Boca Raton, FL (ASU) - With a game-saving throw in the ninth inning, Florida Atlantic left fielder Colby Gratton went from goat to hero, helping the Owls (27-15, 15-17) hold on for a 3-2 victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves (23-18, 12-7) Friday night in the Sun Belt Conference series opener between the two teams at FAU Stadium.
Trailing 3-1, Arkansas State had runners at first and third with two outs when center fielder Michael Faulkner sent a fly ball into left field for what should have been the final out of the game. Gratton dropped the ball as it drifted toward the left field line, allowing pinch runner Taylor Clements to score from third, but picked up the miscue in time to throw out ASU's Jordan Kimball as he slid across home plate, saving the 3-2 victory for FAU.
"We had to take a chance with two outs," said ASU head coach Tommy Raffo. "Their guy was going backward, away from home plate and we figured that might be our best bet to get the run in. He (Gratton) just put it right where the catcher could make the play."
Arkansas State starter Andy Ferguson (3-3) went the distance on the mound in taking the loss for the Red Wolves. After giving up the three FAU runs in the first four innings, two of which were unearned, Ferguson settled in to retire the final 14 FAU batters of the night. Ferguson did not allow a baserunner after Owl second baseman Raymond Church reached on an error in the fourth, giving up the three runs on just four hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
FAU struck first, scoring a single unearned run in the opening inning. First baseman Dan Scheffler put the Owls on the board with an RBI single to right field after second baseman Raymond Church reached on an error to lead off the inning for the Owls.
Third baseman Sean Bukovich added another run for the Owls with a solo home run to lead off the second, but the Red Wolves cut the FAU lead in half with a run in the fourth when designated hitter Ryan Emery came up with a two-out RBI single that trimmed the Owl lead to 2-1.
Florida Atlantic scored its final run in the fourth when center fielder Anthony Mesa walked to lead off the inning and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Florida Atlantic starter Ryan Garton (5-1) picked up the win for the Owls, giving up one run on two hits, with two walks and a pair of strikeouts. Andy Mee earned his tenth save of the season, working the final inning and giving up one run on no hits after walking the first two batters he faced in the ninth.
Emery, first baseman Murray Watts, second baseman Giovanni Garcia and third baseman Jordan Castaldo each had one hit for Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves and Owls will resume the series Saturday at 3:00 p.m. (CT).