Round Three: Panthers and Hurricanes fight at The Light

Round Three Panthers Hurricanes

Miami, Florida – The bell has been rung for Round Three between the Panthers and Hurricanes in the latest of the Battle for the 305. Once more the crosstown rivals return to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The two teams go at it with bragging rights and more on the line. A lot has happened since their last, action-packed meeting. For Florida International, their rebuilding year has been a forgettable one witnessing few victories. They recently surpassed last season’s win total marking slight tangible progress. Miami, on the other hand, has been playing great baseball with a legitimate shot at a national seed.

No matter where these two programs are during the season they always circle the day their counterpart comes to play.

Last meeting

The Miami Hurricanes walked off FIU 6-5 in a rained-soaked thriller at The Light. Down to their last out, Zach Levenson blasted a three-run homer for the impressive come-from-behind victory. Both teams put up a run in the early going before the Panthers took the lead in the fourth courtesy of a solo shot from Alec Sanchez. Miami tied it after the seventh-inning stretch with a homer from CJ Kayfus. Dante Girardi plated two in the eighth giving the Blue and Gold the lead once more but it was not enough.

Finding their groove

Miami had an at times shaky hold on its Top 25 ranking. Following their walk-off victory, the Hurricanes kept on cruising. They swept a weak Florida State team that included pitching gems from Gage Ziehl (6-4 4.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), Karson Ligon (3-1 4.27 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), and Alejandro Rosario (3-5 8.13 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) succeeded by a midweek thumping of Central Florida. Ligon missed his next two starts as he was sidelined for roughly three weeks due to an ailment. At the time they were No. 20 in D1 Baseball’s listings. The Canes were then swept on the road by No. 7 Virginia in early April knocking them out of the Top 25. After taking two of three at No. 13 North Carolina the team reentered the rankings checking in at No. 17 slipping just ahead of the tumbling Tar Heels.

Afterward, the Canes had mixed results in a pair of midweek games doubling up Bethune-Cookman and losing to Florida Atlantic in extras. Miami secured the series versus ACC Coastal cellar-dweller Georgia Tech and at No. 21 Louisville with a midweek victory over FAU in between wrapping up April propelling them to No. 11 knocking out the Cardinals. In that span, Ligon returned for the Yellow Jackets missing another start against the Cards. The U is fresh off a sweep of Presbyterian, their fourth of the year. They’re now 25-4 at home.

Both Yohandy Morales (.390 BA/1.112 OPS/11 HR/48 RBIs) and CJ Kayfus (.331 BA/1.032 OPS/10 HR/30 RBIs/35 BB) have continued raking at the plate leading the highly potent Canes offense. Ziehl keeps on rolling as the team’s ace and Andrew Walters (1.50 ERA/0.87 WHIP/7 Saves) remains sharp at closer. However, with Ligon out and Ronaldo Gallo’s (9.13 ERA, 1.94 WHIP) struggles in the pen, the Canes are thin.


Florida International’s season has gone as expected, poorly. Their heartbreaking loss to UM was ultimately part of an ugly eight-game losing streak. Since then they’ve lost six consecutive weekend series (eight straight if you want to go further back). They were swept by Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, and FAU. The only bright moments, if you want to call it that, were the singular victories over ranked Florida Gulf Coast and UTSA. FIU lost two out of three in their latest slate versus Western Kentucky.

Despite a great year at the plate for Ryne Guida (.362 BA/.986 OPS/8 HR/42 RBIs), Alec Sanchez (.349 BA/1.037 OPS/11 HR/26 RBIs), and Mike Rosario (.335 BA/.950 OPS/9 HR/33 RBIs/19 SB) the pitching remains terrible giving up 362 runs, the most in Conference USA by a wide margin. Middle Tennessee is next at 330. That’s 7.7 runs allowed per game. Very hard to win like that when your opponents are hitting with a .292 batting average. It’s a darn shame especially when the team has recorded 293 runs for 2023, averaging 6.2 runs per game. Imagine where they’d be if both Ryan Cabarcas (1-5 5.37 ERA, 1.48 WHIP)  and Angel Tiburcio (4-5 6.79 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) had a better year. Christian Santana (0-2 8.25 ERA, 1.92 WHIP) and Jackson Ritchey (3-2 7.18 ERA, 1.97 WHIP) have split time on the mound with little success.


Pitching, pitching, pitching. This will come down to who’s staff outlasts the other. Midweek games are a bit of a toss-up when it comes to a starter. Florida International can tap Daniel McAuliff, Santana, Ritchey, or even Joel Pineiro. The Canes, meanwhile, have used Alejandro Torres, Ben Chestnutt, and Gallo during the week. Assuming it isn’t a bullpen game from either side. Miami has much more to play for and with their vaunted home record, it will be difficult for the Panthers to get an elusive third road victory at The Light. Twice UM has relied on late-game heroics. This time around, they’ll take care of business without the need for a rally and win 8-5. FIU will never truly go away but The U will come out on top.

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