WKU fails to complete series sweep against FIU


Marshall Canupp

Hilltopper Baseball’s Ty Batusich (9) looks to the Hilltopper’s 3rd base coach for a call during their game against the Belmont Bruins at Nick Denes Field on April 5th.

Camden Bush, Baseball Reporter

WKU failed to complete a series sweep of the Florida International Panthers, losing 6-5 Sunday afternoon on Nick Denes Field. 

The Panthers (11-20, 4-8 C-USA) came out on top of a back-and-forth battle. The Hilltoppers got off to an early lead but didn’t maintain it. The loss for WKU breaks a three-game win streak and brings the Hilltoppers to a record of 13-18 on the season and 4-8 in conference play.

Freshman Luke Sinnard started his first game for the Hilltoppers and took advantage of it. Sinnard went 5.2 innings and allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits. FIU sophomore Ryan Cabarcas went 4.2 innings and allowed five runs, four of which were earned, on seven hits and seven strikeouts.

Juniors Ricardo Leonett and Tristin Garcia led the Hilltoppers offense on the day. Garcia picked up two hits and two RBIs while Leonett recorded three hits on the day. FIU’s offense had a great day as five different batters recorded multiple hits. Redshirt sophomore Robert Sotolongo led the team with three hits and two RBIs.

Sinnard made quick work of FIU in the top of the first, retiring the Panthers in order. Garcia led off the bottom of the first with a single, but the Hilltoppers failed to score in the inning. 

Sinnard continued his great start, allowing a lead-off single but nothing else. Cabarcas allowed a one-out single in the bottom of the second. Junior Jackson Gray knocked in a run with two outs in the inning on an RBI single for the first run of the game.

The Panthers failed to put anyone on base again in the third. Senior Justin Carlin walked in the bottom of the third, but the Hilltoppers did not manage anything else in the inning.

FIU tied it in the top of the fourth on a solo homer by redshirt junior Alec Sanchez. The Panthers then hit back-to-back singles with Sotolongo knocking in a run to make it 2-1. The Hilltoppers put two runners on base with a walk and a double in the bottom of the fourth before Garcia knocked them both in with a double to give WKU a 3-2 lead.

Sinnard bounced back in the top of the fifth and retired the Panthers in order. The Hilltoppers had two runners reach in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a walk and Leonett picking up his third hit of the day. Redshirt sophomore Ty Crittenberger gave WKU a two-run RBI double to make it 5-2.

Sotolongo cut the deficit to 5-3 in the top of the sixth on an RBI single after a single and an error. The Panthers tied the game at 5-5 on back-to-back singles with redshirt junior Jorge Ramirez knocking them in. WKU failed to respond in the bottom of the inning.

The Panthers took a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh. With two runners on base, sophomore Adrian Figueroa hit an RBI single to give FIU the late lead. The Hilltoppers once again failed to score in the bottom of the seventh despite a one-out walk. 

FIU picked up a lead-off single to start the top of the eighth but failed to score in the inning. The Hilltoppers also picked up a single in the bottom of the eighth but failed to score.

Both teams went down quickly in the ninth, despite the Hilltoppers picking up a baserunner on an error as FIU claimed a 6-5 lead.

Up next, the Hilltoppers will head to Nashville Tuesday to play the Vanderbilt Commodores at 6 p.m.

Baseball Reporter Camden Bush can be reached at [email protected]