FIU and FAU carried on as they have recently at FIU Baseball Stadium.
FAU got a redemption home run from right fielder Corey Keller, a timely long out from .196 hitter Geoff Jimenez and six good innings from starter Austin Gomber. FIU got ill-timed strikeouts, double plays and a wasted strong eight innings from starter Tyler Alexander.
Oh, and FAU (33-20, 17-11 in the Sun Belt) got its fifth consecutive win 4-3 in 11 innings. FIU (25-28, 13-15) took its 12th loss in the past 14 games, guaranteeing this will be the first regular season under .500 for the Panthers since 2008.
Until the seventh inning, this game sailed along with the smoothness of a midnight drive along the Florida Turnpike, which runs just west of the FIU campus.
Alexander, after giving up two runs in the second, settled into a rhythm and would eventually end with 11 strikeouts. Gomber unplugged FIU’s bats, allowing only two hits in the first six innings and took a 2-0 lead into the seventh.
“He’s a good pitcher; he’s been tough on us last year, tough on us this year.” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “We’ve got to do a better job of swinging the bat against him. He’s a good college pitcher. He’s 5-4, so somebody’s beating him along the way. We need to be one. We might just face him next week in the conference tournament, who knows?”
FAU coach John McCormack said the Owls knew they had to get to Alexander early and, “You knew FIU was going to make a run. They’re too good an offensive team not to make a run.”
The Panthers did with a three-run seventh, although it was helped by two errors. Shortstop Mitch Morales booted a Julius Gaines grounder to start the inning. Gaines eventually got driven in by T.J. Shantz’s chopper into left field. With runners on first and third, Keller dropped Oscar Aguirre’s deep fly ball, allowing FIU to take a 3-2 lead.
Keller erased that lead in the top of the eighth with a rocket into the soccer field. FIU got base runners in the 10th and 11th innings only to hit into double plays each time.
Between those half innings, Jimenez came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded after FIU reliever Alberto Cardenas walked two and gave up a hit. Jimenez smacked a fly ball to the warning track to score Morales.
On Friday night, a game switched from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., FIU will start freshman right hander Chris Elander (0-1, 6.48 ERA) against FAU redshirt junior right hander Jeremy Strawn (4-2, 3.44 ERA).