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Wittels extends hit streak to 53 games

Garrett Wittels used a headfirst slide to keep his hitting streak alive. It helped extend Florida International's season as well.

Wittels extended his hitting streak to 53 games, five away from Robin Ventura's NCAA Division I record, with an infield single yesterday in the eighth inning of FIU's game against Florida Atlantic in the Sun Belt Conference tournament at Murfreesboro, Tenn. FIU got four runs in the eighth and won the game, 11-9. It clinched a spot in today's title game with a guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament at stake.

"Down two runs in the eighth inning, I was going up to bat knowing I needed to be a baserunner," Wittels said by phone after the game. "I looked over at coach [Turtle] Thomas, he just said, 'Get a hit,' and I decided right then I wasn't going to chase anything out of the zone."

Wittels worked a 2-and-0 count, then hit a fastball off FAU pitcher Taylor Everist's glove.

"One of the hardest balls I ever hit," said Wittels, who finished 1-for-5. "And just out of the excitement, I decided to dive headfirst into the base. I didn't even know if their guy had a play. I don't even know if there was a throw."

The excitement didn't stop there. The next FIU batter, Jeremy Patton, put the Golden Panthers ahead for good with a three-run home run.

Back in Miami, where FIU is based, Wittels was a pregame conversation topic in the Florida Marlins' clubhouse. "You've got to be locked in to have one for 53 games," Marlins leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan said yesterday. "It doesn't matter what level. It's definitely a pretty cool streak. I hope he gets [the record] and gets respect for what he's done." - AP

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