Ritchey struggles on the mound as FIU drops game two of the series

After a convincing 8-1 win in game one against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, the FIU Panthers were back at it for game two as they looked for their first conference series win of the season. Unfortunately, the possibility to win game two evaporated after another rough start for junior Jackson Ritchey who took the loss and a 10-hit night that saw them producing two runs. Final score: 7-2

“Yeah, that sums it up. We did have base runners most of the game, had traffic throughout most of the game and couldn’t get the big hit,” said FIU Manager Rich Witten following the loss. “We took some okay at-bats but their guy beared down with two outs in some situations when we had traffic on and couldn’t get the big hit, so tonight was not a lack of hustle or attitude or anything like that, you know, they played hard.”

Ritchey, who in his last start against FAU gave up three runs, two earned, and didn’t strike out anyone, did not look good as he allowed seven hits, four runs including a two-run homer, and struck out two. Ritchey just didn’t have his best stuff out there and left too many hanging pitches in the zone that the Hilltoppers took advantage of.

The first runs of the game came in thanks to a Tristin Garcia RBI double to drive in Aiden Gilroy. Right after, Lukas Farris smacked an RBI to drive in Garcia and extend the lead, to 2-0. After a clean top of the second for Ritchey, got into some trouble in the top of the third inning as he gave up a two-run homer to Farris to extend the Hilltoppers lead 4-1.

Ritchey wouldn’t go much longer as he was removed from the game in place of junior Bryan Pazos who was huge for the Panthers as he didn’t allow an earned run throughout his outing. The only run that was scored was charged as an unearned run.

For the Panthers, they did score two runs thanks to catcher Craig Palidar who had an RBI in the bottom of the second and fourth inning. He ended the night going two for three with two RBIs. Palidar and Brendan Roney have been the main catching tandem this season. Roney has been getting hot with the bat as of late, but Palidar has been consistent when given playing time. Palidar helped the Panthers cut the lead down to 4-2.

“The game tends to reward guys that, that show up every day with a smile on their face and play hard,” said Coach Witten. “You know, we’re just trying to stay without process here,” said Craig Palidar following the game. “Our hitting, we take very serious and we got early work in and when we do early work we expect to translate into the game. We’re grinding here, and we’re going for what we want to call the conference tournament. So we’re trying to turn things the right way as a whole team and as long as we are doing the right thing, I think it’s going to come together.”

Bryan Loriga, who had only played in 21 games and started 14 of them had himself a three-hit day as he got his 15th start of the season at third base. Loriga was active on the basepaths thanks to Palidar driving him in. With the absence of Steven Ondina, Loriga has been able to start more games and have his role increased. Loriga has taken advantage of the moment and he has had success.

“We have been talking a lot about hitting mechanics and mindset at the plate,” said Bryan Loriga following the game. “I feel like that helped me but even though we didn’t have the outcome we wanted today, I felt like the energy was there. The team fought hard until the very end. We’ll just come back tomorrow. We got them tomorrow.”

The top of the fifth inning was a rough one for second baseman Dante Girardi as he committed an error on a fly ball that he was unable to secure. The runner on third easily was able to score the fifth run of the game. Hilltoppers led, 5-2.

Following Pazos, reliever Zac Lampton entered the game. He had an 11.20 ERA entering this game and had given up 17 earned runs. Lampton was unable to get much going as he allowed two runs and extended the Hilltoppers lead, to 7-2.

Despite the 10 hits from the FIU offense, the Panthers ended up dropping game two of the series to a final score of 7-2. Hopes for the first conference series win will have to wait another day as the Panthers will face the Hilltoppers on Sunday at 12:00 pm EST.

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