Baseball finishes season; Ready to face Rice in Tourney

Alejandro Solana/Staff Writer


The FIU baseball team’s regular season has come to an end, and are now set to take on the Conference USA regular season champions, Rice University, in the first round of the conference tournament.

After starting their season winning 16 of their first 17 games, the Panthers looked strong and were an early favorite, along with Rice, to possibly take home the regular season conference title. That was until Rice swept the Panthers at home and their fate quickly changed from favorites to a team that will have to prove themselves in their first season ever in C-USA.

FIU finished the season posting an overall record of 36-18 (16-14 in conference play), earning them 8th place in the conference seeding.

As a team offensively, the Panthers dominated the C-USA finishing atop the conference in almost every statistical category possible. FIU finished tied with Rice with the best team batting average over the season with a (.289) average, first in on base percentage (.372), second in slugging percentage (.387), second in runs scored (.311), second in RBI’s (271) and third in hits (530).

Junior catcher Aramis Garcia had an incredible season for the Panthers leading the team with a .355 batting average. Garcia also led the team in homeruns with seven, tying him for second best in the conference, and slugging percentage with a .587 average. Garcia’s great season led him to be named the Conference USA’s Player of the Year, the first Panther player to be awarded this award as it was their first season ever playing in this conference. Defensively, Garcia allowed only four passed balls all season and for the second straight season has been named as a Johnny Bench award finalist, awarded to the top catcher in the NCAA.

The top of the line up stayed consistent for the Panthers as the season went on, and it was the 3/4/5 hitters who really excelled and made an impact offensively for FIU. Junior third baseman Josh Anderson had an excellent season batting fourth for the team behind their star Garcia, and sophomore second baseman Edwin Rios batting fifth behind anderson, both providing power and RBI’s for a team that was hot with the bats all season.


Gassing C-USA


Offensively, it couldn’t have gotten much better for the team whose numbers were atop the conference in almost every category. However, it was the team’s pitching that really stood out and made a remarkable difference in the Panthers’ overall success this year.

Behind FIU’s own version of a big three, this years weekend starters posted stellar outings all season and were able to consistently pitch at a high level for a team that really shined on the mound.

Junior right-handed pitcher Mike Franco had an exceptional year on the mound for the Panthers ending the season with a overall record of 9-3, earning his ninth win against Tulane University where he went seven innings allowing only one run and striking out seven. Going deep into games was nothing out of the ordinary for Franco as he finished the season with four complete games, a team best. Franco ended the regular season with a team and conference best (1.13) era and with the second most strikeouts in the conference (107). Franco just missed out on the C-USA pitcher of the Year award, given to the best pitcher of the conference, which was awarded to Chase Mallard of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Along with Franco, it was two young guys who made immediate impacts for the Panthers in their first ever collegiate baseball season. Right-handed pitchers Chris Mourelle and Cody Crouse, both freshmen, were the two other weekend starters for this team and each contributed several great games appearing in 27 games between the two, respectively.

Mourelle finished his season with an outstanding 9-2 overall record and was awarded the C-USA Freshman of Year award for his performance on the mound over the course of the year. Although it was only his freshman year, Mourelle remained rock solid all year ending with a (1.70) ERA, the second best ERA amongst FIU starters.

As for the other freshmen starter, Cody Crouse, who towers over most baseball players at 6-foot-6, it was a year to remember and learn from as he moves forward in what will probably be a great career here at FIU. Crouse posted a 4-3 overall record and finished with an ERA of (2.36), third best amongst the starters.


Looking Ahead


With the regular season over, it is now time for the Conference USA tournament to begin. FIU finished in the 8th seed of the conference due to a tiebreaker, despite being tied for 6th place. With the 8th seed, FIU will face Rice on Wednesday, May 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Earlier on in the season, the Panthers faced Rice in their second conference series of the season with a chance to take control of the C-USA leaderboard and propel themselves into first place. Instead, it was Rice who came down to Miami and swept the Panthers after the first game went into extra innings and just slipped away from the Panthers.

Although the Panthers did have an above average season record wise and statistically, it is no secret that the team struggled mightily against their conference opponents. Behind coach Turtle Thomas, who earned his 200th career win as the FIU head baseball coach this season, it is now time to see if the team his picked up enough momentum to knock off the regular season champions, Rice University. The team will play at least one more game after their matchup with Rice, considering that the conference tournament is a double elimination tournament.

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