The month of February has been a good one for the FIU baseball and softball programs. The two have combined for a 12-2 record as the baseball team swept Rutgers in four-straight to start the season and the softball squad advanced to a pair of championship contests, winning the 2014 FIU Classic.
The baseball team opened the 2014 season with a four-game series against Rutgers. The Panthers swept the Scarlet Knights for the team’s first 4-0 start since the 2010 season. That year FIU won the Sun Belt Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
During the four-game set, FIU hit .328 with 30 runs and 24 RBI. Preseason Conference USA Co-Player of the Year Aramis Garcia lived up the hype, hitting .615 with three runs scored and four RBI.
Not to be out-done, junior Josh Anderson hit .500 with two runs scored and five RBI. The San Diego, Calif., native stole two bases in the same inning during Sunday’s 5-4 win, including a steal of home for the go-ahead run.
The Panthers were aggressive on the base paths, stealing 10 bases on the weekend. Leading the way was senior Tyler Hibbert, who snagged four bases, equaling his stolen base total from a year ago. The FIU lead-off man scored seven runs versus Rutgers.
FIU had some stellar play on the mound as well. The Panthers finished the weekend with a team ERA of 2.38 with 26 strikeouts and just 13 walks, holding Rutgers to a .208 batting average.
Picking up victories were junior Mike Ellis (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 K), senior Mike Gomez (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 K), senior Ty Sullivan (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 K) and sophomore Mitchell Davis (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 K). Gomez also earned his first save of the year during the season-opening, 7-6, victory.
The Panthers will look to continue this successful start as FIU will play the next eight games at home.
The softball team (8-2) wrapped up its second weekend of action, reaching the championship game of the FIU Classic. It marked the second-straight tournament championship game in as many weeks as the Panthers faced DePaul in the final game of the 2014 Felsberg Memorial (Feb. 7-9). FIU lost that contest, 1-0 in extra innings, for the team’s first defeat of the season. But, responded with a championship victory in the FIU Classic, defeating Georgia Southern, 2-0.
FIU’s 8-2 record is just shy of the best start in program history (9-1 in 2001). In 2001, FIU won eight-straight to start the year. This year, the Panthers have defeated Georgia Southern, Wisconsin (receiving votes in the last week’s NFCA Top 25), Florida Gulf Coast, DePaul, Maryland and Jacksonville.
Following the first two weekends of action, FIU is hitting .317 with 55 runs scored and 53 RBI. Freshman sensation Stephanie Texeira leads the team, hitting .500 with two home runs, nine RBI and eight runs scored. With a slugging percentage of .857, the Miami native has also recorded a team-high four doubles. Sophomore Aleima Lopez is second on the team in hitting with a .355 batting average.
Lopez has scored six runs and drove in a team-best 10 RBI. The Deltona, Fla., native has blasted two long balls for a .581 slugging percentage. Juniors Shelby Graves and Rebekah Sanchez are also hitting over .300 as Graves is registering an average of .346, while Sanchez is batting .343. Sanchez has crossed the plate 12 times and Graves has scored nine runs.
In the circle, FIU has registered a team ERA of 2.44 with 35 strikeouts and is holding the opposition to a .279 batting average in 66.0 innings of action. Sophomore Corinne Jenkins has had a tremendous start to the season, recording a 4-0 record with a 1.43 ERA.
The Sarasota, Fla., native has pitched three complete games, striking out 13 in 29 and one-thirds innings of action. Graves has notched a 4-1 record in the circle with a 2.78 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 22 and two-thirds innings pitched.
Earlier in the week, Texeira was honored by Conference USA as its Co-Player of the Week. Texeira went 10-for-14 over the weekend at the Felsberg Memorial, accumulating four doubles and five RBI.
Her double against DePaul on Feb. 8 in the fifth inning drove in two runs and was a walk-off game-winner for the Panthers as part of a five inning, 8-0, victory. She held the best average through the first five games for any player in program history, and only Tania Somoano’s 12 hits in 1998 topped Texeira’s 10.
The momentum is expected to continue for the Panthers as FIU hosts, Dartmouth and North Florida this upcoming weekend.