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Rounding 2nd Heading for 3rd

We're a little past the midway point of the FIU baseball season and the Panthers are 19-13 and 6-6 in the Sun Belt. About what you expected or not? Vote in the poll question at the end of this post.

FIU has 22 games left and currently sits 6th in the conference out of 11 teams. Top 8 teams earn a trip to Murfreesboro, Tennessee for the Sun Belt Championship Tournament on May 25. The Panthers have 18 conference games left.

Rj As FIU prepares for a Wednesday home game vs. Bethune-Cookman (6 p.m. first pitch; 5:54 p.m. LIVE BLOG begins), let's take a look at the first half of the 2010 season with some thoughts from FIU coach Turtle Thomas.

ON THE HILL

If you follow baseball at any level, then you know it all begins with pitching and FIU's hurlers have had their moments this season, but enough of them.

As of Monday, the Panthers are fifth in the Sun Belt with a (5.70 ERA) which is not anything to write home about. FIU pitchers do have the second most Ks (256) in the conference, but also have issued the fifth most walks with 124.

We knew it would be a challenge this season for FIU to get consistent pitching with the losses of Tom Ebert and Miguel Mejia to the Red Sox and Tigers, respectively. JUCO Pitcher of the Year Logan Dodds being ineligible. But nothing the Panthers can do anything about that.

No. 1 starter Scott Rembisz has pretty much been solid all season with the exception of last week vs. Middle Tennessee when he had to leave early with shoulder and forearm tightness. SR has never had those issues before, but he is expected to be on the hill this Friday vs. New Orleans.

Despite being just 1-2, R.J. Fondon (above, left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) has the lowest ERA on the team at 3.99 and probably has been the most consistent pitcher on the team.

You can see the potential sophomore Aaron Arboleya (right, thanks AJH photo) has with each start, but he has yet to put it togetherAa in a string of starts. AA has definitely improved from last season where he was a middle of the week/relief pitcher to earning a spot in the weekend rotation.

Daniel DeSimone has developed nicely with effective mid-week starts and has become an innings-eater.

Until closer Bryam Garcia hurt his elbow, he was pretty much lights out as the 9th inning guy. TT said he expects Garcia back before the end of the regular season. Eric Berkowitz has probably been the most efffective reliever thus far.

TT's take: "We've been a little inconsistent with our pitching. Teams that sweep series on a regular basis and are at the top of our league get three good starting performances each weekend. We've had two most weekends, but never had three. If we can get a little more consistency out of our bullpen that would be good."

Probably the other issue with FIU's pitching besides consistency, has to be the lack of depth.

For 2011, the Panthers will have Illinois transfer Phil Haig, Mike Ellis, Columbus High's Andres Perez-Lobo (one of the top pitchers in Dade County) along with MDC transfer Ricky Perez and Dodds besides the returns of Fondon, Arboleya, DeSimone, etc. And FIU still has some scholies left to hand out which the Panthers are actively pursuing: "We're in the process of signing a couple of more pitchers for 2011. Possibly JUCO guys." Thomas said.

AROUND THE DIAMOND

With a lack of pitching depth, the Panthers could help themselves with the gloves, but so far FIU has plenty of room for improvement.

Gw FIU is 10th among 11 SBC teams in fielding this season with a .954 fielding percentage and 58 errors.

There have been some secure gloves around the field for the Panthers such as Garrett Wittels' (left, thanks AJH photo) superb play at the hot corner and how he flawlessly filled in for Junior Arrojo at shortstop when Jr. was out.

Jr. for the most part has been solid at SS. Pablo Bermudez has shown a very dependable glove in center and freshman Jabari Henry has a hose from left field as some opposing runners have found out.

But overall, FIU must tighten up defensively to help out its undermanned pitching staff, especially in Sun Belt play where every team in the conference, including FIU, seems to hit like if it were slow-pitch softball.

TT's take: "Our defense needs to be more consistent and more solid. However, our errors don't seem to be made in the clutch. I don't think it has affected us that much."

THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING

How many of you would be surprised if I told you FIU leads the Sun Belt in hitting? My hand is up.

I knew the Panthers could hit, but to lead the offensive-minded Sun Belt? I didn't think so until I looked atMm the numbers.

FIU is No. 1 in hitting with a .347 team average and No. 1 in on-base percentage with a .436 mark.

Although the power numbers (FIU has 32 HR) are down with no Tyler Townsend-type bat in the lineup, the Panthers are averaging 8.2 runs per game, which should be enough for some more wins than the 19 the team has, but we've already gone over that above.

GW leads the team and is third in the Belt with a .417 average. GW also has a 28-game hit streak. Mike Martinez (right, thanks AJH photo) is second on the team and fifth in the conference with a .408 batting clip. MM also has a mighty .490 on-base percentage.

Freshman Jabari Henry (left, thanks AJH photo), who is looking like he will develop into Townsend-type bat, leads the team with 8 HR and 38 RBI.

Jh FIU can run having stolen 50 of 63 bases. Bermudez leads the team with 13 swipes and Jr. is right behind with 12 steals. The 50 steals are fourth in the Sun Belt.

One area where the Panthers could improve on is being more consistent driving in runs. For example, the 16 runners left on base against Louisiana on April 3 which wasted a nifty start by Fondon. FIU sweeps that series if they win that game.

