Panthers Make School History… But the Losing Streak Continues

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The F.I.U. baseball team has been searching for their first win in two weeks. After playing a 20 inning marathon yesterday, the Panthers will still be looking to get back in the win column. The Panthers took on Jacksonville University yesterday afternoon for their series finale. F.I.U. dropped the first two games Friday and Saturday night. It was a beautiful day for baseball, I just wish I packed lunch and dinner if I knew what was ahead of me. 

In desperate need of a win, the Panthers turned to left-handed pitcher Ryan Cabarcas to start the game. Both teams exchanged zeros in the first two innings. Cabarcas was able to get out of the first jam in his outing and stranded two runners on base. This brought some life to the Panthers’ dugout as they looked to break the scoreless tie. 

20 Innings, Just 2 For All the Offense 

In the bottom of the third, the Panthers started a two-out rally. Robert Sotolongo was hit by a pitch and Steven Ondina reached base by drawing a walk. They both advanced to scoring position later in the inning due to a wild pitch. The Panthers’ had one of their hottest hitters at the plate in Alec Sanchez. Sanchez drew a walk and the fourth ball was another wild pitch that led to Sotolongo scoring and Ondina moving over to third.  

The Panthers got creative to score their second run of the game. With runners on first and third, Sanchez stole second and purposely got in a run-down situation. While Jacksonville focused on getting Sanchez out, Ondina scored from third before the Dolphins placed the tag on Sanchez. 

Cabarcas continued his start and kept the Dolphins scoreless through four innings. In the bottom of the fourth, first baseman Jorge Ramirez and second baseman Dante Girardi led off the inning with back-to-back singles. They took advantage of another Jacksonville wild pitch and the Panthers were set up nicely with runners in scoring position and no outs. 

Matthew Gonzalez was doing a great job calling the game behind the plate and he was able to provide some run support for his battery mate. Gonzalez was able to bring in Ramirez with an RBI groundout to second base and Girardi was now at third. After Noel Perez flew out to first base, Jayden Melendez was up to bat with two outs and he laced an RBI double down the right-field line to bring in Girardi and the Panthers had a 4-0 lead going into the middle innings. 

All it Takes is One Bad Inning 

The Panthers’ lead did not last very long. Cabarcas was cruising through the first four innings until he reached the fifth and the Dolphins’ bats woke up. Jacksonville was able to load the bases against Cabarcas after a hit by pitch, walk, and single. With one out in the inning, Jonah Diaz smacked a double to the right-center field gap to bring in two of his teammates. Cabarcas was not in the clear yet.

After getting the second out, Miami native, Christian Coipel lined a single up the middle to bring the other two runners on base. Remember that name because it will come up again many, many, many innings later. Cabarcas finally got the third out on the following hitter and just like that things were all even again. His outing did not end there, however, Cabarcas gutted through one more scoreless inning and kept the Panthers in the game. 

Grab the Remote and Press Fast Forward 

After Jacksonville tied the game in the top half of the fifth, neither team would score until we reached the ultimate 20th inning. That would be it for the offense on both sides. Cabarcas did his job and went deep in the game to help preserve a taxed Panthers bullpen… or so we thought. 

Orlando Hernandez led the bullpen brigade with three scoreless innings of relief to get the game to extra innings. From there, the Panthers used a combined 7 relievers after Cabarcas.

It’s not like the Panthers didn’t have chances to end the game earlier. In the bottom of the 10th, F.I.U. had runners on first and third with one out and then bases loaded with two outs and failed to bring in the winning run. In the bottom of the 12th the Panthers would load up the bases again with two outs and another goose egg was put on the scoreboard. 

Throughout this scoreless streak, the Dolphins did threaten a few times with runners on board. You have to give credit to the F.I.U. bullpen for not fading under the pressure. The bullpen squandered leads multiple times in the series against UCONN and the game against UM so this is a great sign even with the final outcome. 

After Hernandez’s three innings, Coach Melendez mixed and matched his arms out of the bullpen like a slow chess game. Angel Tiburcio, David Eckaus, Zac Lampton, Jack Clemente, and Andres Bello combined to pitch ten shutout innings!. More than a  full game from the relievers and still no victor. Onto the 20th!

Two Games for the Price of One! 

At this point in the game F.I.U. broke their school record for longest baseball game which sat at 18. The longest college baseball game ever is 25 innings and I was already mentally preparing myself for possibly 26. 

Bello stayed in the game for his second inning of relief. The Dolphins’ bats were alive again to start the inning. Jake Berg led off the inning doubling down the right-field line and was tagged out trying to advance to third on Cam Ridleys fielder’s choice. Chase Malloy singled to left field and Ridley moved over to third. Clayton Hodges was intentionally walked to load the bases in hopes of a double play to get out of the inning. 

Jesus Pacheco followed the intentional walk with an RBI single and after 15 innings a team had the lead. The damage was not done yet. Remember Christian Coipel? Well, with lots of family and friends in attendance he blasted a grand slam off of Bello. With one swing, he put the cherry on top of his Sunday (get it?) and the final nail in the Panthers’ coffin. 

F.I.U. had an uneventful last at-bat going down 1-2-3, and after a brisk six hours and a combined 15 pitchers, the dust finally settled. F.I.U. pitching also tied another record by getting 20 strikeouts in the game. I don’t know when’s the next time F.I.U. will break the record, but if I’m there for it I’m packing a pillow and a sleeping bag. 

The Panthers will have one more non-conference game tomorrow against USF. Conference USA play begins Friday, March 18 against Marshall. 


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