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FIU Baseball Springs into Fall Practice

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 PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:56 pm   
Juvenile Panther
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By Pete Pelegrin
Twitter: @Petepelegrin

The FIU baseball team opened fall practice late Monday afternoon with a spring in their step both literally and figuratively.

The literal spring in the Panthers' step had the team hustling efficiently from drill to drill, not wasting time and getting their work done. The figurative spring in the Panthers' step emanates from the culture change instilled into the program under new head coach Mervyl Melendez.

"Practice is a lot more fluid," said first baseman Nick Day, who led FIU with 10 home runs last season. "Everything that we do Merv has a purpose. It helps us, keeps us focused. The thing that I like about this year is that I felt that we came together as a team lot better than we did last year. I think that has a lot to do with Merv pushing us and making us better both on and off the field."

FIU is coming off a 29-29 season in which the Panthers were eliminated from the Conference USA tournament after going 1-2. Melendez arrives at FIU after successful stints as the head coach at Alabama State and Bethune-Cookman where he won 13 conference championships in 17 combined seasons.

At FIU, Melendez has already made an impact off the field in recruiting where he and his coaching staff currently have the No. 1 ranked class in the nation for 2017, according to Perfect Game. Among the current Panthers, Melendez's impact was immediate.

"You knew from the first day that this was going to be different," said catcher Zack Soria, third on the team last season with a .294 average. "Merv communicated well with us right from the start. The atmosphere is different. It's a lot more energetic than what I'm used to here. It's a great thing. It's college baseball, you are around guys that want to play. Everything is more regimented. There is a lot more efficiency and we are not wasting any time."

Melendez is approaching fall practice with the idea to get to know his team as well as possible and to implement his coaching philosophy. The FIU coach says everyone will get a fair shake to show what they can do but no one can rest on their laurels.

"By virtue of us coming in here, everybody starts at ground zero," Melendez said. "They have to prove themselves. We certainly know there have been players that have done extremely well here in the past. Coming into it we are aware of the ones who have performed well at this level. They are going to have a leg up because they have done it at this level but this is no time to relax. If they relax and someone else plays better than they do and executes the game plan better than they do then we are going to have some discussions as a staff as to who are the players who are going to play come spring time. I think it's important for the guys to understand that they have to fight for whatever they want."

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