March 16, 2014

A few thoughts on FIU vs. Rice

Some scatter shots from the two FIU-Rice games I covered this weekend:

*The Rice coaching staff doesn't play. When centerfielder Charlie Warren caught a short fly ball for the second FIU out in Saturday's eighth inning with Rice up 10-1, he either miscounted the outsm forgot that Aramis Garcia was on third or didn't think Garcia would try to score on such a short fly ball. Garcia tagged and scored as Warren lazily jogged with the ball. Warren got yanked before the next batter got out of the on-deck circle. Even at 10-2, brain flatulence is not tolerated.

*The ump blew a call and probably cost FIU at least one run on L.K. Thompson's grounder in the fourth inning Sunday. With runners on first and second, Rice third baseman Shane Hoelscher grabbed the slow grass hugger and ran back to the bag. Hoelscher leaped over a sliding J.C. Escarra and, seemingly, the bag. FIU coach Turtle Thomas got in the umpire's face at Barry Allen speed to energetically argue the out call. Without that call, if all following at bats stay the same, FIU gets at least one more run out of the inning, probably two.

*Then again, Saturday's second inning play at the plate off a great throw by FIU left fielder Roche Woodard looked safe to me. The out call cost Rice a run they eventually didn't need anyway.

*Rosenberg's Rowdies showed up Saturday and got under some of the Rice fans' skin. From what I heard, the team didn't complain, the fans did. Not sure if I put this here or on Twitter, but they prompted some of the Middle Tennessee basketball staff to say amongst themselves, "We need to put our student section near the opposing bench," noting with admiration how annoying the Rowdies can be for such a small group.

*That I was outside at a table for the two games wasn't some athletic department punishment toward The Herald. It's a function of FIU's paucity of press box space. Anything less than me and two other scribes works. Radio, with its equipment, expands to space. When Stetson brought its radio team earlier this year and the radio equipment, there was one relatively narrow space in the press box for me. This time, with Rice radio, no room at the inn.

Sitting outside allowed me to meet some parents and darken the skin. But laptops don't take direct sunlight any better than melanin-deficient skin does. And in case of rain, well... 

My first thought as I watched FIU turn a 6-2 sixth inning lead into an 11-7 loss Sunday, thus going 0 for 3 against ranked Rice, was Trilogy of Terror, the TV movie cult classic best remembered for the third of three stories that starred Karen Black.

 

(When this popped up one night between my then-girlfriend-now-wife and I late one Friday night back in 1995, we got so giddy, I sprinted from Morton Towers to Blockbuster to rent it. That whole sentence looks archaic now...)

Then, my mind jumped to another trilogy, the Chuck Jones-directed Duck Season/Rabbit Season Warner Bros. cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd bouncing off each other. Although I know a few people got upset when I equated FIU to Daffy and Rice to Bugs in a Tweet, this seemed to fit. After talking to folks after the game and thinking about it on the drive home, it seemed even more tailored. Stay with me here:

Animation historian Joe Adamson, in Bugs Bunny: Fifty Years and Only One Grey Hare, writes, "...what becomes apparent is that Bugs is rooted in the forest, secure in his place there. Daffy is still trying to figure himself out."

Adamson quotes Richard Thompson, discussing the cartoons: "Bugs stands back from a situation, analyzes it, and makes his move; Daffy becomes emotionally involved, loses his distance, and blows it."

 

Now, listen to what pitcher Ty Sullivan said when I asked him just "What happened?"

“Looking at the way both of our teams played, Rice and us, we are as good if not better than them," Sullivan said. "But what went wrong with us was when one thing would happen, we would let things snowball instead of just minimizing (the damage). When we got into situations when our guys needed to make the big pitch or get the big hit, our guys started pressing, started trying to force it to happen instead of just relaxing, doing what we’ve done all season long, which is just compete at the plate and the mound, regardless o the score, the outs, who’s on base or who’s on deck. I wouldn’t say it’s a good thing we lost these games, but it shows what not to do in these situations against good opponents because we pretty much beat ourselves all weekend."

FIU didn't react to tight or bad situations this weekend with the cool confidence of believing in how good they are. Rice did. FIU's errors and misplays seemed to come in Costco packs. Rice's went solo. I don't know if the Panthers felt less sure of themselves because Rice looks like the best opponent on their schedule and clearly possesses the best pedigree.

"Sometimes, in baseball, you can try too little or you can try too hard," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said after Sunday's game. "Trying too little can mean you don't swing at enough pitches. Trying too hard means you chase too many bad pitches. We definitely chased a bunch."

Thomas figured FIU swung at 100 pitches outside the strike zone over the three days, then adjusted that up to 150 because "we chased more than three bad pitches per inning." 

By the end of Sunday's game, every fly ball and grounder seemed to come with a suspenseful drum roll. That hasn't been this season's FIU, day games or not. I covered Games 2-8 this season. I saw third baseman Josh Anderson steal more hits than Linda Ronstadt. He did again late Sunday, a diving spear that was almost as good as second baseman Edwin Rios' game of Laser Snag that ended the third inning. Left fielder Roche Woodard sailed to turn an extra base hit into an out, then doubled the runner off first.

That's more the Panthers I've covered this season than the Josh Anderson who spent Sunday losing arguments with grounders or the outfielders who flubbed fly balls. Thomas estimated FIU gave Rice Sunday's difference, four runs, on two misplayed fly balls alone. FIU had three errors Saturday, three Sunday and that's with a home official scorer judging with a grandparent's generosity. I hadn't seen FIU make a baserunning error yet. Sunday, when Edwin Rios tried to score Sunday from third on a grounder to first, it seemed the epitome of wanting too badly to do something significant.

