On a Tuesday night, FIU and St. Thomas University, ranked second in the NAIA, played a Friday night-type college baseball game: low scoring and decided by the bullpen after the starters evaporated the offenses.
FIU’s bullpen gave up one run, while everybody was waiting to go home in the ninth inning. St. Thomas’ bullpen gave up five runs. Thus, the final score, FIU 6, St. Thomas 1, in FIU’s home opener.
Panthers starter Alex Demchak allowed two hits in five innings and got the win, the 1-3 Panthers first after getting swept at ranked Ole Miss last weekend.
Demchak said he had his fastball at the knees going and “I tried to establish my fastball both sides of the plate and establish my secondary stuff working to get guys out.”
Bobcats starter Andrew Denis took the loss, though he scattered eight of nine hits. The remaining hit, off the bat of Kenny Meimerstorf, wound up over the left field wall in the third inning.
“It was a 1-2 pitch, it was the same pitch he threw me at 1-1,” Meimorstorf said. “I just saw it really well. I was a little out front. I just tried to put the ball in play and a good thing happened.”
Junior righthander Cody Crouse gets the start for Wednesday’s home game against Missouri. The Tigers received votes in the National College Baseball Writers Association poll and the USA Today Coaches preseason poll.
With Meimerstorf’s home run the only scratch on the scoreboard after six innings, both teams played small ball to get more on the board in the seventh. Only FIU succeeded.
Singles by Cesar Ramirez and Oscar Rodriguez gave the Bobcats (7-7) runners at the corners with two out. Rodriguez took off for second, drawing catcher Zack Soria’s throw, the starting gun for Ramirez’s sprint toward home. Second baseman Eddie Silva cut off Soria’s throw in front of second base and returned the ball home in time for Soria to easily get Ramirez.
That brought up FIU to do more with even less intentional offense. St. Thomas pitcher Brandon Valentin essayed the role of the Slide function in the classic board game Sorry. He slid FIU’s runners around the bases with the Panthers’ help mainly being patience.
Valentin walked Irving Lopez, balked Lopez to second and walked Jack Schaaf. Soria bunted Lopez and Schaaf to second and third. JC Escarra’s deep fly out to center scored Schaaf. Walks to Nick Day and Austin Rodriguez loaded the bases for Eddie Silva, who singled in two runs for a 4-0 lead
“Our starter did a great job through six innings,” St. Thomas coach Jorge Perez said. “He threw big pitches when he had to. We just couldn’t get the big hit early. In the seventh, it’s disheartening – they got one hit and three runs. We’ve got to throw strikes and be better in that situation. That’s what hurts. It’s not like they killed us.”