Nine-run eighth inning helps FAU beat FIU

 

dneal@MiamiHerald.com

Saturday’s FIU-FAU baseball game sat 10 outs from extra innings, one out from going into the bottom of the eighth tied. By the time FIU came up in the bottom of the eighth, the Panthers faced a nine-run deficit.

That’s right, nine runs, only five of which were earned. That mammoth rally with two outs rocketed FAU to a 13-5 win that ties the weekend series going into Sunday’s closer.

“We were able to allow FIU to help us out,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “I tell our guys, it’s like driving a car. Sometimes, you’ve got to put the gas on, sometimes, you’ve got to back off. This point, we had to back off and let them do their thing. But that is an odd thing. Can’t remember the last time I saw someone score nine runs with two outs. That’s a lot.”

Freshman Chris Mourelle (6-1, 1.05 ERA) takes the ball for FIU against FAU junior Drew Jackson (4-1, 2.91) in a 1 p.m. Easter matchup of right-handers.

That will decide a series in which FIU scored the first nine runs — 6-0 Friday night and up 3-0 after three innings, two of the RBI coming from an Aramis Garcia double that drove in Tyler Hibbert and a Garcia solo home run. But FAU began scratching back in a fourth with two runs on only one hit.

One hit … plus one balk, one catcher interference on Garcia, two batters hit by freshman starter Cody Crouse.

“You’re always fighting the freebie war,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “One thing FAU doesn’t do — they don’t make a lot of errors, they don’t walk guys, they don’t hit guys. They don’t do all the things that give free baserunners. They make you hit the baseball to beat them. That is a big key against them. We all have difficulty scoring runs sometimes. You’re facing good college pitching. I’ve got to believe we gave them 15 to 18 freebies [Saturday]. You’re just not going to win that game.”

Think of the FAU fourth as the preview to the full movie of the FAU eighth.

The inning began tied 3-3 after senior Tyler Rocklein’s sixth-inning homer to center field. With two out, Rocklein began the eighth inning rally with a single off junior Mike Ellis, who gave up Rocklein’s home run immediately after relieving Crouse. Ellis walked junior Mitch Morales and freshman CJ Chatham, prompting Thomas to send in sophomore left-hander Charles Cormier to face left-handed hitting sophomore center fielder Billy Endris with the bases loaded.

Cormier walked Endris on four pitches: 4-3. Mitchell Davis took the ball from Cormier. Freshman Kevin Abraham from Miramar brought joyful squeals from his cheering section with a single up the middle that scored two runs: 6-3.

The inning should have ended on freshman Jose Bonilla’s bouncer up the middle, but FIU junior shortstop Julius Gaines lost the ball getting it out of his glove and another run scored. A walk to freshman Stephen Kerr loaded the bases for junior Ricky Santiago.

Santiago made the first out of the inning and should have made the last when he hit a towering infield fly ball. FIU junior third baseman Josh Anderson’s brilliant day in the field ended under this fly ball. Drop, two more runs scored. Even at 9-3, after two blown chances at the third out, what happened next was predictable.

Sophomore Brandon Sanger blasted a three-run shot over the right-field wall. FAU led 12-3.

“One of those games, you go home and forget about,” Thomas said. “Come back tomorrow and play.”

Read more FIU stories from the Miami Herald

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