It's only one series. FIU's still 16-4. As far as black and white, getting swept only hurts in terms of eventual conference tournament seeding.

“I think this series will probably help us more than hurt us because it shows us where our weaknesses are," Anderson said. "We’ve been tested in the games before but playing a top-ranked team like Rice really tested us. Our weaknesses stand out like a sore thumb. This is a team we need to beat to win Conference USA. There’s a lot of positives to take out of this weekend, too.

"We know our weaknesses. We know what we need to fix. We saw good pitching. We know we can hit good pitching. We know we can compete with that team. We know we belong where we’re ranked. We only lost one game before this series.”

 

March 10, 2014

Aramis Garcia, Hitter of the Week; FIU ranked in more polls.

A busy awards Monday in the Conference USA offices -- FIU senior guard Jerica Coley lost Player of the Year to Middle Tennessee State's Ebony Rowe -- included FIU junior catcher/first baseman Aramis Garcia getting Hitter of the Week honors after FIU slapped around Bethune-Cookman and swept Charlotte in their first C-USA series.

Garcia cracked three home runs, two doubles and a single with five RBI.

Collegiate Baseball ranks FIU No. 19

FIU plays perennial Conference USA favorite Rice this weekend at Camp Mitch to determine the best team in C-USA right now.

Rice is No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches poll in which FIU received votes. FIU isn't in the Baseball America Top 25, while Rice is No. 15. FIU is up to No. 29 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll while Rice is No. 18. Perfect Game's poll puts Rice at No. 15 and FIU among Five Others to Watch.

 

March 05, 2014

Mourelle mowing; Coley Academic All-C-USA; JoGus, Perez, Beaupre going NCAA

Last year, Bethune Cookman won two out of two against FIU baseball. Wednesday, Bethune got two hits against FIU.

Specifically, two hits against freshman Chris Mourelle, who walked none and sent down the final 23 Bethune batters in a 6-0 FIU win. FIU opens Conference USA play this weekend at 2-7-1 Charlotte, which is on a seven-game winless streak. The true yardstick series for the 12-1 Panthers, however, comes the following week, at home against perennial Conference USA favorite Rice.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Jerica Coley was named Academic All-District and Third Team Academic All-American. So, of course, she made Conference USA's Academic All-Conference team.

Then, Wednesday night, Coley scored 29 in a 67-65 last-second loss to Louisiana Tech in Ruston. She's eight points away from 3,000 for her career. Only the Conference USA tournament remains in the career of one of FIU's finest student-athletes.

SWIMMING & DIVING

The song remains the same with the names from FIU going to the NCAA Championships.

That's three times in a row for junior Johanna Gustafsdottir, who'll swim the 100 backstroke, 200 back and 200 individual medley; two years in a row for senior Sonia Perez, who'll do the 200 back, 200 IM and 400 IM; and would be the fourth consecutive year for diver Sabrina Beaupre, but she skipped last year's NCAAs to get surgery on her long-injured ankle.

Beupre and freshman Lily Kaufman will dive in the NCAA Zone Regional next week. The swimmers will be in Minneapolis for the NCAA Championships, Mar. 20 through 22.

 

March 03, 2014

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!

A pretty good one out at Camp Mitch, eh?

The softball team took two games, Detroit-Mercy being an after dinner snack after upsetting No. 19 Minnesota 3-1. Freshmen Gabby Spallone knocked in a run with her first hit and scored another after her second. Freshman Stephanie Texeira doubled in freshman Marina Carmona. Note the repeated use of "freshman." The softball team comes home from Arizona at 14-6.

Back on Miami-Dade County soil, we saw the wearing out of the Greens.

For Sunday brunch (no mimosas, though) baseball smacked around Dartmouth and came home eased up with an 11-7 win that puts FIU at 11-1 with another round of national rankings coming today. Perfect Game's Top 25 puts FIU just outside the rankings, as one of Five to Watch. 

FIU's got five hitters over .300, led by Aramis Garcia (.463) and Josh Anderson (.460) and Zach Sweety at .294. But when you've got starters with ERAs of 1.12 (Mike Ellis), 1.65 (Mike Franco), 1.00 (Robby Kalaf) and 1.64 (Cody Crouse) you could have a Hee-Haw lineup of banjo hitters could get you through the night.

On the court, Tulane's Green Wave got swallowed by a rogue wave from FIU. The Panthers jumped to a 10-0 lead and kept pace past the signposts. I thought, FIU's playing extremely well, but if that lead gets under 10 at halftime, I'm worried. FIU led by 10 at half. Then I thought, OK, don't let the lead get down to four or five. It was down to five at 42-37 for one possession. Rakeem Buckles dropped in a three. Tulane suddenly looked like John Belushi's Samurai hotel clerk when Richard Pryor's Samurai chopped a desk in half to end an argument: "I understand where you're coming from." 

 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick walked in at halftime, dressed for a sunny March day in Chicago, with a few pals. President Mark Rosenberg and athletic director Pete Garcia talked with the group for a few minutes before showing them to a cabana. A cooler quickly was produced. The group hung out until about four minutes remained in the game. Kaepernick declined to say what drew he and his crew to spend part of a sunny Sunday watching Tulane vs. FIU.

SWIMMING & DIVING

I forgot to note FIU's Rio Ramirez received Conference USA's Diving Coach of the Year award. 

February 28, 2014

Smoke in the water, fire on the track (and field)

I'll get to this morning's Board of Trustees' Athletics Committee meeting in my next post. And baseball clobbered The Green of the Ivy, Dartmouth, 11-0 to go to 10-0 this season. 

