FIU rides hot streak into final week
Notes: Cleveland St. to play final games in program history
Florida International is the hottest team in Division I baseball, and the Panthers are getting the recognition for their stellar play down the stretch.
FIU entered the Baseball America Top 25 at No. 24 this week for the first time since 2003 on the merits of a 16-game (15-0-1) unbeaten streak. The Panthers had won 15 consecutive games until an 8-8 eight-inning tie with Arkansas State on May 15. The game was shortened due to a travel curfew.
The squad held a 20-16 record on April 16, and just a month later the Panthers boast a 35-16-1 mark. The Panthers have defeated four ranked opponents during the season (Texas A&M, Tulane, Troy and Stetson) and currently sit a half-game behind Troy in the SBC standings.
“We had a lot of home games at the beginning of the year, and then we were on the road 17 of 22 days playing good people,” FIU head coach Turtle Thomas said. “We weren’t playing consistently good baseball. You would see snapshots … glimmers of what I thought we would be able to do. As the season has continued, we’ve had a few more home games and there has been a little more consistency in their play.”
Since a three-game losing streak in early April when the Panthers fell by one run to Bethune-Cookman and lost the first two games of a SBC series with Troy, FIU has been rolling. The squad has not lost a league game since dropping the first game of a conference series to Louisiana on April 15.
The Panthers lead the Sun Belt Conference in hitting (.314), ERA (3.52) and home runs (51), and have five starters batting .318 or better.
“We’ve been hitting a little more consistently than we were before,” Thomas said. “We’ve gotten some guys that have raised their averages. Throughout the lineup, we’ve been a little bit more on it than we were previously.”
FIU closes out the regular season with a three-game home series against Florida Atlantic beginning May 19. The Panthers lost two of three games to the Owls in March, but will be battling for a first-place finish in the SBC standings this weekend. Saturday’s game between the two squads will be broadcast on CSS and the Sun Belt Network at 7 p.m.
Need to Know
• Cleveland State will play its final three games this weekend as the program will be cut due to budgetary reasons after 79 seasons. The announcement of the cut on May 2 was due to several reasons, including costs, lack of baseball playing facilities on campus, and the poor weather in Northeast Ohio. CSU has been playing their games at All-Pro Freight Stadium, home of the Lake Erie Crushers in Avon, Ohio. The Vikings played their final Horizon League game on May 14, splitting a doubleheader with Wright State and winning the second contest. CSU will not advance to the Horizon League Championship as it finished seventh in the league standings, and the top six squads qualify. The Vikings will host Rider at All-Pro Freight State on May 19-21 in their program finale.
• Coastal Carolina head coach Gary Gilmore collected his 900th career win on Tuesday as the Chanticleers downed UNC Wilmington 12-3 in non-conference action. Gilmore is the 22nd active NCAA Division I coach to reach the 900-win mark. He is in his 22nd season as a head coach and has compiled a record of 900-422-2. Gilmore is in his 16th year at CCU, amassing a 644-320 mark, and he was 256-102-2 in six years at USC-Aiken.
• Over the last week Dallas Baptist senior Jason Krizan has set one NCAA Division I record, while falling short of another. The native of Plugerville, Texas, broke the single-season doubles record with his 37th two-bagger of the season against Alcorn State on May 13. The previous record of 36 doubles in a season was shared by three players, and most recently accomplished by LSU’s Brad Hawpe in 2000. Krizan broke the mark in just 51 games, well ahead of the previous record-holders. Until May 17, Krizan was also riding a school-record 39-game hitting streak. The string ended with a 0-for-4 outing in a 7-1 loss to Baylor on Tuesday night, but the streak was still the 11th-longest in NCAA Division I history.Krizan currently ranks eighth in the nation with a .426 batting average, and leads Division I in both doubles and doubles per game.
• Missouri State continued to roll with an upset of No. 22 Oklahoma State on Tuesday, edging the Cowboys, 4-3, behind a strong pitching performance by Clay Murphy. The sophomore right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and fanned 10 batters in the outing. He retired the first 11 batters faced and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and allowed just three hits in the appearance. The Bears have won seven of their last eight games heading into a Missouri Valley Conference series at first-place Creighton on May 19. The Bears can secure the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title with a sweep of the Bluejays or a series win and a Wichita State loss in any of its three games at Bradley.
• Tuesday’s lone meeting between nationally-ranked squads – Cal State Fullerton at UCLA -- was cancelled due to electrical problems at Jackie Robinson Stadium. A power outage knocked out three light standards on the left side of the field. In addition, there was a threat of rain in the Los Angeles area, and a swarm of bees had to be removed from behind home plate approximately 40 minutes prior to the scheduled first pitch. The game will not be rescheduled.
• Jacksonville handed No. 4 Florida its worst home loss of the season as the Dolphins defeated the Gators 11-2 on May 17 to earn their first victory against UF since 2008. The Dolphins (33-18) sit in second place behind Stetson in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and the win against the Gators will certainly be a plus on their résumé during NCAA Tournament selections.
• Clemson’s Will Lamb tallied five of the Tigers’ season-high 23 hits in their 19-0 win against Davidson on Tuesday. It matched the best offensive showing for the Tigers in school history as they batted .523 (23-for-44) for the game. Lamb went 5-for-5 with a double, three RBI and three runs scored.