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.

 

 

Women 4th, Men 11th in Conference USA Track & Field

Strong placings by the throwers and points from the sprinters on the last day of the Conference USA Track & Field Championships allowed FIU's women to hold onto fourth in the team standings. East Carolina took the title with 140 points. Texas-El Paso came home second with 88 points, Rice in third with 74 points and FIU in fourth with 66.5 points.

Sophomore Raqurra Ishmar, who finished fifth in the hammer throw, pushed her way to second in the shot put with a throw of 52 feet, 2 inches, 4 feet 2.5 inches behind winner Claire Uke from Rice. In the javelin, another sophomore, Tiffani Hernandez, threw the spear 143-3 to finish third.

Out on the track, sophomore Cam'ree Jackson finished third in a 100 meter final that saw the first four places within nine hundreths of a second. Earlier, Jackson ran the second leg in the fourth place 4x100 relay team led off by sophomore Phillicia Fluellen and closing with sophomore Oriel Anu and senior T'Keyah Dumoy. They ran a 45.2, .15 behind third place UTEP and .82 behind champions East Carolina.

Sophomore Jaylaan Slaughter, in 1:01.45. picked up five points for her fourth in the 400 meter hurdles.

 

May 17, 2014

Track (Oh, No) & Field (OK) Day 3

The hammer throwers put FIU's women into the lead going into Saturday's events at the Conference USA Track & Field Championships. Saturday, the jumpers got points while the throwers got disappointed.

Sophomore Phillicia Fluellen's long jump of 20 feet, 5 3/4 inches brought home eight points for second in the long jump behind Louisiana Tech junior Charla Craddock's 20-10 3/4 leap. In the high jump, junior Tikiera Relaford finished tied for fourth with Middle Tennessee State's Barbara Vilson at 5 feet, 7 1/4 inches. East Carolina senior Tynita Butts popped a 6-3 1/4 jump to take her fourth C-USA high jump title and join University of South Florida's 2002-05 shot put queen Chandra Brewer as the only four-time C-USA women's champions.

In the discus, hammer throw winner Kayla Padgett picked up another 10 points for East Carolina. But what allowed East Carolina to extend its lead was FIU recording zero points. Among the nine throws of sophomores Miriam Pierre, Alysha Lewis and Raqurra Ishmar, only Ishmar's final throw, 109 feet, 3 inches, counted as legal. That got her 22nd place. Sophomore Chelsea Goburne's 139-7 got her 12th, four spots out of the points.

FIU's relative strength is in the field events, a fact demonstrated by the women's track finalists limited to being Cam'ree Jackson in the 100 meters and sophomore Jaylaan Slaughter in the 400 hurdles. 

Ditto for the men. Three quarters of an inch, 25-7 1/4 to 25-8, separated FIU senior Aubrey Smith from winner Cameron Hudson of East Carolina. Sophomore Marcus Ghent finished eighth with a leap of 24-1 1/2.

The men have nobody in Sunday's individual event track finals.

 

 

 

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 16, 2014

FIU's Women Throw The H

The Conference USA Track & Field Championships don't figure to yield much for FIU. With the Texas-El Paso African pipeline dominating the distance events and other solid programs, an FIU team lacking a head coach all season and facilities all program history doesn't have the raw talent to overcome the deficit handed them by such a setup.

So give it up for FIU's hammer throwing sophomore women, who compiled 18 points in that event Friday. Behind easy winner Kayla Padgett of East Carolina (192 feet, 5 inches), FIU's Miriam Pierre finished second with a throw of 179-7 and Chelsea Goburne was third at 177-10. Raqurra Ishmar's best fling, 176-10, got her a fifth place. 

FIU also got points, six of them, from freshman Caroline Reiser for her third place in the 10,000 in 36:12.64.

On the men's side, Chris Sullivan finished the decathlon in sixth with 6,277 points.

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. 

 

 

 

FIU to host C-USA softball tournament

Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium will host the 2015 Conference USA softball tournament next May 7 through 9. FIU entered this year's tournament as the No. 3 seed and, with a roster that loses only four seniors, might go in next year as both host and No. 1 seed.

Now, the only problem will be where the media covering the tournament will be placed. I've stood in the new press box a few times. Between scoreboard operators, statisticians, media relations staffers -- all necessary in a press box, mind you -- there was room for one reporter to sit. One, in-shape reporter with narrow hips. You get one of my more blobby bretheren in there, that hole is plugged.

 

 

 

May 14, 2014

APR Stars (women's hoop, tennis) & Scrubs (men's track)

In the Academic Progress Rate reports released by the NCAA minutes ago, FIU didn't suffer any single-season disasters from 2012-13 and only men's basketball remains in the penalty zone in multi-year tracking, although football is close. That men's basketball showed a significant single season jump opened the door to the NCAA letting FIU off postseason grounding, but leaves them still facing some minor penalties -- practice reduction and limits on number of games.

