February 15, 2015

Saturday Stinkers (except for Softball)

Today's blog post brought to you by...


The Pelonis Space Heater! Yes, this little baby, brought by me to Saturday's game from the home it's served since the 2009-10 winter days that dipped into the 30s, warmed fingers still chilled from Friday night at first pitch Saturday. The base temperature actually was cooler Saturday, but Friday night's wind dropped the late game temperature from the 50s to much lower.

(One swimmer from a cold weather climate told me she left Friday's game in the fourth inning. Too cold.)

Anyway, I came ready for Saturday. FIU? Nyet. Not the women's basketball team (79-56), not the men's basketball team (75-42...what?), not the baseball team, which went face down 9-2 and never challenged.

Head coach Turtle Thomas called it a game you "flush and move on." He criticized freshman pitcher Garrett Cave for falling too far behind in counts, the defense for committing seven errors, the batters for being too passive at the plate. On this last count, the best example came during garbage time, the eighth inning. Three consecutive hitters, with men on first and second, looked at strike three.

At least the softball team split, losing to Memphis 2-0 before coming from behind to mercy rule LIU 12-4 in the FIU Invitational. Freshman shortstop Ashley Balans from Plantation American Heritage made her first college home run a grand slam. Gabriella Spallone doubled in two runs. Stephanie Texeira went two for three. FIU entered the fourth inning down 4-3 and left it up 10-4. 

February 14, 2015

Opening Night

Two Whoppers -- no tomato, no mayo, definitely no cheese -- a cup of tea and a few The Big Bang Theory episodes later, I can sit down to say about the FIU baseball season opener...well, that's one time performance matched anticipation, huh?

FIU's Williams Durruthy walked into the dream situation for a kid playing by himself in a yard or sandlot -- charged with holding the gates of a one-run lead with the bases loaded and one out. Durruthy lived the dream. He got Andrew Lee swinging and Benito Santiago (yes, son of Benito Santiago) looking. FIU wins 4-3.

OK, nine errors says sloppier than seconds (of Manwich). One of those boo-boos, Tennessee's Steven Kane firing a pickoff move farther from first base than he ever was from the plate, birthed the winning run by allowing Jack Schaaf to score from third. Somehow, omnipresence of maladroit play failed to create an aura that causes one to call up the phrase "comedy of errors."

Lots of quick hits that didn't make my game story, a piece banged out quickly in my car after the game ran up against deadline and I'm not going into the press box situation.

FIU pitcher Danny Dopico faced seven batters and struck out six, including four in a row to end the eighth inning. Yes, four strikeouts in one inning. That came after he struck out the last two batters in the seventh inning after coming in with the bases loaded, one out and game tied 3-3. In the eighth, Jeff Moberg got hit by a pitch to start the eigth. Dopico icily mowed down David Houser, A.J. Simcox and Chris Hall.  After catcher JC Escarra dropped the third strike to Chris Hall, Hall zipped down to first as if to get there not just before Escarra found the baseball, but before the baseball gods changed their mind. He didn't need to rush. Dopico struck out Derek Lance to keep FIU up 4-3 going into the ninth.

Tennessee shortstop A.J. Simcox dropped a third inning blooper from FIU's Brandon Cody that should've been a double play ball. Simcox spent the rest of the night atoning by taking away the left side of the infield past the pitcher's mound from FIU. Two of his diving stops flatly robbed FIU of hits with runners on base.

Tennessee's Christin Stewart had a Frank Robinson night -- hit by a pitch twice, tripled in Tennessee's first run. Actually, Stewart doubled to right and Brandon Cody launched an ICBM that might've nailed Stewart at third had it not nailed umpire Arthur Thigpen in the back shortly before arrival.

When it comes to umpire's bad calls affecting an inning, I'm usually of the "hard to screw a man who doesn't put himself in position to be screwed" school.

