BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — FIU scored one in the ninth and two in the 10th to erase a one-run WKU lead and win the first game of a three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series, 7-6, Friday night at Nick Denes Field. The loss is the fifth-straight in Sun Belt Conference play for the Hilltoppers, who are now 28-14 on the season and 9-7 in conference play. Three of the five losses have come by one run. FIU improves to 23-14 and 10-6 with the win.
Matt Ridings was on his game in a no-decision Friday night, working eight innings and allowing six hits. He surrendered four runs, but all four were unearned on account of three WKU errors. Eric Berkowitz picked up the win for FIU, and Rye Davis lost his third-straight decision to fall to 2-3 on the year. Entering the game, WKU was 25-0 this season when leading after eight innings and had won 41-straight overall when having an eighth-inning lead before FIU tied the game in the ninth and eventually picked up the win.
Logan Robbins had three hits for WKU, and Jake Wells was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI. Casey Dykes reached base in five plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with three runs scored. Pablo Bermudez was 3-for-6 to pace the Golden Panther offense.
FIU jumped on Ridings for three runs on four hits in the top of the second, with the big blow coming on a Garrett Wittels two-run triple. Ridings responded with a quick inning in the top of the third, and WKU trailed 3-0 after two-and-a-half.
In the bottom of the third the Hilltoppers plated an unearned run, as Jared Andreoli reached on an error by the third baseman with one out and toured the bases and scored on singles by Matt Rice and Kes Carter. Those base hits extend their hitting streaks to 12 and 13 games, respectively.
Ridings retired the Golden Panthers in order in the top of the fourth, and FIU starter R.J. Fondon hit Kory Petri with a pitch in the home-half with one out to start a WKU scoring opportunity. Petri swiped second and tried to score on an Andreoli single to left field but was erased at the plate when Jabari Henry came up firing, and WKU still trailed by two after four innings.
Ridings faced the minimum for the second-straight inning in the fifth, thanks in part to a 3-6-3 double play turned by his defense, and the Hilltoppers took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Ryan Huck walked with two outs and Dykes doubled, putting runners on second and third with two away. Wells followed with a three-run blast to deep right field, his second home run of the year, and the Hilltoppers led by one after five innings of play.
But FIU came right back and tied it up in the top of the sixth as Ridings issued a free pass to lead off the inning to Henry, who then went to third on Robbins' third error of the game at shortstop. By making it to third on the defensive miscue, Henry was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Jose Behar, one of three FIU sacrifice flies of the game.
The Hilltoppers went down one-two-three in both the sixth and seventh innings, and the game remained knotted at 4 after seven innings.
Ridings got two groundouts and a strikeout in the top of the eighth in what would be his final inning of work, and WKU took a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth when Dykes walked, moved to second on a groundout and scored on a clutch RBI single by right fielder Matt Borgschulte, who entered the game in the top of the sixth as a defensive replacement.
Davis entered the game in the top of the ninth, charged with keeping a one-run Hilltopper lead against the bottom of the FIU lineup. He retired Behar to start the inning but gave up a single to right field to Yoandy Barroso, who advanced to third on a single to left field by Bermudez. With runners on second and third and one out, Wittels came through with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to tie the game at five. Davis struck out Jeremy Patton to end the inning.
WKU went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and the game headed to extra-innings. FIU scored twice in the top of the 10th to take a 7-5 lead, with Mike Martinez and Henry singling and Henry and pinch-runner T.J. Shantz scoring. Shantz scored on FIU's third sacrifice fly of the night, and Henry crossed the plate on a single by Raiko Alfonso.
Dykes led off the bottom of the 10th for WKU with a single and moved to second on a groundout by Wells. Robbins brought the Hilltoppers within one on a single up the middle, scoring Dykes for a career high-tying third time. Robbins then alertly took second when Berkowitz threw the ball away on a failed pick-off attempt at first base, and pinch-hitter Blake Crabtree and Matt Payton were each hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.
But the Hilltoppers left the sacks full, as Andreoli struck out and Rice flew out to end the game. WKU left 12 men on base in the contest.
Up Next: The Hilltoppers and the Golden Panthers resume their three-game Sun Belt Conference series with a 3:00 PM game on Saturday. WKU will be looking to even the series behind the right arm of Shane Cameron, and FIU will send right-hander Aaron Arboleya to the mound to try to end WKU's streak of 16-straight home series victories.