Spring football starts Mar. 18 and runs through April 12. Conference USA's football media days are July 22 and 23 in Dallas.

But, elsewhere, FIU folks are trying to win conference championships swimming and running, so let's get to that.

In the Atlanta pool, the favorites paid for FIU, trailing leader Rice by 181 points and leading third place East Carolina by 28 points.

Senior Sonia Perez Arau knocked 4.02 seconds off Quincy Christian's Conference USA meet record and won the 400 individual medley by 4.84 seconds with a 4:12.11. Perez was third after the opening butterfly leg, then destroyed the field with a 1:03.20 backstroke leg that put her 2.14 seconds up halfway through the race. She closed with the race's fastest freestyle leg, 57.02. Second coming out of fly was sophomore Becky Wilde, who stayed in the mix with the non-Perez part of the field through back. But after breast, she was slotted into sixth, where she finished in 4:22.20.

After senior Sabrina Beaupre finished second in Thursday's 3-meter springboard diving, I'd have bet my next paycheck on Beaupre taking the 1-meter springboard and 10-meter platform. As predictable as the Canadiens winning the Stanley Cup in the late 1970s, Beaupre won her seventh conference title.

If junior Johanna Gustafsdottir hadn't reset her 200 free school record by leading off Wednesday's 800 free relay with a 1:46.90, her 1:47.55 in Friday's 200 free final would've done it. That got Gustafsdottir, who came into the meet seeded fourth, a third behind Rice's Casey Clark (1:46.98) and FAU's Agi Bucz (1:47.47). Gustafsdottir led Clark by the start of a wink after 100, but Clark blew out a great third 50 and a strong final 50, while Bucz swam the race's fastest final 50 to pip Gustafsdottir for second.

Junior Klara Andersson got FIU points with an eighth in the 100 breast with a 1:03.17. Andersson's 1:02.89 in the prelims was a tick off Jessica Chadwick's school record 1:02.84.

I picked the 400 medley relay for an upset on a whim. The team of Gustafsdottir, junior Dani Meara, freshman Jenny Alfani and Andersson came in fourth behind Rice's 3:39.00. FIU's 3:43.19 was the second best time in school history behind the 3:40.87 posted by last year's Sun Belt Championship winner, an all-star concoction of the 100 back (Gustafsdottir), 100 breast (Chadwick), 100 fly (Marina Ribi) school record holders and Andersson, who had second best 100 free in FIU history behind Gustafsdottir.

Friday, Gustafsdottir gave FIU the lead after the leadoff backstroke (of course). She didn't swim the 100 back Friday, but surely will swim the 200 back Saturday. FIU could get a win there and from Beaupre in the 10-meter platform. FIU's seeded second behind Rice in the 400 free relay. 

Inside the Birmingham CrossPlex, FIU and East Carolina's women dominated iron slinging. FIU sophomores Miriam Pierre (61 feet, 5 1/2 inches) and Chelsea Goburne (58-4 1/2) finished second and fourth amidst a 1-3-5 placing by East Carolina women that was led by Kayla Padgett's 68-5 3/4.

In the ongoing events, sophomore Brandon Ballard qualified for Saturday's 800 meters final with a 1:54.44, sixth fastest among the final eight. Senior Lashae White got out of the 400 prelims in 56.04 seconds. Sophomore Cam'ree Jackson hustled to a 7.54 60 to make that final. Senior Desmond McGill shot through the 60 hurdles in 8.15 seconds, the fourth best of the eight finalists separated by 0.13 seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

February 24, 2014

Coley, Conference USA Player of the Week, Lieberman finalist; Baseball ranked

Senior point guard Jerica Coley scored a career-high 47 and 35 points in her two games last week. She also averaged 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. For this, she won her second Conference USA Player of the Week award. 

Coley also made the cut to 22 for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the best point guard in college ball. The award is given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

BASEBALL

College baseball polls outnumber flagpoles at the United Nations. Perfect Game and ESPN/USA Today doesn't rank 8-0 FIU. But Collegiate Baseball's weekly poll puts the Panthers at No. 30.

That should be 9-0 after Tuesday's game agianst Florida Memorial.

 

Ramble On

While the stick and ball teams take a break from using their bats on visiting teams like they owe FIU money, swimming and diving prepares to leave for Atlanta and the Conference USA meet.

(They won't need to do any Internet panhandling, but the volleyball team is still at http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball, $195 toward their goal of $6,000. While you're on the site, you can contribute to the Oswego State Synchronized Skating Team's trip travel to nationals. Or the Coppin Academy Girls Basketball team trying to raise $6,000 to attend a summer camp.)

Lack of diver depth hurt FIU in the Sun Belt meet and could do the same here after senior Sabrina Beaupre takes the 10-meter platform and at least one of the two springboards. She's favored in all three.

In the pool, C-USA's tougher than The Belt and FIU no longer has Madame Butterfly, Marina Ribi, to pick up points in that dastardly stroke. Still, junior Johanna Gustafsdottir ranks first in the 200 backstroke and second in the 100 back. Senior Sonia Perez Arau comes in with the best 400 IM time in the conference. Klara Andersson is a close third in the 50 freestyle, which she won at last year's Sun Belt meet.

And FIU will bring home a relay win or two. I'm thinking 400 medley and 800 free. Just noticed -- the common thread in every school record relay is Gustafsdottir swimming the first leg. That makes sense. She's strongest in back, the first stroke of a medley relay. Her next strongest stroke is free. Classic relay set up uses the second fastest to lead off with the fastest anchoring.

