Panthers struggle to scale Hilltoppers

Francisco Rivero/Staff Writer

 If there is one word to describe the Panthers’ season so far this year, it is inconsistency.

After dropping two of three games over at Florida Atlantic University, FIU (12-12) looked to rebound in a three-game home stand against Western Kentucky University. First up for the Panthers was starter Tyler Alexander who came into the game with a record of 1-3 and an earned run average of 3.57.

The game was a close until the ninth when WKU scored on a wild pitch by pitcher Mitchell Davis. The Hilltoppers were able to take game one by a score of 4-3.

Game two was a seesaw battle that FIU dropped in the eighth inning after a sacrifice fly to lose 9-8. Having lost yet another series, starter Mike Franco took the mound to salvage another Sunday win.

Franco gave the Panthers a much needed performance with five no-hit innings as FIU went on to win 5-2.

Head Coach Henry Thomas knows just how important it is for his team to get consistent starting pitching in order in win ball games.

“The first two nights we got five out of 18 leadoff hitters out, today we got seven out of nine,” Thomas said. “Every time you don’t get the leadoff hitter out you’re going to be in trouble as a team.”

Coming up short

FIU has lost a quarter of their games by three or less runs this season. Players such as second baseman Manny Alvarez and Franco know just how difficult it is to lose such close games.

“Last weekend we went 1-2, this weekend we went 1-2 but it gives us a positive note for next weekend,” Alvarez said. “It gives us hope that we are going to break out of it soon, I know it.”

“That Sunday game you always want to win, but of course you want to win the series,” Franco said. “We came up a little short Friday and Saturday, but getting a win on Sunday and not having a middle of the week series gives us a lot of momentum for the next weekend series.”

Pitching highs and lows

Besides Franco, who owns a 4-1 record and an ERA of 3.57, the rest of the Panthers pitching staff is struggling to stay above mediocrity.

“Truthfully, it’s just how we go about preparing ourselves going into the week, everyone goes hard and everyone prepares themselves very well,” Franco said. “I just feel that sometimes we get to comfortable and we can’t stay that way, we just got to keep pushing ourselves and striving to be the best pitchers we can be.”

FIU currently has the worst ERA in the Sun Belt Conference with 4.78 mark, and the second most hits allowed and the most runs allowed with 135 on the season.

The Panthers look to stop the bleeding when they host visiting Arkansas State (16-9, 4-2 SBC) on March 29-March 31.

About the Author

Francisco Rivero
: FIU Student Media Sports Director, Co-Host of Panther Sports Talk Live, Sports and Opinion writer, Communications major.