Let's start with the good news. Perfect 1000 APRs for 2012-13 were attained by women's indoor & outdoor track, women's basketball, golf, tennis, cross country and men's soccer. Baseball came in with a 990.

On the low side were men's track, 897 indoors and 933 outdoor for 2012-13. Football's single season APR was 926. You hit 925, you get a nasty note from The Four-Letter Organization. You get below 900 for multiple years, time for the penalty box. Men's basketball, as previously mentioned, showed single-season hops, going from 750 to 959.

The multi-year APRs show basketball at 866, up slightly from 858. Football is at 933. Women's basketball provides FIU's zenith to the men's nadir in multi-year APR, 995, just ahead of tennis' 992.

MULTI-YEAR APRs

Women's Basketball   995

Women's Tennis   992

Women's Cross Country 987

Women's Golf  983

Swimming & Diving 982

Women's Outdoor Track 978

Women's Indoor Track 975

Men's Soccer 975

Softball 972

Women's Volleyball 968

Women's Soccer 955

Men's Cross Country 950

Baseball 948

Men's Outdoor Track 948

Men's Indoor Track 947

Football 933

Men's Baskteball 866

 

SINGLE YEAR APRs

Women's Basketball 1000

Women's Cross Country 1000

Women's Tennis 1000

Men's Soccer 1000

Women's Indoor Track 1000

Women's Outdoor Track 1000

Baseball 990

Women's Volleyball 979

Women's Soccer 976

Swimming & Diving 962

Men's Basketball 959

Softball 957

Men's Outdoor Track 933

Football 926

Men's Indoor Track 897

 

 

Former football assistant to be JuCo head coach

Football Scoop reported and I confirmed that former FIU defensive assistant Juan Navarro will soon be named the new head coach at Los Angeles Valley College. Navarro spent the 2013 season as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Pierce College.

 

May 13, 2014

Football Season Ticket Prices Fall Slightly; Birmingham, Baby!

After going 1-11 in 2013, including 0-6 at home, maybe you'd expect FIU to give those who stuck it through last season a break on 2014 season tickets. Maybe give the game against FCS foe Wagner -- half of Hart to Hart, for Pete's sake -- as a freebie.

Well, in a way, yes.

CORRECTION FROM THE PREVIOUS:

Season tickets remain the same price, $150 total betwen price and forced donation, despite FIU having eight home games this year compared to the standard six. FIU faculty and staff prices have gone from $100 to $120 or $16.67 per game to $15 per game.

BASKETBALL

The Conference USA men's and women's basketball tournaments will be in Birmingham next year, Mar. 11 through the 14th. Long notice for you traveling FIU fans to hotel up.

 

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 11, 2014

Isame & Hickman go the FA route

Looks like NFL Network Draft Analyst/Scout Mike Mayock nailed this one.

Mayock said he saw FIU defensive tackles Isame Faciane and Greg Hickman as priority free agents instead of draft picks. Sure enough, after the draft wheel stopped turning Saturday, Faciane signed with Minnesota and Hickman signed with Detroit.

No surprises here. Both played well during 2013 and Hickman, especially, played courageously on a mangled ankle all season. That's painful to people built like Pixie Stix. Imagine doing that at a squarish 275 pounds.

No matter if either young man makes it in the NFL, FIU should be proud of them. Talk to people who've known each for a while and you'll hear about the personal growth each has made as men while at FIU. That lasts many times longer than an NFL career. 

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.

Jenkins All-Academic Team; Can't Spell MLS With FIU

FIU sophomore pitcher Corinne Jenkins went 15-7 with a 3.37 earned run average this season. She's also a psychology major with a 3.74 grade point average.

Which is why Jenkins made the Conference USA Softball All-Academic team.

MLS

If you're one of those who has been sold by athletic department administrators on the dream of David Beckham's Major League Soccer franchise choosing FIU as a home and injecting $255 million into the athletic department, here's the alarm buzzing, "Wake up!"

Beckham, potential co-owner Simon Fuller and lobbyist John Alschuler said during their meeting with The Herald today that MLS has told them the stadium must be downtown. Alschuler later said, "We don't want to be south, we don't want to be west, we don't want to be north."

They envision a cool, hip, yuppie crowd walking to the game from offices, condos and nearby parking lots. In other words, not what you'd get from a suburban site.

Time to find another possible source of Other People's Money for the athletic department.

May 07, 2014

Coley Cut

I see former FIU guard Jerica Coley, who led the nation in scoring for the second consecutive season in 2013-14, has been waived by the New York Liberty. The Liberty signed Coley as a free agent rookie before training camp.