Yes, there are bigger games on the horizon and most likely they will take place in Coral Gables next weekend (more on that in a bit and you can vote in the poll question at the end of this post), but stop for a moment and take in the title of this post: FIU Baseball 2010 Sun Belt Champs.
It's been 11 years since the last one back in 1999 and like the 1999 season FIU is likely headed to Coral Gables for an NCAA regional beginning on Friday.
Before we get to that, check the previous post below this one for a party you're all invited to and for a LIVE Q&A BLOG with Turtle on Monday afternoon.
If you follow the history of the NCAA baseball tourney you'll see that teams that are conference champions usually are placed in regionals closest to home. And at-large teams usually travel to other regionals not as near.
Before this past weekend's SBC tourney, Florida Atlantic was expected to be placed in the CG regional, because they emerged from the regular season in first place in the conference. FIU was being projected for the Gainesville regional.
Now the latest is the teams have flip-flopped, because the Panthers are Sun Belt champs. So the Hooters appear headed up the Florida Turnpike to UF. Of course, if Elmer Fudd has anything to say about this, it might all change. Still, if FIU goes just 9 miles east there is talk from sebaseball.com that the Panthers first round opponent could be LSU in Coral Gables.
FIU secured their NCAA spot after defeating the Hooters in the SBC semfinal on Saturday. That plus, the newest ESPN star's long-as-hell hitting streak put the Panthers in the tournament.
What FIU was playing for against Troy -- besides the Sun Belt crown -- was whether it wanted to play 9 miles from FIU or up in north Florida.
FIU got the SBC trophy and is expected to play 9 miles from campus thanks to a team that showed some serious heart and became members of Company Jones when it mattered most. The Panthers could have called it a season after the loss to South Alabama on Wednesday, but each game a different Panther played like they weren't ready to come home to Miami.
PATTON GOES TO WAR WITH THE BASEBALL
Against Western Kentucky, Pablo Bermudez's RBI single in the 7th tied the score 3-3. Then SBC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Jeremy Patton (right) belted his first of 4 HR in the tourney to put FIU ahead for good. Patton then had a 2-run double to provide insurance runs.
For the tourney, The General went 12 for 23 (.522 average) with 4 HR and 10 RBI.
Keeping FIU in that game was Scott Rembisz with 7 solid innings. There should be an investigation as to why Rembisz was not named to the All-Tournament Team. In a tournament that was all about the ping! bats with football scores being put up, Rembisz had a 3.21 ERA with one win and 11 Ks in 14 IP. Plus, he shut the door on Troy in the 9th inning of the title game.
This Sun Belt voting is weird. First, the conference names one player to both the 1st and 2nd all-conference teams at 3 different positions ((SBC voting) and now leaves SR off this team.
MARTINEZ FIELD GOAL IS GOOD
In the re-match with South Alabama, Mike Martinez and Rudy Flores each had a HR and 3 RBI to spark the offense. Martinez's HR went through the uprights for a field goal at Floyd Stadium. 510 feet away from home plate.
Junior Arrojo had 3 hits, 2 RBI and 2 steals to add to the FIU offense. Jr. was another FIU player missing from the all-tournament team. Jr. only hit .545 (12 for 22).
Eric Berkowitz shut the door on the Jaguars in the final two innings.
AND HE CAN PITCH TOO -- JUST NOT 54 STRAIGHT INNINGS
Pablo (grand slam and 3-run double) with 7 RBI certainly fueled the FIU lineup. As did Rudy and Yoandy Barroso, who each went 4 for 7. Yoandy had 3 RBI. Rudy will bat in the middle of the FIU order next season.
Garrett Wittels (left) has been coming up big at the plate all season, but this time came up big on the mound allowing 0 earned runs in 3 innings. GW pitched the 8th, 10th and 11th innings. Not often you see a pitcher pitching that order of innings. But GW did and got a vital double play in the 10th with the bases loaded and 1 out.
GW picked up the W and FIU seemed destined for the Sun Belt title. Or as an FIU team member texted me after that game: "This win is going to turn this program around."
HOOTERS IS CLOSED FOR THE SBC TOURNAMENT
SR's work gave the FIU bats time to get going later in the game. Like he has so often this season, GW got a hit to spark the Panthers. This time off FAU pitcher and All-Sun Belt closer Andy Mee. The line drive nearly put a dent in Mee's chest and went past him for No. 53.
Patton followed with a 3-run bomba to give FIU a lead it would not relinquish.
FIU = THE CLOSERS
Like they did when they closed out the last game of the Orange Bowl with a win and the crosstown baseball series with a win, FIU seems to be good at finishing.
The Panthers scored 30 of their 61 runs in the tournament in the 7th inning or later. With the 7th inning being the favorite inning. FIU scored 13 runs in the 7th inning in the tourney.
However, Sunday's game was won just as much with Corey Polizzano's solid 4 1/3 innings of relief work. CP quieted the Troy bats when the Trojans looked like they would explode. Then Rembisz came in to finish it in the 9th.
Time to go polling....