Dartmouth baseball beats FIU to keep Regional hopes alive

By Jonathan Gault

Tied 8-8 and facing elimination in the bottom of the sixth inning against Florida International University, Jason Brooks hit a grand slam to extend the season of the Dartmouth baseball team by at least one game in the NCAA Regional. Following Saturday’s 15-9 victory, the Big Green (27-18, 14-9 Ivy) will face the loser of the matchup between Texas A&M University and the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., in an elimination game on Sunday at noon.

Brooks was at the plate only because on the previous play FIU (36-25, 22-14 Sun Belt) first baseman Tim Jobe dropped a two-out pop-up by Chris O’Dowd, loading the bases and extending the inning . .

The win was Dartmouth’s first in the NCAA tournament since May 21, 1987, when the team led by All-American and 16-year MLB veteran Mike Remlinger defeated the University of Michigan, 4-0.

Like Friday’s game against Miami, Dartmouth’s matchup against FIU was another high scoring affair. The teams traded the lead six times before Brooks put the Big Green on top for good. FIU lost despite the efforts of sophomore infielder Garrett Wittels, who was 3-5 on the day.

Wittels recorded a hit in all 56 games the Panthers played this season. He is only two games shy of tying Robin Ventura’s NCAA record, but will now wait eight months to attempt breaking the record, as Dartmouth eliminated FIU from the tournament.

Along with Brooks, who had six RBIs on the day to go with his grand slam, Zack Bellenger ’13 led the Dartmouth offense with two home runs and three RBIs, including a game-tying shot in the sixth inning.

Captain Rob Young took the mound for Dartmouth, but like Kyle Hendricks yesterday, Young struggled against a hot-hitting lineup. In what was likely his final collegiate start, Young went two innings, surrendering six runs on eight hits. Facing elimination, Young had a narrow margin for error, and manager Bob Whalen brought in Cole Sulser ’12 in for the third inning.

Sulser (8-0) has been effective out of the bullpen all season for the Big Green and gave Dartmouth two strong innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Sulser was able to escape after allowing two runs, however, and pitched well in a crucial moment for Dartmouth. He would allow no further runs, and went a total of five innings, striking out four.

FIU got on the board early, as Wittels kept his streak alive, driving a double to right-center field to score T.J. Shantz. Young struck out Jeremy Patton and Mike Martinez to end the inning, as the Panthers took a 1-0 lead to the bottom of the first.

Dartmouth answered right back, as the two players who found the most success for the Big Green yesterday — Joe Sclafani and Sam Bean — combined to score the Big Green’s first run. Sclafani led off the game with a single, and Bean notched his fifth hit in his last six at bats, an RBI double that scored Sclafani from first. After a groundout from O’Dowd advanced Bean to third, Brooks sent Bean home with another groundout, giving Dartmouth a 2-1 lead.

FIU regained the lead thanks to a two-run homer by first baseman Tim Jobe in the second. Yoandy Barroso singled up the middle before Jobe put FIU up 3-2 with a home run to right. It was the sixth home run to right field in the two games Dartmouth played in Coral Gables.

Later in the inning, back-to-back doubles by Pablo Bermudez and T.J. Shantz extended the Panthers’ lead, and Wittels added an RBI single of his own to give FIU a 6-2 lead.

The Big Green mounted a comeback in the third, using a five-run inning to pull ahead. With one out, a pitch from Panthers starter Aaron Arbeloya hit Bean — his 26th hit batsmen of the season. After O’Dowd singled to left, Brooks followed him with a single of his own to score Bean.

O’Dowd then scored on a wild pitch, and Jim Wren chased Arbeloya from the game with an RBI single to right to make it 6-5. FIU manager Turtle Thomas brought in senior lefty Corey Polizzano to face Bellenger, but, with a runner on first, Bellenger took Polizzano’s 2-2 pitch deep to left-center to put Dartmouth on top, 7-6.

The Panthers drew level in the fifth with a solo shot from Barroso off Sulser. It was the first batter Sulser allowed to reach base except for Shantz, who reached on an error in the fourth.

Later in the inning, the number nine hitter, Sean Reilly, sent a 1-2 pitch from Sulser through the right side to bring FIU ahead once again, 8-7.

Bellenger responded for Dartmouth in the bottom of the fifth, hitting his second home run of the game to tie it at 8, setting the stage for Brooks’ heroics in the sixth.

The Big Green added three insurance runs in the seventh, courtesy of RBIs from Brett Gardner and Bean. Bean’s RBI double gave him seven hits through two games in the Regional.

Kyle Hunter closed out the victory, pitching the final two innings while allowing one run.

Dartmouth will be in action again tomorrow at noon on ESPNU where it will take on the loser of the Texas A&M-Miami game. Should the Big Green win again, it would face the winner of that matchup at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Read more here: http://thedartmouth.com/blog/2010/06/05/baseballregional/
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