‘Heart and Soul’: Panthers’ youth will pave the way to success

Jose Garcia (#27) catcher for Florida International University beats the tag and slides safe at home plate after a single by teammate Eddie Silva during the sixth inning against Jacksonville Sate at FIU Baseball Stadium in Miami, Florida, Saturday, March 3, 2018. The Panthers lost 13-6 after allowing 7 runs in the 10th inning. (Samuel Navarro/PantherNow)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


For the second year in a row, three FIU baseball players were selected to the Freshman All-American team by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Logan Allen, Jose Garcia and Adan Fernandez received the honor following their stellar first seasons with the program.

“I think these three players are going to be phenomenal. All three of them will make a huge dent in the record books here at FIU and in Conference USA,” said head coach Mervyl Melendez. “The bottom line, they’re the future. They’re the future of this program. They’re the heart and soul of what we’re about, and a lot of other players contributed, but having young men and young players contribute to that magnitude says a lot about them.”

To start the 2018 campaign, the Panthers’ freshman struggled with consistency issues, which influenced the team’s 13-14 record in the first half of the season.

“At the beginning of the year, we kind of reached a tough point in the second weekend. We knew the things that we needed to work on,” said the soon to be third-year head coach for the Panthers. “We struggled a little bit up the middle at the beginning, and we struggled to get the guys to really understand what we were trying to accomplish. We made some crucial mistakes, but we knew that we had young players. We knew that it was just a matter of time until they got used to the college baseball pace.”

Despite the slow start, the trio managed to bounce back and become some of the best freshmen in the entire nation.

Allen, who was a starting pitcher and first baseman, proved that he could contribute in a multitude of ways. The left-hander had a 5-5 record with a 3.98 ERA, which ranked third on the Panthers’ pitching staff.

In the 74 innings he pitched in, he allowed 74 hits, 32 earned runs, 16 walks and struck out a team-leading 85 opposing batters. His 85 strikeouts ranked second on the FIU freshman all-time list and were only second to Derek DeCarlo, who had 92 strikeouts in 2002.

As a hitter, the former Florida High School Gatorade Player of the Year, batted .309, while also recording two home runs and 16 RBI.     

Garcia made history for the Panthers as he broke the program’s freshman home run record by recording 13 on the season. Along with displaying his power hitting, the Miami, FL native posted a .264 batting average with 38 RBI and 47 hits.   

“What was really impressive was that he was hampered by his back, his upper back towards the end of the season started giving him issues. He actually stalled the year towards the end of the season because of the pain he had in his back,” said Melendez. “So if you go back and think what would it been if he was healthy the last month of the season. Nevertheless, he was still Conference Freshman of the Year.”

Similar to Garcia, Fernandez showed his power hitting capabilities. The Archbishop McCarthy high school alumnus, concluded the season with ten home runs to place him third all-time on the FIU freshman home run list. He complimented the home runs, by batting .262, while also recording 38 hits and 26 runs.

Allen, Garcia, and Fernandez join Javier Valdes, Nick MacDonald, and Tyler Myrick as Freshman All-Americans on the current roster.

“We want to make sure that our young players understand they’re going to have a chance to play. Throughout the recruiting process, we tell them if you earn it you’re going to be playing,” Melendez said. “Luckily we had three last year, and we had three this year. Half is because they earned it, half is because we believed in them. It goes hand-and-hand.”

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