Wittels gets hit in 52nd straight game

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Florida International's Garrett Wittels is making history with his bat. And on Friday night, his arm helped FIU move closer to a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Wittels now has a 52-game hitting streak, six shy of the Division I record, after getting hits in both of FIU's games at the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

As if that wasn't enough, Wittels took over on the mound in the Golden Panthers' second game of a marathon day, throwing three innings and getting the win as FIU topped Florida Atlantic 18-16 in 11 innings -- a game that ended at 12:31 a.m., or 4 hours, 51 minutes after it began.

Wittels (1-0) made just his fourth pitching appearance of the year. He got into trouble in the 11th, giving up a pair of singles to open the inning. But he struck out FAU's Nathan Pittman and Sean Bukovich swinging, then got Anthony Mesa to ground out to end the game.

The Sun Belt's player of the year gave up four hits and two runs, one earned. He also finished 3 for 6 at the plate with three RBIs.

In both games, Wittels didn't waste any time before extending his hitting streak.

The sophomore -- who wasn't even slotted to be an everyday player when FIU opened the season -- singled in the first inning off South Alabama's Garrett Harris in FIU's first game. In the nightcap, Wittels hit a first-inning, first-pitch double off Florida Atlantic's R.J. Alvarez.

The only streak ahead of Wittels on the Division I list is Robin Ventura's 58-game stretch in 1987.

FIU needed to beat Florida Atlantic, the top seed, to remain alive in the tournament. The teams will play again Saturday morning in the double-elimination event.