Mike Franco pitched his longest outing since returning from Tommy John surgery and Edwin Rios and Mandy Alvarez delivered key hits to spark the Panthers past WKU, 5-2 on Sunday afternoon at the FIU Baseball Stadium.
Franco (4-1) pitched six innings and allowed no earned runs to record his team-leading fourth win of the season. Franco no-hit the Hilltoppers through 5 1/3 innings before Thomas Peter blooped a single to short left center. Franco, who is 11 months removed
from elbow surgery, topped his previous longest outing of five innings at Florida Atlantic last Sunday.
The Panthers (12-12, 2-4 Sun Belt) jumped on WKU starter Tim Bado in the first inning. Julius Gaines led off with a walk and T.J. Shantz followed with a single to right. After Aramis Garcia hit a line drive grounder to Bado, who in self-defense got a glove
on the ball and threw to first for the out, Rios delivered a two-run single to center for a 2-0 FIU lead.
WKU (13-11, 5-1 SBC) cut the FIU lead in half with a run in the top of the fourth inning. FIU got the run right back in the bottom of the fourth when Alvarez, a freshman second baseman, lined a solo home run to the left of the scoreboard in left field. It
was Alvarez’s first collegiate home run and increased the lead to 3-1.
Shantz led the Panthers going 3 for 5 with a pair of singles and a double. With the two RBI, Rios took over the team lead with 22 RBI on the season.
FIU will next host Arkansas State in a three-game series beginning Friday at 6 p.m. from the FIU Baseball Stadium. You can watch all FIU home baseball games on PantherVision at FIU Sports.com.