June 04, 2014

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.

SOCCER

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.

FOOTBALL

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.

 

 

May 22, 2014

Down in Hattiesburg

With FIU's baseball season on the line Thursday, ace junior Mike Franco pitched. Aramis Garcia hit. Alas, Garcia's two two-baggers, bringing in two runs, couldn't overcome another two -- the three times Old Dominion turned two, leading to FIU's 3-2 loss and elimination from the Conference USA tournament.

Franco went three and a third, gave up four hits, no runs, struck out five and walked two. Fifth-year senior Albert Cardenas took the ball and gave up three runs in the fifth, two on a double by freshman Joseph Guaranga.

FIU ends its season, 36-20. 

May 20, 2014

FIU grabs Conference USA Player of the Year & Freshman of the Year

You can't fault Aramis Garcia's follow-through. Preseason Conference USA Co-Player of the Year to Conference USA Player of the Year for FIU's junior catcher/first baseman despite missing 12 games iwth a right oblique injury. Garcia led C-USA in slugging percentage (.588), was second in batting average (.355) and homers (seven) and third in on-base percentage (.428).

Pitcher Mike Franco and his conference-low 1.13 earned run average joined Garcia as First Team All-C-USA selections. Pitcher Chris Mourelle, 9-2 with a 1.70 ERA, got named Second Team All-C-USA and C-C-USA All-Freshman and C-USA Freshman of the Year.

I asked Turtle Thomas the difference between the Sun Belt and Conference USA. Thomas said he thought the pitching depth was better in the latter. Nobody's got a top three starter you can assume you'll knock around. He also said he thought the Sun Belt was better than C-USA for the 2013 season when The Belt sent three teams and conference tournament winner FAU to the NCAA tournament.

May 19, 2014

Baseball Stuff Like That; Donald in the Middle

A few things before I scratch out 15 inches for Wednesday's paper on FIU baseball headed for the Conference USA tournament...

Give it up to junior catcher/first baseman Aramis Garcia and senior closer Mike Gomez, members of the Conference USA's Baseball All-Academic Team. No other school put more than one player on the team. Both are sports and fitness majors. Gomez has a 3.79 grade point average and Garcia has a 3.78.

FIU plans to have Garcia behind the plate Wednesday against Rice. He missed 12 games with a right oblique injury and returned to play first base at the end of the season-closing series at Tulane.

At the other end of the battery, FIU plans to throw freshman Chris Mourelle at Rice, according to Turtle Thomas. They didn't throw Mourelle last week against Tulane once the staff felt the chance for an at-large NCAA bid was gone and don't want to throw ace Mike Franco twice on short rest in a conference tournament they now need to win to make the NCAA tournament.

Also, Rice saw Mourelle only for three innings after Robby Kalaf took a shot off his right hand in the first inning in the third game of Rice's sweep earlier this year. Mourelle faced 16 batters, gave up five hits and only one run (it was earned).

FOOTBALL

FIU fifth-year senior Donald Senat made the 64-player spring watch list for the Dave Rimington Award, given annually to the best center in college football. 

Dave Rimington was the best center of his era, a dominating player on Nebraska's 1981 and 1982 teams, seasons that saw him become the first two-time winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior lineman. Rimington didn't make All-Decade teams. He made All-Century teams. Though he was part of the 1983 NFL Draft's first round, generally considered the greatest first round ever, his seven-season NFL career never quite lived up to the hype. That hype existed for a center should tell you something by itself.

 

 

May 17, 2014

Another Plate of Rice for FIU Baseball

Once FIU clinched its spot in the Conference USA Baseball Tournament with a win Thursday at Tulane, the last two games of the season still mattered. The Former Sunblazers lost Friday and Saturday on walk-off plays, dropping them to a No. 8 seed and a fourth shot at No. 1 seed Rice, Wednesday at 1:30 Eastern at host Southern Mississippi.

That's the same Rice that swept FIU at Camp Mitch -- 3-2, 10-2, 11-7 -- the only team to do that to the Panthers this season.

The good news is A) the odds say it's hard to beat a good team four times and if you say it'll really only be twice because both teams should throw their aces then you can say B) FIU played Rice on even terms in Ace vs. Ace.

FIU's Mike Franco went 7 1/3, gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits, walked three and struck out seven. Rice's Zech Lemond went eight innings, gave up two runs (both earned) on eight hits, walked two and struck out five. FIU took a 2-0 lead after four innings, gave up the tying run in the eighth and lost 3-2 in 13 innings.

