FIU outfielder Pablo Bermudez was name Sun Belt Conference Co-player of the Year Tuesday. Bermudez hit .380 in 208 at bats, with 32 RBI, 55 runs, 17 stolen bases, 16 doubles and a team-high 41 walks. Bermudez shares the award with Troy's Adam Bryant.
Bermudez and third baseman Jeremy Patton were named to the All-Sun Belt First Team. Pitcher Phil Haig and first baseman Mike Martinez were named to the second team.
News and notes
FIU sophomore Jabari Henry helped the East team defeat the West team at the Sun Belt's annual Family night home run derby. Henry hit 12 homers to lead the East 48-37. Video below
FIU earned some of it's highest scores ever in the seventh-annual Academic Progress Rate announced by the NCAA on Tuesday.
Of FIU's 17 teams, 16 squads received scores above the required four-year score of 925. The men's basketball team raised its score from 886 in 2008-09 to 910 this year, it's highest four-year score ever. Even though the men's basketball team was below the required NCAA bench-mark of 925, the Panthers will not be penalized because they have shown consistent improvement.
The football team received it's highest four-year APR score with a 936. The Panthers, who improved 30 points from last year, have steadily improved under coach Mario Cristobal.
“Over the past four years, the FIU Athletic Department has demonstrated a proactive approach towards improving our APR scores,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said, in a statement. “We are starting to see the results of all of the hard work put in by our student-athletes, coaches and academic support staff. Our focus has been the commitment towards the academic support of our student-athletes. We have worked very hard to raise the bar, not only on the field, but more importantly in the classroom and this year’s scores are evidence to that.”
The APR allows universities to understand each team's academic achievements by tracking athletes on scholarship each semester. APR takes into account eligibility, performance in the classroom, retention and graduation. The APRs are four-year averages based on scores from 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years. School can be awarded up to a 1,000 points. Each sports program is rated individually and schools do not receive an over score on performance.
The Golden Panthers' women's tennis team scored a 1,000 - the only program in the school to receive a perfect score. Softball had a 2009-10 score of a 1,000 but a four-year average score of 978. Five of FIU's women's teams (including softball and tennis) received 2009-10 academic scores of 1,000. On the men's side, baseball had the highest score with a 954.
The Golden Panthers (37-17-1, 20-9-1 SBC) moved up to No. 22 in the Baseball America Top 25 Poll. The Panthers jumped two spots from No. 24.
USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll: FIU received nine votes but is not ranked.
NCAA RPI: FIU is ranked 32 up from 34.
NCBWA (National College Baseball Writers Association: FIU received votes but are not ranked.
The Panthers, fresh-off a series win versus rival FAU, take on Arkansas State on Wednesday in the first-round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Louisiana. The Panthers, who have won 18 out of their last 20 games, tied 8-8 with Arkansas State the last time the two teams meet earlier this month.
I posted a few tweets below from FIU players and the SBC:
If all goes to plan, FIU basketball essentially wrapped up its 2011 recruiting effort this week when Memphis-based KeDorian Sullivan signed a letter of intent with the Golden Panthers.
Sullivan, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound swingman from Southwind (Tenn.) High School, becomes the third high school player to ink with FIU.
Darnell Harris, a small forward from Christian Life Center Academy (Texas), is expected to snap up the Panthers’ fourth and final scholarship should he qualify academically.
In the heavily-publicized world of college recruiting, Sullivan is a relative unknown.
Last summer, SlamOnline.com wrote of Sullivan: “[He] might not be a big name nationally, but his high motor, slashing ability, finishing skills, activity on the boards, tough D and ability to excel in transition might change his low-key status as a recruit in the near future.”
Elgin Hilliard confirmed to me Wednesday night that he is "100 percent certain" and is excited about coming to FIU in the future.
"It's a local school. A lot of ours players from Northwestern went there," he said. "I want to stay as close to home as possible."
According to ESPN's Corey Long, Northwestern junior quarterback Elgin Hilliard committed to FIU on Wednesday.
"I committed to FIU today," Hilliard told ESPN. "It's close to home and I think it's the right situation for me to go in and compete."
Hilliard will take the helm for the Bulls next season replacing Teddy Bridgewater. Hilliard does not have a ton of experience at QB, backing up Bridgewater for the last two years. Hilliard is listed at 6-3, 180 pounds.
FIU outfielder Pablo Bermudez was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the week on Monday. Bermudez batted .526, with six runs, six RBI and two home runs in the Panthers' three-game sweep of MTSU this past weekend.
The Panthers, riding atop a 12 game-winning streak, next face Stetson Wednesday on the road.
The FIU baseball team completed a three-game sweep of Middle Tennessee State University on Sunday. The Panthers beat MTSU 9-5 to win their 12th consecutive contest. Right fielder Yoandy Barroso led the FIU offense going 2 for 4 with four RBI. Designated hitter Rudy Flores was 2 for 4 with three RBI. Starting pitcher Kyle Fitzpatrick pitched 4.2 innings giving up six hits and four runs. Mason McVay (1-1) recorded the win.
FIU has seven games remaining before the Sun Belt Conference tournament in late May. The Panthers next take on Stetson on the road on Tuesday.
Riding atop an eight-game winning streak, FIU takes on Florida Gulf Coast University at home tonight. Not really doing a traditional live blog but I was planning on giving some updates and any developments.
FIU leads it 5-0 in the top of the third inning. FIU starter Logan Dodds has pitched well, giving up only two hits through three full innings.
