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45 posts from May 2010

May 21, 2010

FIU's SBC title chances improve -- a little

Thanks to the Golden Panthers' 12-4 victory over FAU Thursday, and Middle Tennessee State's 5-1 loss to Western Kentucky, FIU has moved into a tie with the Blue Raiders for third place on the conference. Both teams are 2 games behind the conference-leading Owls and 1.5 behind Louisiana-Lafayette, which was rained out Thursday.

FIU still doesn't have control of its own conference championship destiny, but now only ULL stands in the way if the GP sweep FAU. Just four games stand between first and eighth place in the ultra-competitive SBC.

More from Mike Brown of FAU:

The current tie for 3rd is decided with the head-to-head tiebreaker between MTSU and FIU, with MTSU winning the tiebreaker.

However, though currently lower in the standings than MTSU, FIU is still in the running for the regular season championship, and there is no combination of event under with MTSU can will the regular season championship.

At this point, only FAU controls its destiny, as ULL would need assistance from FIU, and FIU would need ULM to take at least 2 from ULL.

The current tie for the 6th spot is decided by ASU, Troy, and WKU records amongst one another, with Troy winning at 4-2, ASU at 3-3, and WKU at 2-4.

It is possible for 4 teams to finish at 19-11.  In such a circumstance, the Sun Belt tie-breaker is no longer straight head-to-head, but rather start with all the teams involved in a 3-way or greater ties in composite records with all other teams involved in the tie.  A tie for 1st assumes an FIU sweep of FAU, with both of those teams being involved in the tie.

Whether a 4-way or any combination of 3-way tie for 1st with 19 wins, FIU would finish in 1st. FAU would finish 4th  in a 4-way tie, and 3rd in any 3-way tie.

May 20, 2010

LIVE BLOG: FIU vs. Florida Atlantic Game 1

BOCA RATON -- Opener of a 3-game series with the Hooters for FIU. By now you know the story ofLogo this series. The Panthers need a sweep to have a shot at capturing the regular season Sun Belt Conference title. FIU also needs Louisiana to lose 2 games to ULM and Middle Tennessee to lose 1 game to Western Kentucky.

Florida Atlantic -- the current Sun Belt leader -- only needs 2 wins to secure the regular season conference title and no outside help from any other SBC team losing.Fau

It's R.J. Fondon on the hill for FIU against FAU's Ryan Garton. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m.

Come on back here at 6:24 p.m. for the start of the LIVE BLOGCAST of the game.

Hooters Roadblock?

Hooters It wasn't a pretty ending to the FIU baseball season last May when the Hooters ended the Panthers 2009 postseason in 8 innings at the Sun Belt Tournament.

As was the case in last year's SBC Tournament, FIU has a road block known as Florida Atlantic that the Panthers need to get by in order to get to a better place.

In this case, a 3-game sweep of the Hooters could lift FIU to the Sun Belt regular season title if Louisiana and Middle Tennessee cooperate by losing 2 games and 1 game, respectively. The Cajuns play ULM and the Blue Raiders finish with Western Kentucky -- both are 3-game series.

The Hooters ended the Panthers season last year with a 16-6 win in Troy at the SBC tourney.

In November 2008, the Hooters stood in the way of the Panthers chances of becoming bowl-eligible for the first time in program history. After the 57-50 overtime loss in Don Shula Bowl VII, FIU got its seventh lossRj of the season and did not have a chance to get that sixth win to become bowl-eligible.

Earlier in 2008, the Hooters knocked out the Panthers in the 1st round of the Sun Belt Basketball Tournament.

So you see a rivalry has developed here. As much as some would like to think thatSr the Coral Gables school is FIU's rival, the thought here is the Hooters are FIU's rival.

Hell, you have to play in order to be a rival, right? And the Coral Gables school does not want any part of FIU. Of course, this topic is for another blog post for another time. Maybe even sooner than you think, stay tuned.

