July 03, 2015

Leavings...

Suddenly Sam in San Diego?

Kendall Rogers of D1baseball.com is reporting that FIU's pitching coach Sam Peraza will be headed to San Diego State as the Aztecs head baseball coach. Anybody who felt FIU underachieved the last two seasons before storming through this year's Conference USA tournament can't blame the arms. The pitchers provided what little consistency existed for FIU this season a year after setting Conference USA records for staff ERA and shutouts.

FIU's also posted the Compliance Director job on the NCAA website. I'll write more about this later, but Hank Harrawood's done an excellent job cutting the bumbling out of that department in his year and a half there. 

July 01, 2015

Whistle Blowers

When Cindy Russo retired after seemingly a century as FIU women's basketball head coach, she already counted as something of a dinosaur -- a female head coach at FIU. The hiring of Marlin Chinn as her replacement cemented Russo's brontosaurus status.

This article puts FIU's dearth of female head coaches in perspective. Only 29 of the 138 schools with FBS football or Big East basketball have a lower percentage of women coaching women than FIU's 30 percent. Of the 10 women's sports at FIU, only three have female head coaches and the school's getting three sports for two women -- Rita Buck-Crockett is the head coach for volleyball and sand volleyball. Katarina Petrovic coaches the tennis team.

A case-by-case look at FIU's women's teams coaches reminded me of the 1980s Boston Celtics, which often included three white guys among five starters. The bombastic declarations that this melanin split demonstrated racism in the Celtics organization were countered with, "OK, who do you not want to start? Perennial All-Star Larry Bird, perennial All-Star Kevin McHale or Danny Ainge, for whom every NBA coach would find a spot?"

Similar situation among FIU's women's teams. Randy Horner's turned FIU's swimming and diving team from what one former swimmer called "a glorified high school team" into one of the best mid-major programs in the nation. Before the last two disappointing seasons, FIU's most consistent winners played soccer under the direction of Thomas Chestnutt. Joe Vogel coaches golf. That covers FIU's last three conference championship programs before the baseball team battered Conference USA into submission in May.

Softball coach Gator Rebhan came recommended by some of his current players. Track & field and cross country's Ryan Heberling ascended to head coach of both programs off convenience and his work with FIU's women's throwers, the strongest part of the track program in recent years. As has been noted here often, the women's teams consistently perform well academically despite so many FIU female athletes growing up with English as a second or third language.

In the overall athletic department, coaches who have shown progress but yet to prove definitively they can get it done consistently -- football's Ron Turner, men's basketball's Anthony Evans, men's soccer's Scott Calabrese -- occupy jobs women's coaches won't get as things stand now.

And that's the legitimate beef women's coaches and their advocates have with the steady stream of men into jobs coaching women's teams. Nobody's truly an equal opportunity employer.

Pat Summitt racked up 1,098 wins over 38 years as Tennessee's women's basketball coach. If you sat on a pile of her credentials and honors, you do your best Mongo Santamaria on Shaq's head. Handling the Tennessee program from the days when she had to drive the van and wash the uniforms herself, Summitt's knowledge of running a successful college basketball program is oceanic. Tennessee reportedly twice approached Summitt about coaching the men's team.

Yet, you never heard of, say, Louisiana Tech, nosing around Pat Summitt about coaching its men's hoop team. But Tyler Summitt with two years as an assistant at Marquette and 23 chromosomes from his mother gets the women's basketball job at La Tech, where all the coaches of women's teams have a Y chromosome.

Can you imagine one of Mike Krzyzewski's daughters doing two years as an assistant men's coach at Butler then applying to be the head coach at FIU? Can you imagine one of Mike Krzyzewski's daughters getting the chance even to be an assistant at Butler?

Though I'm a black man with a daughter, I don't get crazy about the gender/race role model thing. It's too limiting. There's too much to be learned from too many people of all skin tones and genitalia. And if nobody who looks like you has achieved something before, I say to that person what my mother used to say to me: "Guess you'll have to be the first."

But what about when you don't even get the chance to be the first? Because there's too much to be learned from diverse voices, the reduced volume of female coach voices matters at FIU and elsewhere.

