February 22, 2010

3-0, Not Bad

Berm Good start to the season for the FIU baseball team by sweeping Maryland over the weekend -- capped off by a grand slam by Pablo Bermudez (left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo). Although it's just three games, the Panthers looked solid in all three aspects of the game: pitching, defense and hitting.

But a better measure of how much FIU has improved from last season awaits this coming weekend when Oral Roberts comes to Miami for a 3-game series. The Golden Eagles have won their conference 12 straight years.

Still, there was plenty to be encouraged about from the first 3 games of the season.

PITCHING

First a look at the pitching, because everything in baseball begins with pitching. Friday's starter Scott Rembisz had one bad inning in an otherwise good outing. Starters Corey Polizzano and Aaron Arboleya pitched well too. CP moves up in the rotation this season with the Red Sox loss of Tom Ebert. Arboleya goes from mid-week starter last season to the Sunday guy this year.

While the starters gave up just 2 earned runs in 16 innings against the Terrapins, they weren't really challenged. UM batters seemed to be swinging like they just got out from under the snow in Maryland -- which they might have. Look for a more challenging test from the Oral Roberts lineup next weekend. ThoseFondon Eagles can swing the bats.

The Panthers bullpen started out the season in dominant fashion. In 11 relief innings in the series, FIU relievers gave up 1 run. When Friday's game was still hanging in the balance, reliever Eric Berkowitz made quick work of the Terps in his 3 innings until FIU put the game away late.

On Sunday, R.J. Fondon -- who for now will pitch out of the bullpen, because he's the only lefty FIU has in the pen -- prevented the series finale from becoming interesting. R.J. (right, thanks Sam Lewis photo) allowed just one run on a wild pitch when he had to work out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the sixth inning.

DEFENSE

FIU's defense looked better this past weekend than it did most of last season. The Panthers are certainly going to need better D this season, especially with the lack of a strikeout pitcher in their rotation. There are going to be a lot more balls in play from opponents' bats this season.

Among the defensive highlights from the opening series: Garrett Wittels (left, thanks AJH photo) acting like Brooks Robinson and diving on the 3rd base foul line to snare a grounder and throw out the runner at 1st. And freshman left fielder Jabari Henry showing off his cannon from left field to throw out a Terp at the plate in the 2nd inning of Witt Saturday's game.

HITTING

At the plate, FIU has always been able to hit and that's no exception this season. Although in Sunday's game, the Panthers gave away some at-bats that if they had been more patient would have had better swings and possibly put up double digits in runs again.

Wittels (7 for 12) and Bermudez (6 for 11) led the Panthers in hitting against UM. Wittels woke up the FIU lineup with a bunt base hit on Friday that sparked a 4-run rally. Of course, it also helped that after 4 innings of trying to pull everything UM starter Brett Harman was throwing, the Panthers started going opposite field and got their bats going.

In that 4-run rally, Bermudez had a 2-run single to bring home FIU's first two runs of the season and on Sunday the sophomore from the Miami Springs-to-FIU pipeline hit the granny to provide the Panthers runs.

Bermudez was named the Sun Belt Baseball Player of the Week on Monday.

Newcomer Yoandy Barroso had a good series going 4 for 8 in his FIU debut. Tim Jobe hit 1 of FIU's 2 home runs in Saturday's win. The other came from Jabari Henry, whose moonshot in his first college at-batJhenry landed around mid-field of the FIU soccer field.

Henry (right, thanks Victoria Lynch photo) has played just 2 college games, but he looks like he will be a very special player. Yes, his throw from left field and his 3-run bomba were impressive for the freshman's first game, but what stood out just as much was his 2nd college at-bat after the dinger.

In his 2nd at-bat, Henry fell behind 1-2 and had the discipline to lay off two consecutive borderline strikes [pitchers' pitches] that were called balls and worked a walk. I think 98% of freshmen would have swung and missed at one of those two pitches. That's one reason Henry was drafted by the Texas Rangers out of high school and I'm not talking about the Chuck Norris Walker Texas Rangers.

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

Aaapaw Below the Pawse vote on what you think of FIU's 3-0 start.

Aaapaw Will have a LIVE HOOPS BLOG from Thursday's FIU/Middle Tennessee game. It's the second to last game of the regular season before the Sun Belt tourney begins on Saturday, March 6 in Hot Springs, Ark. Will be live blogging from there too.

Q&A

Gooch7: PETE: I was hoping for a longer story about the Softball tournament that went on this past Pads weekend. That team is on FIRE! 7-1 start is pretty damn good! Second best start in school history..

PETE: I have another very important question for you: DO YOU THINK FOOTBALL WILL DO SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR THE OPENER AGAINST RUTGERS? SOFTBALL TEAM WORE JERSEYS THAT THEY AUCTION AFTER THE GAME. FOOTBALL CAN MAKE A KILLING DOING THAT!!

PP: FIU softball will get in the colleges column in this coming Saturday's paper. I've heard there are ideasSdpads being kicked around for the home opener against Rutgers on 9/11. How about FIU football wears khaki-colored camouflage jerseys similar to what the San Diego Padres (right, two photos) wear to honor the military during their Sunday home games throughout the regular season?

Aaapaw So what does a sweep of UM and a 3-0 start to the season mean for FIU?

February 17, 2010

Turtle Thoughts

Pitchers and catchers started reporting to major league camps today and tommorrow throughout Florida and Arizona. They're breaking out cases of new pearly, white baseballs all throughout the two states. It's a great time of year.

