February 17, 2015

Getting Dressed

You can skip this unless you're an athletics business wonk. Or just curious.

A few things about the deal with adidas, announced by FIU in January as a five-year deal worth around $2.6 million:

*FIU gets adidas footwear, clothes, equipment and accessories, but not for free. They get sort of a Costco deal on stuff -- shoes at 45 percent off retail price; clothes, equipment and accessories 50 percent off retail for everyone but baseball/softball, which gets only 37.5 percent off The Price is Right price. But baseball/softball gets theirs elsewhere, as you’ll soon see.  FIU must spend at least $300,000 each year, which is air hockey money for a properly-funded Division I athletic program.

*If FIU does spend $300,000 each year, it gets an additional $260,000 retail value of adidas product (stuff) in 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, $285,000 in 2018-19 and $310,000 in 2019-2020.

*For the football team using adidas footballs in practices and games, FIU gets $10,000 retail value of product each year.

*Under “Athletic Department Fund Raising”, adidas gives FIU $15,000 of retail product value each year.

*There’s various bonuses for team achievement and Coach of the Year. The largest realistically attainable one is $20,000 retail value product for a football team bowl appearance.

*Baseball gets the most extra stuff. Softball will get the same stuff in “an amount to be agreed upon when Adidas introduced these hardgoods” according to the contract. (Yes, I think it should be “introduces” but I’m quoting directly from the contract, so…)

Each year, FIU Baseball gets:

Up to 48 wood bats, up to 42 non-wood bats, 6 aluminum fungo bats, up to 36 fielder’s gloves, up to 40 wheeled locker equipment bags, up to 40 individual duffel bags, 6 coach’s briefcases, 5 wheeled catcher bags (two to be used for equipment), up to 96 pairs of batting gloves (replaced by wear and tear), up to 96 pairs of wristbands, up to 25 batting helmets, up to 6 sets of catching gear.

432 fitted baseball hats

$34,000 retail value of free product.

$4,000 retail value of free product for the head coach

The only other individual in the athletic department who gets free product is the athletic director, who gets $10,000 retail value of free product each year.

  

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.

April 20, 2014

Saturday in the Park

Tough Saturday afternoon for the FIU baseball team.

Actually, it started Friday night. After pitcher Mike Franco dropped a Friday night complete game zero on FAU, letting only one runner reach third base, he gets dissed by the FIU Sports website. Instead of using a new photo of Franco or a stock photo of Franco from some past game, the site used a posed photo of sports and entertainment director Pete Garcia with Rosenberg's Rowdies, the noisy, devoted group of FIU students.

An action shot of Garcia joining The Rowdies, as President Mark Rosenberg did during the last men's basketball home game, would've been excellent. Or, it would've been if you didn't have a pitcher throwing a complete game shutout to extend your team single-season conference record in shutouts to 12.

Anyway, then came the wacky game. A pickoff. Catcher interference. Two balks. Two! You can watch baseball until seams go across your eyeballs without seeing two balks. (former Major League Umpire, the late Ron Luciano, in one of his books written with David Fisher, wrote that he never called a balk because he didn't understand the rule).

Only seven of FAU's 13 runs counted as earned and the Owls had only one more hit than FIU. But they also had one less error, one less wild pitch, one less walk and three less hit batters.

A regular poster, Chiapanther, asked me on Twitter why FIU didn't go to closer Mike Gomez with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth with the score still tied 3-3. I wondered the same thing.

"Mike Gomez does a lot better when he's ahead in the game," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. "It wasn't the time to do that."

Everybody's back on the field at 1 p.m. Sunday. I'll be back at The Table then and back here tomorrow night. 

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.”

 

February 24, 2014

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 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 17, 2013

FIU finishes rolling Stony

Of course Sunday ended with the starter and game-winner dragging the infield.

South Westside-20130217-01203
"That's my field duty," junior Mike Franco said after FIU's 1-0 win. "No matter even if I throw a complete game shutout, I have to do it."

Franco, who popped a 94 mph fastball Sunday, said he definitely felt he could've gone beyond his 45-pitch limit, but didn't argue with sticking to the plan to complete his recovery from last April's Tommy John surgery. He also used the word "Omaha" when talking about FIU.

Clearly, Franco felt good about himself and his team after FIU went three for three against Stony Brook Saturday and Sunday. Hey, everybody feels good when they haven't been scored on in 23 innings. FIU coach Turtle Thomas complimented the Panthers pitching, but also allowed that a northern team like Stony Brook's still thawing out their game this early in the season.

Though coming out of real winter (snow, ice), the Stony Brook fans looked just as uncomfortable in Florida winter (Sunday) as the FIU fans did. Everybody in each team's colors seemed to have a hoodie on or hunching their shoulders in a vain attempt to turn their collar into a hoodie. This wasn't Soldier Field, where Wisconsin and Minnesota ("Gophers!") played hockey Sunday, but the weather wasn't conducive to hitting, either.