I'd be shocked if the water women can give the athletic department its first Conference USA title. Defending champion Rice is still strong and East Carolina looks like a possible problem. That leaves baseball and softball -- track? Name the last conference champion without a coach -- and both of them get blocked. Rice owns baseball while UAB and Tulsa tussle over softball.

No, the baseball team isn't outscoring the football team after eight games. They were after three games (25-23) and four games (30-23). But if you just count scoring against Division I/FBS opponents, it's closer than you think after eight games: 78-63 for football.

When I saw FIU football coach Ron Turner at FIU Baseball Stadium with his family Saturday on the concourse on the first base line. I thought, "Boy, he'll go anywhere to see some offense." The Sunday juxtaposition couldn't have been more ripe -- FIU sports and centertainment head Pete Garcia attending hte baseball game with Butch Davis, the currently unemployed former coach at the Universty of Miami.

Now, if Davis wants back in coaching, he's got to cleanse himself by working somewhere else for a year or two. Obviously, FIU would be a fine place for that. Maybe Davis has changed his mind about FIU. He certainly could've joined his buddy Garcia a year ago and a few candidates (or their representatives) said they were told, "don't bother, this is Butch's job." Garcia's fits of temper and rash decisions would do Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts proud -- thus why some in the department call the second floor area housing Garcia's office "The Tower of Terror" -- but firing Mario Cristobal without a card like Davis to play exceeds Garcia's Yosemite Sam quotient.

 

North Carolina was on the hook for Davis' money, so nothing about that green affected Davis taking FIU's green. A theory I formed while writing about Saturday's 10-0 baseball thumping of Stony Brook: Davis learned the horrible academic situation facing FIU football in 2013 and decided to let someone else deal with that academic barf. If I knew about it in December, 2012, why wouldn't Davis?

This weekend's baseball stories were easy to write. FIU won three blowouts, scored early in each one and I didn't have to spend any time waiting to talk to coaches or players or transcribing their quotes. I did talk to Stony Brook Friday night starter Frankie Vanderka, one of the better pitchers FIU will see in non-conference play, about what pitch Julius Gaines drove for a home run and what he thought of FIU's lineup. On Saturday and Sunday, I wasn't going to waste the Stony Brook coach's time asking him his opinion of a team that just waxed him by 10 runs.

I'd have liked to talk to Aramis Garcia, hitting .500 over the first eight games; or freshman JC Escarra, with a team-leading .577 on-base percentage; or Josh Anderson, last year's team leader in doubles with 22, already with five this year and 14 RBI.

Alas, FIU coaches and players were unavailable for comment to the media. I'd been told before Friday's game that would be the case. Officially, it was Turtle Thomas' decision so everyone could remain focused on baseball without any distractions. Logically, that dog didn't hunt. Postgame interviews are, you know, postgame and about 18 hours before the next game. They take less than 10 minutes total time, two or three players and Thomas combined, once they start. There wasn't media, only a medium -- me -- for three of the first five games (as well as Friday and Saturday). And the Panthers looked none too distracted in winning their first five games. Also, Thomas does answer questions from FIU media relations after the game.

Of course, this came from above Thomas. Thomas' bosses are Garcia and Senior Associate AD Bobby Staub. This was a predictable reaction to the Dennis Wiseman story, but mostly because I'd long ago heard that neither was too pleased about a series of public records requests I've been making since December on a broad range of things. Sometimes, I just feel there's information I should have. Sometimes, I'm curious. Sometimes, I smell something.

Marketing's now Staub's thing, by the way. He's now the most motivated salesman in FIU athletics. In addition to his $110,000 salary, Staub gets $1,000 bonuses for football season student attendance being above $20,000, then another grand if over $30,000; basketball season student attendance over 5,000, then 10,000; basketball season tickets over 500 and over 750; baseball ticket revenue over $15,000 and $20,000; football ticket and sponsorship revenue (excluding Pepsi) over $1 million and over $1.5 million; sells the naming rights to FIU Baseball Stadium or five other new athletics assets; and sells all the suites for one season for football and basketball.

By the way, the victory song for FIU during the Turtle Thomas era used to be "New York, New York." Not sure why, but it's become custom since 2008. Now, under directions from marketing, it's Kool and the Gang's "Celebration," both the highest charting and worst Kool and the Gang single ever. Feel the cliche.

Oh, I forgot, The Master Plan Development for Camp Mitch from Feb. 14 still shows a soccer field surrounded by a track as a Future Development. Not even Funded or Likely Funded. Future Development.

To let you know how far into the future that might be, also in that category is Stadium Upper Bowl Expansion. That'll be about as useful as a weave store for skinheads until Ron Turner turns into Dr. Alchemy followed by Staub turning into P.T. Barnum.

That would be something completely different.

 

 

 

February 22, 2014

Play4Kay Hoops & Cut Baseballs

Saturday represents the only basketball sort of doubleheader of the season -- the men at 2 p.m. vs. Tulsa, the women at 6 p.m. vs. Marshall, baseball and softball going on during the time between games --  and the women's game also will be the penultimate home game for senior guard Jerica Coley.

It's also the Play4Kay game, FIU's part in the movement to try to find a cure for breast cancer. The team will wear several pink accessories and fans are also asked to wear pink.

BASEBALL

The Diamond Dinner keeps the baseball and softball programs above the Internet panhandling to which the track and volleyball programs have been forced to stoop. Baseball needs that event as its budget has subtly sunk like a good Randy Jones pitch over the past few years.