Tt In less than 48 hours, FIU right-hander Scott Rembisz will take one of those pearly, white baseballs and fling it across the plate with some Terrapin standing in the box to open the 2010 FIU baseball season.

Let's get some thoughts from FIU coach Turtle Thomas (left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) on the upcoming season that begins with a home 3-game series this Friday against Maryland.

Several players and coaches have mentioned that the bullpen seems to be the strong point of the team. Would you agree with that?

TT: I think it would be the bullpen. We have 4 or 5 good guys down there. We're hoping Eric Berkowitz can be that middle reliever for us along with Dillon Vitale. Eric gave us some good innings last year. Bryam Garcia and Jorge Marban will start out the season as the closers. Garrett Wittels, who closed in high school, has got some good stuff. Alberto Cardenas has also got the ability to close and pitch in the late innings.

With lefties Mason McVay and Justin Leith out with arm injuries there are no lefties in the pen. Is that a concern?

TT: Freshman Dillon Vitale throws like a lefty. He throws a lot of change-ups like lefties do. Now Justin Leith we could have him back by March. He's begun his throwing program and the doctors have said he could be back pitching sometime in March. Mason might not be out for the year. That's not 100% that is heRem out for the season. He's well ahead in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

You lost Tom Ebert (Red Sox) and Miguel Mejia (Tigers) from the starting rotation. How do you see your rotation lining up this season?

TT: Scott Rembisz (right, thanks AJH photo) will be our Friday night starter and Corey Polizzano will move up to the Saturday spot, because he has the experience and he's done it before. The Sunday spot is up for grabs between Aaron Arboleya and R.J. Fondon. They both pitched well in fall ball. I'm not 100% sure who the guy is going to be there. We need consistency. Last year there were some games where these guys were real good and then there were some games where they were not real good. You got to see that consistency.

Obviously, you don't replace a hitter like Tyler Townsend (Orioles) with his 24 home runs and 77 RBI last season and same thing with Ryan Mollica (Mets). So how do you think you'll make up for the production lost from those 2 guys?

TT: You really lost some good players there. The entire team has to take Tyler's place to equal out what he did for us. Ryan Mollica is that kind of player too. You want consistency. Ryan was Mr. Consistency.

You guys had the best turnaround in the 37-year history of FIU baseball last season by winning 14 more games than you did in 2008. How can you keep up that progress and build on it this season?

Jr TT: A lot of it has to do with how well the starting pitchers do. If we can get 6 good innings each game, then we get to our bullpen. Our starters have the capabilities to pitch 6 good innings each time out. It's a matter of consistency. If we have a lot of inconsistency then you're talking about a .500 ballclub.

What does your projected starting lineup look like?

TT: This is a projected lineup with an emphasis on projected, because things can change during the season. Junior Arrojo (left, thanks AJH photo) is one of our better defenders and will be our shortstop and will probably bat leadoff. Pablo Bermudez is in center and will probably bat second. Mike Martinez will bat third and play right. I think Tim Jobe will be our cleanup batter and play first. Rudy Flores looks like our fifth batter and DH, but he can also play first and Tim can DH.

We'll probably have our left fielder batting sixth and that's kind of between 4 players right now: Michael Vargas, Jabari Henry, Yoandy Barroso and T.J. Shantz. Nobody there has really stepped up nor has anybody stepped down there either. Each of them can do good things and it will be a matter of who's swinging the hot bat. Our 7th and 8th batters could flip flop in the lineup. Hitting seventh and playing third base will be either Jeremy Patton or Garrett Wittels. Jeremy's like a Ryan Mollica-type of hitter. Good line drive type hitter. Garrett's been hitting the ball well this spring and he can also play second base or shortstop if we need him there. Raiko Alfonso is our second baseman and he'll bat either seventh or eighth. Raiko had a good fall and hit well for us last season. Our ninth batter will be our catcher which could either be Jose Behar or Sean Reilly and we also probably play Doug Joyce. We could play 2 or 3 catchers.

Of course, you would like to get off to a fast start against Maryland this weekend, but what else would you like to see from your team in these first 3 games?

TT: It's going to be interesting to see how things play out this first weekend. We want to see how some of these guys perform when there is another team with a different uniform out there. I really like to see how some of the young guys perform. Guys like a Jabari Henry, Alberto Cardenas and T.J. Shantz.

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

Aaapaw Will have a LIVE BASKETBALL BLOG of FIU/Florida Atlantic when the Hooters from Del Boca Vista Phase 2 visit the Bank for game two of the Pat Riley Classic this season. Will be on-line at 7:54 p.m. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.

Log on to the GPP the next night, Feb. 19 at 6:56 p.m. for a LIVE BASEBALL BLOG of FIU's season opener against Maryland.

 

Aaapaw Note to FIU fans when the Hooters visit on Thursday night -- Stay classy. Don't go acting like theSnl baseball team across town did ("--uck Turtle Thomas, let's kill these guys") when they visited FIU for their first game against the Panthers and Turtle Thomas back in April 2008.

 

And don't act like the Hooters fans did on Jan. 30 when FIU played over there in Del Boca Vista Phase 2 Arena.

 

Just in case you were wondering, looking at Hooters coach Mike Jarvis's bio -- nowhere does it state that he was a physical therapist, occupational therapist, family therapist, marriage therapist or animal therapist -- so don't go calling MJ a therapist when he takes the court at the Bank on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2010

3 Days Til Opening Night

A few more intrasquad tidbits to pass along as the Panthers prepare for their baseball season opener against Maryland on Friday at 7 p.m. at FIU.

Here are some highlights from 3 innings of a recent intrasquad game.