Also not conducive to offense: Edwin Rios' glove. In Saturday's 10-4 win, Rios stopped a sizzling line drive down the line with the bases loaded that should've been a run-scoring double (at least). Instead, he took care of the inning's third out.

Sunday, with Stony's Austin Shives on third and one out, Rios snagged a hard grounder from Cole Peragine, fastened the runner to third with a staple gun stare, then stepped on first for the force out. A ground out to second later, FIU was out of the seventh inning.

"He's kind of our jack of all trades -- he can play second, short, first, third," Turtle Thomas said. "I told him one practice day, take ground balls at third and short. Next practice day, take 'em at second and first."

Meanwhile, umpire Damien Beal seemed to be giving pitchers half the outside batters box. Some called strikes looked closer to home plate of the nearest Tamiami Park diamond. But, credit to Beal, he maintained consistency. Neither team really adjusted to his strike zone. FIU's Zach Sweety struck out looking three times and six of FIU's eight strikeouts were with bat on the shoulder. When FIU's Mike Gomez got Shives looking in the ninth, Shives had the nerve to look at Beal with shock and dismay. The plate ump's been giving pitchers both dugouts all day, you're down 1-0 and you're taking a close two-strike pitch with a man on first in the last inning? Shives needed to save that look for the mirror.

Or Stony's third base coach. This really should've been a tie game going into the bottom of the ninth. With Peragine on first in the fourth, Steven Goldstein whistled a double down the first base line that bounced into the right field corner. Easy score for anyone faster than Fat Albert. Instead, Peragine got the hold up.

You haven't scored on a team in two days, your lineup's leadoff hitter is on first, you get a shot down the line that's at least a double, Keith Moreland and Cesar Geronimo are nowhere to be found in right field and you hold the runner? I thought the third base coach should be jumping up and down, windmilling the arms, yelling "Run, Sweetback! Run!"

Clearly, Goldstein expected Peragine to receive encouragement similar to that. He rounded second without a thought of braking until he saw Peragine reversing to third. This, of course, resulted in a rundown, Josh Anderson tagging out Peragine and FIU preserving its lead.

Sophomore shortstop Julius Gaines went three for four Sunday, seven for 10 in the series, and scored Sunday's only run.

"He's been swinging well in the three weeks we've been practicing and continued right on into the season," Thomas said. "He's gotten some added strength this year."

 

More (mostly baseball) stuff from A Great Day at Camp Mitch

 While Friday’s rain made for some long Saturdays for FIU athletes, coaches and staff, it did set up a pretty impressive Don Larsen Day for FIU: 6-0 across four teams playing at Camp Mitch Saturday, 2-0 at each venue.

Softball reversed its fortunes after a tough start last weekend with wins over UConn (3-2) and Binghamton (4-3) in the Blue/Gold Felsberg Memorial. Inside The Branch, a lot of defense and Jerica gave the women’s basketball team a 72-53 blowout of Western Kentucky. And the men’s basketball team finished the double spanking of the Hilltoppers with an 87-82 win.

Baseball took out Stony Brook 10-4 in the postponed season opener and 3-0, a game that started late but FIU pitching further delayed Stony Brook’s bats from making an appearance.

Most of this blog focuses on baseball, as that’s where I spent an hour Friday (after spending an hour and a half getting there in Friday traffic) and all day Saturday.

The baseball field’s left field lights held a lights out strike early in Game 2. Turtle Thomas, Stony Brook coach Matt Senk and the umpires got together before the third inning to discuss the matter. FIU had just cranked two deep flyouts to that increasingly dark part of the park. The lights to the adjoining soccer field got turned on as a help, an amusing idea considering the limited effect the soccer field’s lights have on darkness taking over the soccer field.

All agreed to play on. Thomas said if Senk had wanted the game halted, FIU would’ve stopped.

“Because they’re our guests.” Thomas said.

Four new pitchers did a masterful job for FIU Saturday. Stony Brook roughed up Game 1 starter Mike Ellis a bit with only four hits, but four runs, all earned, in four innings.  Junior college transfer Ty Sullivan tamed the rowdy Stony Brook bats for four innings before freshman Dillion Maya finished the show. In Game 2, FIU brooked no rowdiness from The Brook as Tyler Alexander gave up four hits in six innings and Mitchell Davis allowed two baserunners while striking out three in two innings. Senior Mike Gomez put the bow on the game, easily.

Here’s three of the new guys on their night.

Alexander:  “I do the chart (for the first game’s pitchers), so I was ready for whatever. I knew that if I came hard and live off my change up a little bit, then I could come back in with the hard stuff. It seemed to work.

“I feel like they struggled with the fastball. They were sitting on speed. They waited on the first pitch strike. They made you throw that first strike.”