Total operating budget: 2011-12: $834,498

Total operating budget for 2012-13: $825,940. Main difference: $4,872 less for Tuition, Stipends, Scholarship, $11,000 less for Game Expenses, $9,061 more in baseball staff and operations salaries. 

Total operating budget for 2013-14: $820,460. Main differences: $5,000 less for Team Travel, $20,211 less for Tuition, Stipends, Scholarship, $3,500 more for Recruiting Travel, $10,000 more for Game Expenses, $4,284 more for baseball staff and operations salaries.

The budget for men's basketball fell also each of the last four years. It fell 0.2 percent from Isiah Thomas second year to his third and final year, but 6-1 percent from Thomas to Richard Pitino's year and another 2.7 percent from last year to this year. But examining that difference line by line shows most of that difference is in Team Travel, which was budgeted over $100,000 less each of the last two years than each of the last two Isiah Thomas-coached seasons, a drop of over 30 percent; and basketball staff and operations salaries, which have gone down with each coaching change (Thomas to Richard Pitino, Richard Pitino to Anthony Evans); and in the line item Fringe Benefits, which has also gone down with each change.

Football's budget dipped by 2.1 percent from 2010-11 to 2011-12 (bowl season to bowl season); rose by 1.2 percent from 2011-12 to 2012-13; then rose again by 4.29 percent for this year. Most of that came from larger numbers for operations and staff salaries and Tuition, Stipends, Scholarship.

But, note that there were head coaching changes around each of the moves in budget for football and basketball. Baseball's staff has remained the same at the top.

Keep in mind, there was an increase in student fees of 54 cents per credit hour, approved to cover the move to Conference USA and increased yearly fees. The increase more than paid for that move, as the students have more than paid for their share of FIU athletics. According to USA Today's annual subsidies (student fees, state funding, etc.) report, FIU's the 25th most subsidized athletic department budget (83.38 percent). Among the 24 more subsidized departments, only Georgia State plays football at the FBS level. 

Now, all of this assumes that the budgetary numbers I received from a public records request from FIU are accurate. Sometimes, numbers get misplaced. Or, things go missing.

 

February 20, 2014

From Gomez (not Addams)

Southern Mississippi attempted defense, a pressing, trapping kind. FIU's Jerica Coley ended with 47 points. FIU attempted defense. Southern Miss scored 106 points and shot 54.4 percent from the field. Stetson attempted defense and achieved comedy -- six errors leading to five FIU runs.

Only FIU's relief pitching seemed to have the concept down Wednesday night at Camp Mitch. And the last of those relievers, senior Mike Gomez, is truly appreciative of another chance to be the closer FIU thought he would be in 2013, before Tommy John surgery ended his season after five appearances and four saves.

"It's unreal," Gomez said. "To be back on that mound, there's nothing like it. All last year, I was sitting and watching from the stands. All I could think about is getting back on the mound."

In three appearances, Gomez has two saves. 

"Close to night and day, the way my arm feels at least" he said. "With our new pitching coach now, Coach (Sam) Peraza, he's teaching how to just command (pitches) and just pound the zone with strikes. Not taking away from our other pitching coaches. Coach (Drew) French was a great coach, but this year I think what I needed was "throwing strikes" engraved in me because I had too many walks last year and the year before that."

Gomez has developed a cutter to stick in his arsenal.

"I've been working hard on that pitch," he said. "It was a little struggle at first. Me and Coach Peraza overcame it. It's a good pitch for me, especially against lefties. I needed an out pitch against lefties. My changeup has been devastating to righties, so that was a good pitch to add."

The baseball team sits at 5-0 going into the weekend series against Stony Brook (No, they don't have a Flinstone Hall or Rubble Recreation Center). They got votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 25, votes that would surely multiply if FIU comes out of this weekend 7-1 or 8-0.

February 18, 2014

Golf, gold, decisions

Frehsman Camila Serrano took medalist honors with an 8-under 208 and FIU's 859 team score gave them a 12-stroke win over Kennesaw State in the Amelia Island Collegiate.

Sophmores Meghan MacLaren and Sophie Godley swapped spots (third and fourth) after McLaren shot a 3-over 75 to close and Godley put forth a 6-over 78 in the final round. Serrano held on for the win only after beating Daytona State's Tiffany Chan in an 18th hole playoff (literally an 18th hole playoff -- they played the 18th four times).

FUNDING VOLLEYBALL

http://www.gofundme.com/FIUVolleyball. They're up to $195 as of right now. Their goal is $6,000.

WISEMAN

As several of you hasve asked, from my end, here's what went into deciding to do today's story on Dennis Wiseman.

A young woman sent Tweets to several different people about Wiseman, his past and Saturday. I don't know Wiseman. His last year at FIU ended the academic year before I started my first run covering FIU. I might have had occasion to write his name in 1990 as a key departure from the baseball team from the previous year. I didn't know about what happened at North Miami High. When it happened, I was a Panthers/NHL reporter enjoying the time off between the Panthers getting knocked out of the playoffs that spring and the Stanley Cup Final. If I did read it in our Local section back then, I long ago dumped it from my memory banks.

Anyway, after seeing the woman's Tweet, I searched several public records on Wiseman. I found the progression of the case through the court system and his registration among several other facts. I also found what was written on the case after Wiseman's arrest. With information from these places, I called my immediate superior and laid everything out with "Here's what we have. What do we do with it?"

After all, this isn't some coaching change, schedule change or a recruiting commit. That's stuff you get out with all necessary haste, if you can. Blog post, hit it, it's out. I can make those decisions on my own. For stories like this, I can have my opinion, but it better be expressed in discussions with editors before that opinion is acted on one way or the other.

