Florida International U

FIU Panthers victory against No. 4 Florida Gators in softball team hope. Here is why

Pitcher Shannon Saile
Pitcher Shannon Saile

FIU’s softball team is 18-20, but last week’s 3-0 victory against the nation’s fourth-ranked team, the Florida Gators, served as a reminder as to what the Panthers program can accomplish.

Last season, for example, coach Gator Rebhan’s Panthers set school records for most victories (46), fewest losses (15) and best win percentage (.754). The Panthers made it to an NCAA regional tournament, getting bounced out with a 1-2 record that included two shutout losses to Oklahoma State.

FIU graduated four starters from that last game against OSU, including record-setting power hitter Stephanie Texeira at first base as well as second baseman Ashley Leon, who hit .337.

Rebhan was optimistic about this season before his team was hit by numerous injuries, including foot surgery that has sidelined first baseman/outfielder Deven Kennedy. She could return this week.

Third baseman Emma Frost has played just two games this season due to a thumb injury. Catcher Julia Gilbert battled a concussion in the fall when she was hit by a pitch and has had an arm issue that has kept her from practicing this spring.

In addition, back injuries have sidelined right fielder Brianna Bahadue (zero games) and slowed infielder Natalie Orcutt and shortstop Jessica Rivera.

“Many of these kids play with their national teams,” Rebhan said. “They play year round, and their bodies break down because they don’t’ get proper rest.”

Leadoff batter/left fielder Tatyana Forbes, a junior who transferred from Coastal Carolina, plays for Team Mexico but has remained healthy. She is second on the team with a .333 batting average.

This is not unexpected for Forbes, who is a two-time first-team All-Bi South plyer. At Coastal, she hit .479 as a freshman, ranking fifth in the nation; and .406 as a sophomore.

FIU’s second batter in the order is center fielder Jackie Schoff, who leads the team with a .383 batting average and 10 steals, one more than Forbes. Schoff hit .439 last year.

New second baseman Venessa Gallegos, a freshman, leads the team with five homers and 26 RBI, and new first baseman Kasandra Castle, a senior, ranks second with four homers and 25 RBI.

But the key to the team is sophomore pitcher Shannon Saile, who had the shutout last week over Florida. Saile is 11-7 with a 1.92 ERA and two shutouts this season. She has struck out 173 batters in 120 innings.

Saile, the preseason C-USA Pitcher of the Year, leads the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. She was even more dominant last season when she finished 19-11 with a 1.51 ERA, eight shutouts and 240 strikeouts.

“We’ve got talent,” Rebhan said. “(The win over Florida) gave us a lot of hope that we’re getting back on track.”

Basketball

The contract for men’s basketball coach Anthony Evans will not be renewed, said Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment Pete Garcia.

The Panthers will begin a national search for a new head coach immediately.

“I want to thank Anthony for the job he did with our men’s basketball program,” Garcia said.

Under Evans, the FIU men’s basketball program produced two of the highest single-year APR scores — 980 in 2015-16 and 978 in 2014-15. In last year’s report, the men’s basketball multi-year score had the biggest jump for FIU, improving 52 points to 968.

THIS AND THAT

▪ FIU track star Clarissa Cutliff, a junior from Orlando, won the high jump at the Florida Relays in Gainesville this weekend. Her height of 1.81 meters ranks third in the nation this season.

▪ The struggles continue for the baseball team, which lost two of three games this past weekend at Louisiana Tech. FIU is 13-16 overall, 4-5 in Conference USA. The Panthers are 3-7 away from home.

FIU got three quality starts this weekend — by Andres Nunez, Logan Allen and Nick McDonald. But they allowed five unearned runs in the first two games and got shut out in the third.

▪ FIU’s 12th-ranked beach volleyball team (18-8) went 3-3 this weekend in the Surf-N-Turf Invitational on South Beach.

The Panthers’ top duo — Italian natives Federica Frasca and Margherita Bianchin — went 4-2 on the weekend, and they are now 23-3 on the season. Prior to this weekend, they had been ranked the nation’s No. 1 duo.

▪ FIU’s women’s swim team’s season culminated by taking four of Conference USA’s five major awards, including junior Naomi Ruele of Botswana (Swimmer of the Year) and senior Rebecca Quesnel of Canada (Diver of the Year).

Sara Gyertyanffy of Italy won Freshman Swimmer of the Year. Rachel Foord of Australia was the Freshman Diver of the Year.

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