MONROE, La. - A five-run eighth inning rally was not enough to erase a seven-run deficit, as the ULM baseball team fell to No. 28 Florida Atlantic 9-7 Friday night in Sun Belt Conference play at Warhawk Field.
A Les Aulds base hit through the middle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth scored Taylor Abdalla and Judd Edwards to trim the Warhawk (16-18, 4-9 SBC) deficit to 9-4. After reliever Brett Nizamoff hit Caleb Clowers to reload the bases, Jeremy Sy drew a four-pitch walk to plate Justin Stawychny and make it a four-run ballgame (9-5). Joey Rapp followed with a two-run single to make it a 9-7 contest.
Wil Browning tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning to give ULM a chance in the bottom half of the frame. Abdalla led off with an infield single against Florida Atlantic (23-12, 11-2 SBC) closer R.J. Alvarez, but the Owl pitcher got two quick outs by striking out Brandon Alexander swinging and forcing Edwards to fly out to center field. A Stawychny pop out to first base ended the game.
Les Aulds, Rapp and Alexander each paced ULM with two RBIs, with Clowers and Abdalla also contributing two hits apiece. Sy reached base three times on the night and added an RBI.
The Warhawks loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning, beginning with Clowers reaching on a one-out single against Florida Atlantic starter Ryan Garton (7-2) and advancing to second on a stolen base. Sy drew a full-count walk and Corben Green was then hit by a 2-1 offering. Garton struck out Abdalla swinging to end the ULM threat.
The first three Florida Atlantic hitters reached safely in the top of the second inning, and a Geoff Jimenez sacrifice fly to center field scored Mark Nelson to give the Owls a 1-0 lead. Mike Albaladejo roped a two-run single off starter Cale Wine (4-4), scoring Kyle Newton and Mike Spano to push the advantage to 3-0. Wine punched out Corey Keller looking on a 0-2 pitch for the inning's final out.
Spano laced a two-out single to right field off Wine to plate Nelson in the top of the third, and an errant throw from Abdalla allowed Jimenez to score all the way from first base, stretching the Florida Atlantic cushion to 5-0.
Wine hung his second straight scoreless frame in the fifth inning after Rapp gunned down Nelson trying to score from second base following a Jimenez infield single. Rapp's heads-up play kept the Warhawks within five runs (5-0).
ULM broke through against Garton in the bottom of the sixth. Rapp drew four-pitch walk to open the inning before moving into scoring position at second base on a wild pitch. An Abdalla single gave the Warhawks runners at the corners with one out. Alexander delivered on the RBI opportunity by blasting a double off the wall in right center field, scoring both runs and bringing ULM within four at 6-2.
Reliever Kendall Thamm battled out of a one-out jam with two men on in the top of the seventh inning, forcing out Alex Hudak on a ground ball at second base and striking out Spano swinging to keep the Warhawks in range (6-2).
The Owls put the game further out of reach in the top half of the eighth inning, as Nelson took Shelby Aulds deep and out over the outstretched glove of Abdalla at the wall in right field to give the visitors a 9-2 cushion.
Nelson and Albaladejo led Florida Atlantic with three RBIs each, while Newton chipped in three hits and a run scored. Garton allowed two earned runs on five hits in 5.1 innings, walking three and striking out eight to pick up the win.
Game two of the weekend series is scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch Saturday at Warhawk Field.