Edwin Rios ransacked an 0-1 offering for a solo homer in the first inning to spark FIU’s 7-1 victory over Alabama-Birmingham in the Panthers’ home finale.
“I’m just glad we got this win today,” Rios said. “It’s great. If we can get it going now and start the game like we can, with our hitting, the pitching will just take over. We just need to go out there and come out hard and ready to fight.”
Right-hander Christopher Mourelle allowed one hit and threw six strikeouts in seven scoreless innings for the win. UAB starter Johnny Lieske surrendered five earned runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“Mourelle was the freshman player of the year in the conference last year,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “He has pitched some really good games where we haven’t scored many runs to support him. We faced good pitching here too. Their pitching is just as good as Rice’s pitching. These guys are right at the top of the league in earned run average.”
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J.C. Escarra added an RBI single in the third inning before Brian Portelli’s solo home run gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning.
Zack Soria slapped a single to bring in two and Jack Schaff belted a two-run home run to left field to give the Panthers a 7-0 edge in the sixth inning. UAB (28-22, 13-14 Conference USA) plated its lone run with an RBI double in the ninth inning.
Rios, who had just two homeruns last year, is No. 2 in the nation with 18 home runs this season. The junior has added 20 pounds to his frame since last season.
The Panthers (24-27, 12-15) are tied with Old Dominion for seventh place in C-USA standings. The Panthers would have to sweep Rice in their final series of the season to finish .500.