The FIU Panthers seemed like they might achieve the unfathomable Tuesday night at Mark Light Field against a University of Miami team that nearly didn’t do what it had done the previous 3,248 games.
But in the seventh inning of the first regular-season baseball game between the neighboring schools since 2008, UM’s Carl Chester singled up the middle to break up a no-hitter by right-handed senior Robert Garcia.
The Panthers were more than happy with an absolute beat-down of the forlorn Hurricanes, winning this one with a 12-1 three-hit drubbing on UM’s home turf at Mark Light Field. It was the largest margin of victory ever by FIU against UM.
In the finest outing of his college career, Garcia (1-2) allowed the one hit and four walks in a career-long seven innings – four days after he pitched four innings against Manhattan College. He struck out nine Hurricanes and was relieved in the eighth by Alex Demchak, who got another two strikeouts.
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The Hurricanes, off to their worst start since 1987, fell to 4-7. Four of the seven games coming into Tuesday night had been shut-out losses.
FIU (6-6) has now won four in a row and meet the Hurricanes again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at FIU Baseball Stadium. The Panthers came into the game with a 24-92 all-time record against the Canes, including a loss the last time the two teams met in the 2015 NCAA Coral Gables Regional.
“I want to thank Coach [Mervyl] Melendez for trusting me and giving me the opportunity,’’ said Garcia, a junior-college transfer from Mexico City who said he knew of UM’s tradition, but that the Hurricanes “were just regular players’’ in his mind . “I was focused. I was thinking pitch by pitch...
“I know I was the most prepared guy on the field tonight and I showed it.”
Melendez lauded his entire team, but especially his pitcher: “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Garcia,’’ the coach said. “He did a stellar job.’’
When asked if he was surprised at UM’s play this season, Melendez said he had “a lot of respect’’ for the Canes. “There’s a rich tradition of excellence and championships. I know the coaches will do a great job. They’ll pick it up.
“For us, it’s about building on what we did good tonight.’’
UM freshman starter Greg Veliz (0-1) took the loss in 51/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on two hits, one of them a solo home run by JC Escarra, the Panther who graduated from Mater Academy in Hialeah.
“We don’t control how they do,’’ Escarra said regarding UM. “With great pitching and our offense, we did everything we had to do. When we do that, we’re going to win 100 percent of the time.’’
FIU scored one in the first, four in the sixth and another seven in the eighth, with Escarra knocking in four runs. Irving Lopez, Zach Files and Adam Sevario also had two hits apiece. Eddie Silva added a two-run homer in the eighth.
UM’s Johnny Ruiz led off the ninth with a double for the Canes’ second hit of the night and Romy Gonzalez drove him home with a single to end the shutout.
The Hurricanes have now gone 3,249 games with at least one hit, little consolation to the team at this point.
“It’s depressing,’’ UM coach Jim Morris said. “We don’t have to worry about anybody else. We have to worry about us and how to get better. The only answer I know is to keep working hard and work even harder...’’