FIU and No. 21 FAU tacked extra innings onto Sunday’s third game of this season’s baseball series. Befitting each’s season, FIU ran out of hitting, pitching and running before FAU did in a 5-4, 11-inning loss at FAU Baseball Stadium.
FIU’s Danny Dopico (1-4), who threw a season-high 65 pitches after entering the game in the eighth, took the loss after hitting Owls catcher Kevin Abraham to start the 11th. Dopico left for Gianni Zayas, and FAU’s Stephen Kerr sacrifice bunted Abraham over to second. A 10-pitch at-bat ended with Brett Lashley’s single to right field.
An intentional walk to FAU’s leading hitter Brandon Sanger loaded the bases for Pembroke Pines Flanagan graduate Ricky Santiago. Santiago went 3 for 4, but his RBI came from his his fly out that allowed Abraham to come home with a headfirst slide that looked as celebratory as he probably thought it necessary.
The win gave FAU 2 of 3 in the weekend series and lifted the Owls to 28-8 with an 11-4 Conference USA record that ties surprising Middle Tennessee State atop the conference. FIU sinks to 16-20, 7-8 in conference, tied for seventh with Western Kentucky, next weekend’s opponent of the Panthers at home.
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“We played hard for 11 innings,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “We just couldn’t get guys on or guys in later in the game. We hit some balls hard that were caught.”
Said FAU coach John McCormack:, “I feel bad for FIU. They played really well. We played really well. We were just able to get one more run.”
Both teams had their opportunities to win the game after FIU junior Edwin Rios’ two-run homer to right field put the Panthers up 4-3 in the seventh. Upon Dopico taking over from starter Chris Mourelle in the eighth, Santiago doubled to left center to give the Owls second and third with no outs.
With a strikeout and a couple of groundouts, Dopico got out of that, allowing only the tying run. The last groundout was a stellar play by shortstop Julius Gaines. Gaines broke out of a 0-for-18 slump with a 3-for-5 day out of the eighth spot instead of leadoff. On second base in the 11th inning after his third single, Gaines stumbled rounding third on a Zack Soria single to left, thus preventing even a shot at scoring.