June 5, 2010

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CBI Live
Wittels stretches hit streak to 56 in season-ending loss

By Christina De Nicola

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


The streak will have to wait until next February.


Garrett Wittels (left) wasted no time extending his hit streak to 56 games with an RBI double in the first, but Florida International lost 15-9 to Dartmouth in an elimination game Saturday afternoon at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.


Wittels finished the game 3 for 5 with two RBI and stands two games shy of Robin Ventura’s record set in 1987.


“I haven’t really thought about it,” said Wittels, who raised his batting average to .417. “Going into the offseason it’s just going to make me want to work that much harder to get back to this point so it doesn’t end like this.”


With the score tied at 8 in the bottom of the sixth, Chris O’Dowd popped up what would have been the inning’s final out, but first baseman Tim Jobe appeared to lose the ball in the sun.


Cleanup hitter Jason Brooks made third-seeded FIU (36-25) pay with a grand slam to break the game open for the fourth-seeded Big Green (27-18).


“Throughout the game they’d thrown me breaking balls early and that’s all I got until I got ahead 2-0, so I didn’t think things would change when they went inside with a fastball,” Brooks said. “I was just up there looking for an off-speed pitch and the pitcher hung a changeup.” 


Brooks drove in six total runs and Zack Bellenger hit two home runs, a two-run shot in the third and a solo one in the fifth (6, 7).


Dartmouth added insurance three insurance runs in the seventh courtesy of four hits and an error.


Each Dartmouth batter collected at least one hit, and as a team tallied 17.


Right-hander Cole Sulser (8-0) relieved Robert Young, who surrendered six runs on eight hits in two innings, and pitched five innings of two-run ball for the win.


“Basically I just tried to come in and pitch to my strengths,” Sulser said. “I’ve done an alright job with keeping my fastball low and I knew if I came in and attacked the hitters and go right after them my defense would back me up.”


First out of the bullpen, left-hander Corey Polizzano (4-5) took the loss after allowing six runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings.


For the second consecutive game the Panthers got on the board first, but the Big Green took a 2-1 advantage into the second.


FIU and Dartmouth would swap five-run innings in the second and third, respectively.


The Panthers took an 8-7 lead in the fifth on four consecutive hits, but Bellenger tied the game with his second homer of the day.


Despite the loss, FIU head coach Turtle Thomas is optimistic. Eight of nine hitters from today’s lineup will be back next season.


“You crawl before you walk, you walk before you run, you run before you sprint, and in the third year of making the regionals we feel good about that and about our players,” Thomas said.


Dartmouth, which won its first NCAA Regional game since 1987, will face the loser of the top-seeded Miami/second-seeded Texas A&M game Sunday at noon.


“Our kids were incredibly tough and poised and maintained their pose and their confidence even going down in the second inning,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen said. “I’m pleased for the school and the program. It took us a little longer than I would’ve hoped… Now we continue to raise the bar.”


(photo courtesy of FIU Media Relations Office)