Back to this weekend, FIU travels up the Sawgrass Expressway to the Florida Turnpike and exits at Glades Road in the Mouth of the Rat for a 3-game series against the Hooters. [Go this route if you're coming from Miami, because the traffic on the turnpike in south Broward is a pain].

FIU is going to have to match pitch for pitch with the Sun Belt's top pitching staff (FAU). If R.J. Fondon, Scott Rembisz and Aaron Arboleya (right, top to bottom, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) deliver similar performances like they did against South Alabama and the FIU bullpen performs like it did last weekend, the Panthers have a shot at a sweep.Aa

Games are Thursday and Friday evenings (6:30 p.m. each night) and Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.)

If you can't make the trip up north, I will have a LIVE BLOG for you of Thursday's game beginning at 6:24 p.m. from the Hooters home park.

In case you have not followed the Hooters too much this season, Marcus Nelson from FAUOwlAccess.com joins us here on the GPP for some Hooter talk:

1) Why has FAU had such a successful season so far?

MN: The Owls have had some spurts where they hit the ball well, but the real reason is because they have had consistently good pitching and good defense. That has enabled them to win plenty of close games.
2) Did you expect them to have such good pitching? Who are some of the pitchers FIU should be concerned with?
MN: FAU’s top pitcher, Mike Gipson, usually starts on Saturday’s (so
against FIU he will go in the second game of the series on Friday), but
Ryan Garton, who will start on Thursday, has put together a few good outings. Out of the pen, the Owls have the Sun Belt leader in saves,
Andy Mee as the closer, but set-up man Ryan Bernal [a former FIU pitcher] has been excellent as well.
Gipson’s success was expected, but Garton’s emergence has been a pleasant surprise.
3) Who are FAU’s most dangerous bats?
MN: Speaking of Mee, he is among the leaders in the Sun Belt in hits with 86 and cleanup hitter Dan Scheffler leads the Sun Belt in slugging
percentage (.758) and is second in on-base percentage (.507) you don’t
see that combination very often.
4) Tell us a little about the now internet sensation FAU Rain Delay Theater?
MN: Rain Delay Theater (you can watch it here at
hasn’t been done since nor would it have been the same. The beauty of it was it was spontaneous and showed
what college baseball is all about. The best thing about it was it came before
the first game of what could have been a tense three-game series vs. Western
Kentucky, which was then the top team in the Sun Belt. I think the skits helped
FAU play loose the entire series, which the Owls swept, and was a turning point
of the season.
5) Can FIU sweep?
MN: FIU will need Gipson and Garton to be off their game, and Gipson especially has not been as sharp as he was in the middle of the season. 
FAU also enters the series knowing it needs two victories to win the
regular-season title while FIU needs a sweep. Does that mean the Golden
Panthers will come in with more of a sense of urgency? I guess we’ll see.
6) Your series prediction?
MN: I think FAU wins the series and the Sun Belt regular-season title, but it’s going to be tough to get the sweep vs. the Golden Panthers. Something
also tells me a certain hitting streak could be in jeopardy. FAU has solid
starters and a better bullpen than most teams in the Sun Belt. Besides,
don’t weird things always seem to happen when FAU and FIU play?
Aaapaw Thanks to Marcus for taking the time out to inform us on the Hooters.

Gooch7: PETE: If FIU takes 2 or 3 will they finish in the Top 3 teams in the conference? Another important question is, out of the 4 softball teams in the Gainesville Region will 1 or 2 teams advance to the Super Regional?

PP: Gooch, if FIU wins the series versus the Hooters, they could finish in the top 3 depending on what Louisiana and Middle Tennessee do in their final series of the season. Both the Cajuns and Blue Raiders are ahead of FIU in the standings.

Only 1 softball team advances to the Super Regional out of the Gainesville Regional.

Aaapaw So how does the baseball series in Boca Raton turn out?

Online Surveys & Market Research



May 19, 2010

Another Texas Forward Eyeing FIU

Antwan Space, a 3-star power forward from DeSoto High in Texas, has an eye on FIU as a possibleSpace college basketball destination.

