May 12, 2014

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.

 

Hoop Scholars, Softball & Hard Time

The NCAA threw out Public Recognition Awards to teams with Academic Progress Rates in the top 10 percent of their sports. One FIU team made it this year, with the APR rates based on the 2009-2013 academic years -- women's basketball.

All APR rates will be released later.

SOFTBALL

First baseman Stephanie Texiera was voted Second Team All-Conference USA and was a unanimous coaches' choice for Conference USA Freshman of the Year Award. Texeira and Gabby Spallone made the conference's All-Freshman team.

Still...how does the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament have only one player make first or second team all-conference?

One thing that wrinkled my already sun-wrinkled brow about FIU in this weekend's Conference USA softball tournament at FAU: the Panthers are busing up this afternoon for Thursday's 1:30 game against East Carolina. 

What, I thought, they're worried about getting caught on the Turnpike behind some 1983 IROC Z28 Camaro rear-ending a beige Toyota Camry and being late to the Thursday afternoon game?

No, what they're worried about is 2012 Sun Belt Tournament at FAU Redux. FIU opened against Troy in a rain-delayed game that didn't get called for the night until Letterman. The Panthers dragged back home, got to bed in the wee hours and showed up groggy to finish a 4-1 loss. After an afternoon nap, a still sonambulent FIU got dusted 9-1 by South Alabama.

So, this year, they're busing up, getting into the hotel, getting a good night's sleep, then playing.

MEN'S SOCCER

What is it with FIU athletes getting busted on weed-related charges five seconds after they finish their eligibility or degree?

Walk-on transfer Luke Bray started 10 of the 12 games he played for FIU last season, picked up no goals or assists, and three of five games in 2012. Bray has filed an affidavit for indigent status after getting busted on a felony possession charge and charged with possession with intent to distribute. His next hearing is May 29.

Funny how this might've fit under either of the headlines of the last two blog posts. Not as funny as Bray's name being removed from last year's roster on the FIU website and his bio removed once you click on his name in the 2012 roster.

 

 

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.

 

Graves proves Mission: Impossible for Southern Miss.

Junior Shelby Graves walked one of the 17 batters she faced in the five-inning second game of Saturday's doubleheader against Southern Mississippi. Besides that minor scratch, Graves struck out five, allowed no runs and no hits in FIU's 10-0 thrashing of Southern Miss.

In the first game of the day, FIU pounded out 18 hits in a 17-4 battering that clinched the Panthers' spot in the Conference USA tournament.

 

 

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. 

Sand spiked

FIU lost to Hawaii 4-1 Friday morning in the first round of the AVCA Collegiate Sand Chamionships. Florida State smoked FIU 5-0 Friday afternoon to eliminate the Panthers.

And that's that.

Funny how things go...

I don't know if this resulted from the right player going to the right situation or the wrong player going to the wrong situation. I don't know what it says about how these players compare directly or what would happen if they swapped spots like Morgan Spring and Poland Creek swapped stock.

But here's the facts as we head into another NFL Draft: Dion Jordan, the defensive end the Dolphins moved up to take No. 3 overall in the 2013 draft, played 16 games, started none, made 26 tackles and 2.0 sacks for a team that missed the playoffs; and former FIU defensive end Tourek Williams, converted to outside linebacker by the Chargers after being taken in the sixth round, played 13 regular season games, started six, made 10 tackles, 1.0 sack and 1 forced fumble for a team that played two playoff games (he played in both).

So the Chargers got as much out of a sixth round pick from FIU as the Dolphins did from a first round pick from Oregon.

Huh.

 

 

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 30, 2014

Serrano C-USA Freshman of the Year; MacLaren All-Conference

Conference USA named FIU's Camilla Serrano its golf Freshman of the Year. Serrano also was a Second Team All-Conference USA selection.

Last year's top FIU freshman, Meghan MacLaren, made Third Team All-C-USA. MacLaren rebounded from a rough first round of the conference tournament to tie Serrano for 12th overall with a 3-over 219 as FIU finished tied for fourth.

 

FIU puts 2 on All-CUSA tennis team

The shortest player on the FIU tennis team, 5-4 sophomore Carlotta Orlando, and the tallest player, 5-11 senior Giulietta Boha, each were named to the All-Conference USA tennis team, announced Tuesday.

Orlando went 19-9 in singles, playing No. 1 singles most of the year. Boha went 25-4 in singles play.

April 28, 2014

Here We Are Now -- Ignore Us

I dropped by the North Florida-FIU sand volleyball exhibition Monday to shoot photos for a piece on the team that we had planned to run later this week, right before the American Volleyball Coaches Association Collegiate Nationals. Though my best Herald photo credits come from disasters -- massive car crashes, storm-razed Blue Monster scoreboards and television towers, the first quarter crowd at November's Marshall-FIU football game -- I figured I could save our stretched photo staff a trip to Camp Mitch.

After an hour of shooting, I left, planning to return Tuesday to talk to folks for the story. Got the word via e-mail around 3:30 that stated Coach Rita Buck-Crockett "will have practice closed to ALL MEDIA tomorrow due to the fact that she wants the team focused on Nationals with no distractions."

The team leaves Wednesday morning.

Looking at the e-mail recipients, "ALL MEDIA" apparently means me and a member of FIU Student Media, which made the capitalization all the more amusing. I'd gauged from the vibe at the courts that certain volleyball folks weren't happy I pointed out the whole gofundme.com thing, which is kind of strange. They created the page, they promoted it on social media and still have said page up there, presumably so more people will see it and pony up bucks for the program.

Or maybe some other folks aren't happy.

"Whaaatever," (said in Squidward voice). That's why there won't be a story in The Herald on the closest thing FIU will have to a national championship team this year as that team goes to the national championship tournament.

Anyway, good luck to Marina Boulanger and Jessica Gehrke, the No. 1 pair; No. 2 pair Tina Toghiyani and Aren Cupp; No. 3 pair Maja Rosko and Camila Rosado; and the rest of the team this weekend.

 

 

 

Coley in Liberty camp

FIU senior guard Jerica Coley, two-time national leading scorer and one of the most liked athletes in FIU history, has signed with the New York Liberty as a free agent. The Liberty began training camp Sunday, begin the preseason May 4 and the regular season May 16 against Connecticut.

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.