 

June 16, 2015

Report: Former FIU baseball player Lozano killed

A hit-and-run by a Toyota or Lexus SUV killed former FIU infielder Corey Lozano Sunday according to this report from Channel 25 in Palm Beach.

Lozano's FIU career, from 2005-08, put his name in the baseball program's record book beyond all-time roster. He played 216 games (sixth all-time), produced 250 hits (tied for fourth), 173 runs (sixth) and 44 doubles (seventh).

Anyone with any possible information on this, please contact Palm Beach Gardens police at 561-799-4406.

June 11, 2015

Going...

So, here's the final count for FIU in the Major League Baseball draft, at least, among those who've worn the blue and gold:

*Junior 1B/2B/SS Edwin Rios, sixth round, 192nd overall, Los Angeles Dodgers

*Junior righthanded pitcher Danny Dopico, 11th round, 322nd overall, Chicago White Sox

*Senior shortstop Julius Gaines, 33rd round, 995th overall, Seattle Mariners

*Junior righthanded pitcher Gianni Zayas, 35th round, 1,055th overall, Seattle Mariners (My mock draft had Zayas going 1,043rd. Can't imagine how he slipped...)

*Senior third baseman Josh Anderson, 38th round, 1,126th overall, Arizona Diamondbacks.

FOOTBALL

Punter/quarterback Luke Medlock came out of spring fourth at best on the quarterback depth chart behind sophomore Alex McGough, freshman Christian Alexander and redshirt freshman Bud Martin, who looks about 73 times better than he did a year ago. Former Homestead and Booker T. Washington quarterback Maurice Alexander expects to compete for a job, too, when he arrives in August.

Nobody who threw a pass for Fordham in 2014 remains on the 2015 roster. That's where Medlock landed as a transfer, the school announced Wednesday. Sam Medlock, a long-snapper, remains on the roster. Senior Jake Medlock, also a quarterback, transferred to Valdosta State for his senior year, 2014. 

June 10, 2015

Baseball Bits with Dopico & Julius

The Major League Baseball draft picked another Panther, righthanded relief pitcher Danny Dopico, Wednesday. He went in the 11th round, 322nd overall, to the Chicago White Sox. I almost put that in the headline just so I could use "Chisox."

Senior shortstop Julius Gaines was honored by Conference USA with one of the conference's Spirit of Service Awards. The honor shines a light on the athletes doing the best jobs of community service while also excelling academically and athletically. Gaines 500 volunteer hours led the baseball team and makes me wonder when he slept. He has a 3.63 grade point average as a recreation and sports management major while, of course, starting all but one game for the conference championship baseball team.

 

June 09, 2015

Dodger Blue Loves Edwin Rios

And so is Rios' current value set by t0he Los Angeles Dodgers drafting him in the sixth round. FIU's junior first baseman (and second baseman and outfielder) made First Team All-Conference USA this season after finishing third in the nation in home runs (18) and second in Conference USA in RBI (56).

June 01, 2015

Very Few Thoughts on Columbia 4, FIU 3

*Amazing how many balls well hit by FIU Sunday either died on the way to beyond the fence or nearly assaulted fielders, who used their gloves for run defense and self-defense. Junior first baseman Edwin Rios, in possibly his last game as a Panther, crushed three balls. One got dropped near the right field fence in the first inning, one got caught after a long ride to deep left center field and a third found Columbia counterpart Nick Maguire's glove.

*For the third consecutive game, FIU scored in the eighth inning. Had the Panthers scored two runs Sunday, as they did Friday night against the Hurricanes and Saturday afternoon against East Carolina, we might still be playing the afternoon game. And but for FIU doing what everybody does, a bigger inning might've been there.

In the eighth, down 4-2, senior Brian Portelli got a leadoff walk. Senior Josh Anderson singled. With first and second, nobody out, sixth in the order Sophomore JC Escarra was coming to the plate. Senior Julius Gaines was on deck. 

The book says have Escarra bunt to move the runners into scoring position. It's what coaches from Forest Manor to Marlins Park do in that situation. It's what FIU did Sunday. Escarra bunted the runners over, Gaines walked on four pitches. After Adam Cline took over from Columbia freshman reliever Harrisen Egly, a sacrifice fly scored Portelli and pinch hitter Spencer Levine grounded into a fielders choice.

