After an up and down regular season that ended on the highest of notes with a 10-1 mercy-rule win over rival FAU, the FIU softball team traveled to Troy, Alabama on Monday in preparation for the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament.
FIU will face Middle-Tennessee in the first round of the tournament, with first pitch scheduled for 12:30 p.m (central). on Wednesday. The Blue Raiders took two of three from the Golden Panthers in Murfreesboro earlier this season, taking the first two games behind stellar pitching from Lindsay Vander Lugt. FIU was able to salvage one game by beating the Blue Raiders in the final game of the season due in big part to an outstanding outing in the circle from freshman hurler Holly Satterfield.
Despite that pitching performance, it has been the offense that has carried the Golden Panthers to a 28-32 record. After being picked to finish eight in the pre-season rankings, the Golden Panthers used an explosive offensive attack to earn a No.4 seed in the conference tournament. The FIU bats came alive this season to the tune of 73 home runs, 299 runs, 264 RBIs, 84 doubles, 793 total bases, a .490 slugging percentage and a .289 batting average, all of those new program records.
Leading the charge were the 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup, Monique White, Kim Rodriguez and Ashley Falk. The three sluggers combined to hit 46 home runs and drive in 133 runs. At times overshadowed by the aforementioned power hitters, but nonetheless equally as valuable were Desiree Fink, Katie Bell and Jessica Landau. Fink set the tone for the offense all year long as she hit .327 and got on base at a .413 clip. Bell was a key cog in the lineup, hitting .275, but also setting up the heart of the lineup by laying down a team-best 19 sacrifice bunts. Jessica Landau missed almost half of the regular season, but still managed to hit nine home runs and drive in 26. Perhaps more important were her defensive contributions as she came on and solidified the catcher spot, a position that struggled defensively in the early going. Landau also stepped into the pitchers circle this season, making 12 starts for the Golden Panthers.
For most of the season, Kasey Barrett led the FIU pitching staff, picking up 16 wins and 158 strikeouts. However, in conference play it was Holly Satterfield that turned heads as she went 7-2 in the Sun Belt with a 1.78 ERA.
The Golden Panthers will need all those performers and everyone else on the team to step up, if they are to earn their first ever Sun Belt title. Florida Atlantic University are the defending champions, as last year they became the first team other than Louisiana-Lafayette to take home the Sun Belt Conference Champions trophy. The Golden Panthers are 3-4 all-time in the tournament against first round opponent Middle-Tennessee, however, FIU has never lost its first round game, with all three wins over the Blue Raiders coming in their first game of the tournament.
The Sun Belt is offering fans the opportunity to watch all tournament games leading up to the championship via live webstreaming. Fans can purchase this option by visiting www.sunbeltsports.org. The cost of the stream is $9.95.
1. Louisiana-Lafayette (19-3, .863)
2. Florida Atlantic (17-7, .708)
3. Troy (14-9, .608)
4. Florida International (12-11, .522)
5. Middle Tennessee (11-12, .478)
6. North Texas (9-15, .375)*
7. ULM ((9-15, .375)*
8. WKU (8-15, .348)
ULM and North Texas both have 9-15 conference records, but North Texas gets the higher seed having won the series between the two teams.
Schedule of Events:
All Times Central
Wednesday, May 7
10:00 a.m. – Game 2 – No. 2 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 7 ULM
12:30 p.m. – Game 3 – No. 4 Florida International vs. No. 5 Middle Tennessee
3 p.m. – Game 1 – No. 3 Troy vs. No. 6 North Texas
5:30 p.m. – Game 4 – No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 8 WKU
Thursday, May 8
10 a.m. – Game 5 – G1 Loser vs. G2 Loser
12:30 p.m. – Game 6 – G3 Loser vs. G4 Loser
3 p.m. – Game 7 – G1 Winner vs. G2 Winner
5:30 p.m. – Game 8 – G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
Friday, May 9
10 a.m. – Game 9 – G7 Loser vs. G5 Winner
12:30 p.m. – Game 10 – G8 Loser vs. G6 Winner
3 p.m. – Game 11 – G7 Winner vs. G9 Winner
5:30 p.m. – Game 12 – G8 Winner vs. G10 Winner
Saturday, May 10
* Game 13 will be necessary if the winner of Game 9 also wins Game 11.
* Game 14 will be necessary if the winner of Game 10 also wins Game 12.
3 p.m. – Championship Game
* If only one of the two early games is necessary on Saturday, the first game will be played at 10:00 a.m., and the Championship Game will start at 3 p.m. If both “if necessary games” are played, the first game will begin at 9 a.m. and the second game will start 30 minutes after the completion of the first game. The championship game will then be played 30 minutes after the completion of the second game, but no earlier than 3 p.m.
Note: The host institution, Troy, has the option of selecting their game time and they chose the 3 p.m. game.