Space, who is also being recruited by Texas A&M, would give the Panthers another big body down low were he to come to Miami for his college playing days.

Like Devonta Abron, Space (right in green uniform) is 6-7, but is 20 pounds lighter than Abron's 225 pound frame.

The following is a scouting report on Space from Slam Magazine:

Antwan Space | 6-7 | PF | DeSoto | 2011
Space is definitely the high upside type of player who bigtime programs are looking for in a young power forward. He’s a nasty athlete who did a great job catching and finishing around the rim, while also showing glimpses of a post game with a couple of nice spin moves on the blocks. Antwan used his athleticism to slash to the rim when facing the cup, leaving one to imagine he could potentially be a face-up PF. Still rough around the edges, this is definitely a guy who power conference schools want to keep an eye on.

May 17, 2010

Busy Monday for Panthers

Lots of FIU content over on the Mothership ...

FIU's emergency response to football player's fatal stabbing criticized

FIU softball team invited to NCAA Tournament

FIU's Wittels extends hit streak to 45

And there's much more Golden Panthers content to come this week. Plan on writing a feature advancing the softball team's NCAA chances, plus will be with the baseball team up in Boca Raton Thursday through Saturday. Live blogs each and every night, plus for all SBC Tournament games next week. Should be an exciting rest of the month.

May 16, 2010

GW & TT on Ch. 7 Sports Xtra at 11 pm TONIGHT

Gw FIU hitting machine Garrett Wittels and coach Turtle Thomas will be LIVE onTt Channel 7's Sports Xtra tonight at 11 p.m.

They will be talking about the big upcoming 3-game series with the Florida Atlantic Hooters in Boca Raton that could decide first place in the Sun Belt Conference. Plus, the sweep of South Alabama and clinching a berth in the upcoming Sun Belt Tournament.

The Panthers (16-11) trail the Hooters (19-8) by 3 games and need a sweep, plus 2 losses from Louisiana (18-9) and 1 loss from Middle Tennessee (16-10). The Cajuns finish the season against ULM and the Blue Raiders finish the season against Western Kentucky.

Middle Tennessee will play only 29 conference games, because they had a rain out vs. New Orleans and it will not be made up. FIU lost the season series to MT, but won the season series from UL

Of course, none of the scenarios above mean anything if FIU does not take care of business in the Rat's Mouth.

LIVE BLOG: South Alabama vs. FIU Game 3

Jr FIU is going for the sweep of South Alabama this afternoon. The Jaguars came to Miami Jobe as the second best team in the Sun Belt Conference, but might not leave FIU in second place.

With a win today or a UALR loss, the Panthers would clinch a berth in the Sun Belt Tournament in Murfreesboro at the end of the month.

It's also Senior Day today at the ballpark where any person 55 or Cp older gets in for free Berko and a Denny's Grand Slam.

Nah, just kidding, FIU is honoring its 5 seniors (Junior Arrojo - top left, Eric Berkowitz - left, Tim Jobe - top right, Corey Polizzano - right, Scott Rembisz - below right) in a pregame ceremony.

And not to look too far in the future, but should FIU win its last 4 Rem games the Panthers can catch Florida Atlantic and with a little help from other teams FIU could actually still win the regular season SBC title.

But first FIU has to get past South Alabama today for any of that to be possible. Aaron Arboleya takes the ball for FIU this afternoon. First pitch is at 1 p.m. LIVE BLOGGING gets going at 12:58 p.m.

Thanks to Alex J. Hernandez for photos

May 15, 2010

LIVE BLOG: South Alabama vs. FIU Game 2

FIU going for another win versus South Alabama -- the 2nd place team in the Sun Belt. The Panthers got a nice outing from R.J. Fondon on Friday night and will need another one from Aaron Arboleya tonight against a very potent Jaguars lineup.

