by Knox Bardeen
In a rematch of the 2010 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship game, the Florida International University Panthers visit the No. 20 Troy Trojans this weekend for a three-game series that began Friday night at Riddle-Pace Field in Troy, Ala.
FIU - which defeated Troy 14-10 to capture the Sun Belt title last May in Murfreesboro, Tenn. - is now looking up at the Trojans in the conference standings. Troy is 8-1 and leading the Sun Belt while FIU is 4-5 and tied with three other teams for fifth place.
FIU (19-14, 4-6) was shut out for the first time this season on Friday when Troy (24-5, 9-1) handed out a 4-0 beating. Headed to the mound on Saturday, to counter Fridays loss, will be left-hander R.J. Fondon. In seven starts this season, Fondon is 1-4 with a 4.12 ERA.
Troy will send right-handed senior Drew Hull to the hill. Hull is 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA this season. In his last start, Hull allowed just one earned run and two hits in 7 13 innings of work against Arkansas State.
First pitch for Saturdays game is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live on CSS.
While both teams are close in team batting average (.295 for FIU and .294 for Troy), there is a large difference in home runs. Troy has hit 26 home runs this year while FIU has less than half, 12.
Troys 26 home runs rank it 13th nationally with the long ball as a team.
Junior Pablo Bermudez leads FIU in batting average (.414), slugging percentage (.523) and on-base percentage (.542). But if you want power from the Panthers, look to Mike Martinez who has six home runs this season.
The Trojans cracked into the Baseball America top 25 for the first time ever last week at No. 21, and moved up to No. 20 this week. The Trojans made their debut in the Collegiate Baseball poll at No. 22 this week. Troy is 28th in the ESPNUSA Today Coaches poll and in the NCBWA poll.
Troys 24-5 record is the best start to a year since the move to Division I. Troy last had a start like this in 1990 when the Trojans were 27-3 in route to a 49-10 record while playing in Division II.
Keep an eye on FIU senior Yoandy Barroso. This five-tool player is the fastest player on the team and entered the season as Baseball Americas No. 49 senior outfielder. He was originally drafted by the Texas rangers in the 46th round of the 2007 draft.