FIU went into the game with open minds on the Friday night starter and closer positions. Cody Crouse's audition for the former should get him more than a call back -- five innings, scattering six hits, one earned run, a walk and six strikeouts. On the other hand, Robby Kalaf's first audition for the latter...NEXT. Protecting a one-run lead in the ninth, coaches want pitching versions of Miles Davis that sooth and relax. Kalaf went Coltrane, injecting tension by hitting the leadoff guy and later throwing a wild pitch that moved two runners into scoring position. That set up Durruthy's Batman moment, which jacked up the entertainment value. Coaches prefer boring at that moment.

Crouse's second run never should've scored, by the way. Freshman Andres Nunez pitched wonderfully except for a spaz moment on his third batter. After hustling forward to field a bunt on the fly, Nunez turned to third to double the helpless runner. No need to rush. Nunez rushed. And couldn't have missed third base by more without aiming for first base, igniting enough anguished Spanish exclamations to fill the public forum part of a Hialeah city council meeting. Instead of a double play and out of the inning down 1-0, FIU trailed 2-0.

Nunez flat got rooked on a third strike call in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded, one out and FIU up 3-2. Whatever strike zone interpretation plate umpire Josh Miller used -- there were times last night Miller's strike zone seemed to start west of the middle of the plate and go about three feet toward the FIU dugout -- failed any decent eye test. Tennessee's Nick Senzel should've been walking back to the dugout, feeling some shame. Instead, a few pitches later, Senzel was promenading to first base with a walk that brought in the tying run.

Then again, the whole sequence doesn't happen if shortstop Julius Gaines doesn't flub what should've been an inning-ending double play ball two batters earlier. Hard smack but that's a play you need to believe your senior shortstop will make.

Back at it tonight with FIU sending freshman righty Garrett Cave against Tennessee junior lefthander Drake Owenby.

Same temps tonight so expect around 70 at first pitch, dipping to mid-50s by game's end. Last night, a good chunk of the crowd stood at the seventh inning stretch and stretched all the way to the exits and heated cars. Hope the concession stand has hot chocolate so The Herald's chocolate can buy that along with my colada.

February 13, 2015

Wanna Be Startin' Something...

The weekend and the FIU Invitational starts here at 4:30 Friday...

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Then continues there at 7 p.m. for those wishing to see a proper thrashing of Purdue. While that would be Friday night pizza to my personal soul, my professional body will be a few hundred yards south of there... IMG_20150212_134409

It's possible FIU's baseball bunch could be a better team than last year's, yet come out of the first two weeks with a losing record -- three games against Tennessee, one against Georgia Tech and Coastal Carolina each. All ranked or getting votes for being ranked. North Carolina State left 2014 with a winning overall record, 32-23, if only 13-17 in the ACC.

The Panthers believe they've got talent. But they don't know really what they've got.

"It's going to tell us a lot," senior third baseman Josh Anderson said of the first few weeks. "We're not sure what our starting lineup is going to be in the outfield because there's injuries. But we're going to see how we play together as a team because we lost a lot of key parts. We've put together a good pitching staff. We have some freshmen in the lineup, too, that haven't really seen D-1 baseball yet. But, it's usually good because it sharpens their awareness."

What would count as a successful season?

"Last year, we finished 36-20, which would be a respectable season in some people's eyes," Anderson replied. "But for me and for our coaching staff and for other seniors on the team like Julius (Gaines), we underachieved as a team. This year, a successful season would be winning the Conference tournament, making a regional and going to the College World Series. We have the team to do it. If we can stick together as a team and finish this year -- last year, we kind of crumbled in the last 10 games -- if we can finish without injury, we have the squad to do it."


A message board poster, in arguing that FIU Alumni Association President Frank Pena harbors a personal grudge with athletic director Pete Garcia, used a screen grab of a Facebook post picturing Pena, former Executive Director of Alumni Affairs/current Alumni Association Vice President Eddie Hondal and Pena's baby daughter. The message board poster redacted the kid's face, but still....

