- Associated Press - Friday, February 18, 2011

MIAMI (AP) - Garrett Wittels said he would tip his cap to whomever ended his hitting streak.

Much to Florida International’s dismay, Friday was the night he made good on that vow.

Wittels‘ pursuit of NCAA history is over. He went 0 for 4 against Southeastern Louisiana, leaving him two games shy of matching Robin Ventura’s 58-game Division I record set in 1987 and four short of the NCAA all-divisions mark of 60 games by Damian Costantino of Division III Salve Regina from 2001-03.

“Eventually, honestly, I’ll break history somehow,” Wittels said. “I know I’m second place in this, but I plan on playing baseball for a lot more years. And I’ll break history another time.”

Southeastern Louisiana won the game, 10-2. It was the season opener for both teams.

Wittels‘ best chance for a hit came in the eighth, but his sharp grounder to third was snared by a diving Jonathan Pace, who scrambled to touch the base in time for the second out of the inning. It went in the books as a fielder’s choice, Wittels‘ second of the night, and that was the junior shortstop’s final chance.

Garrett squared that ball up and that’s a hit 99 percent of the time,” Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Artigues said. “Jonathan made a tremendous play on that ball.”

For months, Wittels sat on one of baseball’s most revered numbers _ 56, of course, is the number of consecutive games in which Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio hit safely for the New York Yankees in 1941, setting the major league record.

DiMaggio also was thwarted by an opposing third baseman _ Ken Keltner of the Cleveland Indians turned in a pair of fine plays to stop the famous streak.

Wittels nearly got to 57 as well. But Pace made sure that didn’t happen, and Wittels gave him a congratulatory pat as they crossed paths in the infield between innings.

“He rounded second and he came up to me and said, ‘I hit that ball hard. Nice pick,’” Pace said. “I saw him coming and really didn’t know what he was going to say. He’s a great ballplayer.”

Said Wittels, who was 7 for 7 in late-game situations with the streak on the line in 2010: “I didn’t deserve it.”

Wittels reached on a fielder’s choice in the first, fouled out near the right-field bullpen in the third and grounded out to third in the sixth inning _ one pitch after successfully lobbying plate umpire Michael Baker that a ball which appeared to hit his hand actually hit the knob of his bat instead.

Afterward, Wittels acknowledged that he was hit by the pitch.

“Worst moment in baseball I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” Wittels said. “I got hit by a pitch and I was selfish and didn’t take my base. Honestly, I’m more (upset) about that than not continuing into history. … I don’t really know what was going through my head at the time.”

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