As was the case in last year's SBC Tournament, FIU has a road block known as Florida Atlantic that the Panthers need to get by in order to get to a better place.
In this case, a 3-game sweep of the Hooters could lift FIU to the Sun Belt regular season title if Louisiana and Middle Tennessee cooperate by losing 2 games and 1 game, respectively. The Cajuns play ULM and the Blue Raiders finish with Western Kentucky -- both are 3-game series.
The Hooters ended the Panthers season last year with a 16-6 win in Troy at the SBC tourney.
In November 2008, the Hooters stood in the way of the Panthers chances of becoming bowl-eligible for the first time in program history. After the 57-50 overtime loss in Don Shula Bowl VII, FIU got its seventh loss of the season and did not have a chance to get that sixth win to become bowl-eligible.
Earlier in 2008, the Hooters knocked out the Panthers in the 1st round of the Sun Belt Basketball Tournament.
Hell, you have to play in order to be a rival, right? And the Coral Gables school does not want any part of FIU. Of course, this topic is for another blog post for another time. Maybe even sooner than you think, stay tuned.
Back to this weekend, FIU travels up the Sawgrass Expressway to the Florida Turnpike and exits at Glades Road in the Mouth of the Rat for a 3-game series against the Hooters. [Go this route if you're coming from Miami, because the traffic on the turnpike in south Broward is a pain].
FIU is going to have to match pitch for pitch with the Sun Belt's top pitching staff (FAU). If R.J. Fondon, Scott Rembisz and Aaron Arboleya (right, top to bottom, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) deliver similar performances like they did against South Alabama and the FIU bullpen performs like it did last weekend, the Panthers have a shot at a sweep.
Games are Thursday and Friday evenings (6:30 p.m. each night) and Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.)
If you can't make the trip up north, I will have a LIVE BLOG for you of Thursday's game beginning at 6:24 p.m. from the Hooters home park.
In case you have not followed the Hooters too much this season, Marcus Nelson from FAUOwlAccess.com joins us here on the GPP for some Hooter talk:
1) Why has FAU had such a successful season so far?
MN: The Owls have had some spurts where they hit the ball well, but the real reason is because they have had consistently good pitching and good defense. That has enabled them to win plenty of close games.
2) Did you expect them to have such good pitching? Who are some of the pitchers FIU should be concerned with?
MN: FAU’s top pitcher, Mike Gipson, usually starts on Saturday’s (so
against FIU he will go in the second game of the series on Friday), but
Ryan Garton, who will start on Thursday, has put together a few good outings. Out of the pen, the Owls have the Sun Belt leader in saves,
Andy Mee as the closer, but set-up man Ryan Bernal [a former FIU pitcher] has been excellent as well.
Gipson’s success was expected, but Garton’s emergence has been a pleasant surprise.
3) Who are FAU’s most dangerous bats?
MN: Speaking of Mee, he is among the leaders in the Sun Belt in hits with 86 and cleanup hitter Dan Scheffler leads the Sun Belt in slugging
percentage (.758) and is second in on-base percentage (.507) – you don’t
see that combination very often.
4) Tell us a little about the now internet sensation FAU Rain Delay Theater?
MN: Rain Delay Theater (you can watch it here at
hasn’t been done since nor would it have been the same. The beauty of it was it was spontaneous and showed
what college baseball is all about. The best thing about it was it came before
the first game of what could have been a tense three-game series vs.
Kentucky, which was then the top team in the Sun Belt. I think the skits helped
FAU play loose the entire series, which the Owls swept, and was a turning point
of the season.
5) Can FIU sweep?
MN: FIU will need Gipson and Garton to be off their game, and Gipson especially has not been as sharp as he was in the middle of the season.
FAU also enters the series knowing it needs two victories to win the
regular-season title while FIU needs a sweep. Does that mean the Golden
Panthers will come in with more of a sense of urgency? I guess we’ll see.
6) Your series prediction?
MN: I think FAU wins the series and the Sun Belt regular-season title, but it’s going to be tough to get the sweep vs. the Golden Panthers. Something
also tells me a certain hitting streak could be in jeopardy. FAU has solid
starters and a better bullpen than most teams in the Sun Belt. Besides,
don’t weird things always seem to happen when FAU and FIU play?
Gooch7: PETE: If FIU takes 2 or 3 will they finish in the Top 3 teams in the conference? Another important question is, out of the 4 softball teams in the Gainesville Region will 1 or 2 teams advance to the Super Regional?
PP: Gooch, if FIU wins the series versus the Hooters, they could finish in the top 3 depending on what Louisiana and Middle Tennessee do in their final series of the season. Both the Cajuns and Blue Raiders are ahead of FIU in the standings.
Only 1 softball team advances to the Super Regional out of the Gainesville Regional.