Baseball began with high hopes and went into Friday just hoping to keep spot in the Conference USA tournament.
FIU sat at 6-6 in conference play, inside the top eight, and none of the basement quartet of Charlotte, Old Dominion, Marshall and Louisiana Tech looks like they'll be going Big Red Machine any time now. But who thought FIU would be in this position in the first place? Also, the Panthers schedule included three-game series against each of the two conference teams ranked in the Baseball America Top 25, FAU and Rice, plus a three-gamer against Western Kentucky. Lose a few series, get swept by one or both of the ranked teams, somebody else gets hot and it's "Cancel that bus to Hattiesburg."
And, Friday, FIU went into the eighth inning down 5-2 to Del Boca Vista University. A four-run eighth inning with the Panthers doing what they haven't -- hittin' 'em where they ain't (or at least where they can't make a play) with runners in scoring position -- often enough this season. Brian Portelli's double, JC Escarra's and Mitchell Robinson's ground outs drove in runs and Portelli scored on a wild pitch.
That gave FIU the buffer for Saturday's 8-3 loss. They can steal the series with a win Sunday afternoon.
Only a 3-2 loss to Stetson kept the women of sand from being FIU's second undefeated team this academic year in games/dual meets. The Panthers got a second shot at the Hatters Friday on Siesta Key.
The Panthers won the Nos. 2 through 5 matches in straight sets and the No. 1 pair of Maryna Samoday and Anja Licka led 12-5 after winning the first set before an injury to Licka forced retirement.
4-1, FIU. Now, then.
Nationals come next for FIU, No. 3 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.