UALR won its game against ULM on Friday night, but with FIU's 6-5 win the Panthers reduced their magic number to 2 for getting into the Sun Belt Tournament. An FIU win tonight and a UALR loss secures a spot in the SBC tourney for the Panthers.

First pitch tonight is at 6 p.m. from FIU's ballpark and LIVE BLOGGING will get going at 5:54 p.m.

May 14, 2010

LIVE BLOG: South Alabama vs. FIU Game 1

Sa First game of the final six regular season contests for FIU as the Panthers open up a 3-game seriesLogo with South Alabama tonight from FIU Baseball Stadium.

The Jaguars come in as 1 of 3 teams to have already clinched a berth in the Sun Belt Tournament at the end of the month in Murfreesboro. SA is tied for 2nd with Louisiana in the SBC standings.

FIU is tied for 6th with Western Kentucky and looking to clinch a tourney spot and move up in the final 6 games (3 vs. SA and 3 at Florida Atlantic).

First pitch is coming up shortly....Play ball!

Softball season ends early

An abrupt end to the season for the Golden Panthers, who lost to North Texas 2-1 in the Sun Belt Conference tournament Thursday.

That, combined with a 1-0 loss to ULM Wednesday, is most likely all she wrote on the 2010 campaign.

The NCAA has never given two tournament bids to SBC teams, according to Beth McClendon, and won't likely change that for a team bounced without winning a game in its conference showcase.

FIU's pitching was just fine, allowing just the three runs in 14 innings. It was the bats that failed the Golden Panthers. Now it's up to the baseball team to keep any spring postseason hope alive for FIU, whose tennis team was also left out of its championship tournament.

May 13, 2010

SBC Tourney Stretch Run Begins Friday

Last home series of the season for FIU this weekend against South Alabama. The Panthers are tied for 6th in the Sun Belt with Western Kentucky at 13-11 with Florida Atlantic leading the standings at 19-8.Rj

First and sixth place are separated in the standings by just 3 games in the loss column. Louisiana and South Alabama also have 8 losses. FAU, UL and SA have all clinched spots in the SBC Tournament.

Troy is 8th in the SBC with a 12-12 record. Top 8 teams go to Murfreesboro for the conference tournament in 2 weeks.

UALR is hanging around at 7-15 in 9th. The Panthers can clinch a berth in the SBC tourney this weekend. FIU's magic number is 3. Any combination of three FIU wins or UALR losses has the Panthers packing their bags for Tennessee.

Of course, FIU can still shoot for the top of the conference standings with these final 6 games of the season against the top 2 teams in FAU and SA.

It all starts Friday at home against the Jaguars with R.J. Fondon (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) on the mound. South Alabama is second in hitting in the SBC right behind FIU. The Panthers are hitting a conference-leading .332 and the Jaguars are hitting .323.

SA does have a 6.12 team ERA which is in the bottom part of the SBC. But as has been the case all season, FIU will go as far as its pitching takes them.

Apaw Will LIVE BLOG all 3 games of the FIU/SA series this weekend right here on the GPP. First pitch of Friday's game is at 7 p.m. Friday's LIVE BLOG begins at 6:56 p.m.

Throw in your 2 cents where FIU finishes the season in the SBC standings and vote in the poll below.


Apaw Nothing new yet to tell you about guard Deshaun Wiggins and where he may end up. Checking on DW and some other possible recruits.


Miri: Pete, there was a report on Sunday night about a kid from Brito who is supposed to be the next ARod. Apparently, he is supposed to be coming to FIU. Any more info on him?

PP: That would be Manny Machado (left), who is rated the No. 1 high school position player in the nation. MM along with Kellin Deglan -- the No. 1 player in Canada -- both signed with FIU for the 2011 season. Mm Unfortunately, MM most likely will never wear an FIU uniform, because he is expected to be a very high draft pick in this June's Major League Draft. And even if he does not go in the top 10, the Boston Red Sox have guaranteed him top 10 money if he were to fall to the BoSox at No. 20. There is a better chance that you'll see Deglan in an FIU uni next season.

