BASEBALL: Tops fall in three-game series

Amber North

After watching conference foe Florida International score its final run in the top of the eighth inning Sunday, the Hilltoppers were left to watch in frustration.

Despite taking the Golden Panthers 2-1 Friday in the first game of the three-game series, Western dropped the next two.

But it’s not like the Toppers (16-16, 2-4 Sun Belt) didn’t have a chance against FIU (20-17, 5-1 SBC).

In game two, the Toppers held on to an early 6-0 lead for two innings. Then the Golden Panthers pelted hit after hit that resulted in run after run.

With a long blink of the eye, FIU was up 17-6 through the seventh inning. Western scored two more runs to make the final score 17-8.

“For the first time this season we lost the lead in the seventh inning,” coach Joel Murrie said. “The game shouldn’t have come to that – we just failed to execute.”

The defense the Toppers displayed did not help, either, tallying seven errors for the game.

Although Sunday was a different day, it was still the same story.

The Toppers were up 6-3 in the sixth inning, and that lead suddenly faded into another defeat when FIU scored four straight runs.

“We failed to put the team away when we had the opportunity,” Murrie said. “On the positive side, we did score in consecutive innings and that’s something we strive to do.”

But the biggest struggle for the team has been trying to maintain its early lead in the game.

“The main thing was that we get comfortable when we get the lead,” junior pitcher Grady Hinchman said. “We tried to coast instead of paying attention to every pitch.”

The Hilltoppers’ pitching performance was impressive last weekend.

In Friday’s game, Murrie’s decision to put Hinchman first in the rotation was effective for the team.

Hinchman (1-3) threw out a career-high 13 batters to get his first win of the season in 7.1 innings.

“He had a stellar performance and that’s what effort is expected out of a Friday pitcher,” Murrie said. “As a result, I can’t wait to get him on the mound for Friday’s game against Arkansas State.”

At 6 p.m. today, the Toppers face Louisville (16-11) at Denes Field. Their last meeting with the Cardinals was an 8-1 win March 23.

In order to not make losing leads an habitual thing, Murrie said there are several things that need to be done to prevent that from happening for today’s game.

“There are no secrets about what we need to do,” Murrie said. “We don’t need to sprinkle magic on this ball club. We need to execute offensively and play defense – that includes pitching on the mound.”

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