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Baseball Preview: Missouri visits Florida International

Missouri looks to build on their successful opening weekend

via Twitter / @FIUBaseball

Missouri Baseball shocked the nation last week, winning two of their three games at the College Baseball Showdown. Now, the Tigers are tasked with taking care of business against some inferior competition.

The Tigers travel to Miami this weekend for a four-game set with Florida International. The Panthers (2-2) are a team Missouri should sweep, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. A couple of high major transfers and the son of a former MLB legend stand in their way.

At the Plate

The key to the Panthers’ offense is CF Alec Sanchez. After playing his freshman year at Florida State, Sanchez has played his final four seasons for FIU. Last year he led the Panthers in home runs and started 50 games.

This season, Sanchez is slashing .412/.412/.467 in FIU’s first four games. He only has 1 HR this year but comes into this series off three consecutive multi-hit games. You can expect him to second in FIU’s lineup, and if the Panthers are going to cause trouble for Missouri, Sanchez will be in the middle of it.

After Sanchez, FIU’s most intimidating bat is RF Mike Rosario. A transfer from Miami, where he struggled to find playing time, Rosario is already making an impact for the Panthers. In his first AB, a pinch-hit AB on Opening Day, Rosario hit a monster home run, announcing his arrival.

Rosario has a hit in all four of FIU’s game this season and has already hit two balls over the fence. He’s slashing .429/.429/.857 in 14 AB so far this season.

Sanchez and Rosario are the meat of this lineup, but Ryne Guida, a JUCO transfer, who’s been DHing for FIU is off to a hot start in this young season. Guida started his career at Stetson before heading to JUCO last season.

In his first four games as a Panther, Guida is slashing .438/.471/.688 and has a team leading 8 RBI. Six of those RBI came in FIU’s midweek game against Bethune Cookman on Tuesday.

As a whole, this lineup is not deep nor is it all that intimidating at the top. The way Missouri pitched last weekend bodes well for this matchup, but the Tigers cannot get complacent. Missouri will need to keep the same level they had last weekend if they want to shut down the Panthers lineup. The Tigers are running out the same starting rotation from last weekend, so seeing some less intimidating bats could allow the Missouri starters to build some confidence.

On the Mound

via Twitter / @Kevin_Barral

Ryan Cabarcas will get the ball for FIU on Thursday night. This is his second year at FIU after transferring from Florida last season. In his first season with the Panthers, Carbarcas made eight starts and seven relief appearances. Across those 15 outings, Cabarcas threw 55.1 innings, struck out 63 batters and had a 6.34 ERA. Despite those numbers being underwhelming, Cabarcas was probably a little better than they indicate considering he had a 4.21 xFIP.

This year, Cabarcas has transitioned into the Friday night role for the Panthers. In his first start as the FIU’s ace, he went four innings giving up one hit and one unearned run while striking out seven batters. Cabarcas isn’t an intimidating presence on the mound with a smaller frame, but there’s a reason he played at Florida. With a low 90s fastball and two decent breaking balls, a slider and curve, Cabarcas does have good stuff. In his first start this season, he found great success keeping the ball out of the air as 85.7% of the balls put in play opposing hitters were ground balls.

via Twitter / @D1Baseball

On Friday night, FIU will give the ball to Christian Santana. A senior who has been at FIU for the entirety of his career, Santana has battled through a number of injuries to get into the weekend rotation. His stuff is good with a fastball that can run into the mid 90s, so it’s easy to see why the Panthers like Santana, but everything will come down to health with him.

Santana only threw three innings in his opening start of the season, likely due to health concerns. But in those three innings, Santana looked good allowing no runs and just two hits. Personally, I wouldn’t expect Santana to go more than four innings for the Panthers when he faces the Tigers as I’m sure the plan is to ease him into his new role as a starter.

via Twitter / @FIUBaseball

The final confirmed starter for FIU is Angel Tiburcio. The fifth-year senior has spent the entirety of his college career as a reliever, but this year has transitioned into the weekend rotation. In his first start he went four innings and allowed two hits and one earned run.

Tiburcio’s fastball sits in the low 90s, but can get it up to 95. He pairs that heater with a hard slider that runs in the upper 80s.

On Sunday, you can expect a bullpen day from the Panthers, and of the names in contention to see some innings is Orlando Hernandez, the son of former MLB legend Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. In his only appearance of the season, Hernandez went four innings and allowed three earned runs. After these names, who the Panthers will have toe the rubber this weekend is very much in the air.

Against a pitching staff that is generally pretty inexperienced, the Tigers should have an opportunity to pad some stats and get some bats going. Missouri swung it pretty well last weekend, but this series with FIU should not only allow the starters to continue their hot hitting but let some young guys get some hacks, too.

The FIU staff does have arms with good stuff, but Missouri handled much better arms last weekend so there’s no reason to expect that to stop.

Here’s the weekend schedule and the probable pitchers:

Thursday @ 5:30 p.m.. – Chandler Murphy vs Ryan Cabarcas

Friday @ 5:30 p.m. – Ian Lohse vs Christian Santana

Saturday @ 4 p.m. – Javyn Pimental vs Angel Tiburcio

Sunday @ 11 a.m. – TBA vs TBA