1st Inning

Junior right-hander Daniel DeSimone started and after Lammar Guy led off with a bunt single, DD pickedBerm him off at first.

Outside of another single, this one by freshman All-American Mike Martinez to right field, DD escaped his first inning of work unscathed.

The bottom of the first brought the first look at new pitcher/3B Dillon Vitale, a freshman from Punta Gorda. DV made one mistake in his inning when Pablo Bermudez's smooth swing on an outside pitch ended up in the preserve for a solo shot. Bermudez (right, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) is part of that emerging Miami Springs to FIU pipeline.

DV walked freshman slugging 1B Rudy Flores, but got new RF Yoandy Barroso to fly out to right to end the inning.

2nd Inning

DeSimone came out for a second inning of work and got touched up for a run by a couple of newcomers.

Catcher Jose Behar, a Miami Dade College transfer, who apparently knows how to hit, fell behind 0-2 in the count. So Behar (left) shortened his stroke and slapped a single up the middle into center. The nice piece of Behar hitting got a "good AB" from coach Turtle Thomas coaching at 3B.

Heralded freshman Jabari Henry, who has a similar smooth swing to Bermudez, went opposite field for a single which moved Behar to 3B.

DD got Michael Vargas to bounce into a DP scoring Behar. Vitale, who also hit, flied out to center to end the inning.

The bottom of the 2nd brought to the mound walk-on senior right-hander Jose Velazquez.

Velazquez, a sidearmer, tried out for the team last fall and made the squad.

Sophomore catcher Doug Joyce singled to right to lead off the inning. I'm noticing a lot of players are catching on to Turtle's preaching of taking an outside pitch to the opposite field. Instead of trying to pull it and hitting a weak grounder to shortstop.

Velazquez got himself into a jam by hitting catcher Sean Reilly with a pitch and walking Raiko Alfonso to load the bases.

But maybe this is why the FIU coaches brought Velazquez back after the tryout. The righty struck out Flores, who by the way looks like a guy who can hit 20 HRs. In fact, with his natural opposite field stroke, Flores reminds a little of Tyler Townsend.

Barroso then grounded out to 3B to end the inning with no runs across. Garrett Wittels, who will play infield and be one of FIU's closers out of the pen, made a nice play on a short hop of Barroso's grounder.

3rd Inning

Eric Berkowitz (right, thanks AJH photo) pitched the top of the 3rd inning and allowed 0 runs after a leadoff single.Berko

Guy reached on an infield single in the 5.5 hole that shortstop Junior Arrojo had no play on. But Guy got caught stealing by Joyce.

EB's inning ended when Arrojo made a nice play on a tough hop off the bat of Martinez.

Andre Vazquez took the mound in the bottom of the third inning.

Bermudez continued his good work at the plate lining an opposite field single to right. He would come around to score when the left-handed hitting Flores laced a single to the opposite field in left center.

Vazquez would get out of the inning allowing just one run.

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

Aaapaw Will have a Happy Blog Hour 2-for-1 special in LIVE BLOGS this week. Log on to the GPP on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7:54 p.m. for a LIVE BASKETBALL BLOG of FIU/Hooters basketball when the Hooters from Del Boca Vista Phase 2 visit the Bank for game two of the Pat Riley Classic this season.

Then log on to the GPP the next night, Feb. 19 at 6:56 p.m. for a LIVE BASEBALL BLOG of FIU's season opener against Maryland.

Aaapaw Nothing to that report of Ken Dorsey coming to coach at FIU. If he does come to FIU it won't be for a  coaching position.

Q&A

SouthPaw: Hey, Pete, can you give us any updates on who FIU is offering preferred walk-on status for Spring camp?

PP: Will know more when we get closer to spring practice. The walk-on program has produced some pretty good players. With last year, defensive lineman Andrew Mattox (Osceola Defensive Player of theRb Year) and before that O'Darris D'Haiti among the more productive walk-ons.

Aaapaw Most of you -- like Ricky Bobby's dad (Reese Bobby) -- believe "if you ain't first, you're last". So most of you believe FIU will finish 1st in the Sun Belt this season with 63% of you voting the Panthers in 1st place on the last poll question.

FIU starts its 54-game regular season schedule on Friday. Vote and tell us how many games the Panthers will win this season?


February 13, 2010

Ponce Can Recruit; More Baseball

TAMPA -- Apparently, FIU baseball brings out a much more spirited debate than some people thought. The 2010 season is just 6 days away when the Panthers open next Friday, Feb. 19 against Maryland at University Park Stadium.

Ponce Went out to another intrasquad game the other day and this time caught four innings. Since FIU baseball brings out such passion in some of our readers, there will be a comprehensive FIU baseball blog on the next post. And you can look for the Herald's FIU baseball preview in next Thursday's paper.

But for now will let you catch your breath from the last post whether you were talking baseball or talking about which school has the better apple pie in their food court.

Yours truly is in Tampa for the weekend working a soccer tournament, but here's a little mix of FIU sports stuff going on in case you missed it.

Three members of the FIU football coaching staff are among some of the candidates being considered for the open running backs coaching job. Among them are special teams coach Apollo Wright, who coached Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook at Villanova. Grad assistant Dennis Smith and director of football ops Juan Navarro.

Congratulations to FIU receivers coach Frank Ponce (above left making a "W" sign for Willis Wright, thanks to Alex J. Hernandez photo) who was named by ESPN as the top recruiter in the Sun Belt for securing ManChild to join the Panthers. Former FIU OC James Coley, now the OC at Florida State, was named the ACC's top recruiter. Click on this link: Top College Football Recruiters  for more info and notice that it looks like ESPN used a mug shot of Coley wearing an FIU coach's shirt.

