By Alejandro Solana/Staff Writer
Since getting swept by the Rice University Owls in what was a disappointing series, the FIU baseball team jumped back on track and won four straight games this past week.
After beating Florida Memorial 3-2 last Wednesday, March 19, thanks to a walk-off single from freshman outfielder Brandon Gomez, the Panthers hosted conference foe Marshall University for a three game weekend set at FIU Baseball Stadium.
FIU swept the three game series against Marshall outscoring the Thundering Herd 23-2 over the weekend. With the sweep, the Panthers improved their conference record to 6-3 and their overall record to 20-4 on the season.
The first game of the series was played Friday night with the first pitch at 6 p.m. In the first ever meeting between the two schools in baseball, it was FIU who won the game 3-1. This was the closest game of the three, as junior right-handed pitcher Mike Franco took control of the game right out of the starting gate.
Franco threw for a total of six total innings allowing only one earned run on six hits, striking out 10 total Marshall batters. It was Franco’s dominance early that carried FIU into their fourth conference win of the season.
Sophomore second baseman Edwin Rios recorded two hits on the night, and junior outfielder Roche Woodard, who has been playing exceptionally well for the Panthers as of late, also added two hits, one of which came off a two-out solo home run in the eighth, the fourth of his career.
Unfortunately for junior catcher Aramis Garcia, his career best 15-game hitting streak came to an end as he was unable to record a hit on the night. Gomez entered the evening 11-for-22 in his last five games with an 11 game hit streak as well. Gomez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the second.
A strong bullpen once again was able to close out the game for the Panthers, with senior Mike Gomez officially ending the game in the ninth earning the save. It was Gomez’s second save this season and number 20 all time. Gomez is only four saves away from breaking FIU’s all time saves record.
Dollar hot dog for the win
On dollar hot dog Saturday, the Panthers found themselves shutting out Marshall in a 9-0 thrashing of the Thundering Herd.
Behind freshman right-handed pitcher Cody Crouse, FIU secured a series win as the freshmen threw for seven innings en route to his second career victory. Crouse’s record improves to 2-0 on the season in a game where he struck out four batters.
All nine runs came in the sixth and seventh innings as FIU’s bats came alive behind Rios who had another nice outing finishing with a home run and four RBI’s on the night.
Completing the sweep
Another early 11 a.m. Sunday start proved to be no problem for the Panthers as they were able to take care of business and sweep the Thundering Herd of Marshall, sending them back to Huntington, West Virginia winless in South Florida.
Even after clinching the series Saturday night, it was still an important win for an FIU team looking to remain atop the conference standings.
The Panthers scored three runs in the first inning, one in the second, and three again in the fourth. FIU tallied another four more runs in the fifth giving them a total of eleven runs. The Thundering Herd were able to score one run in the top of the seventh, but it wouldn’t be enough as the game ended early due to the C-USA Sunday 10-run rule. Because of a rule in place by the C-USA, if a team is ahead by 10 or more runs after seven or more innings, the game is called.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Chris Mourelle had another incredible afternoon going for six total scoreless innings. For Mourelle, it is his fourth victory of the season improving his record to four wins and no losses. The freshman’s ERA is at a team low 0.85 for the season.
Marshall falls to (6-15, 3-6 C-USA) and will travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State University for one game to finish out their road trip.
As for the Panthers, they travel up to Tampa for another game against the University of South Florida Bulls. Earlier in the year, FIU defeated the Bulls 8-2. After, FIU will continue on up the country into Alabama for a three game conference showdown versus the University of Alabama at Birmingham.