The sound of balls slamming into the catcher’s mitt spoke louder than any of FIU bats Friday in a 2-1 loss to Old Dominion.
The Panthers (23-7, 7-6 Conference USA) had nine hits but left eight on base, including a bases-loaded opportunity with one out in the ninth inning. But the Panthers’ last chance was squandered when their last two batters struck out swinging.
“The same thing has been happening to us too many nights,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “We get eight hits and a run or we have nine hits and one run. We aren’t stepping up and getting anybody home. We do a great job of getting them on base. We just can’t knock them home. You get three cuts and three strikes. You have to swing the bat. Hard.”
Starter Mike Franco (4-2) pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, one earned run and notching eight strikeouts in the loss. Monarchs starter Andy Roberts (3-0) allowed one run and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“We always want to win the ball game,” Franco said. “I’m proud of our team. We just had one bad error that cost the game. But we have to bounce back and see what we can do about it.”
The Panthers entered the game with the nation’s best ERA (1.63) and haven’t allowed a home run in 29 games. Conversely, the Monarchs scored 20 runs Wednesday in a win against William & Mary
Brandon Gomez started the scoring with an RBI single in the second inning to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. A Monarch base runner beat the tag for the tying run in the seventh inning off an RBI double. The Monarchs (18-12, 7-6) then took a 2-1 lead when the Panthers botched a play at first base, allowing the runner to score.
“We are known as a hitting team,” Franco said. “We are always going to hit but right now, in some key moments, we just didn’t come through. We have to believe and trust in one another. It will all work out. We can put this one behind us and take the next game inning-by-inning and pitch by pitch.”
Josh Anderson was 3 for 4 and Brandon Gomez was 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Panthers.
The Panthers play host to the Monarchs at 4 p.m. Saturday.