A late miscue doomed the Panthers (11-10, 1-3 Sun Belt) in a loss to conference foe Western Kentucky (12-10, 4-0 Sun Belt) in the series opener.
With the game tied in the ninth, Western Kentucky first baseman Ryan Huck scored from third base on a passed ball off the glove of FIU catcher Aramis Garcia to lift the Hilltoppers to a 4-3 win over the Panthers at FIU Baseball Stadium.
FIU reliever Mitchell Davis (3-2) picked up the loss while WKU’s Ian Tompkins (2-3) struck out four 1 2/3 innings pitched to pick up his second win of the season.
After steady rain delayed the start of the series opener by an hour and 15 minutes, Western Kentucky struck first in the second inning when Ryan Messex scored from third on a ground out and added another in the third after left fielder Regan Flaherty singled, advanced to third on a pickoff error and scored on an infield ground ball, giving the Hilltoppers a 2-0 lead.
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The Panthers’ bats were slow to start with WKU starter Tanner Perkins retiring the first seven batters he faced and cruising through the FIU lineup in the first three innings.
But catcher Aramis Garcia provided a needed spark for the Panthers in the fourth, smacking a double deep into center field to score Nathan Burns from first base for the first run of the game.
First baseman Oscar Aguirre led off the bottom of the fifth inning for FIU and blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall to tie the game at 2-2.
The Hilltoppers quickly regained the lead in the sixth with a bloop single into center field by shortstop Scott Wilcox that drove in Blake Crabtree from third base.
After two quick outs in the seventh, Tyler Hibbert and Julius Gaines strung together back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners.
Gaines got caught in a rundown between first and second base after a third-to-first fake pickoff move by WKU pitcher Taylor Haydel fooled him, allowing Hibbert to make a dash for home plate and beat the throw from Wilcox from second base to tie the game again at 3-3.