FIU baseball 9, Arkansas State 6 (11)
It could have been a sour ending for FIU, but Josh Anderson found something sweet.
Anderson’s three-run, walk-off homer to left field gave the host Panthers a 9-6 victory over Arkansas State in 11 innings Sunday.
“I got a cookie,” said Anderson, who went 3 for 6 with 5 RBI. “It was a changeup that [reliever John Koch] left out over the plate.”
Arkansas State, which had booked a 5 p.m. flight out of Fort Lauderdale, would have escaped with a rare tie had it gotten two more outs.
Because of its travel plans, no inning could have started later than 2:30, and it was already past that time when Anderson came to the plate.
“[FIU coach Turtle Thomas] got all the hitters together before that inning and told us they were going to call it,” Anderson said. “We didn’t want a tie.”
Ironically, Arkansas State and FIU tied in 2011 — the only such result in Thomas’ career — and it ended up costing the Panthers the Sun Belt regular-season title because they finished a half-game behind Florida Atlantic.
On Sunday, late-game defensive substitute Roche Woodard started the 11th with a single.
With one out, Edwin Rios doubled to the right-field corner, but Kaleb Brown did a good job of getting the ball back in and keeping Woodard at third.
Arkansas State had thrown an FIU runner out at the plate in the first inning, and Thomas said Woodard would have been nailed by “30 feet” had he not held him up.
From there, Arkansas State could have walked Anderson to get to Oscar Aguirre, who was 0 for 4. But it opted to pitch to Anderson — a big mistake.
“He hit a bomb,” Thomas said of Anderson’s team-high-tying fifth homer of the season. “That ball went 19 miles.”
FIU (15-12, 5-4 Sun Belt) won its fourth consecutive game, including a sweep over Arkansas State (16-13, 4-5) in which all three games were decided by one run or went to extra innings.
The Panthers, who got a three-run, opposite-field homer to left in the second inning by last-in-the-order Tyler Hibbert, could have decided things much more simply.
But Alberto Cardenas, trying to nail down his first save since 2010, gave up a 6-5 lead with the help of Aguirre.
After Woodard made a sensational diving catch in the left-field corner to start the top of the ninth, Aguirre let a grounder go through his legs for an error.
Cardenas gave up a walk and a single by Collin Massanelli that tied the score.
It could have been worse had catcher Aramis Garcia not made a great stab at a pitch that got away from Cardenas while he was issuing an intentional walk.
“It was an awesome game,” Anderson said. “It was a nail-biter to the end.”