Eduardo Almaguer / Staff Writer
Last October, head coach Turtle Thomas of the FIU baseball team identified the two biggest problems that plagued his team: issuing too many walks and striking out too many times.
Fresh off being swept by No. 6 Rice University, there were no signs of improvement in both departments.
In the three-game weekend series, Panther batters struck out 32 times and pitchers walked 25 opposing batters. The Owls, on the other hand, struck out 19 times and surrendered only 11 walks.
Thomas said that if he had to choose a number and make that the walks surrendered in a weekend series, it would be nine total walks, or three per game. FIU is currently averaging eight per game.
But as Thomas points out, there are reasons to be optimistic. Rice batters hit for a dismal .227 average off FIU pitchers over the weekend. In addition, the Panthers out hit the Owls 27 to 20.
Junior Rudy Flores currently leads the Panthers in hits with five and is tied with Junior Jabari Henry for the team lead in RBIs with two. Henry is the only Panther with a homerun.
FIU (0-3) kicks off its next three game series on Feb. 24, as the team will travel about 480 miles north to Tallahassee to square off against Florida State University.
Joining their team after serving a three-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules are senior infielder Mike Martinez and redshirt senior pitcher Logan Dodds.
Martinez, the team’s projected 2012 third baseman, led FIU last year with 15 home runs and had 60 RBIs. FSU (4-0) is ranked 19th in the nation according to Baseball America and has ripped through its opponents.
The Seminoles have scored 48 runs and have 45 RBI’s. By comparison, FIU has six runs and seven RBI’s in the young season. Junior Jayce Boyd leads the charge with 11 RBI’s, a .438 average for FSU.
Thomas admits that finding exploits on a team of this caliber is not easy to do. “Until you see them with your own eyes you don’t know how to attack,” Thomas said. “They’re a very talented club.”
FIU will most likely face pitchers Brandon Leibrandt, Hunter Scantling and Mike Compton. Neither of the three gave up more than two runs in their outings against Hofstra University.
The Panthers counter with senior R.J Fondon, redshirt junior Mason McVay and sophomore Michael Ellis.
In spite of the tough competition, Thomas had bold words regarding the weekend series.“We have no intention of going 0-6,” said Thomas.
Today’s game is at 4 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. Saturday start and a 1 p.m. Sunday start.
WITTELS GOES OUTSIDE
Former Panther infielder Garret Wittels was featured on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday morning.
The episode focused on Wittels’ controversial rape allegation in 2010, where two women accused him and two other friends of raping them in their hotel room while on vacation in the Bahamas.
“I just never thought that anyone would ever put my name in the same sentence as the word rape,” Wittels said.
The charges were eventually dropped and he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization less than two weeks after the 2011 MLB Amateur draft.
He played for the Batavia Muckdogs in 2011, the Class A short-season team of the Cardinals.