Gooch7: PETE: I know I have asked this in the past but I wanted to know if by ANY chance you have heard ANYTHING regarding the construction of the Soccer/Track stadium?

PP: I have not heard anything new regarding the soccer/track stadium.

c-UM: Does FIU softball have a chance at making a regional?

PP: Checked into that and the ladies chances are slim for an at-large bid.

May 12, 2010

Golden Panthers sweep softball awards

Over on the Mothership:

FIU softball may have entered the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed, but the Golden Panthers' evening Tuesday was second-to-none.

FIU made a clean sweep of the performer of the year awards at the conference's annual end-of-season ceremony Tuesday, with team members capturing player, pitcher and freshman of the year honors.

In addition, Beth McClendon, who directed the Golden Panthers to a 36-17 mark in her third year with the team, shared the co-coach of the year award with Louisiana-Lafayette's Stefni Lotief.

The winners:

Ashley McClain (player of the year), Kasey Barrett (pitcher of the year) and Brie Rojas (freshman of the year).

UPDATE: FIU fell to Louisiana-Monroe 1-0 in the opening round of the Sun Belt tournament Wednesday. Barrett allowed a solo home run to Brianna Love in the top of the seventh. The Golden Panthers will try to stay alive Thursday against third-seeded North Texas (27-19), which lost to Troy 8-0 earlier in the day.

FIU's Turtle quick to praise Wittels

Gw13 fiubase spts EPF
Garrett Wittels is a national - or at least a South Florida - phenomenon.

The FIU infielder met the press Tuesday, as reporters from both local newspapers and seemingly every television station swarmed him, speaking about his school-record 42-game hitting streak.

Of course, we at the Miami Herald have been all over this story for a while, so I decided to take a different approach.

I wanted to see what makes him tick.

The answer: An undying drive to succeed and nerves of steel, the result of years of intense mental conditioning by his dad.

The whole scoop is here.

One person not quoted in the piece was Panthers coach Turtle Thomas. But he had plenty to say about the streak Tuesday - including a pitch for Wittels to be named the Sun Belt player of the year.

Q: On the streak possibly being at 49 games, if he hadn't pinch-hit Wittels in the conference tournament last year:

TT: "You know, I'll be honest with you. The coach at FIU isn't real smart. Y'all probably didn't know that until right now. But that's for sure. Until this past week, when Arkansas State, when our SID, Mat Ratner, told me, I had no idea I was that dumb last year. But you can't look in your crystal ball and figure those things out. If we could, we'd probably win every game, because you'd know when to call a hit-and-run or when to sacrifice bunt or when to make a pitch a certain way, whatever it may be."

Q: On the level of exposure this has brought the team:

TT: "Even if you get negative publicity, publicity, we feel like, is always good, regardless. With him doing as good as he's doing and with all the things that have happened, it certainly is good for our program. This school became a four-year school in 1982. We're a very new, young school. We're not like a hundred-some years old like all of these other universities are. It's good that we get as much publicity as possible."

Q: On the lift Wittels has provided the school, after the Kendall Berry murder:

TT: "That was an unbelievable tragedy. We were on the road at the time and when our players heard about it that night, no one could believe what happened. We still feel bad to this day, and we'll feel for a long time. But things that are positive around FIU - football's no the rise, basketball's certainly on the rise, all of our programs in the athletic department, and the school itself, academically, where we rank in many different fields - everything is moving up and getting better every single year. Something like this is nothing but a positive for our school."

Q: If Wittels should be conference player of the year:

TT: "That's a good question. I haven't even thought about that. I guess I'd have to do some thinking. Of course, we haven't seen FAU or South Al yet, so I think I could probably answer that question a lot better once we play six more regular season games. I think even if it stopped on Friday night, I think he would get at least very, very strong consideration, no question."