Go to Rice's website or the Conference USA site to see how you can follow the game on radio or streaming video.

If FIU loses, they'll go to the loser's bracket and play the loser of Old Dominion vs. Middle Tennessee State at 10 a.m. Thursday. A win and they'll play the Old D-Middle winner at 7 p.m. Thursday.

May 15, 2014

Baseball clinches tournament berth; Sullivan 3rd in decathalon

FIU's 9-1 spanking of Tulane Thursday night gave the Panthers 16 wins, thus guaranteeing ninth-in-Conference-USA FAU can't catch the Former Sunblazers in the standings no matter what FAU does this weekend against UAB. So, FIU's clinched a spot in the Conference USA tournament next week at Southern Mississippi.

TRACK & FIELD

The Conference USA Track & Field Championships began Thursday at Rice with Day 1 of the decathlon and heptathlon. Sophomore Chris Sullivan sits in third with 3,651 points. Charlotte sophomore K'vonte Scott reached 3,877 points to take a 153-point lead on East Carolina's Alexander Mobley-Hollie, who passed Sullivan for second during the last event, the 400 meters.

Honors for Super Tex & Garcia; Radio, (No) Radio

On the dirt diamond, freshman Stephanie Texeira made the National Fastpitch Coaches Association's All-South First Team as the first baseman. Baseball's Aramis Garcia is one of the 15 semifinalists for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the nation's best catcher (naturally).

Barring the kind of calamity that usually involves a Gortex coat and a wine store, Garcia and his teammates will be in the Conference USA tournament at Southern Mississippi next week. So will the radio crews of every other school in the eight-team tournament, according to the schools involved.

FIU will not bring Pete Pelegrin, who does the play-by-play on FIU radio and PantherVision. 

 

 

 

May 13, 2014

A Few Football Facts & Franco

Started looking over some things, figuring up some numbers, then got to playing with Windows Movie Maker after watching the Heat then Kings-Ducks and, well...

 

BASEBALL

FIU pitcher Mike Franco has been named to the watch list for the Gregg Olson Award, which recognizes college baseball's breakout player of the year. Olson, an Auburn pitcher, rebounded from a mediocre first season to gain All-American status.

May 12, 2014

Franco still pitching; FIU Stadium for Ghana-South Korea?

Word around Camp Mitch is it was just a knot in the shoulder that took FIU ace Mike Franco out of Friday's start against Middle Tennessee State. Franco should be properly unknotted going forward and be available for this weekened's season closing series at Tulane as well as the Conference USA tournament.

FIU is No. 63 in RPI, according to WarrenNolan.com, and has a 1-5 record against teams in the RPI top 50.

 

WORLD SOCCER

FIU could make some needed non-student fee cash if the stadium gets the Ghana vs. South Korea pre-World Cup friendly that'll be in town June 9. Sun Life Stadium has a pair of England friendlies, June 4 vs. Ecuador and June 7 vs. Honduras, and has room for another on the calendar. But South Korea might be training at FIU before heading to Brazil for the World Cup.

 

Softball Out, Baseball In (pretty much...)

Schedule and being one-and-done in the Conference USA tournament clearly hurt FIU softball, which will be none-and-home for the NCAA tournament. Conference USA regular season and tournament champion Tulsa got the conference's automatic bid with Alabama-Birmingham getting the at-large bid.

No. 2 seed UAB got upset in the first round of the conference tournament, by Marshall, just as East Carolina upset No. 3 FIU. The Blazers were 31-25, 15-8 in conference compared to 33-20 and 15-9 for FIU. But UAB also took two of three from FIU head-to-head, played the second toughest non-conference schedule in the nation and had four wins against teams in the top 35 of RPI. In fact, UAB got sent to the regional in Athens, Georgia, home of No. 4 seed Georgia, which UAB smoked 8-0 this season.

BASEBALL

Meanwhile, baseball's win Sunday not only prevented a Middle Tennessee State sweep but nearly clinched a spot in the conference tournament for FIU. Only FAU sweeping UAB (won't happen) while FIU gets swept by anemic Tulane (definitely won't happen) could prevent FIU from making the tournament. 

FIU hopes all is well with Mike Franco by that time.

 

May 08, 2014

Franco on the Golden Spike Watch List

The Golden Spike's given out to the top amateur baseball player in the country. FIU junior pitcher Mike Franco sits fourth in the nation with a 0.96 ERA and leads the staff with the second lowest team ERA in the nation, 2.02.

