Jaymz Cosme | Contributing Writer
FIU baseball squared off against the WKU Hilltoppers in a thrilling three-game series, winning the opener before falling in the second and final game on Sunday, May 7, 2023, at FIU Baseball Stadium in Miami, Florida.
The Panthers, coming off a nail-biter 7-6 win over Bethune-Cookman, head into the series with a 17-27 overall record looking to end the season strong.
Game 1 of the series started hot with WKU scoring off an error at first base, followed by FIU tallying two runs in the bottom of the first inning from an error at second base and an RBI single by junior Adrian Figueroa.
Junior Dante Girardi pushed FIU’s lead to 3-1 in the second inning with an RBI on a double play.
The Panthers held onto the lead and extended it in the bottom of the seventh inning with an RBI double by junior designated hitter Ryne Guida and a sacrifice fly by Figueroa, 5-1.
FIU put it away in the bottom of the eighth with three RBIs on back-to-back singles from center fielder Alec Sanchez and Guida, taking Game 1 in dominating fashion, 8-1.
Stellar performances from redshirt senior Angel Tiburcio (6 IP, 2 Hits, 1 Run and 6 SO) and Guida (3 RBIs) propelled the Panthers forward.
After winning the series opener, FIU looked to secure a series win in Game 2.
But the Hilltoppers had different plans. They answered back, starting off with a two-run first inning.
FIU quickly responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the second from redshirt senior catcher Craig Palidar.
The Panthers and Hilltoppers would continue scoring back and forth with another two-run inning for the Hilltoppers in the third and another RBI single from Palidar in the bottom of the fourth to give WKU a 4-2 edge.
Despite multiple chances for the Panthers and great relief pitching from redshirt junior Bryan Pazos, FIU was unable to score another run and WKU would expand the lead with a run in the fifth inning and two more runs in the eighth to make the final score 7-2.
“We had baserunners going most of the game and we couldn’t get the big hit with two outs that we needed to”, said coach Rich Witten. “Pazos did a really nice job coming in for the middle part and holding it where it was to give our offense a chance to get back into it.”
Palidar, who finished the game with two RBIs, emphasized that the Panthers are sticking to their process when it comes to hitting.
“We’re just trying to stay with our process here, our hitting we take seriously, we’re grinding here and we’re going for the conference tournament,” said Palidar. “We’re trying to turn things the right way, and as long as we’re doing the right thing, I think it’s going to come together.”
Going into the final game of the series, the Panthers looked to win it all.
Both teams came out with some offense early as FIU scored with a home run from Sanchez in the bottom of the first and the Hilltoppers retaliated with a home run of their own in the top of the second.
Both offenses were held scoreless until the sixth inning when the Hilltoppers took a 3-1 lead.
Despite having runners in scoring position multiple times during the game, the Panthers couldn’t find the runs to come back as they lose 3-1 and drop the series 2-1.
The Panthers, now with an 18-29 record, look to bounce back against the Miami Hurricanes in the latest installment of the crosstown rivalry on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, Florida.
First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m.