As Escarra squared to bunt, I asked out loud in the press box: why? Why not let Escarra swing away? Why give Egly an out? Why not make him show he can still get a guy out?

Because that wasn't assured. Egly had retired only one of the previous five batters. He'd walked two. He''d gone to full counts on two. Freshman fissures? Just losing his stuff after two innings work? Whatever, FIU decided to give up an out to put runners in scoring position for Gaines, who was 0 for 11 in the regional. 

The four-pitch walk to Gaines, after which Egly got yanked, didn't make the bunt choice look any better. If Egly's going to attack anyone in that situation, it's a slumping singles hitter he's facing with one out. Get him and Columbia's a long way to escaping the inning. Egly came close to the plate on maybe one pitch to Gaines. My 96-year-old grandmother could've stood on the Metrorail tracks and called those pitches.

Not saying Escarra definitely would've gotten a hit. He'd grounded out against Egly in the sixth and was 0 for 3 for the day. But, with the pitcher starting to fall apart, I kind of like Escarra's chances to do something positive that didn't involve an out: walk, hit, get hit.

*These last two weeks helped baseball coach Turtle Thomas not just keep his job for another year, maybe earned him an extension, but also got him $6,000 in bonuses: $2,000 for winning Conference USA, $2,000 for participating in an NCAA Regional and $2,000 for a team 2013-14 APR over 925.

Earlier this season, when FIU got ranked in the Baseball America Top 25, Thomas received an extra $2,000. The baseball program overall gets $5,000 in extra retail product from Adidas for winning Conference USA.

*Speaking of Adidas, in the regional, using Adidas bats solely, FIU managed seven runs and 20 hits in three games. Now, certainly, the Former Sunblazers faced better pitching in Coral Gables than they did at the Conference USA tournament they treated like the Baseball Furies. Still an interesting contrast.

 

 

May 31, 2015

Very Few Quick Thoughts on FIU 2, East Carolina 0

*Saturday counts as karma for sophomore pitcher Chris Mourelle.

Too much of this season, Mourelle's received less support than a single mama with a deadbeat daddy. We've discussed the lack of offensive support. Occasionally, the defense doesn't help him either, especially on the FIU dirt that combines the cement hardness of 1970s artificial turf with the randomness of a natural field. That's a problem for a guy like Mourelle, who has the fewest strikeouts per inning of any FIU regular pitcher, but keeps opponents banging out a stream of grounders.

(Always makes me think of 1976 Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones, who played with Dave Winfield and a young Ozzie Smith on some otherwise bad, bland San Diego Padres teams. I used to cringe when I'd see Jones throwing at my beloved Big Red Machine, which he reduced to working out the Padres infield for nine innings.)

Sunday, Mourelle got defensive help, not harm. In the sixth inning, Josh Anderson made a nice pickup and throw of a bunt that successfully moved the runners over. But without that slightly off balance throw, East Carolina has bases loaded, no outs and maybe Mourelle doesn't get out of the inning. The sliding catches by Zack Soria and Jack Schaaf in the fifth and ninth innings kept runs off the board also.

In all, no errors and no walks. The only gift East Carolina got was a hit batsman by Mourelle.

*FIU needs to visit Miss Rudolph to get that lefty voodoo removed. As soon as East Carolina brought in freshman righty Joe Ingle to relieve senior lefthander Reid Love, I thought, "Game." Sure enough, the Panthes drove in the necessary runs when Ingle left a couple of pitches higher than he wanted.

At least an emergency trip to any chicken killers won't be necessary late Sunday afternoon. If the Panthers win Sunday afternoon, they'll face Hurricanes righthander Enrique Sosa Sunday night. 

*FIU used only four pitchers Friday and Saturday and haven't allowed a run in 16 consecutive innings. The Former Sunblazers' preserved their arm arsenal about as well as they could for coming out of the losers bracket and needing three wins over two days.