HOOPING IT UP

A pretty inaccurate article in the new times about FIU hoops. Hey, we're in America and you can express whatever opinion you want, but when you use facts (i.e.: actual numbers and actual people that said certain things -- "Isiah Thompson") at least get those right in a story.

PG responded to the article on Friday and here is a short story that is expected to run in the Herald atIt some point:

   FIU athletic director Pete Garcia fired back at a recent New Times article on FIU basketball.

   Garcia noted several inaccuracies about the story which chronicles Golden Panthers coach Isiah Thomas’s first season and the program’s ticket sales.

   Among some of the misinformation from the article that has Garcia perturbed is FIU basketball’s average attendance numbers.

   Garcia is also upset about the article’s writer misidentifying FIU President Mark Rosenberg as the person to wrongfully introduce Thomas at the coach’s hiring news conference.

   Former FIU provost Ronald Berkman, now the president at Cleveland State University, introduced Thomas as “Isiah Thompson” at the April 15, 2009 news conference.

   Rosenberg was not working at FIU at the time. Since the Times article was published Wednesday, the error was corrected to Berkman mis-introducing Thomas.

   “This is a classic example of irresponsible and sloppy journalism from someone who uses inaccurate numbers and inaccurately quotes President Rosenberg with introducing Isiah Thomas at his hiring press conference which he never did,” Garcia said. “This is the end result and it’s unfortunate, because the quality of journalism in South Florida is among the best in the nation and this one story won’t ruin the good journalism that takes place in South Florida on a daily basis.”

   The Times article states “. . . the basketball team has averaged a paltry 120 attendees per home game this season. The arena seats 6,000.”

   U.S. Century Bank Arena, which seats 5,000, has averaged 1,163 fans per FIU basketball game this season, according to figures FIU ticket operations manager Jeremy Lamb provided the Miami Herald.

   Lamb added it’s an increase from the 2008-09 FIU basketball season’s average attendance of 487 fans per game. Lamb said FIU has also sold 46 of 50 courtside seats added to the arena this season.

   The Panthers are 7-20 this season, but Thomas has signed the No. 17 2010 recruiting class in the nation.

 

WARMING UP IN THE BULLPEN

 

Catch your breath yet about FIU baseball? Apple pie? (Cracker Barrel has a pretty good one). Ok, then.

 

FIU was picked to finish third in the Sun Belt by the conference's coaches on Friday. Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky were picked ahead of the Panthers. But don't take the SBC coaches word for it, you decide in our poll question below.

 

Jobe FIU first baseman Tim Jobe (left, thanks AJH photo and for Zeke photo above, right) was selected to the preseason All-Sun Belt team. Jobe was a member of the 2009 All-Sun Belt team.

 

Several publications and websites are picking FIU baseball to finish near the top of the conference, but I think you have to wait and see how the Panthers starting rotation and bullpen shake out.

 

FIU is going to miss projected No. 2 starter Logan Dodds (academically ineligible). Dodds -- like Scott Rembisz 2 years ago -- was the Florida JUCO Pitcher of the Year last season at Miami Dade College. R.J. Fondon, Corey Polizzano and Daniel DeSimone are going to have to step up.

 

A bigger concern could be the Panthers bullpen. It could be a closer-by-committee until someone nails down the job. Among the candidates are freshman Alberto Cardenas, last season's part-time closer Jorge Marban and third baseman/pitcher Garrett Wittels.

 

Eric Berkowitz (a.k.a "Harry Potter" as his teammates call him, because of the Potter-like glasses he wears) is likely moving to middle relief where he had some pretty good outings last season.

 

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

 

Aaapaw Will have a Happy Blog Hour 2-for-1 special in LIVE BLOGS  next week. Log on to theHoops GPP on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7:54 p.m. for a LIVE BASKETBALL BLOG of FIU/Hooters basketball when the Hooters from Del Boca Vista Phase 2 visit the Bank for game two of the Pat Riley Classic this season.

 

Then log on to the GPP the next night, Feb. 19 at 6:56 p.m. for a LIVE Base BLOG BASEBALL of FIU's season opener against Maryland from the House that Mike Lowell Built. Yes, I know she is one of the FIU Witches.

 

Q&A

 

Gooch7: Pete: Who will the closer be? Any input about him?

 

PP: Hope the two paragraphs above at the end of the baseball section of this post answers your question.

 

Yandro: Pete, thanks for the update. Do we know who the starters will be come Opening Night, or are positions still up in the air with a week left?

 

PP: Competition still going on at several positions. Will have TT come on here next week and give you an update straight from the head coach's mouth.

 

Wes Kendall: Hey Pete, I've heard rumors that Rosenberg is rebranding FIU, which might again lead to another logo change/color change. Have you heard anything?

 

PP: Nothing to it. The university changed their logo to block letters not too long ago and the athletic program went to block letters with a more fierce Panther just 2 years ago.

 

 

February 05, 2010

L.A. Story

Iit One rumor circulating through the worldwide web has the Los Angeles Clippers contacting Isiah Thomas to be their coach, general manager and president. That from foxsports.

But ESPN has contacted two senior executives from the Clippers who have denied the foxsports report saying: "I can't deny it more strongly," one of the executives said. "We haven't called him and we're not planning on calling him." The other executive called the story "ridiculous" and "irresponsible."

I placed calls to Isiah and PG tonight and both have not returned those calls. However, we should have a clearer picture on Saturday, because FIU hosts North Texas.

