Panthers off to slow start in C-USA play

Louis Agudelo/ Staff Writer

FIU started conference play off with a 10-11 record, which was lukewarm for a team coming off of a Conference USA Championship.

The short, 5-game road-trip began with a split series at Jacksonville University. The first game went to FIU with solid pitched and good backup on offense, but the Dolphin bats proved to be too much in the second, and final game of the series, what with JU notching 13 hits, three of them being home runs.

That was on Wednesday. By Friday, the Panthers were in Charlotte, North Carolina to begin their first series against a conference opponent all season. The ball was in Andres Nunez’ (2-1) hand to start the weekend against the 49ers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

As has been an unfortunate trend for the big right-hander, he got behind early, by allowing the 49ers to score 2 runs in the bottom of the first inning. Nunez managed to pull things together and pitch seven whole innings with only 3 hits and 5 strikeouts.

While the Panthers had one more hit that night than the 49ers, they came a run short in extra innings, when with runners on both 2nd and 3rd, Charlotte second baseman Brett Netzer hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th to win 4-3.

Chris Mourelle (3-2) got the nod again Saturday against the 49ers. The bats were hot for the Charlotte team coming off of Friday night’s win, with 12 hits, but FIU’s bats were all but on fire. 16 hits and 2 home runs in the first 3 innings. One belonged to Nick Day, and the other to Zach Files, counting for 2 of the pairs 4 hits on the day.

This was help that Mourelle would need on a less-than-dominant day. Jack Schaaf and Kolby Folis also had a couple of hits each in their more-than-dominant showing Saturday, propelling their team to an 8-5 win.

The rubber match on Sunday would be a boring one, for FIU’s standards. Notching one of their lowest hit-totals of the season, the Panthers left it up to the anchor of their rotation to have a great day. While Garrett Cave (1-2) did have 5 strikeouts in this outing, but by allowing 3 earned runs, he didn’t help his cause one bit, as Charlotte left-hander Josh Maciejewski posted 8 strikeouts off of the FIU hitters, and didn’t allow more than 2 runs cross home plate.

That would have been enough, but three more runs would eventually come across for the 49ers before all was said and done, and FIU would miss their shot at winning the first C-USA series of the season.

FIU has a chance to get back over, or at least get to .500 this weekend when The Thundering Herd of Marshall University make the trip to Miami to take on the Panthers. It’ll be interesting to see how much Turtle Thomas changes around his line-up and/or pitching rotation before the series begins, if at all. As we’ve seen so far this season, Thomas likes to stick to his guns, but we’ll all just have to wait and see, once again, what he’ll do to try and win some games.

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