Instead of the KOs FIU blasted its way to over the first two games against Manhattan, Sunday the Jaspers made the Panthers pound out a close decision.
Instead of scoring in flurries to produce an 8-7 win after being down 7-3, the Panthers did it by steadily punching out runs from the fourth through the eighth.
Finally, Oscar Aguirre’s double, his third extra base hit of the day, drove in Nathan Burns in the bottom of the eighth to give FIU its first lead of the day. Senior Mike Gomez sent down Manhattan (0-3) in order for the save.
FIU’s second series sweep of the season sends it into a Monday-Tuesday home series with Texas Tech at 6-1. None of the five previous wins required a grind-it-out approach, however. Certainly not the previous two games against Manhattan, 14-4 and 18-6.
“That was a great win,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, 36 years. I knew that was going to be the case today. I knew absolutely. We tried to warn them all we could. But sometimes kids, they think they have the answers and they don’t always have the answers.”
FIU trailed from batter No. 1 — Nick Camastro.
Camastro’s leadoff home run off FIU starter Mike Franco set the tone for Franco’s second start and Manhattan’s offense of the first four innings.
Last Sunday against Stony Brook, Franco’s first start after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last April couldn’t have gone more swimmingly.
In 45 pitches, Franco worked within one strike of three complete innings and allowed no runs. Sunday, Camastro’s home run, three walks, one of which brought in a run, and a seeing-eye single sent Franco off after two innings down 4-0.
Three more Manhattan home runs, including one by Gulliver graduate Christian Santisteban, built a 7-3 lead going into the FIU half of the fourth. Manhattan starter Scott McClennan kept FIU off balance with off speed. Then, T.J. Shantz, who already had homered, and Aguirre got going in tandem.
Their back-to-back doubles in the fourth got FIU back to 7-4. Shantz beat out a tough grounder to short for an infield hit in the sixth. He scored when Aguirre ripped a triple to deep center that centerfielder Joe Rock nearly turned into the third out with a spectacular diving attempt.
Manhattan sent Kevin Bonnani to the mound in the seventh. In two batters, FIU tied the score: Julius Gaines single followed by Zach Sweety’s homer. That set the stage for the eighth when Burns walked, Shantz moved him over with a bunt and Aguirre doubled.
“Before the game, Turtle and I talked about letting the ball travel, letting it get deep so I can get my hands working,” Aguirre said. “I’ve been out in front a little bit lately.”
Meanwhile, Alex Seibold, Charles Cormier, Mitchell Davis and Gomez held the Jaspers to 24 batters after Joe Rock led off the fourth with a home run.