FAU senior center fielder Nathan Pittman opened Friday night’s game against FIU by homering to left field.
And that was your ball game, ladies and gentlemen.
Or, at least it might as well have been when FIU could manage only six hits off redshirt junior right hander Jeremy Strawn, who threw only 103 pitches in a complete game 3-0 win for FAU (34-20, 18-11 in the Sun Belt).
FIU freshman Chris Elander allowed only two runs after the first batter of the night. That exceeded FIU pitchers’ recent margin for error.
“We threw well the last Troy game, [a] 3-1 [loss],” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “Threw well three games against [Arkansas-]Little Rock. Pitched both games here [well]. We’ve had six good performances. And their guy Strawn threw really well.”
Said Strawn, “I mixed all four [pitches]. I didn’t really stick to one pitch. I threw them all to different spots. It worked out well.”
When Strawn faced the Panthers in Boca Raton, they knocked him out of the box on the way to a 10-run third inning. This time, when FIU threatened in the third inning with first and second and no outs, Strawn escaped with some FIU assistance.
Strawn opened the inning by hitting Antonio Rodriguez, then gave up a single to Nathan Burns. FIU gave Strawn an out when Tyler Hibbert bunted the runners to second and third. As Zach Sweety lined into FAU first baseman Mark Nelson’s glove, Burns took off from second with his head down. Nelson fired over to second, sealing off a possible Burns return and forcing Rodriguez to head home from third. Rodriguez was tagged out well short of home to end the inning with FIU still down 2-0.
FAU’s third run came on a squeeze play that saw no one cover home as FIU catcher Aramis Garcia sprung up the third-base line to field Mitch Morales’ bunt. Ricky Santiago scored. On Santiago’s two-out triple, Burns and Hibbert collided as they raced for the deep shot to right center. Hibbert remained down as Burns retrieved the ball.
Hibbert was taken to the emergency room. If he has a concussion, as it appeared he did from the way he wobbled, then carefully walked off the field, he’ll miss next week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament.
Saturday’s 1 p.m. game will be the regular-season closer for both teams and FIU’s Senior Day. The Panthers are 5-0 on Senior Day under Thomas.