Ricky Santiago begins to celebrate as Corey Keller scores the game-winning run in Sunday's FAU victory over Cincinnati. (OwlAccess.com photo)
Reliever Mike Sylvestri allowed only one base runner over the final four innings and Mike Spano's 10th inning single drove home Corey Keller to give FAU a 4-3 victory and series sweep over Cincinnati.
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BOCA RATON – In an opening weekend filled with strong FAU pitching performances, Mike Sylvestri saved the best for last.
Sylvestri entered in the seventh inning and pitched four shutout innings, befuddling Cincinnati until Owls' catcher Mike Spano could deliver the game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th to give FAU a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati.
“Mike Sylvestri was unbelievable huh? Wow!” FAU coach John McCormack said.
Sylvestri earned the win in dominating fashion. The senior righthander struck out the first six batters he faced – five of them swinging.
In the ninth inning Sylvestri showed he could be economical, too, retiring Cincinnati in order only four pitches.
“Throughout the fall all (pitching coach Jason) Jackson harped on was, you have to go out there and have the mentality that you are going to go out there and strike this guy out - you're going to get this guy for us,” Sylvestri said.
Sylvestri's lone blemish came in the 10th. With one out he fooled Colin Hawk with an off-speed pitch, but Hawk was able to get enough of his bat on the ball to loop a double down the left field line. Hawk would get no further.
Pitching for the first time with a runner on base, Sylvestri powered his way to another strikeout – his seventh – and induced a routine fly ball to end the threat.
FAU's offense finally produced in the bottom of the inning.
Corey Keller, who had been hot all weekend, led off the bottom of the 10th with a triple to centerfield. Three pitches later Mike Spano roped a fastball through the right side of a drawn in infield, giving the Owls the series sweep over the Bearcats.
“It's pretty fun when you win games like that,” Keller said.
The victory kept the Owls a perfect 3-0 on the season. It's the second consecutive season-opening series the Owls have swept. Last year FAU traveled to Tuscaloosa and took all three games from Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are the Owls' opponent next weekend. This time the series will take place in Boca Raton.
GameBrowser: FAU 4, Cincinnati 2 (10 innings)
Owl-Star performance: Since Sylvestri's performance is well documented above let's look to Corey Keller, who tripled and scored the game winner. Keller went 8-for-13 on the weekend with 3 RBI.
Moving forward: In his first game experience in nearly a year, Jeremy Strawn allowed three runs – two earned – in six innings and retired the last 10 batters he faced. ...Mark Nelson was 0-for-3 but he drew three walks and drove in one run. ...Mike Spano is now 4-for-10 with three RBI on the season. ...Mitch Morales had two hits, drove in the Owls' first two runs and turned a nice double play in the first. ...Nathan Pittman was 1-for-1 with four walks.
Moving backward: Clean-up hitter Tyler Rocklein went 0-for-5 and is now 1-for-13 on the season. ...Sean Murrell went hitless on Sunday and committed an error. He's now 1-for 7 on the year. ...Levi Meyer followed a good debut by going 0-for-4, leaving four on base.
Key stat: 2.89 – The Owls' team ERA. Eight of the 10 pitchers who've appeared for FAU have an ERA of 3.00 or lower.
Up next: The Miami Hurricanes come to Boca Raton on Wednesday night. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.