Sullivan:  “All through those four innings, I noticed they were an aggressive team, but at the same time, they were patient. They were picking and choosing pitches. I could see why they were a College World Series team. They didn’t lay off anything that was off the plate. When I went out there, my goal was just pound it, pound it. Especially with guys on base in big situations, throw that off speed stuff for strikes. “

“They were really patient hitters, but when they got their pitch, they were really aggressive on it. So if it was in the strike zone, they were attacking it. In first two or three innings for me, they were looking for that fastball up, but I threw a couple of changeups and sliders that would break late. They swing over the top of a lot of those, so that started to work well.”

Mitchell Davis: “I had a live fastball today. A lot of off speed, my slider, my go-to pitch was on. Can’t complain on that. Changeup was a little off. Figured it out. Got that working and once I had all three working, it was no shot for the other team.”

If Davis sounds confident, well, yeah. Facing his first batter with the game scoreless, he fielded a grounder, then launch a shoulder missile wide and far of first. The runner got sacrificed to third.

“I knew I could get out of that and keep us tied up so we could get the lead next inning,” Davis said.

He got Anthony Italiano to fly out to second, walked leadoff hitter Cole Peragine, then struck out Steven Goldstein. The next inning, FIU took a 1-0 lead.

Davis, who went to Grayson County College, then Northeast Texas Junior College before coming to FIU, made the National Honor Society in high school.

(Hearing “National Honor Society” always reminds me of this piece of Dolphins trivia: the Dolphins only playoff team of the last decade, 2008, had a Rhodes Scholar candidate at quarterback, Chad Pennington, and three former National Honor Society members. Two you could predict: son of an Stanford professor Greg Camarillo and Donald Thomas, a UConn graduate raised in the shadow of Yale. The third? Channing Crowder.)

Anyway, someone with the intellect and/or work ethic to be a National Honor Society member going to a junior college is akin to someone with four-star recruit physical ability playing Division II.

“It was a pretty difficult decision,” Davis said. “I decided it was a good opportunity. I got injured my senior year. So, juco was my route because I didn’t get offered to big time D-1s like I wanted to. I knew I needed to get my name out there.”

Davis said the academic scholarships he could get didn’t cover as much as the academic-athletic or the athletics-only scholarships baseball might bring.

“(He and his family) just get by so I needed as much help as I could get,” the Fort Worth native said.

Another new pitcher from Texas, Corpus Christi’s Mike Franco, got penciled in as the Sunday starter earlier this week. When Franco whistled a 95 to 96 mph fastball in preseason training, it rated not on the Wow Factor scale, but on the Say What? Factor scale.

“It was one of those days,” Franco said. “There’s adrenaline going, first time being out of the mound in a couple of months, coming back from my injury and I just felt good.”

Franco’s coming off Tommy John surgery last April after tearing ligaments in his elbow. That he’s pitching at all speaks to persistence.

“Truthfully, a lot of people were (wondering) if I would even come back by this season,” Franco said. “Coach Thomas didn’t think I was going to come back for this season. I was determined to throw this year. I couldn’t sit out another year.”

Even should Franco start later today, he’ll be on a pitch count that increases by five each weekend. Still, that kind of fastball injects some anticipation into Sunday afternoon’s series closer.

 

May 19, 2012

Baseball fall; Old Dominion, New Conference; More Ashley

Last week, FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas likened his team to a football team that couldn't stop anybody when their offense is clicking, couldn't score when the defense is clicking or special teams failed badly enough to upend the whole mix. To use Thomas' metaphor, Thursday and Friday, FIU couldn't stop the early bombing, then coulnd't stop FAU in the two-minute drill.

And it could cost FIU the No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Friday, reliever Michael Gomez took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth and left with a 4-3 loss that gave FAU the Sun Belt regular season title. The collapse wasted a fine start by Mike Ellis, which was an improvement on Thursday. Eddy Pidermann got pummeled for six runs in the first inning of a 12-2 blowout. 

Statistical oddity: Oscar Aguirre came into this series with zero home runs on the season. He has two solo shots in the first two games.

The two losses leave FIU at 15-14 in Sun Belt play, the same as South Alabama, which took two of three from FIU up there this season. FIU ends the regular season this afternoon at FAU hours before South Alabama hosts Troy in its regular season closer.

OLD NEWS

So Old Dominion joins Conference USA, putting the league at 14 members. My first thought was "Oh, cool, Cindy Russo and Inge Nissen coaching against their alma mater twice a year now!" Russo and Nissen played for ODU back when it ruled the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the NCAA barely acknowleged women's sports. (young fans or participants in women's sports who want a historical perspective where we are now versus where we used to be should check out Sports Illustrated's recent issue on the 40th anniversary of Title IX and the story that discusses the AIAW).

It also means one more school FIU should own in football for a while. ODU just restarted its program in 2009 and will go FBS (Division I in any other sports' language) in 2015.

SOFTBALL

Senior outfielder Ashley McClain got named to the All-South Second Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. McClain, a First Team All-South honree in 2010 and 2011, is the first FIU player to be All-South three times. 

