For the first three innings and the last five innings, FIU pitching snuffed out Charlotte bats and manufactured enough offense as Conference USA coaches and national polls expect the Panthers to do regularly before the season.
The Panthers’ utter failure in the fourth inning, however, fit the unexpected reality that has been this season. Charlotte’s five runs in the top of the fourth held up through a furious ninth-inning rally by FIU to send the Panthers to a 5-4 loss at FIU Baseball Stadium.
FIU’s sixth loss in the past seven games leaves its record at 9-13, 1-3 in C-USA. Charlotte, swept by No. 10 Rice and No. 20 FAU in its earlier conference play, is 7-9, 1-6.
The three-game series continues Saturday with FIU freshman right-hander Andres Nunez (2-2, 1.78 ERA) going against redshirt sophomore lefthander J.D. Prochaska (101, 2.45 ERA).
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“We can’t get over the hump when we come back in games,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “We’ve got to swing the bat much better. No question about it. A hundred times over.”
Everybody throws left-handers against FIU now. On Friday, the Panthers’ bats once again went the way of socks in the dryer facing left-handed pitching, against which they’re 2-8. They managed only three hits before a four-hit, two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth that ended with Julius Gaines’ bases loaded fly out.
At one point, Charlotte’s 6-6 left hander Sean Geoghegan, who went eight innings, retired 16 consecutive FIU batters. Geoghegan (2-2) got the win because of what happened in the top of the fourth, after he struck out Edwin Rios and Brian Portelli to end the FIU third and begin that streak.
FIU led 2-0. A bloop single by Zach Jarrett was the first clear hit given up by FIU sophomore Cody Crouse (the first hit easily could’ve been called an error). Brian Netzer singled and T.J. Nichting drove in Jarrett with a double down the first base line. Brad Elwood’s ground out to third scored Netzer.
FIU third baseman Austin Rodriguez, playing in place of injured Josh Anderson, stopped a grass missile from Logan Sherer, but lost the ball in his feet. That left runners at the corners for Luke Gibbs, who doubled to right field. Two batters later, Nick Daddio’s single scored two and Charlotte had a 5-2 lead.