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Big Green Blanked in Season Opener, 11-0

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By Mark Washburn
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MIAMI, Fla. — Mike Franco twirled seven shutout innings and the 30th-ranked FIU Golden Panthers posted a pair of five-run innings to send visiting Dartmouth to an 11-0 defeat on Friday night in the Big Green’s season opener. Both Aramis Garcia and Gunnar McNeill drove in three runs to help FIU win its 10th straight game to start the 2014 campaign.

Senior Jeff Keller ripped a pair of doubles and junior Matt Parisi also had two hits with a two-bagger for Dartmouth (0-1), but the Green had just three other base runners on the night.

FIU struck first with five runs in the second inning. After loading the bases on a walk, single and hit batter, Tyler Hibber took a 3-2 pitch high out of the strike zone to force in a run. Following an infield pop for the second out, Aramis Garcia got hold of an 0-2 serving and belted a three-run triple to deep left-center. On the very next pitch, Josh Anderson ripped an RBI double for a 5-0 lead Golden Panther lead.

In the third, FIU tacked on another run when Brandon Gomez led off with a single, J.C. Escarra drew a walk before got the first out on a pop to the catcher. Louis Silverio, however, laced a shot toward the shortstop that was deflected into shallow center field, allowing Gomez to just beat the throw to the plate.

Senior Louis Concato came on to replace junior Adam Frank on the mound to start the fourth, and he retired seven of the first eight batters he faced. In the sixth, he issued a free pass with one out, but it seemed to be harmless after getting a routine fly to left and a grounder to short. The throw for the third out of the inning sailed high, however, and the next batter reached on another error to load the bases. Concato then walked in two runs before McNeill belted a three-run double. All five runs in the frame were unearned, but the scoreboard still had FIU leading, 11-0.

Dartmouth had one of its best scoring opportunities in the top half of the sixth when Parisi singled with one out and Keller stroked his second double with two gone. But Franco got the third out on a swinging third strike to end the potential rally.

The Big Green threatened to score one more time in the eighth against reliever Williams Durruthy when Parisi doubled with one out and junior Thomas Roulis drew the lone walk of the evening for Dartmouth. Struggling with his control, Durruthy found his curveball to be more accurate than his fastball and got the next two outs on strikes to end the inning and preserve the shutout.

FIU parlayed nine hits, seven walks, a hit batter and three Big Green errors into its 11 runs, the most allowed by Dartmouth in a season opener since 1999. And the last time the Green had been shut out in their first game of a season came in 1992.

Franco improved to 2-0 on the season with his seven scoreless stanzas, yielding just five hits while striking out seven. Durruthy finished up by fanning four in his two frames.

Frank (0-1) was stuck with the loss after surrendering six runs in three innings of work, allowing six hits and four walks with one strikeout. Concato hurled four frames, yielding the five unearned runs on three hits and three walks — one more than he issued in 31.1 innings a year ago. Freshman right-hander Chris Burkholder worked around a leadoff error in the eighth to twirl a scoreless inning in his first collegiate appearance.

The two teams will square off again on Saturday afternoon at FIU Baseball Stadium at 4 p.m. Sophomore right-hander Beau Sulser is scheduled to start on the mound for the Big Green against Golden Panther righty Mike Ellis.