*Columbia's played two marathon games that of little note otherwise. FIU's played two swift games, one that drew the best crowd of the regional thus far, the other being the best game. Just based on that, the officially impartial press box -- and people who like to read game stories in their morning print newspaper -- might share a few quiet smiles if FIU's the team that comes back to play the Sunday night 7 p.m. game.

I always love a little slow Ray on Sunday mornings...

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2015

Very Few Quick Thoughts on UM 6, FIU 2

*Senior shortstop Julius Gaines is a man.
In the midst of the worst first inning since the Bad News Bears lost their opener to the Denny's-sponsored Yankees -- two errors defensively, hitting into a double play offensively -- Gaines refused to wallow in self-pity, self-flogging or just self. He went to the mound to steady freshman pitcher Andres Nunez by telling him, basically, don't let my struggles mess up your game.

Afterwards, in a postgame media session he could've avoided if he chose (or coach Turtle Thomas chose for him), Gaines said exactly what most present and paying attention had to think after the four-run first: Nunez started off throwing well. FIU should've been out of that inning with little or no damage. The errors extended things into the badlands.

*East Carolina used five pitchers in losing to Columbia Friday afternoon. FIU used two.

*Nunez allowed one extra base hit. Once his curve got going, he confounded Hurricanes hitters. They didn't hit him hard at all. The decision to start him produced plenty of "Huh?" but with a little more defensive help, he'd have given FIU a pitching gem instead of a rock.

*You won't get that kind of THE-place-to-be energy for every FIU-Hurricanes regular season game, especially if the teams play more often than every four score and seven (minus four score) years ago. But, how could anybody at Mark Light Friday night not want two or three games a year with even half that atmosphere? It clearly demonstrated that whatever issues prevent these teams from playing yearly count as high school clique-type pettiness unworthy of grown folks making six figures a year. To paraphrase Cordelia Chase, get over it -- embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet or go out back and punch everybody's accents out of them.
Then come back and get this thing going again.

 

May 27, 2015

APR, Adidas, Athletics Cash

As the baseball team practiced (with adidas bats -- more on that later), the 2013-14 Academic Progress Rate numbers dropped. Not literally, but in the modern popular music vernacular.

Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale concerned African-American women and early 1990s relationships, not APR. But, it does tend to describe FIU around this time of the year. It's entirely possible one of the breezes I felt at the baseball stadium today came from the department exhaling over an APR report without any red flags or even yellow flags.

Men's track (indoor and outdoor), women's track, volleyball, softball, golf, women's cross country each registered perfect single-year APRs of 1000. Golf owned the lone perfect multiyear APR.

Proving that bad APR falls somewhere between tires and herpes in durability, men's basketball came in with the lowest multiyear APR, 879. That's still represents progress from 858 in 2011-12 and 866 in 2012-13 and allows basketball to proceed penalty free for the first time since the Richard Pitino-coached season of 2012-13.

Multiyear APR

Golf 1000

Women's basketball 995

Women's cross country 987

Tennis 982

Men's cross country 977

Women's outdoor track 977

Women's indoor track 975

Swimming & Diving 973

Volleyball 973

Softball 971

Men's soccer 970

Women's soccer 969

Men's outdoor track 958

Men's indoor track 956

Baseball 938

Football 933

Men's Basketball 879

2013-14 Single Year APR

Men's indoor track 1000

Women's indoor track 1000

Women's outdoor track 1000

Men's outdoor track 1000

Women's cross country 1000

Volleyball 1000

Golf 1000

Softball 1000

Women's soccer 979

Women's basketball 967

Swimming & Diving 962

Tennis 955

Football 935

Men's basketball 933

Men's Soccer 932

Baseball 931

BASEBALL

Businesses show love by showing material and money. As detailed here in the February post "Getting Dressed," the FIU athletic team Adidas loves most is baseball. No other program gets the amount of equipment under Adidas' agreement with FIU Athletics that baseball does. No other FIU head coach gets $4,000 of free product annually as FIU's baseball coach does.

According to Camp Mitch sources, baseball's love of its Adidas clothes and gear didn't extend to the bats. So FIU brought other brands along with Adidas to the plate throughout the season.