Seems like a line was crossed. Nobody should want discourse about a business or extracurricular activity to descend into posting photos of or taking shots at children, spouses, ex-spouses, that night's date, relatives or others unrelated to the point being discussed.

January 28, 2015

2 Panthers Preseason All-C-USA Baseball. And The Team Ranks...?

As we all know, three is a magic number. But it's two that's the operational number for FIU baseball in the preseason Conference USA coaches' rankings and all-conference team.

Two Panthers, sophomore pitcher Chris Mourelle and senior infielder Josh Anderson, made the preseason all-conference team. And FIU sits No. 2 in the preseason team rankings behind defending conference champion Rice, a unanimous pick to repeat.

Rice swept the preseason Player of the Year (senior catcher John Clay) and Pitcher of the Year (junior lefty Blake Fox) awards.

FIU opens the season Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. with the first of a three-game weekend series against Tennessee.

January 22, 2015

Football's 2015 FCS Victim; Baseball Timing

Needing an FCS punching bag to fill out the 2015 home schedule, FIU will bring in North Carolina-Central, which went 7-5 last year, 6-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, 0-1 vs. FBS (52-7 loss to East Carolina) and 0-1 vs. transitional FBS (40-28 loss to Charlotte).

NC-Central will be the only non-conference home game, a stark contrast to the four non-conference home games that opened the 2014 season. The four Conference USA home games will be decided once the league finishes the realignment caused by Alabama-Birmingham football's demise.


FIU will move its Saturday games back to 6 p.m. from 4 p.m. Smart move. It gives families time to finish their Saturday activities and errands and cuts the roasting time in the stands on sunny days.

January 21, 2015

Baseball on Fox

Conference USA just announced FIU's regular season finale, at defending conference champion Rice on May 3, will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports Networks.

By the way, the annual baseball Diamond Dinner, which will have Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson speaking and Miguel Cabrera appearing, will be on Feb. 7. Tickets still available. 

January 14, 2015

Miguel Cabrera at Diamond Dinner? And FIU Gets Some Juice


Men's basketball, vs. Marshall, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Men's basketball, vs. Western Kentucky, Saturday 6 p.m.

A Camp Mitch source says The Miguel Cabrera Foundation -- yes, the foundation of the future Triple Crown winner the Marlins traded away back in their more penurious days -- will sponsor the 2015 Diamond Dinner fund-raiser for the baseball and softball programs. Cabrera himself tentatively is scheduled to attend.

The Diamond Dinner, at the Graham Center Ballroom, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., will include Brooks Robinson as the this year's keynote speaker.


The athletic department's letting everyone know about their sponsorship deals these days. The latest is JuiceBlendz, a 10-year deal worth $345,000 according to the school (that's $34,500 per year, for those of you bad at moving decimal points).

Now, before you think that's straight cash, homey, it's signs online, at FIU Stadium, at Still Unsponsored FIU Arena; sample table space at some events; and in-game promotions.

Which reminds me, the $2.6 million five-year Adidas deal...

That breaks down to $520,000 per year. Talking with some folks who've lived with these numbers at the mid-major level, Adidas will devote about $155,000 per year to just the football team. And the FIU Stadium suite costs about $40,000.

So that's $195,000 right there, or about 37.5 percent of the yearly deal, leaving $325,000. There's also signs around Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium, Lime Court at Originally Sunblazer Arena and FIU Baseball Stadium as well as online advertising. Not exactly sure what that's worth, but after you subtract that, you get what's left over yearly for the other 17 sports.




December 18, 2014


Even with nine full time assistant coaches and some graduate assistants, even with a full reporting staff devoted only to chronicling football recruiting in a region where talent runs thicker than a Snickers, guys can get missed. Coaches tend to follow the best teams. Recruiting trackers tend to follow the coaches and the best teams.