May 09, 2012

Softball beats Troy 4-1 in Sun Belt tournament

With Mariah Dawson pitching, FIU dumped Troy 4-1 and will face the winner of No. 2 seed South Alabama vs. No. 7 Louisiana-Monroe Thursday.

So, let's just say they'll be facing South Alabama tomorrow.

SUBHEAD

In talking to Turtle Thomas for the story that ran in The Herald today on Mike Martinez, I asked him if the team missed Martinez in the season opening series against top 10 ranked Rice. Martinez, for a violation of team rules, didn't play in the series.

Thomas nodded that he thought Martinez would've made a difference in the extra innings loss, which FIU led 4-3 late in the game. Having Martinez's bat could've meant an extra run, thus giving FIU a big early season win.

Thomas figures the only way back to the NCAA Regionals is to win the Sun Belt tournament. He thinks only one Sun Belt team will make it and he's probably right -- FAU has the conference's best RPI at No. 78 in the nation. FIU is No. 118

March 05, 2012

Women's hoop; Beaupre diving; Big Game sez The Big Guy; Ashley, Ashley

To quickly summarize what could be either a fantastic or fantastically disappointing two days for FIU athletics….

In contrast to the one-and-done men’s hoop team, the FIU women ballers came from behind Sunday to take out Denver 67-59 -- 18 second-half points by sophomore guard Jerica Coley -- and now face No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State in a Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinal.

FIU lost to Middle by five at Murfreesboro and by 14 at The Branch. Up near Nashville, FIU held advantages in rebounds (42-31), shooting from the field (44.0 percent to 36.5 percent) and the line (eight of 11 greater than five of nine). But they went one of eight from three-point range to Middle’s seven of 28 and committed 24 turnovers to Middle’s 13.

Out near Sweetwater, a trio of threes propelled a 13-2 early second half run that erased FIU’s eight-point halftime lead. Also, FIU shot only nine free throws to Middle’s 25.

In the pool – or above the pool, then in the pool -- sophomore Sabrina Beaupre dives today in the NCAA Regional to qualify for next week’s NCAA Championships.

Tuesday, FIU baseball faces Boston College. Turtle Thomas deflected all questions about Wednesday’s exhibition against the Marlins by saying his focus is entirely on BC.

"Boston College will be a great RPI game," Thomas said. "That'll be the best RPI game except Florida State and Rice. That is a huge game." 

Thomas said redshirt sophomore Eddy Pidermann would start against BC.

SOFTBALL

Ashley McClain’s two RBI Sunday pushed her career total to an FIU-record 138 as the 8-11 Panthers beat Oregon State 4-1.

Friday and Saturday, FIU hosts the FIU Invitational, double-headers against DePaul and Delaware.

SPRINGING

Because sponsors for the yearly PGA event on The Blue Monster change every few years, this is simply referred to by local golf scribes as Doral Week. That means, for the third consecutive year, I’ll be buried in bunkers and birdies and ball strikers until they hand out the big check on Sunday. Unless I see Kedrick Rhodes or Jake Medlock running up the 18th fairway, others will be handling spring football for us this week.

 

 

March 03, 2012

Extra Bases from Friday...

Some stuff from Friday night's 6-5 baseball win against Brown in the home opener...

The night before lefthanded sophomore pitcher Michael Ellis gets his start against Brown, he helped produced the game-winning run. Senior Mike Martinez, who went two for three (.533 this season) and walked twice, joked after the game about junior Adam Kirsch continually seeking counsel about his swing and said he told Kirsch he was fine. Kirsch admitted he was asking about quite a bit, but felt he'd missed on some good pitches earlier in the game. Kirsch said Ellis advised that he was getting his foot down late.

The next time up, Kirsch got a first pitch fastball and put it over the fence to break a 5-5 tie.

Freshman shortstop Julius Gaines has five errors in seven games so far, but head coach Turtle Thomas said, Julius is a freshman. He’s played every inning of all seven games. He’ll continue to play because he’s a good player. He’ll figure it out sooner or later.”

Thomas seemed to have more concern about redshirt junior starter Mason McVay, who didn't get the Ivy League visitors under control until the third inning or so.

“That’s what’s happening with him right now," Thomas said. "He goes out , struggles the first couple of innings, he settles in, he does fine as long as he stays in the game. The problem is, he’s got to figure it out earlier so he doesn’t throw 70 pitches the first two innings. Four innings, he had 95 pitches.”

That said, Thomas also complimented Brown on tenacity at the plate. One of the reasons McVay reached such a high pitch count in the first two innings was the Bears weren't leaving anything up to the umpire. If it was close, they were swinging and making contact and foul balls were fine with them.

 

February 15, 2012

Hitters, throwers, no catchers...

For an unspecified violation of team rules, two seniors, infielder Mike Martinez and right-handed pitcher Logan Dodds, have been suspended for the baseball team's season-opening series against Rice.