Will have A LIVE HOOPS BLOG during the game tommorrow. Tip-off is expected to be about 2:30 p.m. -- 30 minutes after the women's game. LIVE BLOGGING starts at 1:56 p.m.

Whether this rumor about IT has any legs to it we'll soon find out. But get used to coaching rumors with IT, because right now FIU is not in a po$$$$ition to compete with pro teams and more established college programs when those teams come calling for FIU coaches. FIU does not have enough boo$ter$ or enough alumni invested in the athletic program yet to compete with more established colleges.

Maryland was interested in Turtle last season and although the Terps could offer more money, the Terps baseball facilities and the location of the school to lure top baseball talent are not as good as what FIU has to offer -- FIU does not have a trailer for the baseball coach's office and baseball is played year round down here with no snow to worry about.

In this case, if the Clippers rumor has any truth to it, you have to believe it is NOT about money for IT, but rather a chance to get back in the NBA. So, if that's the case IT will have to decide if he wants to go back to the NBA or continue building an NCAA basketball program that could be like a Memphis one day -- without the John Calipari-NCAA violations (good for Bobby Knight).

Although, any of the other 29 NBA teams are better to work for than the Clippers, because they have the cheapest owner in pro sports in Donald Sterling. Try getting marquee free agents to sign with the Clippers -- Sterling won't pay for them. Sterling has been the main reason the Clippers have been the laughingstock of the NBA forever. He's like the Marlins owner -- at least until Major League Baseball came out and ordered the Marlins to spend money on players.  

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

Aaapaw LIVE HOOPS BLOG starts at 1:56 p.m. on Saturday for FIU/North Texas game.

Q&A

Alonzo: Pete, Is Man-Child Wright academically eligible?

PP: Yes, he is.

Mike: Pete please evaluate our spring 2-man depth chart. When you Look back at our 3 last recruiting classes how are they shaping up? 1. how many Spring 2010 starters came from each class, from walk-ons, and from transfers? 2. how many Spring 2010 players on the 2-man depth chart came from each class, from walk-ons, and from transfers?

PP: Will have an updated football roster soon. Your idea sounds like a good blog post. Will get to it in the downtime we have until baseball season and spring football start.

Miri: Pete, we recorded the Early Show yesterday morning on the DVR, and we did not see the Dazzlers at all. We recorded this morning's show also just in case they showed up. What happened to them?

PP: CBS did not want the Dazzlers wearing their uniforms, but other outfits and the squad passed on the show.


 

January 22, 2010

FIU Recruiting Prowl: Defensive Backs

Playing in a conference where the majority of teams employ the spread offense, this position (including safeties) might be one of the more valuable positions during recruiting season for Sun Belt teams.

Gaitor So to no surprise your Panthers are recruiting some athletic, quick players for the secondary. Among the five commits, three of them make up the All-Miami-Dade County high school secondary.

Before we roam the secondary with your Panthers, your OFFICIAL NATIONAL SIGNING DAY COUNTDOWN stands at: 12 DAYS

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Like most of the FIU defense last season, the play of the DBs was spotty whether it was due to injuries or just not tight enough coverage the Panthers DBs have to improve their play in 2010.

When you look at the DBs it all starts with senior-to-be Anthony Gaitor (left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo), who was limited all last season with a nagging ankle injury. Gaitor is the anchor of the secondary and if he's healthy you can expect big things out of him in his final season in the blue and gold.

Outside of Dez Johnson, who is expected to receive a medical redshirt for last season, Gaitor will be the only senior DB.

Johnson would be expected to nail down the corner job opposite Gaitor, but he will have plenty of competition come spring practice and into fall camp.

Sophomores Derreck Jones and Emmanuel Souarin came on toward the end of last season and couldMcgee have something to say about their playing time this coming season.

UCF transfer Corey Ammons was a highly-touted DB coming out of the same high school as FIU safety Terrance Taylor. Ammons could be one of the favorites to win a starting job come the season opener against a Sun Belt opponent still to be determined.

Jarrell McGee (right, thanks AJH photo) was a heralded DB at North Dakota College, but was slowed by injury last season. He is expected to figure into some playing time.

One darkhorse candidate to see increased snaps this coming season might be Jose Cheseborough. The walk-on from Edward Waters opened some eyes while working with the scout team D last season and made some plays in the scout bowl last month.

Mcgeek Leon All the returning DBs will be pressed by a very talented trio of FIU recruits. (From left to right in the photos) Northwestern's Khambrel McGee, Killian's Richard Leonard and LaSalle's Sam Miller were among the top DBs in Miller South Florida high school football this past season and could have an immediate impact at FIU in about 7 months when fall camp starts.

 

 

SAFETIES

The safety positions will also be interesting to watch come spring practice. The Panthers bring back sophomore Jonathan Cyprien (right), who finished second on the team in tackles and had a solid freshman season.

Ash Parker is a senior this season after sustaining his second season-ending injury in as many years atCyp Alabama last September. AP's experience and ability can definitely help what will be a very young secondary.

Kreg Brown is also back and Chuck Grace should be ready to go after missing time last season with injury.

Taylor showed flashes of his talent last season while redshirting and will challenge for a starting spot this season. Cain Elliott also redshirted last season and his 6-2 frame is made to play safety.

Miami Springs' Randy Williams and Boca Raton's Justin Halley are two safeties commited to FIU. Both have good size with Williams at 6-1 and Halley at 6-2.

Fiuhelmet BACK IN 2010: Kreg Brown, Jose Cheseborough, Jonathan Cyprien, Cain Elliott, Anthony Gaitor, Chuck Grace, Dez Johnson, Derreck Jones, Jarrell McGee, Ash Parker, Emmanuel Souarin, Terrance Taylor.