That editor told me to wait while he went up the chain of command. It's obviously a sensitive topic, on at least two levels. He came back with, "Write it." I called the FIU media relations department, asked who was in charge of selecting Wiseman and said I would like to speak with that person. Soon after, I was told he'd been on the football team plane several times so I also asked to speak to Pete Garcia. The answers to these requests are in today's paper.

I got Wiseman's cell phone number Monday night, called and left a message with my cell phone number. We waited until 10 p.m. before moving ahead with the story, sans comment from Wiseman. My cell phone stayed on until 1:30 a.m. He didn't call. (Wiseman called me this morning. As he wished the conversation to stay private, that'll all I'll say about it.)

I had nothing to do with the headline or story placement. Aside from blog posts and a few stories posted directly online, I haven't written a headline or picked the page/space for a story since the Indiana Daily Student.

February 17, 2014

Diamond Stud-ded (and Stud-ette-d) Weekend

While I spent Friday at Prime Italian -- haven't seen that much outkicking of coverage since Ray Guy retired -- and Saturday and Sunday at FIU Baseball Stadium, the FIU team with the new home ripped their way to an 8-2 record and the championship of the FIU Classic.

FIU opened and closed the tournament by zeroing out Georgia Southern, 8-0 by mercy rule on Friday and 2-0 in the championship game Sunday. Sophomore Corinne Jenkins had the circle throughout the first game and for the first six innings of the championship game. Junior Shelby Graves came in for the save, striking out two of the three batters she faced. Georgia Southern turned out to be Mission: Very Possible to Graves, who went three for three with two RBI in the opener.

Later that day, Graves took her turn in the circle as a starter against Gulf Coast. She lasted five innings, gave up four runs and seven hits, struck out five and went one for one hitting in FIU's 7-4 win. Freshman first baseman Stephanie Texeira, Conference USA Player of the Week in her first post-college week, cranked her first home run as part of a two for four night.

When I saw FIU would start Saturday against Wisconsin, I winced. I don't care if it's fast pitch, anytime you get Middle American corn-and-pork fed folks serious about softball from someplace serious about beer, I get seriously worried. Indeed, Wisconsin's the defending Big Ten tournament champion with seven players officially taller than FIU's five 5-7 players.

The Badgers mercy ruled FIU 8-0 in the first game. In the rematch later Saturday, Wisconsin marche to a 2-0 lead before junior Krystal Garcia's two-run double tied the game. Graves took the pitching baton from Jenkins and allowed one hit in the final two and two thirds innings. Meanwhile, freshman Stephanie Texiera, last week's Conference USA Co-Player of the Week, and sophomore Aleima Lopez went deep on the Badgers to put FIU up 4-2 on the way to a 5-2 win.

Texeira's adjusting well to college ball: team high's .500 batting average, .857 slugging percentage, 14 hits, four doubles, .595 on-base percentage. With the six hit-by-pitches, it looks like a 10-game Frank Robinson stat line.

Over at FIU Baseball Stadium, the Panthers sandwiched a pair of Saturday routs of Rutgers with one-run wins in front of friends, family and a bunch of scouts who came to check out junior catcher Aramis Garcia.

Garcia didn't disappoint, other than a passed ball and throwing error early in Saturday's second game. He threw out runners. He handled FIU's pitchers well. He hit .615 with a .688 on-base percentage in the four-game series, finishing with a three for four Sunday. Everybody besides Garcia found Sunday Rutgers starter Kevin Baxter harder to hit than the Cash 3. 

"Their pitching staff will throw any pitch any count -- fastball, changeup, anything -- so you can't sit on any pitches," said FIU's Josh Anderson, seven for 14 with 5 RBI on the weekend. "They'll throw 2-1 breaking balls, 1-0 changeups and throw them for strikes. They were doing a good job mixing up all the pitches. He was keeping the ball down. He was throwing strikes. We were a litle antsy. We got a lot of hits (Saturday). We probably wanted to pick up where we left off."

Defensively, shortstop Julius Gaines vacillates from Gaines the Great to Gaines Burgers -- three throwing errors, but at least four plays of athletic wonderfulness, shortstop by Alvin Ailey. But it was the same last year, when Gaines' fielding percentage was .884. With second baseman Edwin Rios, who started one double play with a diving stab and flip to Gaines all with just the glove, and Gaines, FIU has an effective and flashy double play combination. FIU turned eight double plays in the first four games. The Panthers turned 50 in 58 games last year.

It was nice to see junior Mike Ellis back from an almost crushing back injury navigating five innings the way he did Saturday evening. 

"It was a big injury for me," Ellis said. "I've never had to deal with anything like that. I had some doubts over the summer if it was ever going to be the same. I'm stronger than I was last season. I feel more refined mechanically. My body hasn't been in this good a shape ever."

Freshman Christopher Mourelle, from Southwest High, pitched an inning in relief of Ellis Saturday. Mourelle will get the start against Stetson Wednesday. The other freshman trying to grab the fourth starting spot, Cody Crouse, went five innings, giving up six hits and was responsible for two runs.

"Cody did a nice job. I don't think he ran out of gas because his pitch count wasn't high going into the sixth (he wound up at 60)," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. "I think what happened, in the bottom of the fifth, not that we did a whole lot offensively, but the inning took a long time. And, I think he might've lost his focus sitting over there. That happens to young guys after they've been out there four, five, six innings at times."

