If what the FIU baseball team received from its offense late in the near come-from-behind effort Saturday was a spark, Sunday was a power surge.
The Panthers carried over their late energy Saturday for 11 runs in the first four innings to snap a seven-game losing streak with an 11-7 win over No. 19 Rice at FIU Baseball Stadium.
The Panthers lost 6-5 in 10 innings after trailing 3-1 in the ninth Saturday but averted a sweep in the three-game series Sunday.
FIU catcher Aramis Garcia followed up a 3-for-4, three-RBI Saturday outing with another 3-for-4 day — this time driving in five runs.
Garcia was at the epicenter of every rally for FIU (8-8). He came through with a two-out, two-run single in the first inning to put the Panthers on the board, capped a five-run second with another RBI base hit, and drove in two more with a third single in the middle of a four-run fourth.
“Just trying to see my pitch, just trying not to get too carried away with runners in scoring position,” Garcia said.
FIU starting pitcher Mike Franco (2-1) remained on a pitch count as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery he underwent 10 months ago. He threw three innings, giving up two earned runs, seven hits and a pair of walks.
Although Franco’s start was a step back from retiring 11 Ole Miss batters in succession last Sunday, coach Turtle Thomas liked the way Franco battled.
“He fought, he battled, he kept us in there, kept it on the corners, kept it at the knees,” Thomas said. “He should have a chance to have a good outing next Sunday.”
Even though he didn’t pitch five innings, he was credited with the win because it was predetermined he would make an early exit.
The 11 early runs proved to be all the Panthers would need against the Owls (9-7).
“That makes things a little bit easier,” Thomas said. “Rice doesn’t give up runs. … They just got arm after arm after arm in that bullpen.”
Alex Seibold tossed three scoreless innings behind Franco in relief and Mitchell Davis recorded the final eight outs to seal the victory.
Rice starter Chase McDowell (2-1) had not given up a run in 16 1/3 innings this year, but the Panthers roughed him up early for six earned runs off seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings.
Panthers right fielder T.J. Shantz was the only position player to fail to get a hit Sunday, but he might have had FIU’s top highlight when he robbed Rice’s Keenan Cook of a home run in the third and then fired to second to double-up baserunner Connor Teykl, who had fled early in an attempt to tag up and advance to third.
FIU submitted video of the play to ESPN for inclusion in the SportsCenter “Top Ten.”
FIU hosts USF Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Boca Raton to kick off its Sun Belt Conference schedule against rival FAU.