May 11, 2010

GW & TT Meet The Press

FIU infielder Garrett Wittels and coach Turtle Thomas spoke to the media before today's practice. I'm out ofGw Tt town until Thursday, but here's what they had to say to the local media.

Click on the links below to hear GW (far right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) and TT (near, right thanks AJH photo) 

Download Garrett_Wittels_5-11


Download TT_5-11


May 10, 2010

GWTV & Radio; New Hoop Recruit

Gw Garrett Wittels was on ESPN's First Take this morning talking about his season.

Before that GW appeared on Joe Rose's morning show on 560 WQAM on Monday morning. GW even had his take on the crosstown series with the Coral Gables school and even Rose chimed in.

Next GW is scheduled for Letterman and Leno (kidding).



I liked how GW included his teammates and coaches in both interviews. GW has got a good head on his shoulders. GW finished it by inviting anyone and everyone out to this coming weekend's 3-game home series against South Alabama.


Dw A new recruit has his eye on FIU hoops. Guard Deshaun Wiggins (6-3, 175 pounds) of Bridgton (Maine) Academy recently decomitted from Seton Hall and has the Panthers among his top choices to play college basketball in 2011.

Last season as a junior at Wings Academy in New York, Wiggins averaged 19.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.

To land Wiggins, FIU is competing with Penn State, Florida State, Rhode Island, Xavier and Fordham. Word is it could down to FIU and FSU.

May 09, 2010

Jackie Would Be Smiling

As you may well know the number 42 is retired throughout Major League Baseball unless a player hadJrob already been wearing it before MLB retired the number.

MLB retired 42 to honor Jackie Robinson in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of him breaking the color barrier in baseball.

Only Yankees closer Mariano Rivera remains as the sole major leaguer to still wear the No. 42 -- the same uniform number Jackie wore.

Jackie never played baseball in Arkansas, but he sure would be proud of his number becoming a part of history again.

That's because the 3rd batter in the FIU lineup got an infield single in the 8th inning on Sunday afternoon to give himself a hit in every game he has played this season.

The 3rd batter has played in 42 games this season and is now tied with Austin Peay's Chuck Abbott for the 4th longest Division I hit streak.

After a Jabari Henry home run, FIU trailed Arkansas State 5-2 in the 8th.

May 08, 2010

Cotton the Fabric of the Lineup

Cotton Unless you have a private jet to land in Jonesboro, the most convenient route to get to the small Arkansas town is to fly commercial into Memphis, Tennessee and then drive 45 minutes to Jonesboro. Memphis is the closest airport to Jonesboro.

The private jet was not available the times I've been to Jonesboro so I've taken the 45-minute car ride from Memphis.

On the drive over to Jonesboro, there is a stretch of road that is all cotton fields. That part of the drive lasts about 15-20 minutes where all you see to either side is cotton, cotton and more cotton.

The TV commercial says cotton is the fabric of our lives.

The third batter in the FIU lineup has been the fabric of the lineup for most of this season with a team-leading .408 average and 69 hits entering Saturday afternoon's game.

The third batter now has 70 hits after singling to right field. The third batter has hit in every game he's played this season. He's played 41 games.

After a home run by Mike Martinez, FIU leads 4-0 against Arkansas State in the 1st inning.

May 07, 2010

There's a Great Outback Steakhouse in Jonesboro, Arkansas

During my 9 years covering FIU, I've been to Jonesboro, Arkansas several times for FIU/ArkansasOtbk State games and I could tell you there's a great Outback Steakhouse right by ASU.

FIU is playing Arkansas State in the national pastime in Jonesboro on Friday night. It's the first of a 3-game series between the teams that are tied for 5th in the Sun Belt standings at 12-9.

Trailing 6-2 in the 8th, the Panthers have 5 hits thus far in the game.

Make it 6. The 6th hit for FIU belongs to the 3rd batter -- who has now hit in every game he has played this season.

That would be 40 games, in case you were counting at home or in between bites of your Victoria's Filet with Aussie Chips and a Greg Norman Cabernet.