There will be a fuller season preview/series preview story in Friday's Herald, but one tidbit -- it looks like FIU's starting pitching rotation will be lefthanded R.J. Fondon, lefthanded former late reliever Mason McVay -- "He threw five nnings on Saturday and was not sore the next day at all, which was good. he came up to me and made that comment specifically," FIU coach Turtle Thomas said -- and righty Jose Lazaro, a freshman from Puerto Rico via North Broward Prep.

TRACK AND FIELD

What's cool about junior Benia Gregoire being named Sun Belt Field Athlete of the Week for winning the weight throw at the Tiger Paw Invitational at Clemson? Well, other than doing it with a throw of 20.49 meters and being ranked ninth in the nation.

Gregoire's part of the track team. No sport at FIU labors with such comically poor facilities.  IMG-20111027-00196

My middle school track teammates, high school track teammates and every school we faced would laugh like we were watching Benny Hill if a coach suggested we practice in such a space.

SOFTBALL

Senior outfielder Ashley McClain is one of the 30 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, an award honoring the all-around good person/athlete types who attain high standards of character, schoolwork, community involvement and playing well.

McClain made the Sun Belt Honor Roll for the 2010-11 school year on her way to a bachelor's in criminal justice. Now, she's working on a public administration degree.

 

 

January 25, 2012

Some football recruiting stuff; Diamond Dinner

For Haines City outside linebacker Josh Glanton, the choice between FIU, where he verbally committed during the fall, and Syracuse is hard enough that he's starting to stress over it. FIU defensive line coach Cedric Calhoun was scheduled to swing by for a visit Tuesday afternoon.

One recruiting service reports speedy Jackson High wide receiver DeAndre Jasper has committed to FIU, but would like to wind up at Marshall, which had a 11 players from Dade and Broward on their roster for the Beef O' Brady's Bowl. A source says Jasper definitely will choose FIU on Signing Day.

 

FIU's still in the hunt for Travares Copeland, who played quarterback at Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast this year after transferring from Fort Pierce Westwood, but might be used at any of the skill positions. He just entertained West Virginia on a home visit. Scouting report I got from up there: great athlete, tremendous arm ("50 or 60 yards off the back foot"), but too Me Centric, will need some grounding from the coaching staff and team leaders.

 

DIAMOND DINNER

 FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas is hoping for a sellout of all 500 seats to this year's Diamond Dinner, a fundraising event and season first pitch event for the baseball and softball programs. Last year, 435 attended the event at the Graham Center Ballroom.

The human draw for this year's event is special guest speaker Lou Piniella, former Yankee, Kansas City Royal and, at the start of his career, Clevelnad Indian player and manager of the Cubs, Reds, Devil Rays, Mariners and Yankees (during the years when the Yankees changed managers like Starbucks changes baristas). Thomas said the timing worked for getting the recently-retired Piniella and they're working on getting former Cardinals, A's and White Sox manager Tony LaRussa for next year's event.

Along with dinner, alcohol and stories from Piniella (in "The Umpire Strikes Back," the late former umpire Ron Luciano's first book with David Fisher, Luciano recalled the night Piniella ran for the cycle -- got thrown out at every base), there are 21 live auction items and 200 silent auction items. The items range from trips to the Indianapolis 500, U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup (flights, hotels, tickets) to a trio of basketballs each signed by either Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan.

For ticket information, call 305-348-1919. 

OUR CLOSING ACT

10 - It Keeps You Runnin' [Single Version]

 

November 26, 2011

Football Gameday XII, Men's Hoop Home Opener

Things have been quiet in this corner of The Herald blog world the last few days. I had some Dolphins duty Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday, though I wasn't assigned to it, I would've gone by FIU's football practice if it didn't occur the same time as Grandparents Day Thanksgivng Assembly at my daughter's school. I don't miss assemblies -- period. And I don't go to Thanksgiving practices unless ordered to do so. My job on Thanksgiving around our house used to be to start and maintain the mimosa flow as the wife cooked turkey, two kinds of stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes . Since my daughter's arrival, I occupy her on Thanksgiving when she isn't helping the wife and start the mimosa flow a little later in the day.

And the only "Black Friday" I deal with is on the Steely Dan album Aja. I don't think of the day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday" unless it's short for lay-my-Black-butt-on-the-couch-and-watch-football-and-eat-leftovers Friday.

So, FIU vs. Middle Tennessee State. You really want in-depth analysis of a season closer against a 2-8 team that's probably pulled the chute like Don Garlits crossing the line? Brotha, please. FIU wins 38-14.

But that's just one black man's opinion. I could be wrong.

What you really want to know about, if you want o know about anything, is the bowl sitation. I'm not going through all the permutations. It's late, I'm tired and it's the kind of thing that makes even my eyes glaze over. Reader's Digest form: FIU needs as few bowl eligible teams as possible elsewhere, particularly in the SEC, Conference USA and the Big East. So, FIU fans if you see a team with five wins playing a team that already has six wins or no shot at six wins, root for Team B.

