The first two times Florida Atlantic catcher Pedro Pages (photo) had stepped into the batter’s box Thursday morning at MGM Park, FIU right-hander Nick McDonald had started him off with breaking pitches.
“I was just looking for something I could shoot back up the middle,” Pages said. “The first two at-bats, they threw me first-pitch breaking balls, so I figured they were going to throw it to me again.”
McDonald did, and Pages ripped a slider into left field for a three-run double that sparked a six-run, sixth inning as the Owls stayed alive in the Conference USA Championship with an 8-4 victory.
Pages’ hit lifted FAU into a 3-2 lead, and Owls center fielder Jared Shouppe capped the rally with his seventh home run of the season, a three-run blast to right field.
“The bottom line is we didn’t get it done when it counted and they put a good inning together on us,” FIU coach Mervyl Melendez said. “Unfortunately, (Thursday) it went against us.”
The seventh-seeded Panthers (31-27) became the first team eliminated from the eight-team C-USA postseason field.
Third-seeded FAU (34-20-1) will move into Friday’s 12:30 p.m. elimination game, facing the loser of Thursday night’s Old Dominion -Rice matchup.”
“We move on, and at this point, you get no style points,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “You get no points for looking good or making good moves. Those things are all out the window. It’s about winning games, and trying to advance on.”
FIU led 2-0 after Nick Day smacked his 11th home run of the season off FAU starter Blake Sanderson, who lasted just two innings and gave up four hits.
Alex House (6-4) came in and allowed just two runs on three hits over seven innings. He walked two and struck out eight.
Day, who would finish with three hits and two runs scored, drove in his third and fourth runs of the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to get the Panthers back within 6-4, but FAU first baseman Esteban Puerta answered with a two-run double in the top of the seventh inning.