The Panthers (28-16) took a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after T.J. Shantz hit a two-out grand slam.
Eagles get three runs in the top of the fourth. FGCU's Zach Maxfield hit a towering shot to left field for the Eagles' first run of the game. With the bases loaded, the Eagles scored two more runs after an error on the FIU defense.
Yoandy Barroso hits homer to left field.
Panthers have scored three runs this inning and still have not recorded an out.
Panthers eventually scored eight runs in the fourth inning. Game is 14-4 FIU.
FIU's spring game was weeks ago, and training camp is still another three months off. Perfect time to talk football, right?
The Sun Belt thought so, organizing a conference call with the league's nine coaches for reporters Monday morning. Mario Cristobal held court, and while there really was no news broken, here's a taste of what he had to say ...
On what the team accomplished during spring practice: “We identified a couple of areas where we needed to improve drastically in. We learned we can be a lot more physical, and a lot more athletic. We certainly feel like we’ve enhanced our secondary, and enhanced our quarterback corps. We came out relatively injury-free. We have a fair amount of upperclassmen coming back. There’s a lot of excitement based on achievements of last season.
If there were position battles to watch: “There’s spots all over. It’s hard to pick out one or two that are the focal points of everything. We worked on third downs, red zone efficiency. You’re putting guys in high-pressure situations with a lot of live action out there. A lot of tackling. Made the most of what we were allowed by the NCAA. Most of these battles will be solved during two-a-days. We feel like we do have more depth than in the past.”
On how the program will sustain its success from 2010: “We kind of think it not being a one-hit wonder. That was a four-year process that culminated in something very positive. We think we’ll continue to add layers to that, with the right type of character kids. Obviously, Troy has done a phenomenal job of setting the bar high, I think what everybody is starting to recognize is the Sun Belt conference is a good conference, and is gaining momentum. Look at respective recruiting backyards, you’ll see teams continually improving, and we’ll start to make a run at these BCS opponents, year in and year out. It’s going to be up in the air. Everybody has a chance of it.”
If he felt some of the Sun Belt players were overlooked in the NFL Draft: “They might have been, but it’s just like recruiting. It’s not how you go in, but how you come out. Plus, you see some of the rising seniors this year, you’ll see that number [of drafed players] increase significantly over the next couple of years. I think it was a positive day, and I would note that the Sun Belt had more guys drafted than the MAC.”
On Anthony Gaitor going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “Obviously, he’s a great football player. For four years, he’s been an impact guy. He makes coaching a whole bunch of fun.”
Back for one more day, but it's the longest day of them all, with four rounds of picking ahead of us, beginning at noon.
It's also the most important day for Anthony Gaitor and Greg Ellingson, the two FIU players most likely to be taken this year. Gaitor likely won't last long today (he's expected to go in Round 4), while Ellingson seems destined for the latter part of the day.
I'm double-dipping with Heat today, but I'll do my best to stay on top of the developments.
As always, you can join the conversation here or on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.
As promised, here's the live blog for Day 2 of the NFL Draft. For FIU fans, there's an outside chance Anthony Gaitor will go in the latter part of the evening, but I'll provide updates for guys from the state schools.
With all the craziness surrounding the NFL's labor dispute this week, let's not overlook the fact that for 254 college juniors and seniors, a lifetime dream will come true this weekend during the three-day NFL Draft.
If draft experts are correct, Anthony Gaitor and Greg Ellingson will be two of those 254. The FIU stars are both expected to go Saturday, during Rounds 4 through 7.
I've been tasked with writing about the state schools not named UM, UF and FSU, so Friday and Saturday will be a busy time in these parts.
I'll have a live blog Friday beginning at 6 p.m. and Saturday at noon. You can join the conversation here or on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.
Q: This time next week, you could be a member of an NFL team. How stoked are you?
ELLINGSON: “It’s pretty exciting. I’m trying not to look too much into it. Teams have interest in me, asking what my draft day phone number is. It’s exciting, but I’m not trying to get too hyped up about it. If it happens, I’ll be super excited.”
What teams have called you in for a visit?
“The Dolphins, Bucs, and Jaguars. They went really well. The Jags, I met pretty much everyone. I didn’t do that with every team. I think there were only two other receivers they called in, so as long as I impressed them better than they did, I’ve got a good shot.
Did they have you work out?
“I didn’t with the Jags, but did with the Bucs and Dolphins. They had me do some routes, do some drills. The Dolphins also had be do some special teams stuff. Then I went inside and they had me draw some plays on the board to see what offense is like.”
Do you think it’ll be a challenge going from a spread offense to a pro-style?
“Not really. Each team is a little different. Being with a spread offense, it helps out, because I know my coverages. I know how to react if the defense rolls its coverages. They know that I’m an NFL-ready guy. If you’re an NFL ready guy, you’re able to convert your route. That’s something we did here.”
I understand you’re from Tampa. What would it be like to go play for them?
“It was cool to go work out for the Bucs. I went to a lot of the games. Went to the games when they looked like Creamsicles. I became a Miami fan being here for four years, and ideally staying in Florida, would be great. But I think my best position would be with Jags. They don’t have too much depth at receiver. The top two guys are set, but the three, four and five spots are open. I want to be able to play, not just be on the bench.”
If you don’t get drafted, it sounds like you’d have a good chance to catch on as a rookie free agent. But you wouldn’t be able to sign with a team until the lockout ends, right?
“My agent was explaining all that for me. It’s complicated. I’m just going to stay working out, stay in shape. I’ll be happy as long as I get a chance.”