Fiuhelmet GONE IN 2010: O'Darris D'Haiti, Peter Riley, Jeremiah Weatherspoon.

3cents $.03 IN 2010: As much as the FIU D-line, the Panthers secondary will help determine how much this defense can improve. One area that the secondary certainly has to improve on from last season is their tackling. There were a lot of arm tackles last season that opponents easily broke. You have to like the athleticism of this group. The incoming DBs might be the best recruit group for an FIU defensive backfield in the 8-year history of the program. There will be size and speed in the FIU defensive backfield in 2010.

Take to the polls in our 2 DB/Safety questions below the Pawse

Next up on the FIU Recruiting Prowl: Offensive line.

Logo PANTHER PAWSE

Aaapaw Will have a LIVE HOOPS BLOG  of the FIU/UALR game on Saturday night from the Bank. Blogging at 7:56 p.m. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.

Q&A

blkpanther: The FIU forward commit you were asking me about during the LIVE HOOPS BLOG on Thursday night is 6-Yvan 10 power forward Yvan Ngirabakunzi (right), who is currently a junior at Piney Woods High in Mississippi. Yvan is ranked as the No. 40 power forward in the nation for 2011.

Gooch7: PETE: Any Babeball news before the season kicks off?

PP: Golden Dazzlers news is always on the GPP. Like the new outfits they displayed during halftime of Thursday's basketball game. The ladies wore colorful short dresses during their halftime performance. On the left (thanks AJH photo), is their outfits for halftime of the Shula Bowl last month.

Daz As far as FIU baseball, I'll be visiting the Panthers practices as soon as we get through National Signing Day. You can expect some FIU baseball blogs on here after Feb. 3.

Crazy Cane: Expect a rough season. Turtle has only really had 1 full year to recruit. The players are young. Give it time. UM is scared to play FIU. If only some of the signees would have come to campus rather than go to MLB. etc. etc. etc. Pete, aside from that, anything else?

PP: The season will depend on how the No. 2 & 3 spots in the starting rotation develop among Logan Dodds, R.J. Fondon and Corey Polizzano. FIU also has to field better this season. Expect FIU to score some runs and hit well. 

Turtle guided FIU to the largest win improvement from one season to another last season in the 37-year history of the FIU baseball program. The Panthers will field a team of 7 freshmen, 13 sophomores, 6 juniors and 6 seniors this season. So more than half of the team is comprised of underclassmen.

The team across town still does not want to play FIU in any of the 3 major sports -- although evenutally they won't be able to avoid FIU in an NCAA baseball regional. We'll have to wait and see on the two No. 1-rated players from the U.S. (Manny Machado) and Canada (Kellin Deglan) that signed with FIU. Will have more for you CC when I get to the FIU diamond next month.

Jorge Suarez: Pete, we're waiting for that interview with the new OC. Do you have a timeline on it yet? Do you expect any JUCOs to sign this year? Early signing period passed and we didn't get anyone in here. Feed the hungry pete! Thank you

PP: Will have new OC Scott Satterfield on here soon. No timeline, but hopefully after this coming week. This coming week is a little hectic with the Herald's recruiting series starting. I am down to write stories on FIU (Monday), Florida Atlantic (Tuesday) and Central Florida and South Florida (Wednesday) -- don't ask me why FAU, UCF and USF. They're paying me for it. FIU is recruiting some JUCOs. Will have some more info on that when it happens. You will be fed.

 

February 09, 2009

Down The Lineup With Turtle

Turtle We're 10 days away from the FIU baseball season opener against Jacksonville on Feb. 20 -- a 3-game series at University Park Stadium.

Here's the third part of our 3-part preseason look at your Panthers with coach Turtle Thomas (left, Sam Lewis photo). Still plenty of time to make changes everywhere for TT, but this is what he's thinking thus far when it comes to the Opening Day lineup and other parts of FIU baseball as the 2009 season approaches...

PP: We're still some time away from the opener, but what's a rough sketch of your batting order right now?

TT: We have an idea about our top 5 or 6 guys in the lineup. Pablo Bermudez in center field should lead off. Ryan Mollica (right, Alex J. Hernandez photo), who hit second in the lineup last year, should be our second hole hitter. I would think that Tyler Townsend would be our third hole hitter. Steven Stropp will probably clean up for us or hit fifth. I think Tim Jobe may be in the fifth spot and then some other spots below that are still open for Moll competition.

PP: Stropp showed he can hit last season, but wasn't your prototypical cleanup hitter, what about Stropp makes him suited for the 4 hole?

TT: Stropp has a lot of power actually. He’s a big, strong guy. One game this fall we only used aluminum. It was one of only 2 times we used aluminum in the fall. In that game, he hit a grand slam, a three-run home run and a three-run double off the top of the center field wall. He knocked in 10 runs here in the intra-squad game. It was a pretty stellar day. There wasn’t anything wrong with the pitching he was facing that day. It was OK pitching he was facing.

PP: One guy that I thought made a pretty good impression in the fall was freshman shortstop Garrett Wittels (below, left). Could we see him in the starting lineup on Opening Day?

TT: Wittels probably has made more strength gains in the weight room than anybody that we’ve had so far. He’s taken to the weights and the bat weight stuff that we do. He’s done a nice job of getting stronger. He’s very strong from the elbows down where hitters need to be. He’s one of those guys who is Gw a self-made player that competes and doesn’t want to get beat. He finds a way to hit the ball and finds a way to field it. He’s going to play somewhere either shortstop or third base.

