LAFAYETTE, La. – Edwin Rios accounted for all of FIU’s offense as he hit a pair of two-run homers to lead the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over UALR in an elimination game on Thursday at the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Rios, a native of Orlando, Fla., hit his first homer of the day in the opening frame to give the Panthers an early 2-0 lead. The long ball scored Zach Sweety who had reached on an infield single.
The freshman struck again in the sixth on a shot down the left field line to break a 2-2 tie and put FIU ahead, 4-2. Aramis Garcia scored on the play after a base-on-balls. The two homers upped Rios’ total to nine on the season.
“I was seeing the ball well and was trying to hit it hard,” Rios said. “We are just trying to win and keep moving on. This was a huge win. Yesterday we were a little bit down after a tough loss, but we got through it and we’re trying to win this whole thing. We worked extra hard this season. There were a lot of ups and downs, but we are here now and we are looking to win.”
Tyler Alexander got the nod for the Panthers on the mound and struck out ten in 5.2 innings. Jason Morozowski (2-0) tossed just two-thirds of an inning and picked up the win. Chris Elander and Mitchell Davis combined for 1.2 scoreless innings of relief for FIU.
The Trojans trailed 2-0 in the fourth inning when an RBI groundout by Sam Vogel got them on the board scoring Chris Burk. UALR had loaded the bases after Burk singled and Myles Parma and Bryson Thionnet both walked.
UALR tied it, 2-2, in the sixth inning when David Guarno walked with the bases loaded with two outs. John Clark, Burk and Thionnet had all walked to load the bases.
Trailing 4-2 in the seventh, Blake Johnson ripped a solo home run to right field to cut the deficit to 4-3.
It was the eighth homer of the year for the senior from Sachse, Texas.
The Trojans had one last chance in the ninth inning after Johnson was hit by a pitch to start the frame. Clark singled to left-center field but Johnson was out trying to stretch at third. Clark took second on the play. Burk followed with a single to left field, but Clark was thrown out at home. FIU’s Davis recorded a fly out to end the game to pick up his fourth save of the season.
Burk finished the game 3-for-3 with a run scored to highlight the Trojans offense.
Blake Hoffman (6-5) started for UALR and took the loss. He pitched 5.0 innings, struck out four and allowed four earned runs. Bubba Cooper threw 2.1 hitless innings out of the bullpen, and Travis McDonald and Dillon Moritz each struck out a hitter in 0.1 innings.
FIU advances to play the loser of Thursday's game between second-seeded South Alabama and third-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday.