We found out early last Friday morning that FIU baseball would start its summer vacation earlier than expected.
After FIU lost to Florida Atlantic on Thursday night and Middle Tennessee beat Western Kentucky in the wee hours Friday morning after a 3 hour and 20 minute rain delay, the Golden Panthers baseball season was over and yours truly also got an early start on summer vacation by canceling a trip to Lafayette, La. for the Sun Belt tournament. Maybe, I should have asked the FIU witches for some magic potion like FI- UM FAN suggested.
But the FIU sports season has come to close and here's what we learned from the Golden Panthers baseball team after a 20-36 season, 9th place Sun Belt finish.
* FIU needs plenty of pitching. Late in the season, Eric Horstmann, James Lajiness and Jorge Marban emerged as some of the more consistent arms, but EH and JL have graduated. The only returning starting pitcher is Corey Polizzano and after CP and Chris Allen (also graduated) the starting pitching this season was erratic. Asked TT about recruiting pitching and he estimates he'll need about 10 quality pitchers to get this going in the right direction. One pitcher that would be interesting to see how he progresses next season is Daniel DeSimone. Coming off Tommy John surgery, last year, may have limited DD from going all out this season. When DD did pitch it sure looked like he has good stuff. Maybe after a year of college ball he can put it together next season.
* Of the returning starters, FIU has a good core to build on in 2B Ryan Mollica, 1B Tyler Townsend (right), C Steven Stropp and OF Javier Sujo, but of course that's just 4 players. Mollica finished second in the Sun Belt in hitting this season with a .413 average. Townsend hit 14 home runs. Stropp probably improved the most throughout the season both at the plate and behind it. SS was one of several FIU batters that heeded TT's advice to go to the opposite field and with it increased his average to finish at .289. Sujo, a freshman, was among the team's hitting leaders for most of the season. What the FIU lineup needs to improve on is hitting good pitching. Yes, the Golden Panthers hit .305 as a team this season, but when they ran into a solid starting pitcher, FIU struggled and good teams find a way to get to another team's ace.
* The defense got better as the season went along. FIU had a stretch of consecutive errorless games that helped keep them in the conference race. But 93 errors in 2008, despite the improvement from 104 errors in 2007, is still way too much, especially in college baseball where they use the aluminum and unless you have dominant starting pitching every game can be like you're playing in the thin air at Coors Field.
FIU currently has the No. 15 recruiting class in the nation for 2009, but it needs to get most of those players into University Park Stadium next spring. We'll have TT stop by the GPP soon to talk about the 2008 season and the year ahead for FIU baseball. TT is headed to the high school state baseball championship this week and then to the JUCO (Junior College) World Series in Colorado thereafter.
Until then, would like to hear your thoughts on the 2008 season.
Not because it's an election year, but we're introducing a new feature to the blog below -- the GPP Poll. We'll randomly post FIU questions to specific blogs to gauge the feel of the GPP nation.
MaXx: Not having the fieldhouse done in time for the season will not impact the west end zone seating as FIUBlueandGold posted. The west end zone seats will all be complete along with the ramps on the southwest and northwest corners of the stadium. The steel pillars for the west end zone are already in the ground. They are currently putting up the west side of the stadium. When there is something to walk on, on the west side, we'll have another tour of the stadium here on the GPP complete with updates from around the rest of the stadium.
hankgoldberg: Good point on your post. Agreed, I think some folks on this blog are putting the cart before the horse with talk of a "must" spot in a regional next season. After watching almost every game this season, the thought here is that FIU needs a serious overhaul with its pitching to even think of winning the Sun Belt next season. There was a huge lack of depth in the pitching staff this season due to ineffectiveness and injuries. That being said, the Golden Panthers do need to show improvement next season and every other season thereafter, but "get to a regional or else"?? If anyone saw more than 25 FIU games in person this season (and that meaning you stayed for more than 7 innings each game) then you know the lack of pitching I'm talking about. Sometimes, I just don't understand fans that analyze a team from the comfort of their laptop and don't actually watch the games.