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Posts from May 2009

FAU running out of time to open stadium by 2010

There has been some recent speculation that unless Florida Atlantic announced by June 1 it had decided to begin the construction of a football stadium, there was no way it could be built by the opening of the 2010 season.

Well, if you check your calendar, Monday is June 1 and I haven't heard of any press conferences being scheduled.

But does that mean we'll know by the end of the day if the Owls will have to wait until 2011 to play its first game on-campus?

Not exactly, but let's face it - with every passing day it is indeed more unlikely the Owls will not be playing host to Michigan State in the 2010 season-opener in a brand new stadium in Boca Raton.

Reality is starting to set in and some scenarios being explored now are playing in a stadium that is partially under construction or playing the first game on campus late in the season in 2010.

And, in perhaps a telling-sign, FAU has begun discussing what to do with an attractive home date with Michigan State for the 2010 season.

If the stadium is ready late in the season, the Owls could play the Spartans after the Big 10 season is over. While most Big 10 teams will end their season before Thanksgiving, FAU is hoping a game in South Florida in early December would be attractive to Michigan State fans. Some may remember Michigan State playing at Hawaii in 2004 in early December in a game that must have looked pretty good to Spartan fans who are looking for an excuse to visit warm-weather climates.

I also heard last week that FAU is looking into playing the 2010 "home" game vs. the Spartans in Detroit's Ford Field if the stadium isn't ready be then. That would give FAU a chance to make some serious money if Spartans fans packed the stadium.

As you can see, there are a lot of things up in there when it comes to the construction of the stadium and they probably won't be any clearer on June 1 as they are today. The goal is still to play games in Boca Raton in 2010, but it looks like it's fourth-and-long and the punting team is taking the field.
Wilson heads list of FAU baseball award winners
With the NCAA baseball tournament getting underway this week, it seemed like a good time for us at FAUOwlAccess.com to hand out our superlatives for this year's Florida Atlantic baseball team. A 30-26 record wasn't what first-year coach John McCormack was hoping for, but there were plenty off good moments and players worth recognizing.

Team MVP: David Wilson
This was the player FAU thought it was getting when Wilson (scoring in photo) transferred to Boca Raton from Barton County (Kansas) Community College prior to last season. He followed a junior season in which he hit .247 by raising his average nearly 100 points. Wilson's .338 average led all Owl regulars. He went hitless only eight times in the 52 games he played, and never in back-to-back games. Wilson started the season hitting in the No. 9 slot and playing leftfield, but moved to the leadoff spot and centerfield when Anthony Mesa struggled. Neither move affected Wilson, who McCormack considers to be the best leftfielder in the Sun Belt.

Pitcher of the Year: Barry Rooks
This is the hardest award to hand out because there aren't any truly deserving candidates. Anytime your second baseman finishes the season with the second best ERA on the club, something is not going well. Glen Troyanoswki's four wins and six saves put him in consideration, but Troyanowski's demotion from the weekend rotation started the Owls' pitching woes. Rooks (3-2, 5.46) was lights out early before injuring his elbow. He pitched well in relief toward the end of the season, and should be at the top of the Owls' rotation next year, provided he doesn't get drafted and sign.

Most Improved: Nick DelGuidice
It would be Wilson if we were judging improvement from one year to another, but for these purposes we're judging from the beginning of the season to the end. A good case could also be made for Albaladejo, but the daily improvement of DelGuidice sways the award in his favor. DelGuidice's play at shortstop was shaky at best early in the season, when nearly every catch and throw seemed to be an adventure. DelGuidice committed 18 errors on the season- a number that could have been significantly higher were it not for some generous score keeping - but only four of them came after April 10, a span of 26 games. DelGuidice was the lone Owl to appear in all 56 games, and he started every one of them.

Newcomer of the Year: Mike Albaladejo
Pitcher Ahmed Garcia showed flashes of brilliance and fellow freshman hurler Brent Adheen showed he could have a solid FAU career, but it was Albaladejo who had the biggest impact on the Owls' season. His .373 average led Owls, but was truly only a bonus. McCormack likes the way Albaladejo handles pitchers, pointing to the Owls' 13-7 record this season in games Albaladejo started behind the plate. He should be a stalwart back there for at least two more seasons.