Also, FIU needs to hope selectors look at the pluses.

Plus: FIU should have a nice 8-4 record. Plus: FIU's a fun team to watch -- touchdowns from way back there, on any kind of play, games with drama. They'll give you the kind of show The Holiday Bowl used to every year (in fact, last year's Pizza Bowl seemed an offspring of the Holiday Bowl during my teens). Minus: FIU will be fourth in the Sun Belt behind another bowl eligible team, Western Kentucky. Big Minus: FIU doesn't travel better than anybody. Nobody with six brain cells really blames FIU for this. The rest of the country gets it when they bother to think about it -- the school draws the vast majority of its students from an area much of the country wishes they could get to, not leave, in December or January.

I'll let you know if there are any bowl scouts gladhanding around the press box Saturday.

Oh, last week, Louisiana-Monroe's Kolton Browning running or throwing on almost every second half play reminded me of two strips from Bull Tales, the college predecessor of long-running comic strip Doonesbury. In trying to get this out as soon as possible with flights, connections and breakfast, I forgot to track them down to include here. Click on the link, http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/archive/yale and go to strips Nos. 4 and 5. The quarterback, B.D., was a takeoff on Yale quarterback Brian Dowling, who had his fellow Yalies so giddy in 1968, one student said, "The thing on most campuses is saying, 'God is dead.' We think he's wearing No. 10." The player with the comeback in No. 4 is a takeoff on running back Calvin Hill, who would go on to produce a fine NFL career and basketball star Grant Hill.

MEN'S BASKETBALL

A "chanticleer" is, basically, a chicken. A tough chicken that's the Alpha Chicken of the yard.

That's Coastal Carolina's nickname. Tonight, the Panthers try to keep control of their yard for the first time this season. Coastal's already beaten quality programs Clemson and Maryland on their way to a 5-0 record. FIU (1-3) needs a good result, something positive before young spirits sink despite older folks best efforts. 

August 17, 2011

So Happy Together -- FIU extends Turtle Thomas' deal

FIU has given baseball coach Henry "Turtle" Thomas a new five-year deal that'll run out after the 2016 season. Thomas was working on a contract that ran out after the 2014 season.

"We're just being proactive," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. "We're trying to keep good coaches and he's done a great job here. I still feel he's the best college baseball coach in America. I think he's going to take us to the College World Series and championships. He knows how to do the whole package."

Garcia lauded Thomas' success on the field (130-104-1, 2010 Sun Belt title, NCAA Regional appearances each of the last two years) and off (the 2011 Academic Progress Report score was 990, the program's highest ever).

By the way, if 2016 sounds familiar, that's also when football coach Mario Cristobal's deal runs out and, as Garcia himself pointed out, his own.

"Somebody could swoop in and pay a buyout and get your coach, but I want to make sure the valuable pieces here stay here as long as possible," he said.

What he didn't say is if all three are still around in 2016 -- an IF the size of the national debt -- this creates a nice situation for them if they choose to act as an informal unit, notwithstanding Garcia being theoretically Cristobal and Thomas' direct superior.

More after this moment from the WABAC machine:

 

Another newsy tidbit: Garcia also said the school already has sold over 10,000 season tickets for football and has surpassed last year's final number.

Futbol news: an Aug. 29 home game against Florida Tech was added to the FIU women's soccer schedule Monday. That season starts Friday at Stetson, and we'll be giving that team some blog love in the next couple of days.

 

June 18, 2010

FIU At The Movies -- Episode IV

Crawl Four years ago in a blog not that far, far away from you....it began as a simple way of recapping the FIU sports year. After smashing box office records, a sequel was called for in 2008. Then, although the GPP did not sign for a three picture deal, there were no issues in making the trilogy last summer.

And now....FIU At The Movies, Episode IV.

A look at the FIU sports year by referring to motion pictures released during the Panthers athletic season (AugustMovie 2009 to June 2010). Cell phones off please. And now your feature presentation.....


The Goods -- FIU softball has the goods as it gets its 1st NCAA Tournament win and features the Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year (Kasey Barrett), Sun Belt Player of the Year (Ashley McClain), Sun Belt Freshman of the Year (Brie Rojas) and Sun Belt Coach of the Year (Beth McClendon).

Four Final Destination 4 -- No. 4's final destination is the end zone. Just ask Kansas (2008) and Alabama (2009) as the first time Goodbye touches the ball in each of his first 2 seasons, he takes it back for 6.

The Open Road -- FIU hoops late November/December schedule where the Panthers spent 24 days on the road.

All About Steve -- Sun Belt voters got it wrong when they picked some dude from North Texas as the winner of the SBC Basketball Tournament halftime dance-off. How could youVanessa not vote for Vanessa (right)?

Play The Game -- Why won't the Coral Gables school play FIU? Nah, never mind, I won't bother anymore.

Gamer -- Scott "El Oso" Bryant (left) breaks the all-time FIU tackles record held by Gamer Oso Keyonvis Bouie.

Whiteout -- What Scott Rembisz's pitching did to opposing Sun Belt bats at the conference tournament.

The Other Man -- The Hooters were looking at Carlos Munera to punt, but fullback John Ellis had the ball on the fake punt and rumbled 25 yards to set up the tying TD.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs -- The SBC Baseball tourney started cloudy, but once FIU brokeDogpile that "pressure barrier" as TT calls it, the Panthers (right) were hitting meatballs the rest of the way en route to the Sun Belt title.

Bright Star -- Marlon Bright wins the Sun Belt's Behavior Award among his many accomplishments during his FIU career.

Free Style -- Actually, 3 Style for FIU women's hoopster Monika Bosilj, Power who broke the program's all-time record for 3 pointers with 188.

Adventures Of Power -- Jabari Henry (Freshman All-American, SBC Frosh of the Year) leads FIU with 12 HR. Jabari homers in 1st college at-bat (3-run bomba vs. Maryland) and to finish his first season at FIU, Jabari homers off MLB's No. 6 overall pick Barret Loux of Texas A&M.

One Good Man -- Long time FIU media relations guru Rich Kelch retires last December. Don't know much about Rich, then click HERE

Gw Good Hair -- Garrett Wittels' "bird's nest" (left) does not get cut during his 56-game hitting streak. It must be good hair.

AstroBoy -- FIU QB Paul McCall graduates and heads off to Mars training in the desert.Hubble

Hubble 3D -- How Sun Belt Tournament MVP Jeremy Patton's eyes saw the baseball in Murfreesboro.

Saw VI -- Only the Dade County Youth Fair stopped Jeremiah Harden when he turned the corner and saw 6 in the spring game. He'll see more 6s this fall.

As Seen Through These Eyes -- GW and Robin Ventura talk about what only their 56+ hit streak eyes have Yr experienced.

4th The Fourth Kind -- Yarimar Rosa (left), with another out-of-this-world season, is honored with a 4th All-American nod. The first 4-time All-American at FIU and probably the greatest volleyball player ever at FIU.

Storm -- On a scorching Halloween day, FIU storms back in the final minute and wins in OT against Louisiana. PMC hits Greg Ellingson for 6 in the back of the end zone with 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Dustin Rivest kicks the winning FG. Tyler Clawson dominates on D in OT and Tourek Williams blocks the tying field goal attempt to seal the victory.Dazzzz

The Other Side Of Paradise -- My day as Dazzlers audition judge (right). I'm ready for 2011.

Legion -- Alex Legion transfers to FIU and the legion of top recruits for the 2010-11 hoops season headed to FIU.

Mammoth -- Mike Martinez's moonshot HR at the SBC tourney. Ball landed inside the Middle Tennessee football stadium which has 2 decks so the ball had to clear the 2nd Green deck. Although, there is a rumor that the ball is still travelling somewhere along the interstate pass Murfreesboro and heading to Churchill's in downtown Nashville.

Green Zone -- They may be green by class designation -- freshmen -- but these Sun Belt Freshmen of the Year are not green on the field or court. FIU's Jabari Henry (baseball), Brie Rojas (softball) and Jovana Bjelica (volleyball) all won the conference's Freshman of the Year Award in their respective sports.

Kick Ass -- Once again the FIU volleyball team (right) is at the top of the Sun Belt andVolley coach Danijela Tomic wins another Sun Belt Coach of the Year Award.

Hey Watch This -- GW decides to hit in 56 straight games and captures the nation's attention.

The Good Heart -- FIU DB and Rudy Finalist O'Darris D'Haiti (left)and Od what he does each day for his family.

Touching Home -- What the FIU baseball lineup did a lot of this season with their XBox .337 team batting average.

Oceans -- Actually, it's pools for FIU diver Namiko Shibata, who was named the SunEndgame Belt's Most Outstanding Diver this past season.

Endgame -- The closing abilities of FIU receivers coach Frank Ponce, who was named the Sun Belt's Top Recruiter this past season.

Whiz Kids -- FIU's APR improvements by its teams. Especially, the baseball team that scored an FIU baseball-best 975 and who broke even in practice hours -- yeah, they lost Sleep 2 hours a week, but also gained 2 hours back due to their solid 975 score. No scholarship losses and no postseason ban.

Waking Sleeping Beauty -- Yes, the sleeping giant has been dozing for a while, but in the past year the sleeping giant garned a Sun Belt baseball title and NCAA Tournament appearances by the baseball, softball and volleyball teams. Women's soccer and tennis teams became 2009-10 regular season Sun Belt champions and top recruits arriving in all sports at FIU.


  

June 07, 2010

Opening Game Time; FIU/MLB Draft

Ty  
The time has been announced for the Rutgers/FIU football season opener on Sept. 11. The Scarlet Knights and Panthers will kick it off at 8 p.m. as the game will be televised by ESPN GamePlan and ESPN3.com.

The game will also be shown on tape delay locally on Channel 39. Here is the fiusports.com release

Post your thoughts on the opening game kickoff time and vote down below.


FIU/MLB DRAFT

Tonight is the 1st round of the 2010 MLB Draft. FIU signee and Brito shortstop Manny Machado was picked 3rd overall by the Baltimore Orioles.

FIU signee and catcher Kellin Deglan was taken No. 22 overall by the Texas Rangers.

Looks like two scholarships just opened up.

Texas A&M righthander Barret Loux, who defeated FIU in the regional last Friday, was taken No. 6 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

You can check back here to see should any other signed Panther or future Panther go in the 1st round. And I will also post here any other Panthers that get drafted in the next two days of the draft which runs through Wednesday when the 50th round is completed.

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

Aaapaw You good people are more than welcomed to post whatever you like on the GPP, but please keep it clean and stick to 1 screen name.

anonymous you had a conversation with yourself in the last post when you used xyz. And you've also used jli, jl and fiuer (not FIUer, who has been posting on here since the blog started).

gabster, you joined the GPP as Miguel Alfonso, then went to cane4life, fiu2big2tall, throwback.

You are both welcomed on here, but use one name.

Q&A

UltimateFIUFan: Hey Pete, let us know the status of FIU football players in NFL. I've heard rumors of trade talks with Antwan Barnes. How about Chandler Williams, is he with the Chiefs? Last season's players Levine, Bryant, etc., what their status? Thanks.

PP: Antwan could be moved, because the Ravens drafted Sergio Kindle, who would take some snaps from El Monstruo. CW is still in KC. Nothing new on Andy or El Oso.

Gooch7: PETE: I think GW season is one of the best by ANY FIU athletes in school history but don't forget Tayna Lawerence 2nd place finish in the 100m Dash (Track)! Then followed it up with One Bronze, Two Silver, and One Gold Medal in TWO olympics.. Not bad for a Golden Panther!

PP: And let's not forget former FIU track star and Olympian Ronald Forbes.

Aaapaw Lot of debate in the last few posts about TT's decision to hold back Scott Rembisz for a possible Sunday matchup with Texas A&M or UM. My 3 cents on it is that if FIU could not beat a team (Dartmouth) with a team ERA of nearly 7.00 (6.97 ERA before the game vs. FIU) then the Panthers have no business playing Sunday against either top 25 team.

Should FIU have won against the Big Green, Rembisz gave the Panthers the best shot of defeating either the Aggies or Hurricanes.

Right now, I don't think any other pitcher on the FIU staff could have hung with A&M or UM if Rembisz defeats Dartmouth and FIU plays Sunday.

Yes, it's a roll of the dice that did not come up for FIU, but like TT said he was thinking of winning the entire regional and not just one game.

This kind of debate is the beauty of sports where everyone has their opinion on how they would have played it. It's great.

What's your opinion on this and the Sept. 11 kickoff time?


May 31, 2010

LIVE Q&A BLOG w/Turtle; FIU vs. Texas A&M on Friday

Good afternoon and welcome to the LIVE Q&A BLOG with FIU's 2010 Sun Belt Champions coach TurtleTt Thomas. We will be getting underway about 1:45 p.m. because the celebration here in the FIU Stadium Club is going longer than expected.

Big crowd here for the FIU baseball team learning that they will play Texas A&M on Friday afternoon in Coral Gables. Likely a 2 p.m. game but that has not been confirmed yet.

Thanks to TT for taking time out to join us here. TT will be around for 45 minutes to answer your questions about the Panthers magical season thus far.

Around 1:45 p.m. you can start to submit your questions below. Unlike the live game blogs, there won't be all access to this blog in order to keep the blog from being cluttered with so many questions at one time. So post your questions and I'll move them over and TT will answer them.

May 30, 2010

Selection Watch Party Monday & LIVE Q&A with Turtle

Followed the Sun Belt Tournament by watching the Sun Belt Network and CSS all throughout and will haveTt a Sun Belt Champs blog for you after this one, plus where FIU will likely play the regional and why.

FIU baseball will hold an NCAA Tournament Selection Watch Party on Monday at 12:00 p.m. at the FIU Stadium Club. Been told it's free admission and everyone is invited and there will be food and drinks.

Also, if you can't make the watch party, afterwards Turtle Thomas will join me on the GPP for a LIVE Q&A BLOG with you good people. The coach of the 2010 Sun Belt Champions will be taking your questions for about 45 minutes.

The LIVE Q&A with TT is expected to begin around 1:30 p.m. depending how long the ESPN selection show goes. The selection show is scheduled from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. on ESPN but ESPN had the softball selection show go 1 hour a couple of weeks ago, so check here for updates on when TT will be on.


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