RUSTON, La. (ODU Sports)– The 18th-ranked Old Dominion baseball team hit its way past Florida Atlantic with an 11-2 win to kick off the Conference USA Championship at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park in Ruston, Louisiana. The fourth-seeded Monarchs (39-14) notched 16 hits and led wire-to-wire following a two-run bottom of the first before blowing the game open with seven runs in the seventh.
“The seventh inning has been a good inning for us this year,” head coach Chris Finwood said. “Our guys just kept grinding in the batter’s box. We let them off the hook a few times, and Hunter Cooley made some good pitches, but we finally got to him. That’s the great thing about college baseball, once you get the momentum going it’s hard to stop that ball from rolling down the hill.”
A rainy morning delayed the start of Wednesday’s game by two hours. Having waited a prolonged amount of time just to take to the field, ODU got to work immediately. Starting pitcher Ryne Moore threw a perfect top of the first with a pair of strikeouts to turn the game over to the Monarchs’ bats.
Kyle Battle led off the bottom of the first and nearly cranked his 18th home run of the season. Instead, the First Team All-Conference USA outfielder settled for a triple. After Kenny Levari popped out, Carter Trice laced a single into right to drive home Battle. Andy Garriola flied out for the second out of the inning before Brock Gagliardi doubled into left center to score Trice from first base.
C-USA’s Freshman of the Year, Trice led the way offensively for Old Dominion. He shared the game high with three hits in five at-bats, drove in three runs and scored twice. Battled ended the day batting 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and a walk, and Levari notched a pair of hits as well. In total, the top three hitters in ODU’s lineup went a combined 7-for-14 with four runs driven in and six runs scored.
Moore continued to keep the Owls (30-24) quiet through the first three innings of the game, allowing just one baserunner on a hit-by-pitch in the second. Levari padded ODU’s advantage with a leadoff home run to right field in the bottom of the third.
FAU finally broke through in the top of the fourth, plating two runs on a pair of hits. B.J. Murray led off the inning with a double then scored after back-to-back groundouts. Bobby Morgensen then hit a two-out solo homer to make the score 3-2.
Those two runs in the fourth would be the only surrendered by the Monarchs. Moore tossed two more scoreless innings before exiting the game. The All-C-USA second teamer scattered five hits while striking out five and collecting his eighth win of the season.
“Moore is gritty,” coach Finwood said. “He’s been lights out the past four or five weeks. He just battles. He really only made one mistake on the home run. He did everything we needed him to do, and we played good defense behind him.”
ODU loaded the bases in the fourth inning and plated one run to double its advantage. From there, Cooley settled into a groove and tossed scoreless frames in the fifth and the sixth.
The Monarchs sealed the win with seven runs on seven hits in the bottom of the seventh. Three-straight singles to open the inning loaded the bases for Trice, who hit a two-run single into left to chase Cooley from the game. Following two quick outs from reliever Mitchell Hartigan, Matt Coutney delivered with a two-run single to plate Trice and Levari. Tommy Bell followed with an infield single to set up a double from Luke Ransom, which scored both Coutney and Bell. Old Dominion then loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch and a walk, and pinch runner Dominick Claxton scored the game’s final run on a wild pitch.
Cooley took the loss after allowing eight runs on 13 hits in 6.0 innings of work.
Jason Hartline, who entered for Moore in the seventh inning negated a leadoff walk in the top of the eighth. The Monarchs then went down in order in the bottom of the inning. Hartline stayed in the game for the top of the ninth and worked around a one-out single for his third save of the season.
Hartline allowed just one hit and one walk in three innings while striking out a pair of Owls.
Eight of the Monarchs’ nine offensive starters recorded a hit in the win. Bell matched Trice with three hits to share the game high. Coutney went 1-for-3 while driving in two and scoring twice. Ransom also collected two RBI while batting 2-for-4. Ryan Teschko had a two-hit day as well. The Monarchs return to the diamond at 1:30 p.m. ET tomorrow and will play either top-seeded Charlotte or No. 8-seed Middle Tennessee. Hunter Gregory will start on the mound for ODU. Tomorrow’s game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and carried over the airwaves on Money Talk 1310 AM and Rejoice 100.9 FM.