Brandon Cosme | Contributing Writer
The Panthers sought vengeance on the Miami Hurricanes in their final home game of the season on May 16, 2023, at FIU Baseball Stadium.
FIU, coming off a series win against the Charlotte 49ers, aimed to keep its momentum going with a big win against a long-time rival ahead of a potential Conference USA Tournament run.
Miami has beaten the Panthers in its last four matchups this season with the most recent game ending in a 10-0 rout.
Redshirt senior Alec Sanchez made a statement for the Panthers early, launching a home run into the scoreboard in left field.
Miami swiftly answered with a pair of runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth. FIU clapped back with two fourth-inning runs by virtue of home runs by junior Ryne Guida and redshirt senior Craig Palidar.
When the dust settled, Miami’s lead was 5-3 at the end of the fourth. It was anyone’s ball game.
But the tightly contested back-and-forth battle between the two teams wouldn’t last.
For FIU, the effort on both sides of the ball was there, but the team fell short of hitting the mark.
Bullpen struggles and offensive woes for the Panthers gave Miami the chance to bury FIU and extend their lead throughout the game.
Aside from the trio of home runs, the Panthers were held scoreless for the rest of the night and the Hurricanes rattled off 12 unanswered runs to finish the game 17-3.
Miami sophomore pitcher Rafe Schlesinger kept the Panthers under wraps, throwing two scoreless innings and retiring seven of the eight batters he faced.
The home run for Sanchez would be his last at FIU Baseball Stadium, but he has his sights set on the road ahead, which involves winning the series against Rice to wrap up the regular season.
“We went through our highs and lows, but now we’re that hot team,” said Sanchez. “We have a lot of confidence despite this game. It didn’t go our way but we have our sights on better and bigger things.”
FIU needs to take two out of the three upcoming games against Rice to make the C-USA Tournament, something the team hasn’t accomplished since 2018.
Head coach Rich Witten sees a bright future for not only the season but the program itself.
“I feel like we’ve got some great momentum behind the program. We’re going to try and finish strong when we go on the road to Rice and have a great performance in the conference tournament,” said Witten.
“I’m really excited about the future of the program and to continue to see Panther Nation out here next year when we come back to the park.”
The three-game series against the Rice Owls begins Thursday, May 18, 2023, when the Panthers head to Reckling Park in Houston, Texas.
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