That's how Edison safety Robert Knowles came into Thursday morning with no rating on any of the recruiting sites. Soon after 247Sports.com announced Knowles verbal commitment to FIU -- an actual BREAKING story as opposed to the BREAKING one that "announced" Central's Fermin Silva committed to FIU long after that had been reported -- a rating of three stars went up on the site. One of the sites ratings czars got around to looking at Knowles highlights.


I asked one of our guys about him. What I got back was that he hasn't seen Edison in two years because they don't play in many big games, but heard good things about Knowles.

If FIU gets Central's Anthony Jones, I wonder if they'd give him his first looks at wide receiver or running back. Jones starred at running back this year, but his recruiting position was wide receiver when Central stampeded people with Joe Yearby and one of Jones' cousins, Dalvin Cook.

For what it's worth, despite using different ways of ranking recruiting classes, the three sites I quote often all have FIU around the same place. Rivals.com has FIU fifth in Conference USA and 247Sports.com has FIU sixth. Scout.com has FIU eighth but does aggregate points total and is missing several verbal commits. All three sites rank FAU as C-USA's No. 1 2015 recruiting class based on commitments.


Kendall Rogers, now of D1baseball.com, reports that redshirt freshman lefthanded pitcher Chris Pelaez will transfer from LSU to FIU. Pelaez graduated from Florida Christian High.

December 04, 2014

Turner Talk Tidbits; Baseball Schedule

I talked with head football coach Ron Turner for about 45 minutes Thursday about the 2014 season and 2015 prospects. Nothing that'll register on the Richter Scale in the manner of 1964 Anchorage, Mike Richter or Pat Richter, but a few tidbits:

*Turner expects cornerback Richard Leonard to forgo the NFL Draft to return as a fifth-year senior. He said if Leonard got analyzed as a third-rounder or better, he'd encourage Leonard to enter the draft.

*Turner talked with Alabama-Birmingham coach Bill Clark Thursday morning. He said FIU might try to pick up some of the UAB players left without a program after UAB football's death on Tuesday, particuarly if there are any offensive or defensive linemen he feels can help FIU.

*There won't be any coaching staff changes initiated by him.

*He's happy with FIU's facilities, although he would like a grass practice field and he thinks that's in the works.

I'll transcribe everything over the next couple of days and post it here.


FIU gets to find out about itself quickly, hosting Tennessee Feb. 13-15 in a three-game set to open the season. The Volunteers went 31-23, 12-18 in the Southeastern Conference last season.

Other schedule highlights include a three-game series at FAU, April 10-12; a season-closing three-game series at defending Conference USA champion Rice; a first home conference series against Charlotte Mar. 20-22.


September 22, 2014

Charity Patches; Baseball Freshmen; Four-Letter Floor

FIU will join over 100 other FBS schools this Saturday in wearing a Coach to Cure MD patch to promote funding for Duchnne Muscular Dystrophy research.

You donate at the Coach to Cure site. You can even text a $5 donation to 90999.


Collegiate Baseball says FIU has the nation's No. 29 recruiting class. Among its Conference USA peers, that puts FIU second to Rice (No. 23).


If you click on the truck picture from two posts ago that shows the replacement floor being brought in, you can expand it to where "ANAHEIM" is easily visible along the side of the truck. Apparently, the floor got trucked all the way across the country from the home of the Anaheim Ducks, the Honda Center, or, colloquially, The Pond.

Here it is getting put down Monday afternoon



September 04, 2014


Miami's athletic Cold War thaws. South Florida sports Sadat will shake hands with Begin.

FIU and the University of Miami officially announce resumption of their muscular rivalry Friday morning. Football draws the most attention, of course. There's mutual benefit -- UM gets a home opponent other than Florida State or Virginia Tech that should draw something other than heat to Sun Life Stadium. FIU gets a guaranteed excellent crowd with a home game against UM, wherever the game's played. Both get a road game without all the road game travel expenses.

But extending the hugfest to other sports also can give everyone the warm streudel feeling.

