways on ODU in the sixth as the Monarchs had to use three pitchers to get through the frame. Miranda led off the inning with a double off the right-field wall and later came around to score on a wild pitch. A hit batter with the bases loaded pushed FAU’s lead to 5-0.

Austin Langham singled in FAU’s sixth run in the ninth inning to round out the scoring.

Frank finished with a game-high three hits. ODU starter Michael Blanchard took the loss, allowing two runs in three innings.

Looking ahead

The Owls (35-20-1) advance to face Rice in another elimination game at 9 a.m. Saturday. Rice opened the tournament by defeating FAU 5-3.

ODU, which entered the day with an RPI of 44 after finishing second in C-USA’s regular-season standings, will have to head home and hope its regular season resumé holds up on Selection Monday.

After the game, Finwood touted his team claiming eight of 10 conference series and 12 of 14 overall as justification for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament.

“I think the committee tends to look at your overall season,” Finwood said. “I think as long as we didn’t go 0-2 and give them any ammo. … I feel like we’ll be in.”

As for FAU, though the Owls entered the tournament as the third seed, with an RPI of 60, McCormack acknowledged his Owls “still have some work left to do.”

“This certainly helps,” he said. “We finished third in a good league and beat the second-place team three out of four times. I’m under the impression we need to win another game to be in the real discussion. Of course, if we win two tomorrow, I think we’re in good shape.

“But if we win two tomorrow we might as well win the whole thing Sunday (and get an automatic bid).”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs