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41 posts from February 2013

February 28, 2013

Andersson wins 50 free; Beaupre wins 3-meter; Gustafsdottir 2nd in the 200 IM

Klara Andersson blew to a 23.24, knocking off Trudy Maree's school record of 23.44 set exactly five years ago, to win the 50 freestyle Thursday night at the Sun Belt Championships. Andersson won by three hundreths of a second over Western Kentucky's Paige Drazga.

Earlier in the evening, junior Sabrina Beaupre won the 3-meter with a score of 328.60, just a tick off her 328.65 Sun Belt record from last year.

Last fall, sophomore Johanna Gustafsdottir told me the breaststroke was both her favorite stroke and her worst stroke. Well, the breast leg kept Gustafsdottir from being best again in the 200 individual medley at the Sun Belt Conference championships Thursday night.

Gustafsdottir led FAU's Eszter Bucz by 1.34 seconds after the butterfly and backstroke legs. But Bucz 33.94 on breast blew out the defending Sun Belt champion's breast by 2.02 seconds and she held on for the upset, 1:58.48 to 1:59.36. Gustafsdottir's time actually wasn't far off the school and Sun Belt record 1:59.14 she swam in last year's Sun Belt final.

Senior Marina Ribi (2:01.18, career best), freshman Jessica Chadwick (2:02.86) and sophomore Dani Meara (2:05.47) finished fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, for FIU. Freshmen Becky Wilde (2:05.52) and Sarah Smith (2:08.42) picked up points in 10th and 15th.

In the 500 free final, even if junior Sonia Perez had equalled her school record 4:48.43 from Thursday morning's prelims (beating her own record of 4:50.32 set in November), she still would've finished fifth. As it was, her 4:49.88 left her 2.65 seconds out of fourth and 3.61 seconds behind North Texas' sweep of the top three spots. Freshman Dani Albright cranked a 4:52.96, beating her pre-meet best by over seven seconds, to finish 10th. Junior Mary Boucher's 4:58.15 gave FIU two more points from 15th.

FIU finished third in the 200 free relay behind Western (1:32.55) and North Texas (1:33.55) with a school record 1:33.99. Andersson, Valeriia Popova, Courtney VanderSchaaf and Ribi beat the 1:34.83 laid down in November by Gustafsdottir, Andersson, Popova and Kelly Grace.

North Texas' podium sweep in the 500 free and number of divers pushed it to the top of the team standings with 295 points. Western Kentucky has 287. FIU's in third with 236.

Friday features the 400 IM, in which Perez should be a contender; the 100 back, another shot at an individual win for Gustafsdottir; the 100 fly, Ribi's race; the 1-meter diving, which should be another Beaupre win; and the 400 medley relay, which is at a length more conducive to FIU's strength than the 200 medley relay in which they finished fourth Wednesday.

Morning in Texas

The morning session of the Sun Belt Swimming & Diving Championships provided little surprise for FIU outside of freshman Jessica Chadwick. That's not exactly bad.

Chadwick swam a 2:03.24 in the 200 individual medley, 7.67 seconds faster than her season best time, to make tonight's eight-swimmer final and give FIU half the swimmer's in the final. Chadwick's time put her ahead of sophomore Dani Meara (2:04.56) and behind sixth-fastest, senior Marina Ribi (2:01.98). The fastest in the morning, predictably, was defending 200 IM champion Johanna Gustafsdottir, whose 1:59.66 was the only time under two minutes.

In the 500 freestyle, junior Sonia Perez qualified for the final with a 4:48.43, 85 hundredths of a second behind North Texas Jana Burkard. Sophomore Klara Andersson also qualified second in the 50 free (23.32). The top three, Anderson sandwiched by Western's Paige Drazga and Hilary Mishler, were separated by nine hundreths of a second.

And in the 3-meter diving, the sky is still blue -- junior Sabrina Beaupre's 317.95 beat North Texas' Rebecca Taylor by 28.7 points. Go 28.7 points behind Taylor and you've gone past Nos. 3, 4 and 5.


Soccer stuff: friendly vs. Strikers, 2013 signing class

FIU hosts a friendly against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. At halftime, kids 12 and under can take part in a free soccer clinic. Adults $4, children $2, students for free.

Amidst the American football signees on National Signing Day, I threw in a futbol player or two. Here's the full list, which includes four players from Weston FC (club soccer is at least as, probably more important than high school soccer in recruiting):

Defender Juan Benedetty, Cypress Bay High, Weston FC: Weston FC captain, First Team All-Broward and recruited by Cornell, Harvard, Michigan and St. John's. So, he'll know where the library is.

Forward Luis Betancur, Parkland Douglas, Weston FC: 2012 Florida Dairy Farmers State Player of the Year. He's played on Puerto Rico's 2012 Under 20 World Cup qualifying team.

Goalkeeper Lawrence Craggs, Ocala Forest, Belleview United: First Team All-County as a junior, 0.38 goals against average in club ball during this season.

Midfielder Angel Espana, Newark St. Benedict's, Players Development Academy: Espana's a California guy, but moved across country to St. Benedict's for his senior year - during which he was The (Newark) Star-Ledger's Player of the Year and St. Benedict's was the ESPN "national champion" for the fall.

Midfielder Ismael Longo, Cypress Bay, Weston FC: Rated as FIU's best recruit, worth four stars, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com

Midfielder Nelson Milsaint, Editon High, Cloud County Community College, Weston FC: Four-time All-Dade pick, Florida Athletic Coaches Association picked him as District 19, Class 3A Player of the Year his senior year.

Defender Victor Reyes, West Covina South Hills High, LA Galaxy: The Galaxy program is known for turning out quality.

Midfielder Darren Rios, Archbiship McCarthy, Weston FC: 2012 All-Broward selection. He trained with the Bogota futbol club in 2011



February 27, 2013

800 Free Relay Wins Sun Belt in multi-record performance; 200 Medley Relay 4th

The seed times of the Sun Belt Championships' 800 freestyle relay set the event up as a duel between FIU and meet host North Texas. FIU won the duel in 7:12.70, a school record almost nine seconds faster than the Panthers previous best time of the year, 7:21.54, and dusting the Sun Belt championships record of 7:16.10 set by Denver last year. North Texas finished in 7:15.57.

"We're all really even," sophomore Johanna Gustafsdottir said of FIU's foursome. "I think that's what brought the time down so much."

Gustafsdottir's analysis wallows in understatement as much as a swim team does chlorine. Gustafsdottir dropped a 1:48.02 on the first leg, setting a school record for the 200 free. Junior Sonia Perez took over and swam a 1:48.01 (only opening relay legs can count as records for that legnth). Gustafsdottir said she felt FIU would take the race when she saw freshman Danielle Albright take the lead on the third leg, which was 1:48.65. Senior Marina Ribi brought the lead home with a 1:48.02.

So, the four legs varied by 64 hundredths of a second. Take out Albright's leg and they vary by one one-hundreth of a second.

"Nobody thought we were going to win, but we knew, we knew we were going to win and we did it!" Perez said by phone from Texas, sounding almost as if she was still pumping adrenaline about an hour after the race.

FIU finished fourth behind Western Kentucky, North Texas and FAU in Wednesday's first event, the 200 medley relay. Gustafsdottir, Klara Andersson, Valeriia Popova and Kelly Grace swam a school record 1:42.16.

"We were disappointed by our placing in the 200 free relay, although our time was a second and a half under our school record," FIU coach Randy Horner said. "We're not as good a sprint team as we were in the longer events and it showed in the 800 free relay. We broke three school records and a Sun Belt record (on the first day). You can't ask for much more than that."

FIU's two points behind Western in the overall standings going into Thursday, when FIU should pick up a win from defending champion Sabrina Beaupre in the 3-meter diving. Day 2 also will have the finals of the 500 free, in which Sonia Perez set a school record this year; the 200 individual medley, won last year by Gustafsdottir, who has the fastest seed time this year; the 50 free; and the 200 free relay, in which FIU has the second fastest seed time.

"I feel better than I did last year (at this time)," said Gustafsdottir, the 2012 Sun Belt Swimmer of the Year after a stunning coming out party at the conference meet.

Also, FIU should pick up points tomorrow from Ribi in the 200 IM and Klara Andersson in the 50 free. Perez is seeded eighth in the 200 IM and could pick up points for FIU there.

February 26, 2013

Easy come, easy go -- Morgan Turner

Morgan Turner, in charge of offensive tackles and tight ends for FIU for two weeks, went back to Stanford to be the assistant in charge of tight ends. Along with offensive line coach Luke Butkus, M. Turner is the second assistant to leave father Ron Turner's staff weeks after being hired.

So, there's an assistant coach's job open again on the football staff.


February 25, 2013

Women finish 3rd, Men 8th at Sun Belt Indoor Track

With a strong second day led by the sprinters at the Sun Belt Indoor Track & Field Championships, FIU's women charged up to 103 points and third place behind host Arkansas State (122.5) and North Texas (117.5).

Senior T'Keyah Dumoy got 16 points on her own with second places in the 55-meter dash and 200-meter dash and anchored FIU's one event win, the 4x400 relay, after junior Lashae White led off, senior Lakeisha Kelley took the second leg and senior Nia Anderson brought the baton around to Dumoy. Their 3:44.59 was just 0.29 off the meet record set by FIU in 2001, just 0.16 off the arena record held by Southern University and 0.65 over the Sun Belt season record FIU ran in 1999.

Getting points In the 200 behind Dumoy (24.15) were third place Lakeisha Kelley (24.34) and eighth place junior Lashae White (25.18). In the 55, senior Marissa McElveen hit the line a blink behind Dumoy, 7.07 to 7.03, good for fourth place.

The women began the day in sixth. McElveen started the move with a fourth in the triple jump, bounding 40-1 1/2. Sophomore Raqurra Ishmar (61-1 1/2), freshman Miriam Pierre (54-11 1/2) and senior Kimberlee Dekrey (54-5 1/4) came in third, fifth and sixth, respectively in the hammer throw.

Senior Samia Adan's 2:15.89 in the 800 got FIU a third place, six points.

The men remained in eighth place, totalling 34 points over the two-day event. Marcus Ghent was named Freshman of the Year after finishing fifth in the long jump Sunday (23 feet 2 3/4 inches) and second in the triple jump Monday (50 feet).

Correcting my mistake from yesterday: Ghent and senior Aubrey Smith, who finished third in the long jump with a leap of 23-5 1/2, got the first points for the FIU men. Smith also got points in the triple jump Monday with a sixth (47-3 3/4).



February 24, 2013

Running & Jumping

As of right now, FIU's down the standings at the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track & Field Champoinships, sixth in the women's points and eighth in the men's. So, here's a quick run down of point-getters in addition to those mentioned in previous posts.

In the women's long jump, senior Marissa McElveen 19 feet, 8 1/4 inches to finish fourth by a half-inch behind South Alabama's Briana Aiken. Junior Tyson Kemp heaved the shot 51 feet, 5 3/4 inches to finish eighth.

FIU's women got five points from a fourth place finish in the 4,000 distance medley. Senior Tai' Hsia Canady, sophomore Desmika White, senior Samia Adan and junior Krystal Francis ran a 12:13.78.

In the events with Sunday prelims, FIU dominated the women's 400 with two heat winners and three of the eight finalists. Junior Lashae White won her heat with the fastest prelim time of 55.50. Senior Lakeisha Kelley took heat five in 56.87, the third best prelim time. Senior Nia Anderson's 58.19 got her in the finals party at No. 8.

Kelly, White and senior T'Keyah Dumoy all made the 200 final with Dumoy (24.67) and Kelley (24.69) second and third, resepectively, behind Arkansas State's Sharika Nelvis. Nelvis set a track record with a stunning 23.88. The distance from Nelvis to Dumoy, 0.79 of a second, tripled the distance from Dumoy to the slowest qualifier, 0.20 of a second. Let's see if she can crank that again in the final.

Senior Desmond McGill's 6.552 in the 55 meters got him into the final by a breath -- seventh was Middle Tennessee State's Noah Akwu in 6.555, eighth was North Texas' Johnny Hickman in 6.57. Just on the outside were Arkansas State's Raymond Jackson and Louisiana-Monroe's Brandon Wilson in 6.60.

Desmika White came into the women's 800 meters with the fastest time in the Sun Belt this season, but finished second in the slowest of the four heats with a 2:17.97. Adan finished second in her heat also, but in 2:17.38, eighth fastest and good enough to get into the final. The four heat winners and the next five best times got into the final.


FIU comes from 4 down to win 8-7

Oscar Aguirre's double down the right field line brought in Nathan Burns in the bottom of the eighth and Mike Gomez sent Manhattan down in the ninth to complete an 8-7 win over Manhattan and the second series sweep of the year.

FIU moves to 6-1. Manhattan is 0-3.


Ishmar, Pierre get points in the put; Wright up; baseball tied 7-7

Sophomore Raqurra Ishmar and freshman Miriam Pierre finished third and sixth, respectively, in the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Championships shot put. Ishmar's fifth put went 48 feet and a half inch. Pierre's last put sailed 44-3 1/2 inches.

Former FIU guard DeJuan Wright won the dunk contest at the Dutch League All-Star Game.

A Zach Sweety home run after Oscar Aguirre's single tied Sunday's game 7-7 in the seventh, FIU making the comeback from down 7-3 in the fourth.

Ghent, Smith get first points at track; baseball getting Rock-ed

Freshman Marcus Ghent flew 23 feet 2 3/4 inches on his second jump of the day, eventually good enough for fifth in the long jump at the Sun Belt Indoor Track Conference Championship. Senior Aubrey Smith finished third with a 23-5 1/2 jump.

Meanwhile, the baseball team's down 7-4 after five innings. Mike Franco went 46 pitches. After giving up a leadoff homer, Franco walked three in the first and saw three more runs cross when he walked in a run and a grounder off two gloves brought in two others. His off speed pitches kept missing, which put him in trouble. Homers by Kyle Murphy, Gulliver graduate Christian Santisteban and Joe Rock homered off Alex Seibold for Manhattan. T.J. Shantz homered for FIU.

February 23, 2013

Rippin' and runnin'

After losing five of their first six, the softball team's run off nine in a row after going two for two Saturday in dumping Mercer and Hartford (not the Whalers).

They could make it 10 in a row by the end of this afternoon when they get another chance to whack Mercer, 7-0 victims of pitchers Corinne Jenkins and Shelby Graves Saturday, at 1:30 Sunday in the championship game of the FIU Classic. Sophomore Krystal Garcia continued her five-game hitting streak Saturday, matching senior Brie Rojas for longest streak of the season. Senior Jessy Alfonso has gone eight of 26 with eight runs scores and four RBI over the nine games.



Sunday's baseball series closer against Manhattan inspires two questions:

1. How will Mike Franco pitch in his second start? Franco, 10 months off Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, showed a fastball with some turbo in his 45 pitches last Sunday against Stony Brook. Franco got through two and two-thirds innings and was one strike from working a full three when he got called off the mound.

Expect his pitch count to be around 50 this time.

2. Will Manhattan keep the Panthers out of double-digits? And, if not, will FIU score soon enough for the mercy rule to come into effect?

Considering what FIU's done to Manhattan's first two starters -- seven runs in 24 batters Friday, six runs in 10 batters Saturday -- Sunday's game could be longer than some of those Sunday baptist services I sat through in my youth. You never know, but I'm packing Pop Tarts. After scarfing my usual 14-16 pieces of bacon, four links of sausage and two biscuits from the David-prepared Sunday brunch.

The mercy rule usually gets employed only on Sundays, when a team's got to get out of town. Is somebody up by 10 after seven innings? Stop the fight. Friday still would've been a full game. Saturday would've been a TKO.

The baseball team's 5-1 start includes this funky fact -- the only starter to give up an earned run is Michael Ellis, theoretically the known quantity ace of the lineup. And Ellis got touched for four runs in each start.

There are two ways to look at this. If you're a sunny side up person, you say, "Once Ellis gets his stuff together, man, facing FIU's going to be like dealing with the 1970 Orioles because nobody's going to give up diddlysquat and the bats will just need to fart out a few runs each night."

If you're an Apocalyptic Baseball Annie, you say, "Uh, oh. These new guys might be dealing now, but how long can that hold up? And if the ace doesn't get it together..."

"Mike Ellis is our Friday night guy, but Mike is better than what he showed tonight," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said after Friday's 14-4 win against Manhattan."His velocity is good, everything was good, but when five out of six guys leading off innings get on base and he's behind too many hitters, threw too many pitches on the belt, those are fundamentals of the game that you've got to be able to do a good job on. Now, he competed his rear end off. Mike Ellis will always compete, give you his best effort. Mike's got to pitch more effectively to beat a lot of the teams we play during the year."


The Sun Belt Indoor Track & Field Championships starts Sunday. I'll try to keep you updated here.


February 22, 2013

More Housecleaning...

I apologize. It's been a wacky, hectic few days in the South Beach real world. So here's a few items I meant to post or wax on (wax off) earlier, but am now cramming them in before the 836 Wedding Procession to Camp Mitch for baseball.

Spring Football: All 15 practices from Mar. 19 through April 20 will be open to the public, in contrast to last year. What? Installing a new offense and they're not going into Langley Lockdown? Don't they know the secrets that can leak even though there are about four offensive styles split among 120 or so FBS schools? Where's the paranoia?

They are saying no pictures, video or breathless social media commentary. In practice, if enough of you show up, they'll be able to police that flow of information about as well as our government polices the flow of really good drugs across state and national borders.

Practices will be from 9-11:30 a.m. Mar. 19; Mar. 21; Mar. 23; Mar. 26; Mar. 28; Mar. 30; Apr. 2; Apr. 6; Apr. 8; Apr. 10; Apr. 12; Apr. 16; Apr. 18; and Apr. 20. Friday, April 5's session will be from 3:30-6 p.m. Obviously somebody has a very good or very perverse idea of how to best spend Friday Happy Hours.

Coaching staff: Jason Brooks is FIU's defensive backs coach. Brooks spent the last four years as an offensive assistant -- quality control, assistant to the offense -- with Baltimore. Further back, 2007-08, Brooks was a Dolphins scouting assistant. He's no stranger to grunt work.

God only knows...: The women's hoop team managed only 47 points Thursday night against Arkansas-Little Rock. Junior guard Jerica Coley scored 28 of those 47 points. Coley's up to 48.2 percent of FIU's scoring over the last 12 games.



February 21, 2013

Last dance

Tonight's doubleheader against Arkansas-Little Rock Senior Night at The Branch, the last home game for the men and last for the women unless they get into the Women's NIT again and host a game or two.

The women's team says sayonara to three seniors: guard Carmen Miloglav, sometime point guard; forward Diamond Ashmore, whose worth could be measured by how flat and defensively vulnerable FIU looked played without her in home losses to Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe; and forward Finda Mansare, who started 64 of 65 games as a sophomore and junior and has been depended upon this season for a mid-range jumper to keep the opposing hounds off Jerica Coley.

As for Coley, in the last 11 games, FIU's scored 696 points. Coley's scored 330 of those, a 33.0 points per game average and 47.4 percent of FIU's scoring.

Defending The Branch for the final time on the men's side are guard Cameron Bell, who has started five of 14 games since coming off shoulder injury this year; forward Tola Akomolafe, who can be a barometer for FIU -- if he's into it and rebounding well early, it usually means a good night for FIU; Gaby Belardo, a transfer who began the year as the starting point guard and has been coming off the bench to spell Deric Hill; and Manny Nunez, who has made five appearances this season, to much glee from the Pi Kappa Alphas at the FAU game.

With a win, the men's team clinches at least a .500 record with road games against ULM and FAU remaining before the Sun Belt tournament. That's maybe not as remarkable as the other college basketball story in town. But it's darn close.

February 19, 2013

Tim Thomas chooses FIU

Crowley (Tx.) High's Tim Thomas, a 6-5, 325 guard, tweets that he's decided on FIU. If FIU's decided on him, that'll be signee No. 20 in the 2013 recruiting class.



February 18, 2013


Replacing running backs coach Apollo Wright, who went to the New Mexico staff, comes Andrew Hayes-Stoker from the Chciago Bears staff. Hayes-Stoker worked as a wide receivers assistant for three seasons after four seasons in football operations.

Louisville Trinity quarterback Travis Wright signed his letter of intent, so he's officially signee No. 19 in the 2013 class.


The Departed: Cristobal and Cyprien; Coley Player of the Week (again)

Well, that was a busy hour.

After my cell phone battery drained waiting to ask NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock about what safety Johnathan Cyprien has done to move up his draft board to the No. 3 safety, I saw I had a text message from a source that former FIU coach Mario Cristobal was bouncing from his still-new University of Miami job to Nick Saban's Alabama staff to be offensive line coach.

I know Cristobal considered it a tough decision as he pondered late last week whether or not to make this move. Not so much on football and resources, obviously, but leaving South Florida for Tuscaloosa.

As for Cyprien, Mayock said he's part of the deepest draft for safeties in the last three or four years and thought he made great sense for Washington to draft.

"He could start immediately for the Washington Redskins," Mayock said. "He can play both (free and strong safety) but I like him at free."

And Washington's probably got a broader mind toward Sun Belt talent than most organizations. They have to deal with Dallas' DeMarcus Ware (Troy) twice a year and just got a sixth-round steal in FAU running back Alfred Morris.


Junior guard Jerica Coley put in 63 points in wins over Troy and Western Kentucky, shot 54.8 percent from the field in doing so, pulled in 14 rebounds and added six -- assists, steals and blocks, each. So the Sun Belt named her Player of the Week for the fourth time this season.

February 17, 2013

FIU finishes rolling Stony

Of course Sunday ended with the starter and game-winner dragging the infield.

South Westside-20130217-01203
"That's my field duty," junior Mike Franco said after FIU's 1-0 win. "No matter even if I throw a complete game shutout, I have to do it."

Franco, who popped a 94 mph fastball Sunday, said he definitely felt he could've gone beyond his 45-pitch limit, but didn't argue with sticking to the plan to complete his recovery from last April's Tommy John surgery. He also used the word "Omaha" when talking about FIU.

Clearly, Franco felt good about himself and his team after FIU went three for three against Stony Brook Saturday and Sunday. Hey, everybody feels good when they haven't been scored on in 23 innings. FIU coach Turtle Thomas complimented the Panthers pitching, but also allowed that a northern team like Stony Brook's still thawing out their game this early in the season.

Though coming out of real winter (snow, ice), the Stony Brook fans looked just as uncomfortable in Florida winter (Sunday) as the FIU fans did. Everybody in each team's colors seemed to have a hoodie on or hunching their shoulders in a vain attempt to turn their collar into a hoodie. This wasn't Soldier Field, where Wisconsin and Minnesota ("Gophers!") played hockey Sunday, but the weather wasn't conducive to hitting, either.

Also not conducive to offense: Edwin Rios' glove. In Saturday's 10-4 win, Rios stopped a sizzling line drive down the line with the bases loaded that should've been a run-scoring double (at least). Instead, he took care of the inning's third out.

Sunday, with Stony's Austin Shives on third and one out, Rios snagged a hard grounder from Cole Peragine, fastened the runner to third with a staple gun stare, then stepped on first for the force out. A ground out to second later, FIU was out of the seventh inning.

"He's kind of our jack of all trades -- he can play second, short, first, third," Turtle Thomas said. "I told him one practice day, take ground balls at third and short. Next practice day, take 'em at second and first."

Meanwhile, umpire Damien Beal seemed to be giving pitchers half the outside batters box. Some called strikes looked closer to home plate of the nearest Tamiami Park diamond. But, credit to Beal, he maintained consistency. Neither team really adjusted to his strike zone. FIU's Zach Sweety struck out looking three times and six of FIU's eight strikeouts were with bat on the shoulder. When FIU's Mike Gomez got Shives looking in the ninth, Shives had the nerve to look at Beal with shock and dismay. The plate ump's been giving pitchers both dugouts all day, you're down 1-0 and you're taking a close two-strike pitch with a man on first in the last inning? Shives needed to save that look for the mirror.

Or Stony's third base coach. This really should've been a tie game going into the bottom of the ninth. With Peragine on first in the fourth, Steven Goldstein whistled a double down the first base line that bounced into the right field corner. Easy score for anyone faster than Fat Albert. Instead, Peragine got the hold up.

You haven't scored on a team in two days, your lineup's leadoff hitter is on first, you get a shot down the line that's at least a double, Keith Moreland and Cesar Geronimo are nowhere to be found in right field and you hold the runner? I thought the third base coach should be jumping up and down, windmilling the arms, yelling "Run, Sweetback! Run!"

Clearly, Goldstein expected Peragine to receive encouragement similar to that. He rounded second without a thought of braking until he saw Peragine reversing to third. This, of course, resulted in a rundown, Josh Anderson tagging out Peragine and FIU preserving its lead.

Sophomore shortstop Julius Gaines went three for four Sunday, seven for 10 in the series, and scored Sunday's only run.

"He's been swinging well in the three weeks we've been practicing and continued right on into the season," Thomas said. "He's gotten some added strength this year."


More (mostly baseball) stuff from A Great Day at Camp Mitch

 While Friday’s rain made for some long Saturdays for FIU athletes, coaches and staff, it did set up a pretty impressive Don Larsen Day for FIU: 6-0 across four teams playing at Camp Mitch Saturday, 2-0 at each venue.

Softball reversed its fortunes after a tough start last weekend with wins over UConn (3-2) and Binghamton (4-3) in the Blue/Gold Felsberg Memorial. Inside The Branch, a lot of defense and Jerica gave the women’s basketball team a 72-53 blowout of Western Kentucky. And the men’s basketball team finished the double spanking of the Hilltoppers with an 87-82 win.

Baseball took out Stony Brook 10-4 in the postponed season opener and 3-0, a game that started late but FIU pitching further delayed Stony Brook’s bats from making an appearance.

Most of this blog focuses on baseball, as that’s where I spent an hour Friday (after spending an hour and a half getting there in Friday traffic) and all day Saturday.

The baseball field’s left field lights held a lights out strike early in Game 2. Turtle Thomas, Stony Brook coach Matt Senk and the umpires got together before the third inning to discuss the matter. FIU had just cranked two deep flyouts to that increasingly dark part of the park. The lights to the adjoining soccer field got turned on as a help, an amusing idea considering the limited effect the soccer field’s lights have on darkness taking over the soccer field.

All agreed to play on. Thomas said if Senk had wanted the game halted, FIU would’ve stopped.

“Because they’re our guests.” Thomas said.

Four new pitchers did a masterful job for FIU Saturday. Stony Brook roughed up Game 1 starter Mike Ellis a bit with only four hits, but four runs, all earned, in four innings.  Junior college transfer Ty Sullivan tamed the rowdy Stony Brook bats for four innings before freshman Dillion Maya finished the show. In Game 2, FIU brooked no rowdiness from The Brook as Tyler Alexander gave up four hits in six innings and Mitchell Davis allowed two baserunners while striking out three in two innings. Senior Mike Gomez put the bow on the game, easily.

Here’s three of the new guys on their night.

Alexander:  “I do the chart (for the first game’s pitchers), so I was ready for whatever. I knew that if I came hard and live off my change up a little bit, then I could come back in with the hard stuff. It seemed to work.

“I feel like they struggled with the fastball. They were sitting on speed. They waited on the first pitch strike. They made you throw that first strike.”

Sullivan:  “All through those four innings, I noticed they were an aggressive team, but at the same time, they were patient. They were picking and choosing pitches. I could see why they were a College World Series team. They didn’t lay off anything that was off the plate. When I went out there, my goal was just pound it, pound it. Especially with guys on base in big situations, throw that off speed stuff for strikes. “

“They were really patient hitters, but when they got their pitch, they were really aggressive on it. So if it was in the strike zone, they were attacking it. In first two or three innings for me, they were looking for that fastball up, but I threw a couple of changeups and sliders that would break late. They swing over the top of a lot of those, so that started to work well.”

Mitchell Davis: “I had a live fastball today. A lot of off speed, my slider, my go-to pitch was on. Can’t complain on that. Changeup was a little off. Figured it out. Got that working and once I had all three working, it was no shot for the other team.”

