On Saturday, FIU gave FAU way too much. On Sunday, FAU allowed FIU way too little.
Owls junior pitcher Drew Jackson gave up a mere four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. By the time a Panther reached second on him — junior Josh Anderson on his seventh-inning home run trot — FAU piled up all of its runs in a 6-1 victory that gave the Owls the weekend series.
FIU leaves the weekend 27-12 overall, 11-10 in Conference USA. Right now, the Panthers would be the seventh seed in the eight-team conference tournament, and FAU (21-18, 9-12) sits 10th in C-USA.
After Mike Franco zapped FAU in FIU’s 6-0 victory Friday, the Panthers walked, balked and bobbled the Owls to six unearned runs in a 13-5 loss Saturday. On Sunday, they never got anything going against Jackson (5-1).
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“He didn’t fall into any kind of pattern,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “He threw a breaking ball and threw a slider and a fastball for strikes. They weren’t able to get comfortable in the box.”
FIU coach Turtle Thomas said though Jackson was the Sunday starter, he was clearly FAU’s best pitcher this weekend and one of the five best FIU has seen this season.
Jackson defused FIU so efficiently, FAU could’ve stopped its run support three batters into the game. Following a single by Ricky Santiago, No. 3 hitter Brendon Sanger blasted a home run to left-center field. The 2-0 FAU lead exceeded FIU freshman Chris Mourelle’s ERA, which was 1.05 before the game.
The second inning did even more damage to that number. C.J. Chatham got a hard hit, bad-hop single through second baseman Edwin Rios, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kevin Abraham. Jose Bonilla Traverso laid down a perfect bunt single down the first-base line. Stephen Kerr’s single scored Chatham.
A Mourelle wild pitch to Santiago moved the runners to second and third. Santiago eventually smashed a grounder back to Mourelle, who fired home — but high — to get Traverso. The throw beat Traverso, but by the time catcher Aramis Garcia could bring it down for the tag, Traverso had slid under for a 4-0 lead.
Mourelle kept Sanger, who homered Saturday and came a combined three feet south of the right-field foul pole of homering Saturday and Sunday, inside the park. Still, the center-field fly out scored a run for a 5-0 FAU lead.
By the time Mourelle left the game, FAU had its 6-0 lead. In his first six starts, opponents scored only two runs off the freshman from Southwest High, and he was among the nation’s leaders in ERA. But he gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings against Louisiana Tech last Sunday and six in 2 2/3 innings this Sunday.
Asked if this is a sign of a freshman wearing down near the end of the season, Thomas said: “Could be. But, honestly, he didn’t have his best stuff last weekend [at Louisiana Tech]. He held in there, 4-2. We certainly had a chance to win the game. [Sunday], he had some pop on the fastball, breaking ball was pretty good. They just came out swinging, hit the ball and did a nice job.”