PP: Wittels also was a pretty good pitcher/closer at Krop High, will he pitch too?

TT: Being a left side infielder, you’re probably asking a little too much for a young guy to pitch and play the left side of the infield. You’re waiting for an arm injury or arm problem waiting to happen when you do that.

PP: Your defense was a little shaky last year during some games. How do you feel about your gloves this season?

TT: We were middle of the road in our conference in fielding percentage last year, but we were close to the top in the 30 conference games. In conference games, we really had only 1 or 2 sub-par defensive games. We went six games in a row and another time five games in a row without making any errors and that set the all-time school record. I was pretty pleased with our defense. Probably the range of our players just due to probably not having the fastest of guys, probably was the biggest detriment. But when they got to it and caught it they usually threw them out. We just have to find the right guys for the right slots that can give you a nice offensive and defensive production.

Wood PP: You guys came out a little slow offensively last year. Did you still go most of theAlum off-season using only wood bats.

TT We started picking up the aluminum on Jan. 26. We’ll be using the aluminum almost 4 weeks before we open up. Last year, it was one week before the opener and I thought it took our guys a little while to adjust to the aluminum so we are going to go with that a little bit earlier this year.

LogoPANTHER PAWSE

Apaw  Apparently there is some pretty good interest in FIU baseball, the Diamond Dinner drew 670 people -- an all-time FIU record for a Diamond Dinner.

Apaw

A nice comeback win for the FIU hoops team last Saturday after an awful 1st half in which they scored just 16 points. Down by 21 points with 14 minutes left in the game, the Panthers rallied and won it in OT. If this team can be as resilient as last Saturday, then there's no reason it cannot contend in the Sun Belt Tournament. Still need Freddy Asprilla back for a serious run, though.

 Apaw

 And you thought the Golden Dazzlers only just dance on the basketball court? Dazzler Lisa Dazzlers Sakowitz hit some 3-pointers in the 3-point contest at halftime of Saturday's game. Spoke with her afterward and LS says she stopped playing hoops at Sunset High to go into dancing.

Your questions:

blkpanther: Pete have you heard anything on James Jones. I know he blew his knee out at the end of the season and he is likely to miss most if not all of next season. But how is it going with him?

PP: It's looking like JJ might be taking a redshirt season in 2009. It was a pretty good tear.

FIUBlueandGold: Pete: do we have an update on the status of Ash Parker and his recovery?

Ash PP: Saw Ash (left, No. 11) before going to an FIU hoops game the other day and he says he's feeling a lot better and expects to be ready for fall practice in August.

Alonzo: Pete, how many seniors will we have next year and, how many starters for both offense and defense are returning?

PP: By my count FIU brings back 24 seniors for 2009. If we count Darriet Perry as a starter, which is what he is, then all 11 starters on offense return, but only 6 starters return on defense.

FIUFPL: Hey, Pete - I don't think you ever answered whether this is the best recruiting class or not.

PP: In the 7-year history of the FIU football program, yes, this is the best recruiting class ever at least on paper, now let's see them do it on the field starting Sept. 12 in Bama. I gave them 5 Paws on the last poll.

Ultimate FIU Fan: Question to Pete & the GPP Nation: Is there ANYONE faster in the SBC than TR!

PP: Not that I have seen from any other Sun Belt team this season. Tremayne Russell is a tremendous sparkplug off the bench for FIU.

Apaw

We had a worldy turnout on our last poll question about the rating for the 2009 FIU football signing class with readers from Lebanon, Spain, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, France, Ennis Montana and the rest of the good old USA chiming in. Thus far, 57.5% of you gave the 2009 class 5 Paws (the highest mark), 38.4% (4 Paws) and 4.1% (3 Paws).

We're 25 days away from spring practice, but let's keep the football polling going....


December 23, 2008

Big Starling To FIU

That Add another defensive lineman to the FIU recruiting tally, Thatcher Starling from Hutchinson (Kan.) JUCO said he wants to be a Golden Panther.

Starling is not a major household appliance, as cabin001 thought, but he is built like one at 6-4,Tts_3  250. TS will enter FIU as a junior and after getting in the FIU weight room this summer don't be surprised to see him starting next fall when the Golden Panthers open in Alabama. Could envision Jonathan Jackson and/or Kambriel Willis bringing the speed from one side and Starling (right in blue) bringing the muscle from the other side of the D. Or he could bulk up enough to become a D-Tackle, which is a position FIU needs to fill.

LogoGOLDEN PANTHER PAWSE

Apaw In the early voting results from our last poll regarding FIU's 2008 Defensive MVP, you good people have DB Anthony Gaitor leading by a wide margin (70%) thus far. Keep voting, poll remains open.

Apaw_2 Although today is Festivus, and a Happy Festivus to all, we got an FIU Christmas shopping question Fest at the end of this Pawse. Speaking of Christmas, the GPP's gift to you will be posted at some point on Wednesday, Christmas Eve.

To your questions:

Ultimate FIU Fan: Pete, any chance Robert Mitchell gets drafted? Any senior have any hopes for this year's draft? Will MC have a FIU / NFL day for scouts? I'll be there for the Dec 27th game for my prize. Any players coming back from injury list for that game?

GPP: RM has a shot to get drafted late, if not, he would likely get a free agent shot with some team.  Other than RM, don't think any other FIU senior gets drafted. Yes, MC has a FIU/NFL Day.

As far as FIU hoops injuries, no player is expected back on the 27th, but Alex Galindo is supposedly close to returning in January. Will have your 2nd place prize from our WIN A GPP BLOG contest on the 27th.