If Davis sounds confident, well, yeah. Facing his first batter with the game scoreless, he fielded a grounder, then launch a shoulder missile wide and far of first. The runner got sacrificed to third.

“I knew I could get out of that and keep us tied up so we could get the lead next inning,” Davis said.

He got Anthony Italiano to fly out to second, walked leadoff hitter Cole Peragine, then struck out Steven Goldstein. The next inning, FIU took a 1-0 lead.

Davis, who went to Grayson County College, then Northeast Texas Junior College before coming to FIU, made the National Honor Society in high school.

(Hearing “National Honor Society” always reminds me of this piece of Dolphins trivia: the Dolphins only playoff team of the last decade, 2008, had a Rhodes Scholar candidate at quarterback, Chad Pennington, and three former National Honor Society members. Two you could predict: son of an Stanford professor Greg Camarillo and Donald Thomas, a UConn graduate raised in the shadow of Yale. The third? Channing Crowder.)

Anyway, someone with the intellect and/or work ethic to be a National Honor Society member going to a junior college is akin to someone with four-star recruit physical ability playing Division II.

“It was a pretty difficult decision,” Davis said. “I decided it was a good opportunity. I got injured my senior year. So, juco was my route because I didn’t get offered to big time D-1s like I wanted to. I knew I needed to get my name out there.”

Davis said the academic scholarships he could get didn’t cover as much as the academic-athletic or the athletics-only scholarships baseball might bring.

“(He and his family) just get by so I needed as much help as I could get,” the Fort Worth native said.

Another new pitcher from Texas, Corpus Christi’s Mike Franco, got penciled in as the Sunday starter earlier this week. When Franco whistled a 95 to 96 mph fastball in preseason training, it rated not on the Wow Factor scale, but on the Say What? Factor scale.

“It was one of those days,” Franco said. “There’s adrenaline going, first time being out of the mound in a couple of months, coming back from my injury and I just felt good.”

Franco’s coming off Tommy John surgery last April after tearing ligaments in his elbow. That he’s pitching at all speaks to persistence.

“Truthfully, a lot of people were (wondering) if I would even come back by this season,” Franco said. “Coach Thomas didn’t think I was going to come back for this season. I was determined to throw this year. I couldn’t sit out another year.”

Even should Franco start later today, he’ll be on a pitch count that increases by five each weekend. Still, that kind of fastball injects some anticipation into Sunday afternoon’s series closer.


February 16, 2013

FIU wins season opener 10-4, second game 3-0

Nathan Burns single to right field scored Julius Gaines and Oscar Aguirre to break a 4-4 tie in the sixth, and RBI singles by Aguirre, Burns and Tyler Hibbert in the seventh sent the Panthers to a 10-4 win against Stony Brook in their season opener.

Ty Sullivan, who pitched four innings in relief of starter Michael Ellis, got the win. Half of Sullivan's six strikeouts came in the top of the seventh, when he sent Stony Brook side down on 10 pitches. Zach Sweety went two for three as did Gaines. Burns knocked in four runs.

In Game 2, a T.J. Shantz sacrifice fly drove in the first run of the game in the bottom of the 7th, then an eighth inning Burns single and Josh Anderson triple gave Mike Gomez a buffer zone for the ninth inning. After walking leadoff hitter Brett Tenuto, Gomez sent down the next three batters to preserve Mitchell Davis' win in the junior college tranfer's first FIU appearance.

The left field lights remained off the entire second game, but didn't become an issue.

The final game of the series starts at 1 p.m. Sunday.

February 15, 2013

Baseball season opener postponed until Saturday

Baseball season opener, 7:30. It's been postponed until Saturday, 2 p.m. with the second game Saturday 45 minutes after the finish of the first game.


Just out of view: the four fans not taking shelter in the concession stand area. Of course, three of the four were from the swim team.

Also at the rainout were Max Diaz (FIU '04) and Miri Diaz (FIU '11), husband and wife on the ninth anniversariy of their first date, which was an FIU baseball game.


Supposedly, they're hoping for an 8 p.m. start (Sheldon laugh).




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