FIU’s baseball players spent way too much time Wednesday craning their necks and watching balls fly over the outfield wall at FIU Stadium.
Florida Gulf Coast scored all its runs off home runs — four of them — to score an 8-6 victory over the Panthers in the first game of a doubleheader. From the first pitch to the final out, the game lasted 7 hours 14 minutes, including a rain and lightning delay of 4hours 16 minutes.
The second game of the doubleheader was not scheduled to start until past 9 p.m.
“Hey, baseball was meant to be played,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said.
The first game started at 1:05 p.m., and the lengthy weather delay occurred with one out in the fifth and the game still being unofficial until five full innings had been played. Thomas had no intention of calling it off.
“We could have called it then, and it would have been a no-decision,” said Thomas, whose team trailed 7-2 at the time. “We didn’t want that.
“I told them at the time that I thought we could win this game, and they made a good effort to do that. We almost did, but just couldn’t get over the hump at the end. We made a good comeback, and we made a good game of it.”
Florida Gulf Coast (26-16) put on an early power display against FIU (23-20).
In the first, Gulf Coast’s Michael Suchy barely eked a two-run shot over the left-field wall. Then, in the second, Colton Bottomley blasted a three-run homer, followed by a two-run home run by Nick Rivera in the third. All those home runs came against FIU starter John Caballero.
Gulf Coast created the final 8-6 margin with its fourth homer in the eighth, when Mike Reeves lofted a shot over the right-field wall.
Chris Elander replaced a beleaguered Caballero at the start of the fourth and finally held Gulf Coast scoreless in 3 2/3 innings pitched, substantially reducing his ERA from 10.80 to 6.97. Mitchell Davis then replaced Elander and gave up only one hit — of course, it was a home run, Reeves’ shot.
Of the FIU relief pitching, Thomas said, “that was another positive, those guys coming in and throwing well.”
FIU wasn’t completely without home run power. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, FIU’s Edwin Rios lined a single to center followed by Josh Anderson blasting a strong home run over the left-field wall, his sixth homer of the season, to make the score 7-2.
Then, with one out in the fifth, came the waiting game as the nasty weather forced the delay — a halting of play so long the teams could have gotten in another game, even an extra-inning one at that. Either that, or watch a double-feature movie.
Instead, Thomas said his team, “Just hung out, and I talked to some of the players individually.”
Once the teams returned to the field, FIU quickly added two more runs. Gulf Coast’s second baseman got handcuffed by T.J. Shantz’s sharp grounder and Roche Woodard crossed the plate to reduce the margin to 7-3.