ODU Baseball Takes Two of Three in Weekend Series Against FAU

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Art Neal , Associate Sports Editor

Over the weekend, the Old Dominion baseball team welcomed the Florida Atlantic Owls into Norfolk for another conference weekend series. After their recent 5-1 victory over William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, the Monarchs entered this series at 26-9(9-7 C-USA) while FAU entered the weekend 24-14 (10-5 C-USA). 

Game one was held on Friday, April 22 at 6pm. The Monarch pitching staff combined for a shut out of the Owls on Friday. The charge was led by starting pitcher freshman Blake Morgan. The lefty from New Jersey tossed six innings of scoreless ball while surrendering only four hits, walking one and striking out three. With this masterful performance, Morgan earned the win and moved to 4-0 on the season. The bullpen, righties Connor Muly and Pete Nielsen, built upon Morgan’s dominance as they surrendered only one hit in the last three innings.

Thomas Wheeler #27 rounds third base after hitting a homerun in game one against FAU. (ODU Athletics )

The bats of the Monarchs came as significant run support for Morgan as they plated 14 runs on 16 hits. ODU scored in five out of the nine innings and put on a hitting clinic as they sprayed the baseball all over the field. The meat of the ODU lineup had a day as three hitter senior Matt Coutney went 2-3 with two RBIs, three runs scored along with two walks. Senior Andy Garriola went 3-4 with four RBIs, including a two run bomb in the sixth inning. Other members of the Monarch lineup that contributed were  senior catcher Brock Gagliardi and junior outfielder Thomas Wheeler, who both had three RBI, as well as senior Shortstop Tommy Bell who batted in two also. 

Game two of the weekend series was played on Saturday afternoon at 3pm. The nod was given to Redshirt senior Nick Pantos. FAU jumped out to an early lead as they plated two off Pantos in the second, bringing the score to 2-0 FAU. The Monarchs had a huge response to this when Garriola blasted a grand slam over the left field wall which put ODU up two with the score, now 4-2 in the bottom of the third. Big Blue would then score in the fifth and the seventh, bringing the score to 8-2 at the close of the seventh inning. FAU, however, was not done for the day; they would plate four in the eighth, bringing the game within reach at 8-6 ODU. The Monarchs would put the game back out of reach in their half of the eighth by scoring twice in the eighth, making the score 11-6. The Owls would score again in their half of the ninth; however, they would fall to the reign of the Monarchs that evening. 

ODU’s continued production at the plate was again led by Garriola as he went 2-5 on the day, belting two home runs and a  grand slam in the third. The offense was also helped by their leadoff hitter, sophomore Robbie Petracci, who went 3-5 with three RBIs and the two hole, Carter Trice, who also had a three hit day.  

Matt Coutney #21 takes all the bases after smashing the ball over the wall in game three against FAU. (ODU Athletics )

The final game of the weekend series was a Sunday afternoon game with a first pitch at 12pm. Sophomore rightey Sam Armstrong toed the slab for Big Blue. FAU struck early as they plated two in the first. ODU was quick to respond and also plated two in their half of the first. Moving to the third, Armstrong wiggled his way out of a bases-loaded one out jam to remain unscathed and keep the score tied at two. Trice broke the tie in ODU’s half of the third as he obliterated a solo shot over the left field wall to make the score 3-2. In the fourth, sophomore lefty Jacob Gomez came in to relieve Armstrong and put up a strong performance, retiring the side on 12 pitches in his first inning of relief. The fifth inning was a tough inning for the Monarchs as Gomez had a batter with two strikes and ended up giving way to a 3-2 count on contested ball and strike calls. This full count yielded a three run homer by FAU which gave them the lead 5-3. Skipping ahead to the seventh inning, Redshirt junior Brad Dobzanski escaped the inning with no runs on the board thanks to a great diving catch by freshman Kyle Edwards, which prompted a 4-6-3 double play. The eighth inning was also filled with blessings for the ODU pitching staff, as Dobzanski worked out of another jam to keep the scoreboard 5-3. This jam came with bases loaded and zero outs. Dobzanski prevailed as he forced two outs at home and one fly ball. The Monarchs made a push in the eighth as Coutney blasted an opposite field solo home run, his 21st of the season. This sets an ODU record for homeruns in a season, as well as puts Coutney atop the NCAA HR leaderboard. Despite this feat, the Monarchs could not build upon Coutney’s momentum and fell to the Owls 5-4 on Sunday. 

When asked about breaking the record first baseman, Matt Coutney stated, “It’s always special when you break a record.” Coutney continued,  “But it’s so nice that my dad happened to be here. He hasn’t been here very often.”

Coach Finwood also came in with high praise of his first baseman. “He’s such a good kid,” stated the ODU head coach. “It was really neat for his dad to be able to be here, for him to break that record with him here. They’re a great family and [he’s] a wonderful young man.”

Looking ahead for the Monarchs, The Monarchs were scheduled to play nationally ranked Virginia in Norfolk, but the game was canceled due to inclement weather in the area. ODU will return to action as they play a three-game home series with Louisiana Tech at home this weekend. Game one is slated for 6p.m. on Friday, April 29 with the second game being played on Saturday, April 30 with a 3p.m. first pitch. The last game of the series will be on Sunday, April 31 at noon.