FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
MIAMI (January 25, 2012) – Coming off a 40-win season and a second-consecutive NCAA Regional appearance, the FIU baseball team is poised to make another run at a Sun Belt Conference championship and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2012. The road to Omaha won’t be an easy one for Head Coach Turtle Thomas and his squad as they have many obstacles to overcome, which includes three conference champions, six NCAA Regional participants, and three teams that finished the 2011 season ranked in the college baseball polls.
“We’re real excited about our 2012 schedule,” Thomas said. “We’re playing some excellent out-of-conference games against the likes of Rice, Florida State and Tennessee to go along with our already challenging Sun Belt schedule. The Sun Belt is always ranked as one of the top RPI conferences in the country and that makes it easier for us to schedule other top notch RPI teams from opposing conferences each year.”
The Panthers will start the season with two consecutive out-of-conference road trips starting with a three-game series against defending Conference USA champion Rice on Feb. 17 and ACC powerhouse Florida State on Feb. 24. Both the Owls and Seminoles made it to the Regionals as national seeds with FSU falling to Texas A&M in the Tallahassee Super Regional.
FIU will kick-off its home slate with a three-game set against the Brown Bears starting on March 2. The Bears finished the 2011 season with a 13-29 record, going 9-11 in the Ivy League. The last time these two teams met was in 2009 when they split two games in the Baseball at the Beach tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
After a mid-week home meeting with Boston College on March 6, the Panthers will play five-straight home games against Fordham (March 9-11) and North Florida (March 13-14) before beginning Sun Belt Conference action at home against rival FAU (March 16-18). Last season, the two South Florida schools split the six-game series with each team taking two-of-three at their respective home fields. This is the first of two meetings between the Owls and Panthers, with FIU taking a trip to Boca Raton for three games to finish the regular season (May 17-19).
After opening conference play, the Panthers will take a four-game road trip that begins with a mid-week contest against Tennessee in Knoxville (March 21). The Volunteers had an overall record of 25-29 in 2011, going 7-23 in SEC play. Tennessee had five players taken in the 2011 MLB Draft and returns SEC All-Freshman Team selection Andrew Toles.
After taking a slight detour to Tennessee, the Panthers will take on WKU in Bowling Green, Ky. for a three-game set (March 21-23). FIU closes out the month of March with the first of three games (two home and one away) against the defending MEAC champion and NCAA Tournament automatic qualifier Bethune-Cookman Wildcats on March 27 and the first of a home-and-home with Florida Gulf Coast on March 28. ULM comes to town and welcomes in the month of April with three games starting on March 30 and ending on April Fool’s Day (April 1).
The Panthers take another break from conference action when Florida A&M comes to Miami for two on April 3-4, before beginning a three-game series with an always tough SBC and 2011 NCAA Regional team in the Troy Trojans (April 6-8).
FIU hits the bayou to visit the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette, La. (April 13-15). Last year, FIU took two-of-three at home from Louisiana to kick-start an impressive 17-game unbeaten streak for which the Panthers were rewarded with a national ranking for the first time since 2003.
The Panthers will conclude their five-game road swing with two road games against the Jacksonville Dolphins (April 17-18). Last season, the Dolphins reached the NCAA Regionals as an at large team out of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Be sure to mark April 20-22 on your calendar as defending Sun Belt Champion UALR comes to town. Last season, the Trojans defeated the Panthers in the championship game of the SBC tournament to capture the conference title and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers say goodbye to April with a road series against South Alabama in Mobile, Ala. (April 27-29), marking FIU’s first trip back to Mobile since 2009. After facing Bethune-Cookman at home on May 1 and FGCU on the road on May 2, the Panthers will close out their regular season home schedule by hosting the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (May 4-6). This is the first time the Blue Raiders will visit Miami since 2009.
The Panthers will close out the regular season with a tough seven-game road trip that includes visits to Bethune-Cookman (May 9), Arkansas State (May 11-13) and FAU (May 17-19) before heading back to Bowling Green, Ky. for the SBC Tournament (May 23-27).
Tickets are on sale for all FIU home games at the University Credit Union Box Office at the R. Kirk Landon Field House or by calling 305-FIU-Game and logging on to FIUSports.com.