Put them together and you get Franco as one of the 30 players on the Golden Spike watch list.

May 05, 2014

Smoke Dealers & signings

Junior Shelby Graves garnered the last Conference USA Pitcher of the Week award after throwing a no-hitter against Southern Miss and allowed no runs in Sunday's save. She finishes the regular season with a 15-7 record, 3.37 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 32 walks in 135 innings pitched.

Mike Franco somehow didn't win C-USA's baseball Pitcher of the Week. Reid Love from East Carolina beat North Carolina, so he got the honor. Still, Franco's 0.96 ERA ranks fourth in the nation and FIU stayed atop the team ERA charts at 1.94.

MEN'S BASKETBALL

The long and the short of it: 6-9 incoming freshman Larry Dennis from Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas and 5-10 junior college transfer Tayshawn Desir, a third-team NJCAA All-America selection for Monroe Community College. Dennis was unrated by 247sports.com and Scout.com, but got two stars from ESPN.com.

 

 

Brooms & Seeds

You could say both baseball and softball pulled out the brooms to sweep their competition, East Carolina and Southern Mississippi, respectively, this weekend. In the case of softball, it's more like they pulled out the brooms, wet them and went all Mr. Jinks on Southern Miss in a crushing sweep that pushed FIU into the Conference USA tournament's No. 3 seed.

Combined score of 32-4; a no-hit shutout by Shelby Graves, who combined with Corinne Jenkins for another shutout in Sunday's 5-0 win that ended with a triple play; more hits (40) than Stevie Wonder in the 1970s...that's beating a mouse with a wet broom.

FIU (33-19, 15-9) opens the tournament, hosted by FAU, Thursday with a game against East Carolina at 1:30. Earlier this season on Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium, FIU edged the Pirates 11-9 and 2-0 before taking a 12-2 spanking in the final game. If seeding and regular season results hold and FIU advances, the Panthers get the winner of No. 2 Alabama-Birmingham vs. No. 7 Marshall, against whom FIU was a combined 1-5 this season -- losing the first two, winning one at UAB and getting swept at Marshall.

Baseball's sweep, made possible by Tyler Hibbert's two-RBI single and 2-1 win, pushed the Former Sunblazers all the way up to a tie for fourth in the conference with Texas-San Antonio at 14-10 in the conference. No. 9 FAU got to 12-15 this weekend playing Old Dominion. So, FIU's margin for error can get downright porcine with a strong Mother's Day Weekend against Middle Tennessee State.

 

May 03, 2014

Save No. 24 for Gomez, Win No. 32 for FIU

Mike Gomez put the final snuff on East Carolina in the ninth inning to get his 24th career save, setting an FIU record, in a 6-4 Panthers victory Saturday. FIU's 13-10 in Conference USA play now, even in fifth with East Carolina.

While the Former Sunblazers haven't clinched a spot in the Conference USA tournament yet, the wins Friday and Saturday put give them more of a buffer as far as teams in the standings between FIU and ninth place.

 

May 02, 2014

Baseball bashes East Carolina; point guard commits to FIU

FIU pitcher Mike Franco again proved better on Friday night than pizza.

The Panthers gave Franco cushion against East Carolina, starting with a Brian Portelli home run, an RBI triple by Tyler Hibbert and RBI doubles by Josh Anderson and Julius Gaines. Franco just gave the Pirates problems, scattering six hits, striking out seven and walking none in a complete game 7-1 win. FIU's now 12-10 in the conference and up to sixth and only one game behind East Carolina.  

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Tampa Bowman Prep's Craig Bowman, a 6-3 point guard, announced his commitment to FIU the modern way, via Twitter. He'll be part of the 2014 recruiting class.

Bowman averaged 15.3 points per game, 4.1 assists per game and 2.9 steals per game as a senior and 10.0, 3.3 and 2.9, respectively, as a junior. 

May 01, 2014

First Friday of the (College) Summer

Friday morning at 10 a.m., FIU's sand volleyball team faces Hawaii in the first round of the AVCA Collegiate Sand Championships. Should FIU win, the Panthers get No. 1 seed Southern Cal at 1 p.m. An FIU loss means they wait until 5 p.m., when they get the loser of No. 2 Pepperdine vs. the Florida State-Stetson winner.

Got that?

Of the aforementioned schools, FIU faced only Florida State this year, losing 4-1.

