Florida International U

FIU Panthers renew baseball rivalry with UM

After eight years apart, FIU and the University of Miami will finally meet again on the baseball diamond.

The Panthers and Hurricanes will face off in the Coral Gables Regional on Friday at Alex Rodriguez Park with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.

It will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2008 regular season — coach Turtle Thomas’ first season at FIU.

The Panthers found out what their NCAA regional destination would be at a Selection Show watch party held at FIU Stadium just hours after returning home from winning the Conference USA tournament championship in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

FIU earned an automatic bid as one of the 64 teams selected to the NCAA tournament after winning the Conference USA title less than 24 hours earlier.

After 13 consecutive days on the road, the Panthers are happy that they will only need to travel about nine miles for the regional — not that they would have minded traveling anywhere.

“If we found out we were playing in Alaska at 4 a.m., we’d be more than happy to get on a plane and go,” said Thomas, who was an assistant coach at Miami from 1988 to 1999. “Our guys are thrilled to be playing in a regional, and I hope they continue to play solid baseball like they have the last five days and make some noise.”

This will be the 12th Division I postseason appearance for the Panthers and their first since 2011. In 2010, the Panthers took part in the Coral Gables Regional after winning the Sun Belt Conference championship.

The Panthers hope to advance to a super regional for the second time in program history. In 2001, FIU upset Notre Dame in the South Bend Regional and played the University of Southern California.

At the Selection Show watch party, the Panthers erupted in celebration upon hearing the news of their upcoming matchup with the Hurricanes, who extended their national record streak of consecutive NCAA tournament berths to 43 and are the No. 5 national seed.

“It’s been surreal, and it’s an amazing feeling,” senior shortstop Julius Gainesaid. “As a baseball player, you want to go up against the best and be able to compete.

“A lot of guys on our team know a lot of guys on their team, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Said third baseman Josh Anderson: “It’s great for this school and for the city of Miami to have this big rivalry revived, and we’re pumped up for it. I wish we were playing today.”

Related stories from Miami Herald