The 3rd batter had an RBI triple in the 8th to make it 6-3.

May 06, 2010

Could Wittels Break Ventura's Record?

SXPJMSJPVLXJVRR.20100310015603 Even the most casual Panthers fan has now heard all about Garrett Wittels' school and conference record 39-game hitting streak, which he kept alive with a two-run home run in FIU's 10-4 drubbing of Bethune-Cookman Wednesday night.

The only benchmark that remains for Wittels, who has hit in every game in which he's played this season, is Robin Ventura's Division I record of 58, set with Oklahoma State in 1987.

Dare to dream?

The cold reality for Wittels is, unless the GP make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, he simply doesn't have enough games to break the record this season.

For argument's sake, let's say Wittels keeps hitting. And the Panthers win just enough to keep playing, but lose enough to maximize their games played.

He's got nine more games left in the regular season, which would put him at 48 entering the Sun Belt Conference Tournament (which I'll staff, as long as Nashville isn't completely washed away). For FIU to even qualify for the NCAA's, it'll need to reach the conference title game. Let's say that the Panthers lose a game early in the tournament, but still reach the final. That will give them five more contests. That makes 53.

Where will Wittels get his six additional games? Well, the NCAA Regionals offer, at most, another five opportunities. But that would merely tie the record, not break it. For Wittels to eclipse Ventura, it would almost certainly have to come at some point in the Super Regionals -- possibly in the deciding game, with the Panthers' first-ever trip to the Division I College World Series at stake.

I told you to dare to dream.

However, the most likely scenario is that if Wittels continues to hit, his shot at history would come early next season. Could you imagine the pressure of that hanging over his head for an entire offseason?

A Day As Dazzlers Audition Judge

Vanessa Had the honor last Saturday of being a guest judge for the 2010-11 Golden Dazzlers auditions and it was a very entertaining and unique experience where I even ended up making a nomination for 2010-11 Dazzlers captain. More on that later.

When I arrived at U.S. Century Bank Arena last Saturday morning I was greeted by this year's lovely Dazzler captain Vanessa (left) -- Sports Illustrated.com Cheerleader of the Week last October -- who informed me to go meet the other judges in a classroom on the south side of the arena.

In room 117, I met the four other judges: the Dazzlers coach (who happens to be a former Dazzler) and 3 other former Dazzlers -- one who is currently a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. No, it was not Kelly who sent her photo to the GPP earlier this year and was posted on a February blog. Instead, it was another former Dazzler, who is also now a Dolphins cheerleader and has a sister -- another former Dazzler -- who is currently a Miami Heat dancer. [For audition purposes, the judges names will not be mentioned].

However, to keep track of the 4 judges on this post, we'll use nicknames: Daz coach [for the Dazzlers coach], Dolphin [for Dolphins cheerleader], Pilates [for judge who does pilates] and Simona Cowell [for theSt judge who said she is tough with her scores].

Talking to Dolphin, she mentioned something to me that stuck in my mind as I judged the auditions later that afternoon. She said that after going through four years of Dazzlers training, the process to become a Dolphins cheerleader was NOT overwhelming. Daz coach runs a detailed, tough program.

Daz coach explained to me that since I didn't know any of the Dazzlers dance moves -- which is completely true -- that I would only judge the ladies in 2 categories: 1) Overall appearance and 2) Energy and Performance quality. Such as Stephanie's (right) dance energy was a 10 out of 10 score.

My scores would count as a maximum of 20 bonus points per auditioner. The scores that I could hand out for the two categories ranged from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest mark.

Tw The other judges would give scores for 9 different dance categories in addition to the 2 categories I was scoring.

Was also informed by the ladies that after we judged all of the auditioners, we would reconvene in room 117 to go over the choices for the 24 Golden Dazzlers that would make up the 2010-11 Dazzlers dance team.

At Saturday's audition, 43 ladies tried out -- including members from last year's team because as Daz coach put it you have to earn your spot on the team each year. See what I mean about running a detailed, tough program.