Apparently, somebody at Adidas noticed FIU's bat diversity as the Panthers battered Conference USA tournament opponents. That's not a problem unless there's a clause in the agreement between the school and the athletic wear company stating "each Sport...shall exclusively use or wear Adidas products whenever School's athletic teams are playing one of the Sports (including games and practice sessions)..." and that failure to do so constitutes a material breach of contract.

FIU swung Adidas bats at practice Wednesday and you can bet they'll do so this weekend in Coral Gables.

MONEY

USA Today's annual college athletics finances report demonstrated little of surprise beyond Oregon taking over the Total Revenue title from Texas.

Of the 230 schools ranked, FIU placed 90th in total revenue ($28,104,962), 92nd in total expenses ($27,542,910), 16th in subsidy ($22,540,365) and 36th overall, second to Eastern Michigan among FBS football schools, in percentage of total revenue that comes from subsidies (80.2%).

FORMER FOOTBALL

Click here to see the current real world job of former FIU running back Darian Mallary.

 

May 25, 2015

Friday Night (at Mark) Light; MacLaren Finishes T25

The NCAA didn't overthink this one.

FIU, which started the season ranked in some national baseball Top 25s and played like it over the last week in the Conference USA tournament, gets its first shot at the Hurricanes since 2008 in the NCAA tournament's Coral Gables Regional: Friday, 7 p.m., on Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park.

The Hurricanes come into the double elimination regional as the No. 5 national seed with a 44-14 record. FIU, 29-29, rolled up 11 runs per game in the conference tournament against some redoubtable pitching.

GOLF

Meghan MacLaren moved up four spots to finish in a tie for 25th at the NCAA Women's Golf Championship. MacLaren's 2-over 74 final round Monday gave her a 13-over 301 for the tournament.

Closing Strong

I thought I saw a finishing kick with Juan Pablo Montoya surviving a terrible start and torn up wing to win the Indianapolis 500. Montoya ran third in that regard to some athletic types from Camp Mitch.

An FIU baseball team that didn't seem to have much chemistry or gumption all season showed it in beating Rice twice when it needed to just to get into the tournament and survive the first round of the Conference USA tournament. Then, they looked like the Big Blue & Gold Machine -- a .370 team batting average, 44 runs in four games -- as they blasted through the tournament to their first conference title since the 2010 Sun Belt championship, possibly saving coach Turtle Thomas' job in the process.

What a storybook finish for senior Josh Anderson after a tough testicle injury (is there any other kind?) earlier this year: hitting .467 with three homers and nine RBI.

So, now everybody waits for lunch to find out of FIU stays local to face the rivals in Coral Gables they never play or head for somewhere like Louisiana for the NCAA Regional.

In women's golf, junior Meghan MacLaren as she did in the Conference USA meet, scorched her third round with an even par 72, jumping 24 spots up the NCAA Women's Division I Championships leaderboard into a tie for 29th. Then, she beat Tulane's Gemma Drybaugh in a playoff for the ninth and final individual position that keeps her playing Monday.

 

May 19, 2015

Rios, Portelli, Dopico All-C-USA Cats

A little baseball before I go watch some baseball on vacation...

Junior Edwin Rios led Conference USA in home runs (18), RBI (55) and slugging percentage (.633) while hitting .314 overall. That's why Rios made First Team all-conference, the lone FIU player to do so.

No Panther hit better than senior outfielder Brian Portelli's .336 average. Junior reliever Danny Dopico piled up 49 strikeouts in only 39.1 innings with a 1.60 earned run average. Both made Second Team all-conference.

FIU opens Conference USA tournament play against top-seeded Rice Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2015

Gaines All-Academic; FIU Has C-USA's Fastest Man

Yeah, I know this comes late. After dealing with the major job changes now customary when I cover the Marlins and get a lightning fast game, I exhaled into vacation mode (it's late May).

So I didn't get up last night that junior Alton Eliphar, the fifth-seeded finalist, provided FIU's highlight of the Conference USA track & field championships by winning the 100 meters in 10.38. Or that junior Jaylaan Slaughter's 1:00.97 in the 400-meter hurdles got her a second, the weekend's best placement for the FIU women. Phillicia Fluellen's 20-foot, 2 1/2-inch long jump was good for third.

