A game that began as a defensive battle broke into an offensive explosion for a Florida ball club. But that club was not the University of Miami.
The FIU Panthers dominated the Miami Hurricanes in the first leg of a home-and-home 12-1 on Tuesday night.
FIU opened the scoring early, taking advantage of starting pitcher Gregory Veliz’s control issues to put up a run in the first inning. Veliz walked the second batter he faced and then loaded the bases shortly after. A fly ball was all that was needed, and Panthers designated hitter J.C. Escarra provided just that with a high-hanging drive to Miami (4-7) right-fielder Michael Burns to score the FIU runner.
After five innings without a single hit from either squad, Escarra struck again, this time getting more than enough of the ball to send it soaring over the right-field fence for his second RBI of the day. The home run started a streak, as FIU (6-6) first baseman Zach Files hit an opposite-field double off the left-field wall. This prompted UM Coach Jim Morris to call on Kevin Pimentel from the bullpen. Veliz finished with seven strikeouts across 5.1 innings but allowed three runs on 83 pitches.
Pimentel retired the first batter he faced, but then he found trouble. Two infield-singles, including a squeeze bunt-attempt, brought in a third run. The floodgates burst open when FIU shortstop Irving Lopez hit a double into the left-center gap to bring home two more runs.
The no-hitter was broken up in the seventh by a line-drive up the middle by Canes center-fielder Carl Chester following a Johnny Ruiz base on balls to set the Hurricanes up with their best situation of the night: first and second with nobody out. Two quick outs followed, but another free pass loaded the bases for DH Barry Buchowski. Those three were left stranded when Garcia showed Buchowski to his seat with three consecutive strikes to cap the frame.
The top of the eighth inning brought in Ryan Guerra to the mound, and the Panthers quickly pounced on Miami’s third pitcher of the night. A leadoff single followed by a home run by third baseman Eddie Silva pushed the FIU advantage to seven runs. Guerra didn’t last much longer, as he was yanked in favor of Michael Perez after allowing a single and hitting a batter following the scores.
Perez didn’t fare much better, walking the first man he faced to load the bases before surrendering a two-run single to FIU left-fielder Javier Valdes. FIU collected seven runs in the eighth inning alone.
Romy Gonzalez prevented a shutout with an RBI single in the final inning.
FIU starting pitcher Robert Garcia struck out nine Hurricanes across seven innings of work – allowing just one hit.
Miami will get a chance to bounce back 7 p.m. Wednesday when it heads over to FIU to face the Panthers once again in an attempt to split the two-game set.