FIUJM: Thanks on the 2 FIU hoops articles.

Tt fiufan751: Are you getting positive vibes from Coach Thomas?

GPP: Yes, I am. FIU baseball can have a similar turnaround like the Golden Panthers football team. Turtle Thomas (left) signed several pitchers and has 4 left-handers, which he did not have any last season. And regarding those who jumped on TT for last season, remember MC went 1-11 in his first season. It takes some adjustments from the players when there is a change in head coaches. Plus, what the former head coach thought of as talent, may not be what the new head coach thinks of as talent. FIU football and baseball previously had 2 head coaches that recruiting was NOT their strength. FIU football and baseball now has 2 head coaches that recruiting IS their strength. TT must be doing something right when this year's recruiting class is ranked No. 15 in the U.S.A. Only the Gators were ranked higher among Florida baseball schools. TT will be on the GPP in January to talk FIU baseball.

CJ: UM DB Demarcus Van Dyke's little brother David Van Dyke is being recruited by both UM and FIU Dvd according to Rivals with only FIU offering.. what's your all take on that?

GPP: Not sure about the recruiting situation in Coral Gables, but FIU could always use 4.4 speed and 6-0 at DB. Plus, a 3.4 GPA doesn't hurt either. Like I wrote in the DB recruiting blog, FIU will always need as many DBs as possible facing spread offenses about 6 to 7 times a season. DVD's speed is just 0.1 slower than Goodbye.

Apaw_3 In our last poll question about FIU's Defensive MVP, we reached another part of the world. The GPP is now read in Zagreb, Croatia. A GPP reader there voted for Anthony Gaitor as FIU's D MVP. Here's the updated scorecard:

GPP WORLDWIDE READERSHIP SCORECARD:

The GPP is read in: 37 STATES: ALA, ARI, ARK, CA, COL, FLA, GA, HI, IDAHO, IL, IND, IOWA, KAN, KY, LA, MASS, MD, MICH, MIN, MISS, MO, NEB, NEV, NC, NJ, NY, OH, ORE, PA, RI, SC, TEN, TEX, VA, VER, WASH, WISC.

23 COUNTRIES: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, U.S.A., Venezuela, Vietnam.

1 DISTRICT: Washington, D.C. and 1 TERRITORY: Puerto Rico.

Apaw_4 Time to go last-minute shopping for the Golden Panthers:

October 22, 2008

FIU/Ontario Blue Jays Baseball LIVE Blog

Fiubase_2

Yeah, the World Series starts in about 3 hours, but join us here on the GPP until then to talk about your 2009 Golden Panthers baseball team as they take on the Ontario Blue Jays at University Park Stadium.Tt_3

We'll get our first look at the No. 15 recruiting class in the nation compiled by TT. One of his pitchers from that class, Scott Rembisz (Florida JUCO Pitcher of the Year), starts tonight for FIU.

Starting lineups: FIU - Pablo Bermudez-CF, Greg Wadell-LF, Ryan Mollica-2b, Tyler Townsend-DH, Steven Stropp-DH, Tim Jobe-1b, Garrett Wittels-SS, Ty Main-RF, Raiko Alfonso-3b, Doug Joyce-DH, Casey Hanrahan-C, Scott Rembisz-P (Not a typo, since it's an exhibition game, FIU is using 2 extra DHs).

Ontario - Brodie Ross-RF, Tyler Hibbert-LF, Mike Reeves-DH, Tyler Patzalek-C, John Solazzo-3b, Jose Torralba-SS, Tyler Wheeler-1b, Jeff Kosta-2b, Darnell Duckett-CF, Kyle Willard-P

Let's play ball....

September 25, 2008

Paul Younger Has Left The Stage

Pm Just when you thought Paul Younger would be headlining the FIU offense this Saturday against Toledo, MC said after today's practice that Paul McCall will start against the Rockets and that Wayne Younger would see action in the first half. Here is MC's direct quote after Thursday's practice:

"Paul will start the game and Wayne will play quickly in the first half," MC said. "Wayne played better in the [South Florida] game and he had a chance to really make a statement in practice and he did ok -- just ok. Paul really practiced well these last couple of days and now he's got to show it in the game. I'm looking for one of those guys to make it real clear and real easy, but until they do it's not fair to the team to go with one when the other one is right there.''

Will have more on the FIU/Toledo game on the Friday blog with the GPP's preview and predicted score.

Remember, your last chance to get your score in for this game in the WIN A GPP BLOG contest is at 6:59 p.m. GPP Time on Saturday. And Quijote, if a contestant does not select one game, then he or she is eliminated from the contest. The 3 simple rules outlined on a cocktail napkin at the beginning of the season are: 1) Make a prediction each week on the FIU game (name a winning team and score) 2) The deadline for each game's predictions is anytime before kickoff. We are going by the time on the GPP, so DO NOT think if it's 6:59 p.m. on a Saturday on your clock, it's also 6:59 on the GPP clock, because you'll be late and you're out. 3) Standings tiebreakers at the end of the season will be the total point differential of your scores.

Baseball's magical month is 4 days away when the MLB playoffs begin. FIU baseball is hoping to unleash Turtle some magic next season with its incoming class that TT released today. Here is the link for the FIU baseball class on fiusports.com.

The FIU baseball alumni game is Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. at University Park Stadium and the 2009 Golden Panthers first exhibition baseball game is Oct. 22  at 6 p.m. against Team Ontario. Planning a live baseball blog from that game.

Will answer your questions on the Golden Panther Pawse in Friday's blog.


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