FIU was humming with visitors Saturday night, but it was mostly for the Youth Fair in juxtaposition to campus.
A savvy 303 in attendance at FIU Baseball Stadium, however, witnessed the greatest show in the area, which was the Panthers making the pitching of a conference foe look like a batting practice session with 23 runs on 20 hits in a shortened game.
Behind three home runs and six RBI from cleanup-hitting first baseman Edwin Rios and multi-hit efforts from five of the nine Panthers in the starting lineup, FIU (10-13, 2-3 Conference USA) bounced back from dropping six of its previous seven by run-ruling Charlotte 23-1 to even the weekend series.
The 23 runs are the most FIU has scored against a conference opponent since posting 24 in a win against then-Sun Belt foe Arkansas-Little Rock on March 14, 2009. Conference USA rules state that if a team leads by 15 or more runs through seven innings on a Saturday night, the game is called.
“We’re capable of a lot more than what we’re doing,” said coach Turtle Thomas, who added that athletic director Pete Garcia gave his squad a pep talk before Saturday’s scoring outburst.
Rios’ three bombs against Charlotte (7-10, 1-7), two of which went to the opposite field, tie the school record for most in a game – last done by Mike Martinez in 2010. He missed a fourth dinger by no more than two feet as a double off the wall in the fifth rounded out a 4-for-4 night.
“All my power is [to the opposite field] and I’ve been pulling the ball lately,” said Rios, who was slumping with a .216 average entering Saturday. “Today I was finally able to do what I do.”
The Panthers hit around the order in two separate innings with seven runs the third and fifth. As if that weren’t enough, they put up a 4-spot in the second and sixth.
Freshman starter Andres Nunez (3-2) out of Archbishop McCarthy struck out eight in six innings where he gave up one run on five hits.
The Panthers will send sophomore right-hander out of Southwest Miami High, Chris Mourelle (3-2, 3.94 ERA), in the rubber match of the three-game set at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.