Richard Gibson/Staff Writer
With three games of the series completed, FIU needed to get one more win against the Penn Quakers to split the series. Penn has been offensively efficient in this series, forcing FIU to have to come back from early leads. Today, FIU was the one with the early lead, but Penn bounced back to tie. In the ninth, a clutch single by Ben Rozenblum earned FIU a walk-off 6-5 win.
The first inning for Penn was brief. Despite a single and a player being hit by a pitch, they could earn no runs. For FIU, Derek Cartaya walked, then Jarett Ford singled off a bunt. A double by Justin Farmer brought home two runs, and FIU finished the first with a 2-0 lead.
Penn’s second inning saw two singles and a walk, filling the bases. Fortunately, some clutch pitching by Angel Tiburcio ensured everyone was left stranded on base. FIU’s time was just as busy. Off an error by Penn, Kaeber Rog reached first base, then Cartaya singled. However, they were unable to convert them into runs.
The third inning saw no action for Penn, featuring just a 1-2-3 series. FIU’s third inning wasn’t any better, with a 1-2-3 series of their own.
Offensively, Penn has been lackluster, though the fourth inning changed that. After three singles, filling up the bases, a fourth single brought home two runs. One more single brought home Penn’s third run, giving them the lead. A fourth run would come from two more singles, and Tiburcio’s day was done. FIU responded with a double by Jose Garcia, but nothing else.
The fifth inning for Penn felt like a repeat of the third, with a quick 1-2-3 series. For FIU, Cartaya earned a walk but didn’t score any runs in the fifth.
Penn managed a single in the sixth inning, then a ground-rule double brought home Penn’s fifth run, now leading 5-2. The Quakers were held there, but FIU once again faced a decent deficit. For FIU, Juan Teixiera walked, then Garcia was hit by a pitch. Rog then walked, filling the bases, but a decisive out left all the Panthers on base.
The seventh inning for Penn began with two singles, but couldn’t convert them into runs. With FIU, Ford and Logan Allen singled, but a double play stopped them from putting up runs.
Penn’s eighth inning was just a 1-2-3 series. Then again, Penn was now playing management mode on defense. FIU began with a single by Garcia, then Rozenblum was hit by a pitch. Francis Villaman then doubled, bringing home FIU’s third run. Cartaya then hit an RBI bringing home Rozenblum. Then, Penn’s pitcher balked, bringing home FIU’s fifth run, tying the game.
The ninth inning for Penn began with a single but couldn’t take the lead, giving FIU a shot to close out the game. Farmer singled, then Teixiera was hit by a pitch. Perfectly setting FIU up to win, a decisive single by Rozenblum brought home the game-winning run. The Panthers split the four-game series with Penn with a 6-5 win.
For FIU, pitcher Alejandro Torres picks up the win. FIU’s batters earned nine hits off of 33 at-bats, including five RBIs. Both Farer and Garcia earned two hits, but the biggest hit belongs to Rozenblum, with his walk-off single. FIU committed two errors and was struck out seven times.
“I think it shows great resilience with the team. We didn’t have the best swings today, but we were able to bounce back after that three spots, and no one was trying to be the hero. As a result, good things happened.” said Rezenblum
FIU’s record is now at 9-4, and they’re currently fourth in Conference USA, behind Western Kentucky, Southern Miss, and Old Dominion. FIU’s next opponent will be the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, who FIU has already played earlier in the season, winning by a score of 6-1.
When asked about how the team has changed since their first meeting, coach Mervyl Melendez said “We’ve changed quite a bit, believe it or not! When we played them we were scoring a lot of runs. But now, we’re having to battle back from behind. Still, the energy level and effort is still the same, and the willingness to win is still the same.”
With the Penn series over, FIU will now play Bethune-Cookman on Wednesday, March 11th at 7 p.m. FIU will then travel to Hattiesburg, Missouri to begin a three-game series against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The series will begin on Friday, March 13th at 7 p.m., then continue through the weekend.