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A What We Learned Weekend

So it wasn't exactly the type of FIU sports weekend you'll tell your kids and grandkids years from now, but at least we learned some things from the Panthers baseball and basketball teams.

First, we'll talk hoops, because it's easy what we learned: FIU basketball needs some major work. After losing at Troy -- a team FIU beat by more than 25 points in January -- you might as well put the final Cof_2 nails in the FIU hoops coffin.

The Panthers hoopsters don't travel well and that's what they will be doing for the 1st round of the Sun Belt Tournament. Currently, the No. 10 seed in the SBC, FIU has the two best Sun Belt teams at home this week: Western Kentucky and South Alabama, both who are 14-2 in the conference. Don't see FIU winning either game so that means a likely trip to New Orleans or Denver for the tourney's 1st round. Can you say: One and done?

The FIU baseball team got off to a rocky start against USC. Nobody panic, it was just three games and there are still 53 to go. The Panthers had a chance in two of the three games, but some of the same bug-a-boos from last year plagued FIU to start this season.

TT was concerned in the offseason about the pitching depth and we all saw his worries come to life in Sunday's game when the bullpen couldn't hold two leads and ruined a nifty performance by starter Steven Stewart, who missed all of last season with an elbow injury.

There seems to be some talent in the FIU 'pen, but not enough. One thing I noticed about several of the FIU pitchers this weekend was that they did not attack the strike zone and nibbled too much. Which when you nibble and fall behind in the count, it left those USC batters salivating, waiting for a strike, which when they got it, they drilled it. Got a feeling TT is going to load up on pitching in his next recruiting class.

Also, there is no speed on this Panthers team and if you attended any of the three games you Speed_2 witnessed first hand what having speed can do for a team. The perfect example was USC centerfielder Nick Buss, who made several catches in the power alleys to thwart FIU rallies.

On the basepaths, USC was able to steal. FIU was not. Some people think the stolen base is overrated, like the sabermetrics stats geeks in the Major Leagues, but I'll take a few guys on my team that can move around the bases any day. FIU needs some more Dennis Diaz-type baserunners (DD is FIU's all-time steals leader). I'm sure TT will address that in his next recruiting class as well.

Remember, TT was hired last June so he DID NOT have an entire year to put together a recruiting class. TT was in the same recruiting boat as MC in year one. And we all saw what kind of class MC got when he had a full year to recruit.

What else did we learn? FIU can hit. That should not be a problem all year long. If this team can figure how to get some outs, it can have a much more successful season than last year's 26-29 team.

Gppaw PANTHER PAWSE

In what seems to have become, a Hamlet type of baseball question (you remember from English Lit in school or the Mel Gibson movie - "To be or not to be"), the thought here is there is no way you bunt Raimy Fuentes in that situation, down 5-3 with runners on 1st and 2nd and no Ham outs and your No. 3 hitter, Fuentes, up who was 4 for 8 to that point.

I can see where you want to move the runners over, but Fuentes was swinging the hottest bat on the weekend. I say roll the dice and let him swing away. Turns out he hit a smash off the pitcher's leg and the ball luckily ricocheted right into the shortstop's hands for a DP. But hey, that's the beauty of baseball where there will Zeta_2 always be more than one way to approach a situation.

UltimateFIUFan: FIU does not have a radio package, but that's not unusual. Heck, USC, who has 12 national championships and has been in business since 1880, does not have a radio package for baseball. The Trojans media relations director called all three games against FIU on the web back to Los Angeles.

The hoops recruit you are thinking of is J.C. Otero, a local kid, who was at BYU and plays forward. He is supposedly headed to FIU next season.

Messod: The crowds were pretty good all weekend. Even Sunday's game under the hot 1 p.m. sunshine drew a nice crowd. I've said it before and I'll say it again, once FIU starts winning on a consistent basis, the crowds will take care of themselves. Winning is addictive.

