Baseball

First-Place Baseball Host Arkansas State in Sun Belt Conference Showdown

April 19, 2012

Game Notes

Boca Raton, FL - The two baseball teams in the Sun Belt Conference will square off this weekend when first-place Florida Atlantic University hosts second-place Arkansas State University at the FAU Baseball Stadium, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus. The important series begins on Friday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m.

The Owls (24-14 overall, 12-3 in SBC) hold a two-game lead over the Red Wolves after winning their first five conference series. The team is 5-1 in league games at the FAU Baseball Stadium this spring.

Arkansas State (21-17, 10-5) won two of three games in last weekend's home series against Western Kentucky University. The team is coming off a 5-3 setback to Southeast Missouri State on March 17.

Senior infielder Mike Albaladejoleads a balanced FAU offensive attack with a .365 batting average - the fourth-best mark in the SBC. The Winter Garden native has scored 32 runs, and tops on the team with 10 doubles from the lead-off spot in the batting order. Albaladejo's 54 hits rank second in the conference.

Junior first baseman Mark Nelson ranks fifth in the league with 34 runs batted in and has compiled a .295 batting average. He is tied with junior outfielder Corey Kellerfor team-high honors with six home runs. Keller is hitting .314 at the plate.

Junior third baseman Kyle Newton's .320 batting average ranks second on the team, while junior catcher Mike Spanohas a five-game hitting streak -- the longest current stretch - and has improved his average to .295 on the season.

Pitching has been another key to the Owls' success this season, especially in SBC play. Senior right hander Ryan Gartonis preparing to be the team's No. 1 starting pitcher for the 24th consecutive league series. The New Port Richey native has won seven victories to tie for the conference lead and rank fifth nationally. He has won his last three starts and four of his five SBC starting assignments. Garton also stands among the league leaders in earned run average (2.86), innings (56.2) and strikeouts (53).

Saturday's game will mark the return of sophomore Kevin Alexanderto the pitching rotation. The right hander stands 4-0 with a 2.01 ERA and will be making his first start since beating Middle Tennessee State University on March 24.

Freshman left hander Austin Gomberrounds out the weekend rotation, posting a 3-1 record and a 3.15 ERA. All three of his mound victories have come in league games.

In the bullpen, junior R.J. Alvarez anchors the relievers with seven saves and a 0.65 earned run average. The right hander has recorded three victories and 36 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. Senior left hander Ahmed Garciais another quality arm in on the staff, having a 2-0 record, two saves and 1.88 ERA in 18 appearances.

Arkansas State is led by right-handed pitcher Jacob Lee with a 4-1 record, 2.77 ERA and 56 strikeouts over his nine starts. Offensively, third baseman Claude Johnson has a team-high .359 batting average, with 11 doubles. Left fielder Logan Uxa has connected on six home runs and has 29 RBIs. Lead-off hitter/center fielder Michael Faulkner has 29 stolen bases in 30 attempts. ASU won two of the three meetings with FAU last year in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Live audio and statistics of all games in this weekend series can be found at www.fausports.com. For tickets, contact the FAU Ticket Office at 1-866-FAU-OWLS.

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