BASEBALL

A good weekend against East Carolina, tied for third in Conference USA with a 13-8 conference record, will go a long way toward FIU clinching a spot in the conference tournament.

With 10 games remaining, FIU has an 11-10 conference record, tied for seventh with Middle Tennessee State. Ninth place FAU sits at 10-14. Realistically, FIU's safe. FAU still has three games of flailling at that Alabama-Birmingham staff and Friday begins three games against Old Dominion's vacuum cleaner infield. So In three games with East Carolina; three games against Middle; and three games against weak Tulane, FIU should be ablde to come up with enough wins to outdistance FAU no matter what happens when they play May 13 at FAU.

 

April 28, 2014

Texeira C-USA Player of the Week; Pitching Zeroes; On The Beach

As predicted on this blog yesterday, Conference USA named FIU freshman Stephanie Texeira its Player of the Week for the second time this season. Texeira went four for five with four walks, five RBI, two home runs, a 2.000 slugging percentage (that's Babe Ruth-on-a-1980s-video-game numbers) and a .900 on-base percentage.

BASEBALL

Also as predicted on Sunday night's blog post, FIU retook the national lead in team ERA, which is now down to 1.93 for the season. Mike Franco ranks sixth with a 0.95 ERA and freshman Cody Crouse is 25th with a 1.35 ERA.

SAND VOLLEYBALL

Two years ago, when FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia mentioned FIU adding a sand volleyball team, he crested on "giddy." His reasoning: the sport's a natural for a school in a town with popular beaches and FIU could be a national power quickly because the sand Panthers wouldn't be scrambling to make up everybody else's 10 or 100-year head start.

Such was the theory, so has it been danced. FIU's seeded No. 5 going into the American Volleyball Coaches Association national championship for sand volleyball, which is still what the NCAA classifies as an "emerging sport." CBS Sports Netowrk will show a delayed broadcast in late May.

Should FIU as a team or one of the pairings come back with the biggest trophy, you can predict the trophy-snuggling photos: Garcia, several other athletic department administrators, FIU President Mark Rosenberg, all getting around the team and the trophy with the enthusiasm of taking selfies with a new baby. 

Why, then, doesn't the department put enough bucks behind the sand volleyball and volleyball programs so that it doesn't have to do the gofundme.com thing? It's not embarrassing for the programs -- they're doing what they have to do. That's what coaches and ahtletes do. It reflects on the school and the athletic department that those programs have to do the electronic version of pleading car to car at 107th Avenue and 8th Street. FIU's doing the reverse Strom Thurmond -- instead of giving child support, but no name or claim to a daughter, FIU's giving name and is happy to claim, but are almost deadbeat dads.

Schools consider Division I athletics marketing. It's about getting the school name and positive impressions of the university out there. It works, too. Applications went up when the football team went to bowl games. But these words go back to what I wrote in the fall and the winter -- details in operation and presentation form an initial impression of your school to those who haven't been around it daily. Failure there presents a negative impression.

This is too basic to be a detail. Those who want to show love after the team wins should show love beforehand by showing the money.

 

April 27, 2014

Softball clinches C-USA tournament spot

FIU's battering of North Texas this weekend -- three-game sweep, outscoring the Mean (secondary definition of "Mean") Green 24-3, bum rushing North Texas in five innings Sunday -- clinched a spot in the Conference USA tournament for FIU (30-19, 12-9). The top eight teams in conference record make the tournament.

If freshman Stephane Texeira doesn't get her second conference player of the week award, the entire Conference USA office needs to 12-step off. Texeira went four of five with two home runs in the series, walked four times, had an on-base percentage of .900 and a slugging percentage of 2.000. One of Texeira's home runs got sandwiched by homers from freshman Gabby Spallone and junior Krystal Garcia, the first home run natural hat trick in FIU softball history.

Pitchers Corinne Jenkins, Shelby Graves and Mariah Dawson allowed all of one earned run in the three games.

BASEBALL 

The pitching staff over at the baseball field allowed only three earned runs in its four-game sweep of Saint Peter's. With the staff ERA at 1.93, FIU might move back into the top spot in the nation. The Former Sunblazers entered the weekend fourth nationally in ERA as a staff.

As for conference tournament status, nobody's clinched anything yet. FIU sits tied for seventh with Middle Tennessee State, both at 11-10. FAU, 10-14, is ninth and Marshall, 8-14, is 10th. FIU's got three games left at East Carolina, three with Middle at home and three at Tulane. There's also another one-game battle of vowels with FAU.

 

 


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