Here is the official list of entries for the Win a GPP Blog II:

gpantera: 56-0 (College World Series champs); Messod: 41-15 (Lose in Super Regional); 2006PA: 40-16 (Lose in Regional); FIUVoice: 40-16 (Lose in Regional final); MaXx: 39-17 (Lose in Regional); Baltimorepanther: 38-18 (Lose in Regional); NY Josh: 38-18 (Lose in Regional); The OC Panther: 38-18 (Lose in Regional); UltimateFIUFan: 37-19 (Lose in Regional); CrazyCane: 36-20 (Lose in Regional); FIU Fanatic: 36-20 (Lose in Regional); CJ: 35-21; FIUChris: 35-21 (Lose in Sun Belt final); FIUJM: 33-23 (Lose in Sun Belt final); WhosHouse: 32-24 (Lose in Sun Belt semifinal); Baseball Fan: 31-25; fiufan751: 31-25 (Lose in Sun Belt 2nd round); FIU0406: 30-26 (Lose in Sun Belt semifinal).

* If no one has the exact final win-loss record, then we will do like the "Price is Right" -- the closest to the actual FIU loss total without going over. For example: If FIU finishes: 34-22, then CJ or FIUChris would win (depending on how far FIU goes in the postseason), because they each had 21 losses, the closest number of losses to 22.   

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I was in town for the weekend and had the opportunity to watch the friday night game. ZZZZZZZ it was boring, I hope the others were better!

Pete are they going to fix up the baseball stadium at all? The sound system sucks!

Nice to see the crowds were good. That's a welcome change. I'm sure that Saturday night game helped a bunch. I never did understand why FIU didn't do more Saturday night games. Doing day games is just brutal in South Florida. Then again, playing a USC kind of school helps a lot, too. Lord knows Wagner isn't much of a draw.

Pikedanny... no hard feelings meant, bro. I wasn't pissed off or nothing. Like I said last post, Danny Price used to do exactly what you were advocating, and it hardly ever worked. I don't know if you ever saw much of his teams, but I did. Trust me. It doesn't work.

I can't remember how many times I saw Yahmed Yema - a guy who nearly averaged .400 at FIU - bunt in situations just like that... or Mike Lopez... or anyone, really. Price was known for dropping a bunt at anytime, but Price usually did it against USC-type teams. He almost never did it against the FAMU's of the world, because he was confident his team could out-hit them. He didn't feel that way against the Miami's, so he did that kind of stuff. And he lost those more often than not. There IS a reason why TT took his place.

And one more thing... if you're going to smallball, it would help if your team didn't run like turtles (pun unintended). If the team speed is as bad as I read, FIU is forced to be a station-to-station offense. That means almost no bunting. Bunting is useless if your guys can't run... and good coaches play to their team's strengths. You need speed to bunt, steal and play defense. If this team doesn't have it, you shouldn't steal or bunt. Even when it might make sense to.

Anyway, I'm not trying to rank anyone out. Just pointing out something I saw a lot of when I was still at FIU. It's not meant to be personal. :)

PP,

Word is that McVay from Killian who is FIU's biggest recruit for next year is hurt. I am hearing that it is worse than he is letting on. Do you know anything about this? Can you look into it? This guy is suppose to be a Freshman All American.

Thanks Pete...

I went to all 3 games this weekend and was not discouraged at all, unfortunately USC was just better. The offense was a big plus for me, everyone on here said we would hit, but I was not sure. USC had very legitimate pitching and FIU handled it very well. The defense was not a problem, a few errors on Friday after the game was over, but overall not bad. The outfield will be exposed before the season is over, but we need the offense. The main problem we had this weekend was stolen bases, I do not know if they were exceptionally good or if we were not that good. I am afraid we were not that good and our catcher is a solid citizen that can hit, but it does look like he is going struggle throwing people out this year and we are not good enough for every walk, single or error to turn into a double every time. The starting pitching is going to do very well, but once again our bullpen did not come through against a very good team. The attitude was good and the intensity was there, it was a shame that we did not finish out Sunday for the morale of the team and the fans. The game on Saturday was not as bad as the final score, we hit a lot of balls at people and they made some nice plays or it could have been different. Please do not worry about 3 losses to USC, please worry if we are not 6-3 going into the game with Boston College next Monday. The team did all the fundamental things correctly, must work on pass balls and 58’ curve balls with men on 3rd, but overall not bad. The team is going to be fine and all the hard work will payoff in the end.
PS
This board seems to be pretty sophisticated when it is not being silly with one exception about the weekend, but I cannot believe there is any discussion (I guess I have to include myself as well) about bunting Fuentes in that situation, it is not debatable at all. I

