Panthers Complete Showing at Coral Gables Regional

David Drucker/ Staff Writer

The baseball team was eliminated from contention in the regional round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday after a 4-3 loss to Columbia University. After securing a bid in the Coral Gables Regional by winning the Conference USA title, the Panthers went 1-2 in their first trip to the tournament in five years.

Errors would haunt the Panthers in their first game of the tournament against the University of Miami. Freshman Andres Nunez and the entire FIU defense seemed jittery as they committed three errors and let up six runs in the game’s first two innings. Although the defense collected itself in the third inning (and wouldn’t let up another run until Sunday’s contest), the FIU offense couldn’t get hot until it was too late. The Panthers loaded the bases in the top of the eighth with no outs, but Zack Soria, Julius Gaines and Edwin Rios were only able to produce two runs before the end of the inning. The Panthers fell to the Hurricanes by a score of 6-2 in their first meeting since 2008.

“I think my guys were a little tentative and nervous to begin with. I’ve told them that you can lose a game in the first inning, the fifth inning, the seventh, the ninth, the twelfth….  Whatever it might be. One of our goals today was to start fast pitching and hitting-wise. It just so happened that we didn’t do that,” said FIU Head Coach Turtle Thomas.

The Panthers would have a much better showing in their second game of the tournament against East Carolina University. Sophomore Chris Mourelle was dominant, allowing six hits and no runs through seven innings. With bases loaded for FIU in the bottom of the eighth, a Josh Anderson single to left field advanced Rios from third to home to give the Panthers a one-run advantage. Junior Austin Rodriguez would add another RBI-single to make the game a 2-0 contest. Solid closing by junior Danny Dopico ensured that the Panthers held on for the victory.

In their third and final game of the tournament, FIU fell in a 4-3 decision to Columbia University. The Panthers would strike first with two runs in the first two innings with a Rodriguez sacrifice fly and a Soria RBI-single. Columbia’s Robb Paller would tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third while driving in two runs on a double. Paller added another RBI on a single to put the Lions in the lead at 4-2. FIU cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the eighth but could not complete the comeback to avoid elimination.

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