February 12, 2014

Coley and CLASS; Snow day; 2015 Diamond Dinner

Another pile of points from senior guard Jerica Coley, 29 of them, couldn't lead FIU to an upset of Middle Tennessee State Wednesday night at The Branch. But Coley did get two pieces of individual good news lately: she's one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award (http://www.seniorCLASSaward.com) and one of the 30 finalists for the Naismith Women's Player of the Year Award.

The former award takes into account Coley's excellence in the classroom as well as on the court and fans can go to the website to vote for their favorite student-athlete. 

TENNIS

The women's tennis match against Winthrop got snowed out. They can't clear off the courts and play? Nobody's got a shovel up there? Sheesh...

BASEBALL & SOFTBALL

Arrangements for the 2015 Diamond Dinner, Feb. 7, 2015, already are underway. And FIU's in talks with another excellent keynote speaker. I'm not sure he's a better speaker than this year's Jim Kaat, current broadcaster and former longtime major league pitcher, but he's one of the biggest names in baseball from the 1960s and 1970s.

February 07, 2014

Joining The 700 Club; new softball stadium's first game

Between planes connecting FIU's women's basketball team from San Antonio to El Paso isn't an ideal time for serious reflection. That's where I caught Cindy Russo Thursday afternoon after her 700th career coaching victory, she and her team were in Houston with UTEP in the future (Saturday) and the milestone win against Texas-San Antonio in the past (Wednesday).

"It's an honor to reach it," Russo said. "It took a lot of time and a lot of good people."

As for the most memorable of those 700 wins, Russo pointed to the 81-76 1995 first round NCAA win against she and longtime assistant Inge Nissen's alma mater, Old Dominion. Despite that connection, I got the feeling the top placement owes more to the game being the first of FIU's two NCAA tournament wins.

"And, of course, it's always nice to beat UM," she laughed.

Russo couldn't remember win No. 1.

"It' was too long time ago," she laughed. 

It was 42-41 against Brevard Community College, Jan. 7, 1978. Russo recalls FIU's campus encompassed seven buildings. The team played at Miami Christian High School. They practiced in a former airplane hangar they called "The Tin Gym" now used for storage.

"That first year was memorable," Russo said. "I had a lot of volleyball palyers playing after their season and a lot of softball players playing before their season. But they were a gutty group and coachable."

In the Florida AIAW tournament, FIU won two, then lost two, finishing second to Bethune-Cookman. An eligibility issue, however, knocked Cookman out of the AIAW tournament and sent FIU to the Southeast Regional at the College of Charleston. The Sunblazers (gosh, how much cooler a name is that?) lost to Tampa to end their season 8-14.

Appropriate that the building of wins from eight to 700 by the longest serving FIU coach in any sport in some ways parallels the building of FIU's current campus.

SOFTBALL

Speaking of construction, the new softball facility debuts today at 4 p.m. when FIU plays Maryland in the Felsberg Memorial. Tomorrow night is the major fund-raiser for the softball and baseball programs, the Diamond Dinner in the Graham Center Ballroom at Camp Mitch. Reception is at 6 p.m with the dinner starting at 7 p.m.

Former major league pitcher Jim Kaat will be the keynote speaker.

January 30, 2014

Coffee, Coley & TV

 The biggest weeps over senior guard Jerica Coley graduating FIU might not be heard in the women's basketball offices, but the marketing and media relations offices. They'll be crying like it's the end of Love Story. For those arms of FIU media, Coley's the gift that never stops giving, the cornucopia of FIU goodness.

This week, it's being named a Capital One Academic All-District athlete by College Sports Information Directors of America. This district covers colleges in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Coley carries a 3.41 GPA and majors in dietetics and nutrition.

Coley and the entire women's basketball team will be signing autographs Saturday after FIU faces FAU at 6 p.m. on National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Female FIU employees with their FIU card get in free. Girls under 12 receive a free t-shirt.

TELEVISION

The Apr. 5 FIU vs. FAU softball game will be televised on Fox Sports Network as will the May 3 FIU at East Carolina baseball game. Conference USA announced its spring television schedule today.

 

 

 

January 29, 2014

Garcia Preseason C-USA Player of the Year, Rios All-Conference

Conference USA's coaches share a respect for junior catcher Aramis Garcia, who led FIU in hits (72) and home runs (11) last year while batting .321 with 51 RBI. Garcia also nabbed more attempted stealers than ADT.

For this, coaches voted Garcia Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year, along with East Carolina utility player Drew Reynolds. Sophomore infielder Edwin Rios also made the preseason all-conference team.

FIU was picked sixth in the conference. Rice, either the regular season or conference tournament champion eight consecutive seasons, was unsurprisingly voted the favorite.

January 28, 2014

Academic "attaboys" for 4 athletes

The National Consortium of Academics and Sports put four FIU athletes among the 40 nationwide that received 2013 Academic Momentum Awards.

Defensive end Denzell Perine, a criminal justice major; pitcher Mike Franco, also a criminal justice major; golfer Sophie Godley, a recreation and sports management major; and track thrower Alysha Lewis were each honored for academic improvement and having an impact through academics on classmates, teammates, advisors and professors.

January 08, 2014

2014 Baseball Schedule

The real opening of 2014 baseball season is the Diamond Dinner on Feb. 8 in the Graham Center Ballroom. Former longtime major league pitching good Jim Kaat will be the featured speaker. Also, 15 items will be auctioned off live, another 100 items will be in a silent auction. Tickets are $120 per person, $1,200 for a group of 10. For tickets, call Alyssa Meyer at 305-348-7297 or e-mail her at ameyer@fiu.edu and ask about the group discount. Really, ask about it because there doesn't appear to be one.

