Great to be back from an unexpected spring break. Thanks to all you good people for your support through your e-mails, letters, texts, yells across L.A. Fitness and yells across FIU Baseball Stadium. Good to see the enthusiasm and energy on this blog has not waned despite the 1-week absence. Hell, even CrazyCane sent me an encouraging e-mail and wrote to the editors, go figure?? I don't care what that dude writes on here, because I'll bet you he secretly wears blue and gold despite his rants.
Anyhow, there was a Herald personnel decision made regarding the FIU beat that really would be a waste of 5 minutes of your life and my life for me to explain to you good people. The end result is that I'm still here in your cyber world and we missed plenty from the FIU sporting world last week on this blog so let's get to it.
CHRISTMAS SEASON DRAWING NEAR AT FIU
Rakeem Christmas -- the No. 1 center in the nation -- visited FIU this past weekend and from talking to people close to the visit....Christmas (right) could come early in November for FIU basketball. There has been no verbal commit yet from RC, but from what I've been told it's looking pretty good for the Panthers to land the U.S.'s top center. FIU is competing with Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Georgetown for RC. Also, it's not a bad sign at all that RC's aunt was at a couple of FIU basketball games this season cheering on the Panthers from the stands at the Bank.
CALLING ALL CLOSERS
Big blow to the already pitching-thin Panthers with the loss of closer Bryam Garcia. BG has an elbow injury and is out for at least a month. He was wearing a big black brace on his right arm on Sunday just like Paul McCall wore last season when he hurt his elbow. BG was lights out when he took to the mound in the 9th inning this season.
Look for Eric Berkowitz -- who has been FIU's most consistent reliever this season -- and freshman Alberto Cardenas (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) to share the closing duties. Berko (left, thanks AJH photo) has done a solid, steady job in middle relief this season. AC has got closer's stuff -- a lively fastball and a nasty breaking ball that might just be the best on the team.
But FIU has to get more consistency in the middle innings from its relievers if the Panthers want to get to that elusive regional this season. As we have seen from the first 20 games, FIU can hit with anyone, but its bullpen and at times the starting pitching has to be better. Sunday's 14-12 loss to Troy when the Trojans went for 2 instead of the extra point was a typical Sunday Sun Belt Conference game where both teams ran out of pitching and it turned into a slo-pitch softball game. The Trojans just got a few more outs late than the Panthers and that was the difference.
FIU is back on the diamond on Tuesday for a 2-game series with Jacksonville at FIU Baseball Stadium. The Dolphins were a regional team from last season and are no mid-week patsies, bettys or alices for that matter. First pitch Tuesday is at 6 p.m.
Wednesday's game is at 3 p.m. According to the Mayan calendar Wednesday's game falls on "National Get the Hell Early Out of Work Day". Here's an excuse you could use: my 89-year-old aunt is flying into town and she has a phobia of riding in taxis so I have to go pick her up at the airport. Or just tell the boss you're about to vomit and need to go home.
Unconfirmed rumor they will be handing out DVDs of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" at the Stadium on Wednesday.
Actually, the real reason for the 3 p.m. start is that JU has a 9-hour bus ride back home so they asked for an early start time. JU will return the favor when FIU visits April 27-28. The series finale for that one is a 3 p.m. start as well.
There WILL NOT be a LIVE GAME BLOG of Tuesday's game between FIU and JU. With the new Herald personnel decision, we're still trying to figure out when the LIVE GAME BLOGS will resume. As soon as I have an answer for you I will post it on here.
DAZZLING ON THE DIAMOND
If the FIU pen needs some help they could get it from the Golden Dazzlers distracting the opposing batters. Been told FIU's finest (left, in their black outfits for a halftime show, thanks AJH photo) will perform at select Panthers baseball games later this season. So now you get Dazzlers all through the FIU sports season.
Check the next post on Tuesday and I will have the details of the 1st FIU football spring scrimmage that occurred 2 weeks ago.
The Panthers are scheduled to hold their second scrimmage on Saturday morning. The FIU Spring Game is next Wednesday, March 31 at 7 p.m. at FIU Stadium.