TT's take: "They've done a nice job. In baseball, everybody runs into slumps, funks. We've had some pretty good consistent guys. We probably could knock in more runs. Middle Tennessee does a good job of knocking in runs. We were very impatient last Saturday against Middle Tennessee."

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when you dont have pitching, you need defense to back up your young pitchers. with so many home games, we need to win all our series to get to the SB tournament and maybe an at large...

Im hoping our guys settle down. Watching the Marlins tonight, its like watching FIU play. Pitching is so erratic. Errors and missed opporunities. FIU had a strong start, but in the last 2 weeks they've been subpar. Im hoping wednesdays game against Bethune can help our guys get their stuff together.

With series against Western Kentucky and South Alabama still out there, is TT's job safe if FIU misses the SB tourny?

TT's job better be safe for the next 10 years.. Although I think they should have 22 or 23 wins at this point, the team is not doing bad for the amount of runs they are allowing. I think the team will finish the regular season among the Top 4 teams in the Sunbelt and hopefully find a way to get to the Championship game. Getting to the Semi's of the Sunbelt would be an improvement from last year but not enough..
From what Pete mentioned, can you guys picture next years team? Pitching might actually NOT be an issue! About time..

Go FIU!

I am a little disappointed with how the team is only 6 games over .500, we are better than that.

6-6 against the SB is a sub-par if you ask me.

* a sub-par performance *

Our RPI is 59, so we are not anywhere near sub-par... There are definitely games that we shouldve have won that we didnt, but I think a good majority of those late game losses have a different outcome with a healthy B. Garcia on the mound closing the game (ie. Sundays game against Troy).

ConcernedBaseballFan - Why just WKU and S. Alabama? We still have series against WKU, USA, Ark State (who i believe is ranked above USA), and FAU; all teams with solid RPIs. If we can pull of 3 series wins out of those 4 our RPI will be in good shape... As for missing the tourney, I dont think that is going to happen as long as we dont have anymore injuries (knock on wood).

I hope this years team can get it rolling the final stretch of the season and make a regional, but im also excited for next years team with an upgrade at the SS position and some other guys coming in.

I did vote that the team should have 20+ wins by now. I think some of our guys next to pull a Lazer Collazo and ask themselves if they have "THESE!!!" (with pants pulled down grabbing himself). Jobe needs to stay in front of ground balls and not try and catch them to the side and its not just him.

I agree. The team needs to take more pride in its defense; 10 out of 11 is unacceptable.

As far as upcoming schedule is concerned, many here, fail to recognize that we have the bottom two teams in the Belt here at home in UNO and ULM. We also get USA here at home though the WKU and ASU series are going to be tough without some stellar pitching and defense.

All-in-all, great teams excel in all aspects of the game not just one of two. The guys need to take pride in their defense, it will be contagious.

Well here we go with the pitching issue. I said it at the beginning and I will say it again, something is really wrong with pitching, we start perfectly fine and all of a sudden they start dropping like flies. Any comments?????

There is only one ERA below 4.00 (3.99) in the team out of 14 pitchers????

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. We got 4 home games this week and I'm expecting 4 wins. FIU plays New Orleans (2-13 conference record) this weekend and we must take advantage and sweep the worst teams in the Belt if we wanna get anywhere this year.

I'm satisfied with the record bc I know there's room for improvement in the 2nd half of the season. Getting swept at home by Rutgers and blowing a late lead to FGCU also at home definitely hurt us, I wish we could have those back.

Saw some flyers around campus, pretty good idea by the marketing dpt to get students from the dorms to come out on Wednesday. Let's see if it works. Maybe those guys are starting to wake up.

ThePeferctFan - its called injuries, draft/ineligibility, and lack of depth (see previous 2).


The Rutgers weekend was a tough one. We werent 100%... Troy and FGCU were 2 games that hurt to watch.

It's not ALL about the pitching. If we don't hit the ball, we won't score any runs either!

"its called injuries, draft/ineligibility, and lack of depth"

Those happen to every team in the country, we can't make excuses (I know that's not what you're trying to do, c-UM). All we can say is we missed some opportunities and should've won some of those games but then again, not a lot of people thought we would start 7-0 so there's some positives as well as negatives.
We can only play with the healthy guys who are on our roster right now bc Logan Dodds isn't gonna all of a sudden become eligible and Ebert/Mejia aren't coming back from the minors to pitch for us.

fiuer: we've scored enough runs, look at what Pete wrote. Maybe you could argue that we lacked some clutch hitting at times but it's been there for the most part

But Byram Garcia(injury) probably wouldve atleast had us at 21-11, if not better. That is my point... Again, this is just speculation because there is no way to know for sure, but from what i saw of him, i dont think he wouldve given up 9 runs to Troy.

With a healthy BG, this allows Berkowitz to go back to the role where he shines the most, reliever. Therefore, you prob dont see FGCU score something like 7 runs in the final 2 or 3 innings, you dont see Troy score 9 in the final 2 innings, and im sure there are some other games where this wouldve have affected the outcome.

We may not in great shape, being 6th in conference and teams above us playing great, but I dont think we are in bad shape by any means. Like the good ol' cliche, right now we control our own destiny... We are in a good spot if we can play consistently well.

Sorry c-UM, but Baseball is not a one player game is a team game. You could have great pitching and not batting, hey is not just going to happen. You got to have it both ways!

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