Now, for actual action, the baseball team opens up Valentine's Day at University Park with the first of a three-game series against Rutgers. I mean action on the field. As far as other action, your honey's love of baseball and FIU will determine that if you attend.

FIU's first 11 games will be at home against Rutgers, Stetson, Stony Brook, Florida Memorial and Dartmouth along with a Mar. 27 exhibition against the Marlins up at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. The first home Conference USA opponent will be always-tough Rice on Mar. 14. The FAU games are at Camp Mitch April 18-20 and a non-conference game in Boca May 13.

The Conference USA tournament will be May 21-25 in picturesque Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where there's a Waffle House a half-mile in either direction off the exit near the Southern Mississippi campus

September 05, 2013

We name names...and knees

I have in my hand a list numbering 57 card-carrying communists!...No, wait, that's not it...58 Commissioner's List honorees from FIU lauded by the Sun Belt Conference for having at least a 3.5 grade point average during the 2012-13 academic year.

Baseball: Nathan Burns, John Caballero, Charles Cormier, Julius Gaines, Aramis Garcia, Mike Gomez, Roche Woodard, Ty Sullivan.

Men's Basketball: Steven Miro, Manny Nunez.

Women's Basketball: Alexsandra Bodlovich, Marita Davydova, Katrina Epnere, Zsofia Labady, Carmen Miloglav.

Women's Golf: Shelby Coyle.

Women's Soccer: Shelby Bowden, Crystal McNamara, Ashleigh Shim, Sara Stewart.

Softball: Alexandra Cassals, Jennifer Gniadek, Corinne Jenkins, Marisa McGregor, Rachel Slowik.

Tennis: Giuletta Boha, Nina Djordjevic, Michelle Sabado.

Swimming & Diving: Sabrina Beaupre, Mary Boucher, Kelly Grace, Chelsie Kidd, Jennifer Lee, Dorothy Miller, Colleen Quinn, Marina Ribi, Courtney Vander Schaaf.

Men's Track & Field/Cross Country: Miguel Delgadillo, Ross Hope, Eli Monzon, Daniel Puentes, Orlando Rodriguez, Aubrey Smith.

Women's Track & Field/Cross Country: Maria Alea, Isabel Betancourt, Elenor Edwards, Daniela Espino, Jessica Gehrke, Lauren Gonzalez, Tiffanie Hernandez, Bianca Morrison, Antonia Simms, Desmika White, Lashae White.

Volleyball: Lucia Castro, Jessica Egan, Gloria Levorin, Kimberly Smith, Brittany Spencer.

FOOTBALL

Defensive end Denzell Perine, who had to be helped off the field during Saturday's loss to Maryland and returned to play a solid game until the final whistle, Tweeted that he had knee surgery but would still be able to play Friday against Central Florida. 

 

June 11, 2013

APR news, not-so-news (basketball postseason ban), a football departure

 I don't know what happened to this post. Somehow, inserting the Alice Cooper video eliminated the rest of the copy. I apologize.

In summary, the men's basketball team got the NCAA punishment expected for almost a year -- no postseason play in 2013-14, activity time limited to five days and 16 hours -- when the 2011-12 Academic Progress Rate came in at an abysmal 750. That pulled the four-year rate down to 858. The reasons behind the 833 for the 2010-11 school year, one of the factors in Isiah Thomas' firing, was discussed in an April 5 post on this blog. I'd heard stories of players willfully crashing their acadmics after Thomas' firing. Such a comically low APR score all but confirms that happened. Between that and transfers from the program post-firing, there's your 750.

The football team's single-season APR was 932 and four-year was 930. The leading programs on the four-year APR were tennis, 992, and swimming, 986. Women's basketball and golf both put up single-year APRs of 1000.

Football had the lowest four APR aside from basketball. Baseball had the lowest single season APR aside from basketball, 867.

ACADEMIC PROGRESS RATES

Baseball: multi-year, 945. 2011-12, 867

Men's basketball: multi-year, 858. 2011-12, 750.

Men's cross country: multi-year, 975. 2011-12, 938.

Football: multi-year, 930. 2011-12, 932.

Men's soccer: multi-year, 943. 2011-12, 975.

Men's indoor track: multi-year, 960. 2011-12, 970.

Men's outdoor track: multi-year, 952. 2011-12, 970.

Women's basketball: multi-year, 972. 2011-12, 1000.

Women's cross country: multi-year, 955. 2011-12, 980.

Women's golf: multi-year, 983. 2011-12, 1000.

Women's soccer: multi-year, 954. 2011-12, 958

Softball: multi-year, 967. 2011-12, 935.

Swimming: multi-year, 986. 2011-12, 991.

Tennis: multi-year, 992. 2011-12, 968.

Women's indoor track: multi-year, 957. 2011-12, 928.

Women's outdoor track: multi-year, 960. 2011-12, 943.

Volleyball: multi-year, 973. 2011-12, 932.

 

FOOTBALL

Sources close to Camp Mitch say yet another director of football operations, Nick Mehlhaff, has resigned. That's four directors of football operations since January 2012, two in the last five months.

 

June 08, 2013

MLB drafts one from FIU

The Major League Baseball draft didn't tap the FIU roster until Saturday, when lefthanded pitcher Tyler Alexander got taken in the 27th round by Milwaukee.

In what probably will be his only season at FIU after time at Hillsborough Community College, Alexander went 4-6 with a 4.28 ERA and .255 opponent batting average in 15 starts. He struck out 101 batters and walked 62 in 90 1/3 innings. Alexander took over the No. 1 starter role after Mike Ellis' season-ending injury.


Categories


Archives


Powered by TypePad