The way Friday night’s game went, FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas may consider assigning more games to a committee of Panthers’ pitchers.
Jack Schaaf had three hits, Irving Lopez scored twice and six Panthers’ pitchers combined to give FIU a series-clinching 5-2 victory over No. 13 Southern Mississippi.
Christopher Mourelle and Nate Pearson threw an inning each for FIU (27-27, 14-15 Conference USA) before freshman Frank Chacon came on and hurled 31/3 frames, allowing only one run and striking out a career-high four. Willy Fabra, Robby Kalaf and Alex Demchak held the Eagles in check after Chacon exited, securing the freshman’s first career victory.
The Eagles (36-17, 20-9 C-USA) and Panthers traded first-inning runs before sitting through a 90-minute rain delay. FIU struck quickly after the stoppage, as Lopez and Schaaf scored second-inning runs to give FIU a 3-1 lead and provide the Panther pitchers plenty of breathing room.
When Southern Miss pitcher Kirk McCarty’s fourth-inning pitch and catcher Chuckie Robinson traveled in opposite directions, Eddie Silva alertly raced home from second to score the Panthers’ fourth run. FIU added their fifth and final run an inning later on a second wild pitch.
FIU seniors Austin Rodriguez, Rey Perez, and Kalaf were honored before the game, and all three saw playing time. Rodriguez started at designated hitter and notched a second-inning single, Perez contributed two hits and an RBI, and Kalaf threw two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Demchak replaced Kalaf on the mound at the start of the ninth inning and secured his third save of the season. After allowing the first two Eagles to reach base, Demchak set down the next three in order, including the dangerous Dylan Burdeaux, who had homered and tripled earlier in the game.
With the victory, the Panthers secured their second series victory against a ranked team this season. FIU took two of three from then-No. 17 FAU in late April.
FIU, who clinched a berth in next week’s Conference USA tournament with Thursday’s walk-off win, concludes its regular season Saturday against Southern Miss at 11 a.m.. The Panthers can earn the tournament’s sixth seed with a victory and an Old Dominion loss.