Coral Gables Regional – Elimination Game - Dartmouth 15, Florida International 9 – FIU eliminated from regional
Garrett Wittels won another battle. Dartmouth won the war and prolonged its season for at least one more day.
The Big Green definitely got the better part of the deal on Saturday afternoon in South Florida.
Jason Brooks collected six RBIs thanks to a tie-breaking grand slam, while Zack Bellenger walloped a pair of home runs to lead fourth-seeded Dartmouth past the third seed, FIU, in an elimination game at Alex Rodriguez Park.
Wittels, the Panthers’ sensational batsman, extended his extraordinary hitting streak to 56 games with a first-inning double, but he won’t get to play another game this season. Wittels can’t break Robin Ventura’s Division I record 58-game hit streak until 2011.
The reason why Wittels can’t don an FIU uniform tomorrow is that the boys from the Ivy League put an end to his 2010 campaign, and they did so with a balanced attack. While Brooks and Bellenger led the Dartmouth offense in a game filled with displays of hitting prowess, each member of the Big Green’s batting order recorded at least one of the team’s 17 hits. One day after losing a fireworks show to Miami by a score of 12-8, Dartmouth found a way to win a noisy banger with at least 20 runs scored.
Meanwhile, amidst the hitting tumult at the home of the Miami Hurricanes, Dartmouth pitcher Cole Sulser offered just enough mound expertise to steer his team to Sunday and another elimination game. Sulser (8-0) delivered five innings of relief to earn the win and preserve his perfect personal record. He surrendered just two runs on five hits after entering the game to start the third with the Big Green trailing 6-2. Sulser issued just one walk and fanned four to shift momentum in this clamorous clash.
After Sulser made quick work of FIU in his first inning on the bump, Dartmouth battled back from that 6-2 deficit. in the bottom of the third, Brooks drove in a run with a single to left and – after a wild pitch by Panther starter Aaron Arboleya plated another run – DU’s Jim Wren followed with an RBI single, knocking out Arboleya. Bellenger then welcomed FIU reliever Corey Polizzano (4-5) with a two-run “jobbie” for a 7-6 Dartmouth lead.
FIU took the lead for the third time in the game by plating two runs in the fifth. Yoandy Barroso tied the game with a solo shot, and and RBI single by Panther catcher Sean Reilly gave the squad from the Sun Belt Conference an 8-7 edge. Bellenger tied the game at eight in the fifth with a solo homer off Polizzano, and then the Big Green made its last and most decisive move.
In the sixth, Dartmouth got two men on base but appeared to have blown its big chance to take the lead. With two outs, DU’s Chris O’Dowd hit a pop-up outside of first base, but FIU first baseman Tim Jobe lost track of the ball and allowed it to drop for a cheap single. Jobe was not charged with an error because his glove didn’t touch the ball, yet everyone knew that a big fat “E-3” should have been attached to the play.
Then Brooks made Jobe and FIU pay for that lapse. With the bases then loaded following Jobe’s misplay, Brooks jumped on the next pitch from Polizzano and launched a grand slam for a 12-8 Big Green advantage. That hit gave Polizzano the loss. The FIU reliever surrendered six runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Sulser, meanwhile, used the cushion to hold down the Panthers and make his way through the seventh inning. By the time Sulser was relieved by Kyle Hunter in the eighth, DU owned a 15-8 bulge and coasted home to the finish line.
Dartmouth will play Texas A&M in an elimination game on Sunday. We’ll see if the Big Green can bring more amped-up aluminum to this very high-scoring regional.