Friday night against Stony Brook, FIU did what it had done each of the first five games — score early and win — by doing what it hadn’t done in the first five games: hit home runs.
A three-run shot to left field by junior shortstop Julius Gaines and an insurance two-run drive to center field by junior right fielder Louis Silverio propelled FIU to a 6-2 win over Stony Brook in the first of a three-game series at FIU Baseball Stadium.
FIU is 6-0 with junior right-hander Mike Ellis pitching Saturday afternoon.
Junior right-hander Mike Franco worked three perfect innings, then gave up two runs on four hits in getting the win. Of Franco’s nine strikeouts, eight were in his last nine outs.
For Stony Brook’s first game of the season, the Sea Wolves sent out ace Frankie Vanderka, 8-4 with a 2.90 ERA and two complete games in 15 starts last season. Still, the Panthers scored in the first inning, as they had in each of the previous five games.
Leadoff hitter Tyler Hibbert placed a perfect bunt down the third-base line to get on base. With two out, Vanderka hit third baseman Josh Anderson with the first pitch. A double to center field by sophomore second baseman Edwin Rios scored Hibbert for a 1-0 FIU lead.
In the second, after back-to-back singles by freshman JC Escarra and Silverio, Hibbert barely outraced a double-play relay to keep the inning alive for Gaines. Gaines hung in until Vanderka threw him a full-count slider. Gaines blasted it off the light pole beyond the left-field wall.
“The pitch ran back over the plate, not where it was supposed to be,” Vanderka said. “That’s when you get hurt.”
Gaines first career home run gave Franco a 4-0 cushion after two innings. Franco gave up two runs in the fourth on a pair of walks, a throwing error by catcher Aramis Garcia and a single to left field by Anthony Italiano. Senior Albert Cardenas took the ball from Franco in the sixth and escaped a first-and-third, no-outs situation unscathed with three strikeouts in four batters.
Nobody reached base on Vanderka’s successor, Chad Lee, until Escarra singled and Silverio homered over the 375 mark in left-center field.