Scoop on Otero:
Coach Rose also announced that Jean Carlos Otero, a 6-foot-7 forward who signed with the Cougars in November out of Miami-Dade College (Miami, Fla.), has not met NCAA transfer requirements and will not be attending BYU. "We looked forward to having J.C. in our program this fall so it's unfortunate he won't have that opportunity," Coach Rose said. "We obviously wish him the very best."

A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, Otero was one of four players to sign with BYU during the early recruiting period "

Otero is yet another of Miami Tropics kids under the tutelage of Art "Pilin" Alvarez. Some of the articles describe him as a tough defender capable of playing several positions. Perhaps his designation is more of a "swingman", maybe being the 'substitute' to Chris Fuller, but with bigger size...

Might help the bullpen if Suarez had them throw their best pitches. I know he only threw to three batters but we never did see Ellison's good fastball. Why was the kid throwing the junk? He's not that type of pitcher. I've seen him pitch plenty of times but I cannot recall ever seeing him toss things in the dirt like that. Same for Santana and Francis.
I'm not a pitching coach, but again - should they not play to their strengths?

it season #1 and its going to be a long one people. FIU lost the majority of their top players at the end of last season and Turtle has not had the chance to fully recruit. He came in with a small amount of time and had to round up whatever he could find(not meaning that everybody he got was a poor player). This program was left in shambles by the previous staff, which im assuming just gave up, and it is going to take two good years to really get it going again. Especially with the lost scholarships. That really takes its toll in a sport that only gets somewhere around 11.5 or 13 scholarships (whatever it is).

In a sense, you're right Dan. What I don't agree with you is on the talent. I do believe this team has talent. We have a good lineup and can score runs. Don't get me wrong, speed would help. The main problem is pitching and that will get address. But I do agree with you that it will take two years.

Congrats to TT getting first win yesterday!!! Anybody know where Wagner is located??? We have 4 game series against them but I've never heard of them.

Lastly, would be nice for FIU to win tonight. I know it'll be tough, but we'll see.

GO FIU!!!

Wagner is from Staten Island, NY...

I agree 110% that pitching is the biggest problem for this team. The bullpen is struggling. They will definitely need to go pick up a ton of pitching in the off-season.

Why should tonight be tough tonight if we are not better than Gulf Coast then it will be a real long season. Wagner is OK with a very good left handed pitcher, but once again it is a series that we should sweep. I realize the bullpen has been struggling, but it should get better and DeSimone looked good last weekend. It looks as though we are going to have to outscore everyone like last year, this works against the average teams, but not against the better teams. The offense has been good and against some good pitching, plus Petika & Mollica have not been hitting yet, but they will. I agree with the future being bright, but it may take longer than you think unless he goes the JR College rout, the new transfer rule will not allow any transfers for next season and all of the recruits will be freshman. TT will turn it around and this season is just starting

If you are really Dan Le Batard, this blog is getting some "star" power. lol One more thing, if you are Dan Le Batard, once in a while, please talk some FIU sports on your radio show.

Thanks for the info on Wagner.

Sorry Baseball fan...i didn't mean Florida Gulf Coast...I actually meant to type in tough game for the basketball team. lol You're absolutely right, worst case scenario we should win 4 of the next 5 games in baseball.

GO FIU!!!

FIUJM & Baseball Fan

I guess it's going to be a really long baseball season because you got spanked by FGCU tonight!!!!!

