FIU coach Turtle Thomas said there are three keys to winning a college baseball game: dominant pitching, hitting throughout the lineup and timely hitting.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they didn’t quite have enough of each to come away with a victory against the Missouri Tigers at FIU Baseball Stadium, losing 7-6 on Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re starting to do better but we’re not quite there yet,” Thomas said. “It’s a work in progress, but we have a lot to draw from this game. You want to win the game, but it’s something we can learn form moving forward.”
Junior pitcher Cody Crouse, returning from an elbow injury, made his first start of the season for the Panthers (1-4) — and it was a shaky one.
Missouri catcher Brett Bond led off the second inning by slapping a pitch from Crouse the opposite way, a deep fly ball that narrowly cleared the left-field wall just inside the foul pole for a home run to help the Tigers (3-2) take a 3-0 lead.
Crouse lasted three innings before the Panthers went to the bullpen and a carousel of relievers — six of them — entered the game with varying degrees of success.
After falling behind 7-1 in the fifth inning, the bullpen finally settled down. Relievers Willy Fabra, Garret Cave, Michael Agis and Williams Durruthy combined to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the game.
And the Panthers’ bats finally burst to life coming out of the seventh-inning stretch to fuel a comeback effort.
A four-run seventh inning, with Kenny Meimerstorf blasting a two-run home run over the left-field wall, made it a one-run game.
Kolby Follis led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single, and he stole second base and advanced to third with no outs after the catcher’s throw ended up in center field.
But the top of the order could not capitalize, with Irving Lopez and Jack Schaff popping out in the infield and Zack Soria grounding out to third base to strand Follis at third.
Some timely hitting would have come in handy for the Panthers.
“We just needed a ground ball,” Thomas said. “Sometimes guys try too hard and that’s probably what it was.”
The Panthers outhit the Tigers 16-11 but left 11 runners on base — including a runner on second in the ninth inning.