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FIU baseball lost two of three games during the weekend in its final series of the season against the Rice Owls in Houston and failed to qualify for the Conference USA tournament.
If FIU had any hope of making the tournament for the first time since 2018, it would involve beating the Owls in this three-game series and seeing the UAB Blazers fall to FAU. The Panthers were in a three-way tie with Rice and UAB for the final spot.
With the score tied at 5-5,
Walsh would score in the fifth inning to give Rice a 6-5 lead followed by FIU and Rice trading runs once again in the sixth.
After an Alex Sanchez sac fly tied the score, the Owls would put the game away with two runs in the bottom of the eighth to win 9-7.
FIU’s tournament dreams were now all riding on Game 2.
Guida kicked off the second game of the series with an RBI double in the first inning.
A rigid pitching battle would ensue as the Panthers’ 1-0 lead held for the next six innings due to a strong performance from sophomore Kevin Martin, who finished with only two hits allowed, three strikeouts and zero runs allowed.
But the Owls eventually broke through and tied the game 1-1 in the seventh off a double by graduate Drew Holderbach.
With no runs in the eighth, the game came down to the wire.
The next couple of minutes in this final ninth inning would simultaneously fulfill or crush the postseason aspirations of either team.
FIU went scoreless in the final inning, unable to break through the Owls’ pitching barrage.
It was now up to the team’s pitching and defense to step up to force the game into extra innings.
But it just wasn’t in the cards for the Panthers as Rice would score on an error by freshman Roylan Quevedo to give the Owls a 2-1 walk-off victory and a ticket to the tournament for their 15th appearance.
The Panthers now head into their first offseason under head coach Rich Witten as they finish with a 21-34 overall record and an 8-22 conference record.
Mohawk Valley Community College (Utica, New York) guard Travis Gray announced via Twitter that he has committed to FIU on May 19.
Gray received an offer from Eastern Michigan before ultimately choosing the Panthers.
The 6-7, 205-pound guard was voted as an NCJAA All-American and made first-team All Region and All Conference.
In 24 games, Gray averaged 22.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and six assists per game while shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 38. percent from three.
With an above-average size for a guard, Gray has shown an ability to score effectively at all three levels. He’s quick when cutting to the basket and his length helps him finish over smaller defenders.
Gray has shown great anticipation on defense and knows how to jam passing lanes for easy steals.
Gray now joins an FIU basketball team that lost its leading scorer in the offseason and is looking to add to its young talent.
Brian Olmo is the Sports Director for PantherNOW. Jaymz Cosme is a contributing writer.