I guess you need to sweep Wagner if you want to win 4 out of the next 5.

no, not really le batard guys. Florida Gulf Coast really isnt that bad of a team, but right now we are really bad. Sit tight and hold on because its going to be a long one. He will definitely get it turned around better then any of the other candidates that were up for the job could've. Could you just imagine if Gino Dimare was the head coach? he would probably make rainbow uniforms...

yeah, dimare is pretty fruity.

FGC is really not that bad?!?!? I just looked them up: they are in their first year of Division 1 baseball. They were picked to finish 10th in the powerful Atlantic Sun division. I haven't even heard of some of the schools ranked ahead of them

http://www.fgcuathletics.com/media/2007-08/baseball/news/poll.pdf

This loss is embarrassing and pathetic. I guess the silver lining is that it came on a Wednesday night so most people probably will not hear about it.

Forgot to mention that the final score was 13-1 and FIU was held to 2 hits. Is there a comparable loss in Danny Price's 27 year tenure as the head coach??? In 5 games TT is already making history.

Shocked,

Nice comments.

I happen to believe that the future is very bright for FIU baseball. I sat within earshot of Coach Thomas over the USC weekend and I can tell you that an incredible baseball man is now guiding the ship. The panthers will be a big time winner in two years, if not next year. Pitching is certainly the biggest concern on the current team and that problem is exacerbated when we fail to hit early in a game. Until the pitching is fixed (via recruiting) we will lose some games like the FGCU one.

After the football and basketball seasons in which optimism and hope were quickly erased by disappointment – I understand the feel of “here we go again.” Believe me when I say that this situation is much different because Coach Thomas can coach and he can recruit. He knows his club’s shortcomings and he will be stocking the pitching cupboard. Surely you’ve heard the phrase that baseball is 90-95 percent pitching? In the meantime, Coach already has some good young positional guys to build the future around; they showed potential during the fall and will be fine once they settle in and start getting consistent ABs. They also bring some speed and are solid defensively. He also has some very solid recruits coming in next year. Meanwhile, Coach Thomas is doing the right thing by playing the solid veteran guys and quite honestly, they’ve scored enough runs to win most games.

Without beating a dead horse, allow me to illustrate how big pitching is - just take a look at Sunday’s game vs USC. For two games (Friday and Saturday nights), most fans were probably in awe of USC hitters. Enter Steve Stewart who proceeded to shove it for 5+ innings before running out of gas. The offense did its job and scored four runs off of highly touted Millone and FIU was in great shape to take the game from USC. Enter bullpen – enough said. Within two years, Coach Thomas will have a roster full of Stewart-like pitchers because he is the best recruiter in the game.

This post is not in anyway writing off this year’s team. Instead, it serves to put things into perspective with the current pitching staff. The club is full of great guys who will go to battle every night, give great effort and win its share of games. In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy because the real exciting days are not far off.

Last night was not good, games like this can happen with mid week games and mid week pitching, but this was bad. It could be a very long season if they do not turn it around quickly, we have some tough games on the schedule, but last night was not one of them. The team needs to play a BASEBALL GAME, win 4 to 3 or lose 4 to 3, so far every game has been a softball score. They have 6 more games before heading to Troy for the start of the Conference, lets not panic until then.

Shocked,

i dont know if Price had a game like that in his career, but he is the main reason that there was a game like that(and that is why he is no longer with FIU).

He has left that team in such a deep hole, that its going to take a lot of work to get them right. Ive heard from numerous players that they did absolutely nothing last year. Hardly worked out, did nothing at practice, where pretty much on their own. These guys, with the exception of a few, were coached to be losers and they are just not going to turn around over night; i dont care who you have out there coaching them. Add all of that with the loss of a couple of scholarship for playing in-eligible players and for players academics and you have a baseball team that is going to struggle.

FGCU is not a omaha caliber team, no, but they are really not a horrible team either. Obviously they were playing well enough to get bumped up to Div 1 permanently. The pitcher they threw last night was probably the best guy FIU has faced so far this year(i know, there has only been 5 games). Im not saying that this makes it any better, it is embarassing, but like i told you before: brace yourself, its going to be a long season.

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