Four other ladies tried out last Wednesday, because they could not make the Saturday audition. In that group of 4 were the twins (Alex and Michelle, left), who were also honored as SI.com's Cheerleaders of the Week this past season. They made the 2010-11 team --  if they didn't I would have launched anWn investigation.

It was now time to go to center court at the Bank where the judges' table stood. The Daz coach sat in the middle and began the process. I was seated next to Simona Cowell.

Vanessa, who graduated from FIU this past semester, was in charge of leading the prospective Dazzlers in a routine that they had to learn for the audition. Winnie (right) learned it just fine and had a dazzling performance.

By the way, Vanessa will be trying out for the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad next year. Just give her the aqua and orange already.

Back to the routine the ladies had to learn. I counted that this particular dance consisted of 24 different parts. I'm not sure how the heck these ladies learned the 24 parts in such a short period of time, but they did. Now I consider myself pretty good with memory things, but I couldn't remember those 24 moves in a time span of 15 minutes like these ladies had to.

Sa All I remember from the routine -- besides the same song played over and over again "Sweat" by Casely -- was the hair turn move such as Sara (left) flawlessly executed on Saturday.

After the dance routine was taught by Vanessa -- who would be a first-ballot inductee into the Dazzlers Hall of Fame that I am proposing be added inside the future FIU Alumni Center on the east side of FIU Stadium -- the ladies were ready to perform the memorized dance and then show off the additional 9 dance moves for the judges.

These 9 dance moves looked very difficult to do. Among the moves: Leg hold & Tilt -- where you hold your leg up in the air and tilt your body -- ouch!! However, Christina (right), a rookie, made it look real easy.

There was the Toe Touch -- where you jump in the air and touch both your toes. And another was the A LaCh Second turns -- where the ladies make two turns on each side. Got dizzy just looking at that. Another rookie Christina (below, left) didn't have a problem with the A La Seconds.

After the process was over, each judge grabbed the microphone and introduced herself or in my case -- himself -- and gave a little speech to the ladies. One of the things I mentioned to the ladies was that I could never do any of the moves they performed, nor could I learn 24 moves for a dance routine in just 15 minutes. I also told them that they were to be commended for coming out and auditioning.

Chr Simona was true to form handing out 2s, 3s and 4s as I looked at her scoresheet. But to her credit, she did have some 8s and 9s as well when she thought one of the girls deserved the score.

Simona says her scoring system is tough love. By the way, she got a kick out of being nicknamed Simona Cowell.

Although I won't list here every score I handed out, I will tell you that I gave many 8s, 9s and 10s. The lowest score I gave out was a 5 for energy.

However only one auditioner received perfect 10s from me and that is my nomination for 2010-2011 Dazzlers captain. The GPP endorses Amanda (below, right) for Golden Dazzlers captain this year. I'm Pete Pelegrin and I approve this message.

At the end of the day, 24 Dazzlers [12 veterans and 12 rookies] made the first cut among the 47 thatAma auditioned [Wed. & Sat.]. The team has one more cut at the end of July when they take the Dazzlers's poster photo. That's when the final cut is made. Was told if you are in the poster, then you made the team.

During the summer, Daz coach and the team vote on team leaders -- who are the candidates to be captain of the squad in the upcoming season. The captain will be chosen right before the 2010-11 FIU sports season starts.

Among the 24 Dazzlers: there are 3 Christinas, 2 Stephanies, 2 Saras, 2 Jennifers, and there are some interesting names in the group such as: Akyla, Madonna and Fancesca

Had a ton of fun going through the process and I would like to thank the Dazzlers for the invitation, Daz coach and the 3 other former Dazzlers/judges for their insight into the auditions and of course to all the Dazzlers auditioners for their hard work and memorization skills.

Here is the current team photo (below) -- minus the twins who were not Team there for this photo on Saturday.



All Dazzlers audition photos taken by official Dazzlers photographer Alex J. Hernandez


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