Too bad that former radio sports announcer Ronald Reagan couldn’t have the call for Saturday’s FIU-Manhattan affair. The onslaught began within five minutes, er, innings.
FIU (5-1) reached double-digits in runs in two innings, scored in each of the first five innings on the way to an 18-6 win against the Jaspers (0-2) at FIU Baseball Stadium. For those who struggle with math, that’s 32 runs in the first two games of the series for FIU, which managed only four runs in the previous three games.
The series ends Sunday with a 1 p.m. game. Mike Franco will start for FIU.
Freshman first baseman Edwin Rios doubled to each part of the outfield in going three for five with four RBI. Junior third baseman Josh Anderson, four for five with a home run, also knocked in four runs. Senior T.J. Shantz, sophomore Aramis Garcia (two for four) and senior Nathan Burns also homered. Sophomore Roche Woodard went two for three.
“We’ve kind of been preparing for an explosion like this. All year we’ve been expecting this,” Anderson said. “Tonight was the night. Even coach said, ‘I think our hitters are ready for the explosion we’ve been waiting for.’ It just happened tonight. I think we were seeing the ball really well. This is what this team can do every game.”
Bethune-Cookman shut out FIU by getting the Panthers to hack at off speed pitches. Somewhere between Wednesday and this weekend, the Panthers found bat patience. When Manhattan’s pitchers tried coming with the same stuff Friday and Saturday, they found Panthers with no taste for the chase.
“Luckily enough, their guy got behind on a few hitters, had to come in there and we found the barrel a few times,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “When you get behind, you’ve got to come over the bigger part of the plate. Good hitters are going to find that barrel a few times.”
Manhattan led 1-0 after half an inning. FIU thrashed its way to a 4-1 lead in four batters: a leadoff walk by Julius Gaines, T.J. Shantz’s home run to left off a 2-2 pitch, Rios’ double to the left center field gap and Anderson’s high fly ball that rode the air like a zeppelin before descending just beyond the left center wall.
Then, oh, the humanity of the second. Roche Woodard walked, then stole second. Gaines walked. That got Jaspers’ starter Matt Jordan swapped out for Michael Scarinci, who threw out Shantz at first after fielding a sacrifice bunt. Before the next out, Rios doubled to center, driving in two runs; Anderson doubled to bring in Rios; and Aramis Garcia singled to bring in Anderson.
Garcia went to third on a ground out. Freshman Mandy Alvarez drew a walk and Woodard cleared the bases with a triple.
That gave winning pitcher Tyler Alexander, who got up and threw to stay warm during the augmented FIU second, an 11-1 buffer. He kept his no hitter for four and two-thirds innings and allowed only one other hit while striking out six and walking two in six innings. Alexander hasn’t allowed an earned run in either of his two starts.
“I introduced my slider in the third inning as a new pitch I developed. I went hard with the fastball and used the slider as a putout,” Alexander said. “It’s a different pitch I learned from (junior pitcher) Mitchell (Davis). I practiced it in the bullpen on Wednesday. I figured I’d try it out.”