Basketball: anything that puts a charge in college-affailiated basketball in South Florida should be pursued. The difference in the ACC and Conference USA matters none. You can put the UM in the ACC but you can't take the Hurricanes out of South Florida. Neither gender fills The Branch in Coral Gables. FIU improved its atmosphere and crowd last year, but still needs opponents with buzz included. I never understood UM's aversion to coming west.

Baseball: They recruit the same high talent area. The coaches don't like each other. Who's up first?

Women's soccer: No travel, a few bucks better at the gate, maybe a litle nastiness. The usual reasons...

Track & field/Swimming & Diving: Little in college sports provide the sustained sizzle with periodic intense jolts than a rivalry dual meet in these sports.

Sort of like the US vs. USSR on the track during The Cold War.

July 09, 2014

Aramis C-USA baseball's No. 1; FIU CBS Sports' No. 123

Conference USA awarded junior catcher Aramis Garcia its Player of the Year honor. Tuesday, Garcia completed a sweet sweep, being named Conference USA's Scholar Athlete of the Year for Baseball. C-USA names one for each sport.

In the spring, Garcia also received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award and was on the conference's All-Academic baseball team.


Here's two different ways to rank athletic programs' on the field/court performances.

The first is the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Director's Cup, which takes into account 20 different sports. It's sort of like The Herald's All-Sports Award we do for high schools, except no greater significance is given to the more promiment sports. It's designed for the broadest-based athletic programs to reach the standings' penthouse.

In that ranking, 2013-14 FIU came in 257th out of 298 schools.

The other way is the CBSSports.com way, in which you consider only the marquee sports -- football, men's and women's basketballs, baseball and the most successful that season among the other sports at the school (for FIU in 2013-14, that probably would be swimming & diving -- second in Conference USA, scoring a few points at the NCAA meet). Heaviest weight given to football, second heaviest to men's basketball. nly schools with FBS football programs were considered.

Looking at things this way, FIU finished tied with Miami of Ohio, Nevada and Temple for 123rd. Or, last.

Stanford finished first, no matter which ranking was used.

Back to vacation and Argentina-Netherlands...


June 11, 2014

Another award for Aramis

The mantle in Casa Garcia might need an addition. In addition to the honors he's already received, including Conference USA Player of the Year, FIU catcher Aramis Garcia received the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award for combining community service with excellent academics and athletic performance.

Garcia volunteered at the 9/11 Day of Service, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Arthritis Walk and during the MLK Day of Service.

As I put in a recent post, Garcia, like women's basketball star Jerica Coley, is a billboard/brochure athlete, the kind schools thrust out front as an ideal example.

June 10, 2014

Kibbles & Bits


Tweeted this Monday, but guess I didn't post it here.

FIU pitcher Chris Mourelle was named a Second Team Freshman All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, adding to a postseason awards list that includes Conference USA Freshman of the Year.


Former FIU soccer star player, assistant coach and head coach Munga Ekatebi will be the new head soccer coach at Broward Colletge. Ekatebi was in the house for the Ghana-South Korea friendly at Sun Life Stadium Monday.

June 07, 2014

Mike (Starter) to Rays, Mike (Closer) & Silverio to Chisox

Always wanted to use the old-time headline word "Chisox" in a headline.

Anyway, FIU's 2014 ace Mike Franco got selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball draft Friday. FIU's all-time saves leader Mike Gomez went in the 13th round to the Chicago White Sox.

Later Saturday, with pick No. 978, the White Sox took outfielder Louis Silverio.

With catcher Aramis Garcia's second round selection by San Francisco, that makes four FIU players gone so far in the draft.


I thought I did some nice breaking down of the way FIU coaching pay didn't seem to match up the experience or success of the coach involved. But reader Cory Jarrell, with a blog, some free time and the kind of pretty graphs modern media outlets encourage, really went to town.


June 06, 2014

Garcia drafted in Round 2

The second of two Conference USA players selected in the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball draft, FIU catcher and Conference USA Player of the Year Aramis Garcia went No. 52 overall to San Francisco.

