FIU's Fitzpatrick tosses no-hitter
Junior right-hander throws first nine inning no-no since 1979
MIAMI -- The hardest hit Kyle Fitzpatrick took all night on the mound against Northeastern on Wednesday didn't come from the bat of a Huskie. Instead it came from a Panther teammate who accidentally hit Fitzpatrick on the lip as he was being celebrated on the pitching mound after throwing a no-hitter in a 4-0 shutout.
Fitzpatrick, a junior right-hander from Tallahassee Community College, threw the fifth no-hitter in FIU history by stifling the Huskies in a tidy two hours and 14 minutes. Shortly after the game, the College Baseball Hall of Fame called to ask for Fitzpatrick's autographed hat, which will be the first artifact in the 2011 season exhibit. The Hall of Fame is located in Lubbock, Texas.
"I was in disbelief," said a jubilant Fitzpatrick. "I felt really good. It didn't really hit me until everybody started pummeling me on the mound as you can see by the cut on my lip."
Fitzpatrick faced just one batter over the minimum, allowed one walk and struck out five. Northeastern only had more than three batters hit in one inning -- the first inning when an FIU error had Fitzpatrick face four batters. For the next eight innings, Fitzpatrick only faced three batters in each frame.
During one stretch of the game, Fitzpatrick retired 16 consecutive Huskies. After hitting Jeff Dunlap with a pitch to start the eighth inning, Fitzpatrick retired the final five batters to etch his name in FIU and college baseball history.
"In the sixth of seventh inning I looked up there and there were no hits so I was like "All right, just keep on going," said Fitzpatrick. "The defense was great. I would get the ground balls and they just took care of me. This doesn't happen very often at all. I guess I got lucky."
Fitzpatrick's gem was the first nine-inning no-hitter in FIU history since the Panthers became a Division I program in 1983.
FIU does have four no-hitters in its history. The most recent no-no was a seven-inning, combined no-hitter by Mark Worrell and Frank Gonzalez against Florida A&M on Feb. 21, 2004.
The last nine-inning no-hitter in FIU history happened on May 11, 1979 when Chris Lein no-hit Eckerd College.
As is the case with every no-hitter, there were plenty of defensive gems to help Fitzpatrick.
In the third inning, FIU right fielder Jabari Henry made a shoestring catch in short right to rob Tucker Roeder of a hit. FIU third baseman Jeremy Patton snared a line drive by Jeff Dunlap to open the fifth inning.
Panthers first baseman Mike Martinez made a couple of tough plays on ground balls to preserve the no-hitter. Martinez also made a tremendous scoop on a double play in the eighth.
According to FIU Head Coach Turtle Thomas, in that eighth inning is when the key play of the game happened. Fitzpatrick missed with a fastball and hit Dunlap, Northeastern's best hitter, to lead off the eighth.
"That was a huge play because that guy can really hit," said Thomas. "The funny thing about it is the way we were hitting tonight we literally needed a no-hitter to win that baseball game. Kyle gave us what our team needed. He got the leadoff hitter out in eight of the nine innings. Kyle pitched a masterpiece."
The Panthers got the only run they would need in the third inning when Yoandy Barroso's infield single plated Garrett Wittels, who reached base on an error and moved over to third base on Martinez's double.
The final three outs might have been the easiest inning for Fitzpatrick.
The right-hander got two quick ground outs and then on a 1-2 pitch, Fitzpatrick got Sean Lyons looking at strike three. The Panthers rushed out of the dugout and mobbed their pitcher.
"When I caught the last strike for the last out of the game I didn't even know it was strike three," said FIU catcher Iosmel Leon. "I caught it and I thought it was the second strike, but then I saw everybody rushing out of the dugout and I said "Oh my God, this is strike three! It's over! He did it! Kyle threw a no-hitter!"
The Panthers will return to the diamond on Friday, March 4 for a three-game set with the Seton Hall Pirates. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.