Florida International U

Rios provides FIU’s spark with bat and glove

Some games have no particular turning point. They muddle along, various successions of plays shaping a lumpy final product. Then, you have games such as Tuesday’s 8-4 FIU win over Bethune-Cookman before 101 fans and scouts at FIU Baseball Stadium.

The moment where this game pivoted like a second baseman turning a double play was as clear as the gently cool night. In fact, the turn started with the glove of a second baseman, sophomore Edwin Rios, and Rios went 2 for 5 with four RBI at the plate to help complete the swing. In between, junior left fielder Roche Woodard, 2 for 3, helped tame Bethune-Cookman until FIU rediscovered its offense.

Bethune-Cookman led 4-1 with one out and runners on first and second in the fifth inning after a pair of walks by eventual winner, junior Mike Ellis. Josh Johnson cracked a drive headed for right field and at least one RBI when Rios sailed to spear it.

“I got a good jump on it, but it was pretty tough,” Rios said.

Bethune-Cookman left fielder Bryant Munoz followed by singling to left, but Woodard came up throwing. Earlier, Munoz had run down an Aramis Garcia drive to left center before running into the wall (and holding onto the ball). Garcia got a measure of revenge by going full single arm extension to grab Woodard’s high throw and coming down in time to tag out Jordan Robinson for the third out.

“Humongous,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said of those two plays. “That’s probably a couple more runs right there.”

In the bottom of the fifth, a two-out walk to junior Julius Gaines, a Garcia single, a passed ball and an intentional walk to junior Josh Anderson brought up Rios. While Rios said he understood the intentional walk strategically considering how he had been hitting, he said still considered it something of an insult.

He replied with a two-run single to cut Bethune-Cookman’s lead to 4-3. Junior Brian Portelli’s grounder to shortstop Shaun McCarty should have ended the inning, but McCarty flubbed both the grounder and the throw. Two more runs scored and FIU had a 5-4 lead.

That expanded to the final score in the sixth. Another Garcia shot that Munoz caught near the warning track brought in a run. Rios doubled to the right-center gap, driving in two more runs.

The offensive explosion massaged FIU after last weekend at Alabama-Birmingham. Both teams’ pitching dominated as UAB took two 1-0 games and FIU won 2-0 on Sunday.

“We talked about it more than once,” Thomas said. “We absolutely needed to get to swinging the bat again. We worked with a lot of guys before the game tonight. We worked with six specific guys. Most of them did a nice job tonight.”

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