Alex Rivera/Staff Writer
After a week off from play, FIU Softball is set to begin their next tournament and first games away from home in Tampa to play in the USF Tournament to play three different teams.
The weekend tournament will begin against Tennessee. The last time the Panthers played the Volunteers was in 2012, the result being a loss. For Tennessee, they are currently 7-3, after playing in two tournaments: in Tempe, Arizona and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Three of their games were shortened, one of which was only played four innings as a result of time conflict. Among the other games was against the national Mexican team, which turned out to be a 2-0 loss for the Vols.
The next team the Panthers will play will be the hosts, the USF Bulls. USF is currently 2-7 overall after playing in two tournaments, their most recent game being a 2-15 loss against UCLA in a six-inning game. Historically, the Panthers have a winning record to the Bulls, having won the last five games. The only concern is that the last game was nearly 14 years ago. The added factors for the Panthers: the game will be the second the Panthers play on Friday and the first of two games the Panthers will play against the Bulls.
The last team FIU will play will be UCF, who are 9-2 overall and are coming to the USF Tournament with a four-game winning streak. It will be the first time the Knights play outside Orlando this season, after hosting two tournaments at home. When it comes to UCF, the Panthers have a losing record having lost five of their nine meetings. But, like the USF, the Panthers have not played the Knights in a while, five years. The Panthers will play the nights on Saturday and Sunday.
The weekend as a whole will be a physical challenge, two double headers in two consecutive days. On top of that, the Panthers have only played three games this season, out of the four they were scheduled to play. The teams they are facing have collectively played more than three times the games as the Panthers. That said, there may be a benefit in the Panthers getting a week of “rest” from game time and more time for practice.
Players to watch for the Panthers: Alexis Johns, Jocelyn Alonso and Jessica Rivera. Johns has shown that she is able to get on base and a good choice as a leadoff hitter. Alonso in the same regard is a good clean-up hitter, getting on base just as often as Johns bring has three RBIs on top of a good on base percentage. Rivera, has a 0.500 OBP and three RBIs to her name.
The problem with determining which players to watch in this case is the nature of the schedule, that the Panthers have only had three games and that not as many players have had enough at-bats to solidify their standing on the team.
The Panthers will play the Volunteers Friday Morning at 11:30am, followed by the Bulls at 4:30pm. Saturday FIU will UCF at 11:30AM and the second game against the Bulls at 4:30pm. Sunday will be the only day without a double-header, and will be a 9am game against UCF.