That's the second highest an FIU player has been drafted. Toronto took Josh Banks with the No. 50 pick in 2003.

More than just a player, FIU lost a showcase athlete, the kind of student-athlete schools like to put on billboards and put in front of the Athletics Committee as the epitome of what a student-athlete can be: well-comported, good on the field and the classroom. Garcia and Jerica Coley fit that role perfectly. Who's next?


June 04, 2014

Staying In The Pocket

Let's talk money, shall we?

First, the Fifth Annual FIU Athletic Department Golf Tournament is June 27. $375 per person, $1,500 per foursome, which is no savings for a foursome so really just $375 per person. This fundraiser for the entire athletic department includes an auction boosted by over 100 items that were supposed to be sold at the Diamond Dinner, the big fund raiser for the baseball and softball programs.

The baseball program saw its operating budget cut by around $5,000 this year, one of several programs whose budget remained stagnant or got cut as FIU moved up in overall quality with the jump to Conference USA. They didn't fly to the Conference USA tournament in Hattiesburg, but bused what's 11 hours, 38 minutes if you go 70 mph with no stops. Clearly, this is a program that can use all the financial help it can get.

Instead, baseball and softball must throw a large amount of the goods and services donated for their event into an event that raises money for the entire athletic department. That's other programs, administration, facilities, etc. I'm all for sharing, but that doesn't seem quite fair.

Oh, in an answer to a question posed a while back in the Comments about the athletic director's salary and bonus: it comes out of the athletic department pocket.




Mourelle Gets Another Honor

Freshman right hander Chris Mourelle, Conference USA's Freshman of the Year, also was named to the Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America team. Conference USA accounted for three members of the team, the other two coming from FAU (second baseman Stephen Kerr) and Old Dominion (outfielder Nick Walker).


May 30, 2014

Franco & Olson; Chelsea Lately

Junior pitcher Mike Franco, in his second season after having Tommy John surgery, finished the season 9-3 with a 1.09 ERA, 112 strikeouts and 27 walks. And he's one of 36 semifinalists for the Gregg Olson Award, given to college baseball's breakout player by Toolshed Sports.


FIU didn't get the Ghana-South Korea men's soccer friendly on June 9, which will be played at Sun Life Stadium. But the women's soccer team definitely gets back fifth-year senior Chelsea Leiva, granted an injury redshirt for 2013 after a knee injury before the opener eliminated FIU's best player for the entire season. 



May 29, 2014

TV & an All-American

Junior catcher Aramis Garcia, named Conference USA Player of the Year last week, was named Third Team All-America on the Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American team.

Garcia hit .368 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. In addition to leading Conference USA in hitting, his .626 slugging percentage was the conference's best.


Whether 2014 FIU football evolves as a drama, parody, spoof or farce, it'll be televised entertainment at least four times.

For the Sept. 13 home game against Pitt on Fox Sports 1, all the university's marketing heads should attempt a Vulcan mind meld to maximize their idea intellect for herding a decent crowd into the stadium for a noon Saturday kickoff. Between the probable heat, the near-dawn (to most Miami residents) kickoff and the usual FIU following, this blasts POTENTIAL EMBARRASSMENT in blinding lights that recall the opening credits of ABC TV movies back when we relied on ABC, NBC & CBS because few had HBO or VHS (DVD was in big Cro-Magnon form called Laserdisc).


Official attendance for the only other noon kickoff at FIU Stadium: 8,593 for FIU beating Louisiana-Lafayette on Halloween in 2009. That being the official attendance, you can estimate for yourself how many folks actually were there.

The following week, at a time to be dictated by FS1 or FSN, Louisville comes to FIU. On Oct. 2, The Shula Bowl, FAU at FIU at 7 p.m., gets a Fox Sports Net broadcast. And, on Fox College Sports, 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, FIU faces rapidly rising Texas-San Antonio.

Some of you closer to my age might remember an ABC TV movie opening that manages to be both more understated and more spectacular.



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