The night after FIU gave away a game to the University of Miami with a ninth-inning passed ball that scored the winning run, the Hurricanes returned the favor.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, the Panthers scored two unearned runs on two UM errors with closer Frankie Bartow on the mound, surging to a one-run lead and eventual 5-4 victory Wednesday at Mark Light Field.
“Yesterday, the story was we gave it away,’’ FIU coach Mervyl Melendez said. “Today we probably stole one away. The game of baseball is going to take you through the ups and downs. Today we got the hits when they counted at the very end against a very good closer in Bartow.”
The Hurricanes (20-21), who faced the Panthers (26-17) this year in their first regular-season series since 2009, committed four errors and blew the chance to go above .500 for the first time since the third game of the season. They had not been at .500 since the fourth game of the season.
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“It was a disappointing loss,” UM coach Jim Morris lamented. “We were ahead there at the end and we normally win when we’re ahead at the end. FIU battled hard, and they did a good job.”
FIU won three of the four games against UM this season. Michael Agis gave up no runs and struck out six over 4 1/3 innings for the win.
Here’s what transpired in the top of the ninth: FIU’s Irving Lopez reached first on a fielder’s choice after shortstop Randy Batista rushed the throw to first in an attempt to turn a game-ending double play. The wild throw allowed Adam Sevario, who had singled, to score and make it 4-4. Lopez advanced to second on Bartow’s wild throw home trying to nail Sevario at the plate. The next batter, JC Escarra, singled through the right side to drive Lopez home to make it 5-4.
“You get measured not when you do things right all the time,’’ Melendez, “[but] how you come back from difficult situations and how you come back from defeats such as the one [Tuesday] night. It says a lot about them, how they were able to refocus and get back in the groove of things and play a very good game tonight.”
The Canes hurt themselves in their quest to extend their national-record, 44-year streak of reaching the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. With 14 games remaining in a 55-game regular season — the series finale this past Sunday against Florida State was canceled because of rain and lightning — they need to win consistently to have a shot at their goal.
“We just didn’t make plays,” UM second baseman Romy Gonzalez said. “It’s definitely a tough loss. We have to turn the page and get ready for Boston College this weekend.”
The Panthers, in Conference USA, had the nation’s No 86 RPI going into the game, with UM, in the Atlantic Coast Conference, at No. 71. The NCAA tournament draws a field of 64, and RPI is one factor that helps determine the selection process.
UM immediately jumped to a 2-0 lead after Batista led off with a walk, James Davison tripled to drive him home and then scored on Carl Chester’s groundout to shortstop.
The Panthers shaved the lead in the third, when redshirt junior Escarra, a Hialeah Mater Academy grad, boomed his team-leading ninth home run to make it 2-1. They made it 2-2 in the fifth on a Christian Coipel single, consecutive errors by pitcher Jesse Lepore and Gonzalez on back-to-back bunts, and a sacrifice fly to left by Lopez.
Gonzalez made up for the miscue when he singled to left in the fifth to drive home Batista (single), breaking the tie for a 3-2 UM lead, and extend his hitting streak to six games. In the same inning, UM loaded the bases with one out, but came away with only one more run when losing starter Christopher Mourelle (4-3) walked Chris Barr to score Chester. Mourelle gave up four runs — three earned — on three hits and six walks in 4 2/3 innings.
With UM leading 4-2, FIU wouldn’t quit. The Panthers scored again in the sixth after the Canes brought in Albert Maury to replace starter Lepore (two runs — one earned — on three hits and one walk in five innings for a 2-5 record). Two batters later, Javier Valdez cracked an RBI-double down the left-field line to score Zach Files and make it 4-3.
FIU played the game without its starting center fielder Kenny Meimerstorf, a senior who also happens to be its leading hitter (.346); and starting junior left fielder Jack Schaaf. Both got sick overnight.