FIU coach Ryan Heberling confirmed what the results sheet suggested when they didn't include, among others, junior long jumper/triple jumper Marcus Ghent, throwers junior Miriam Pierre and senior Raqurra Ishmar -- injuries hit some FIU strengths. Both men's and women's teams finished last in their respective team standings.

BASEBALL

FIU senior leadoff hitter and shortstop Julius Gaines' 3.63 grade point average put him on the Conference USA All-Academic Team, announced Monday.  Gaines finished the regular season hitting .266 with 22 RBI.

The baseball team faces No. 1 seed Rice in the first round of the Conference USA baseball tournament Wednesday.

 

May 16, 2015

More Rice For Baseball

This is why you take care of business early.

Saturday's pair of losses to Rice dropped FIU to No. 8 in Conference USA, but, thanks to Friday's win and a series win at Marshall, no farther.

So the Panthers get into the conference tournament and open Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. against...No. 13-ranked and tournament top seed Rice, against which FIU won two of 12 games over the last four seasons. But, FIU beat Rice when it needed Thursday so Wednesday isn't exactly The Charge of the Light Brigade.

 

May 15, 2015

Whew

 

FIU avoided the indignity of missing the Conference USA tournament by taking care of its business in the first of the three-game season-ending series with No. 13 Rice. An 11-1 win, FIU's second against Rice in the last 10 games, finished the job with a flourish. Junior Edwin Rios clobbered another home run, drove in three runs and scored four.

The last two games will be for seeding position in the tournament, which will be next week in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Panthers remain alive.

Not everyone got out of Thursday so fortunate. RIP B.B. King.

 

 

May 12, 2015

On the Beach

Can a bunch of Owls put a Turtle in jeopardy of the FIU sharks?

I'm hearing two things about the future of FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas.

The First: he's safe. An FIU collapse against Rice this weekend might raze the season by keeping the Panthers out of the Conference USA tournament but won't damage the program foundation. Thomas' contract runs out at the end of the 2016 season, anyway.

Also Heard: a movement whipped up by one significant South Florida business and political figure and one significant baseball figure desires Thomas' dismissal. That's in addition to the FIU followers disenchanted with a program heading toward its second losing season in three years despite being a Division I program in one of the nation's most talent rich areas.

Despite FIU baseball completely escaping disappointment since NCAA appearances in 2010 and 2011, Thomas' seat remained room temperature. To begin, that made economic sense. Thomas' contract states that firing him without cause -- and disappointing seasons or low level NCAA violations of practice time one year don't count as cause -- means he gets the contract balance of his base salary.

Now, that's a relatively minor hit by Division I athletic department standards, just over $104,000. That turns into a major hit if, say, you're an oversubsidized athletic department faced with funding the full cost of attendance for your scholarship athletes next fall. That's the nut facing Conference USA schools beginning in 2015-16 and has FIU looking for revenue streams, creeks, trickles, spit. I won't be surprised if I see someone in one of those blue Adidas shirts with the snarly feline trying to move stuff on Hardcore Pawn

Money should keep Thomas in place until the end of his contract.

Now, in a nod to the baseball team that might be busing from Hattiesburg for the Conference USA tournament back to Miami...

 

 

 

 

May 10, 2015

On the Sunny Sunday Side of the Street...

FIU baseball showed Sunday it's not tired of this season just yet.

Against Alabama-Birmingham Sophomore pitcher Chris Mourelle gave up only one hit, one walk, no runs and struck out six in seven innings. Exceptional, yes, but on this year's Mourelle Scale it's Grass is Still Green, Dog Bites Man and Law & Order Reruns at 6 p.m. on Some Channel. Mourelle went into Sunday underwater at 5-6, but most of that debt's not on his side of the ledger.

The difference in FIU's third Sunday conference win this season: home runs by Edwin Rios, Jack Schaaf and Brian Portelli. Thirteen hits overall and seven runs in a 7-1 rout that, combined with other Conference USA results, sets FIU up to get a spot in the conference tournament with just a win. Or maybe not even that.

FIU sits tied for seventh with Old Dominion, so, technically, eighth, two games ahead of Western Kentucky, Marshall and Charlotte. A single win at Rice would put FIU into the tournament, barring a sweep by Western Kentucky alone or a three-way tie.

The only downside is that one win might prove tougher than Houston's Fifth Ward. Rice, the preseason conference favorite, has won 11 of its last 12 after sweeping FAU this weekend in the Owlmen Showdown. In nine games over the last three seasons against Rice, FIU's gone 1-8.

But, hey, all they probably need is one next week because they got one Sunday.

Saturday Blue (Baseball) and Gold (Golf)

An even par 71 final round moved junior Meghan MacLaren up to a tie for seventh at 7-over 220 in the NCAA golf St. George Regional and qualified her for the NCAA Championship May 22-27 at Bradenton's The Concession Golf Club. 

After a double bogey on the par-4, 343-yard 13th, MacLaren came home birdie, par, par, birdie, par to get back down to 7-over. That showed an upper echelon golfer's resiliency, much as the entire round did after the second round 6-over 77 that dropped her to 15th. MacLaren finished second among the golfers in the regional as individuals to earn a spot at the NCAA Championship as a solo player.

Whatever her finish over in Bradenton, it'll end one of the best seasons by an FIU athlete in 2014-15.

Speaking of season endings, Sunday afternoon should show us how badly the baseball team wants its season to continue or if they're only interested in keeping the party going if someone else does it for them.

Saturday's 5-3 loss to Alabama-Birmingham dropped FIU to eighth when Old Dominion beat Louisiana Tech. FIU sits just one game ahead of Charlotte and Marshall. FIU holds the head-to-head two-team tie tiebreakers on Charlotte and Marshall. But going into next week's three-game series at Rice with anything less than eighth place with a one-game lead on ninth is just playing with fire -- it's cooking bacon naked over an open flame. 

On the schedule, Marshall's the bigger worry for FIU. The baseball Thundering Herd finishes its series against a fading Western Kentucky Sunday and closes the regular season next week with three games against playing-for-pride Louisiana Tech. Charlotte has Southern Mississippi today and Texas-San Antonio for three games next week. 

With the way today's result sets up next week, no matter the Sunday result, the Panthers effort will show their desire.

 

May 04, 2015

What FIU Baseball Should Tell Middle Tennessee...

 

While FIU treads water, losing two of three weekly because Panther bats rest on the Christian sabbath (2-6 on Sunday in Conference USA play), Middle's been watching the Panthers' back by keeping their competitors back. If not for a surprisingly strong conference season from the Blue Raiders, FIU's chances of making the Conference USA tournament would sit at the somebody-kill-a-chicken stage instead of tied for sixth with Alabama-Birmingham.

This weekend, Middle swept Western Kentucky, leaving the Hill People on the outside for now, in ninth and two games behind FIU. The Hill People went two for three at Camp Mitch, including an embarrassing Sunday run rule win. You can find Old Dominion, another team Middle swept, tied with Western after taking two of three from FIU this weekend. The current eighth place team, Charlotte, got swept by Middle. So did UAB.

So Middle won all 12 games against FIU's peers in the conference standings. And, the Panthers should thank God and Conference USA scheduling lords that Middle's the one conference team FIU doesn't play this season.

Tied for sixth sounds more secure than it is. The FIU-UAB knot leads Charlotte by one game and the Western-Old Dominion knot by two. That's five teams going for three slots.

 

UAB can do the most to help itself, coming to FIU this week and Old Dominion the following week. The importance of this weekend's series to FIU gets enhanced by the following week's series, a trip to perennial C-USA power Rice. A series loss to UAB, especially via sweep, means the Panthers better be the Impossible Missions Force at Rice.

That is, unless Charlotte face plants against Southern Miss and UTSA. UAB closes with Old Dominion, which plays Louisiana Tech next week. Western ends with Marshall and FAU.

It's entirely possible FIU can muddle along and get into the tournament taking only two of six. But, like most jobs, better to do it your daggone self than relying on someone else to take care of your business while taking care of theirs.

 


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