Defensive Play of the Year: Jeremy Griffiths' catch vs. FIU
Griffiths played a solid right field all season, but anyone who saw this play will remember it for quite some time. In the third inning of the series opener against Florida International Garrett Wittels hit a pop-up into foul territory on the right side. Griffiths sprinted to the fence, lept to catch the ball, then flipped over the fence, landing among the spectators. He held onto the ball, making a catch that should have been on SportsCenter.

Offensive Play of the Year: Troy Bubley's double against FIU
We'll stay in the same series because in many respects it was the most important one of the season. The Owls trailed by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth of the series' second game - one that that Owls desperately needed to keep hope of reaching the Sun Belt tournament alive. Bubley pinch hit for Mike Albaladejo and after fouling off several pitches, smacked a two-out, RBI double that sent the game into extra innings. From that point FAU seemed destined to win, and when Tom Hatcher's RBI double in the 12th brought in Wilson with the winning run, the Owls had the victory that ultimately put them in the SBC tournament.


chuck
It's all about Mee at the JUCO World Series

Sante Fe Community College's Andy Mee, who has signed with FAU, is ending this season on a high note at the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. with his arm and his bat.

After going 4-for-5 in Santa Fe's 12-4 victory vs. San Jacinto Thursday, Mee, who played at nearby Palm Beach Gardens High School, is hitting .500 (10-for-20) with a home run, two doubles and 10 RBI for the Saints.

Mee has also picked up three saves for SFCC, which is battling it out in the loser's bracket, but still has a chance to win the title.

Also on the Santa Fe CC baseball team and doing quite well is a player some Owl fans may remember - Keon Broxton. Broxton signed to play football with FAU out of Lakeland High School in 2008, but decided to pursue his baseball career instead. I don't know what kind of receiver Broxton would have been, but he is tearing up the JUCO series with a tournament-leading five homers and is batting .500 (10-for-20).

Here's a story on Broxton from the Grand Junction Sentinel.
FAU football on So You Think You Can Dance

Got a report that FAU football got a little publicity last night from a most unlikely source - The Fox TV show "So You Think You Can Dance."

The reason is that the widow of former FAU defensive lineman Ramon Rickards, Talia, auditioned for the show in Miami and advanced to the next round in Las Vegas. Ramon Rickards, who died in a 2006 motorcycle accident, was apparently shown in a photo wearing an FAU football shirt after Talia finished dancing and talked about losing her husband.

EDIT: I found a clip of the interview. It was great seeing those picture of Ramon.

I have a strict rule against watching American Idol and these types of shows, but I will make an exception to see how far Talia goes on this show. I hope she does well.

Ramon was one of my favorite players to ever play for FAU. He was a native of Jamaica, who was a soccer player before a coach at his Miami-Killian High School asked to him to play football.

Part of the inaugural team, Rickards anchored a defensive line with Yrvens Guerier and Johnnie Sloan during the program's first years.

The Ramon Rickards "Bone" Award, is awarded to the player who delivers the hardest hit in each FAU victory in his honor.
Baseball team's character showed last few weeks

The players and coaches Florida Atlantic baseball team woke up this morning and for the first time in a few weeks, didn't have to immediately have to wonder if they would be playing in a crucial game to make it to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament or become the first FAU team since making it to Division I to fail to qualify for the postseason.

If the Owls wouldn't have made it to the tournament, it would have been undestandable. The 2009 season didn't get off to a good start last summer when FAU officials were slow to name a coach and extended the uncertainty past baseball's draft. Without knowing who the coach was going to be, players like shortstop Nick Arata and pitcher Jeff Beliveau couldn't seriously consider coming back for as senior year. By the time John McCormack was named coach in late June, the damage had been done.

I'm not sure what realistic expectations should have been for this team, but given the circumstances, McCormack, in his first-year as a head coach, handled the situation well. That was specially true the last few weeks when he guided a team fighting for its life to series wins against Arkansas State on the road and vs. FIU to make the tournament field.

And once they did make it, the Owls didn't act like they were just glad to get there as they ended the season for Florida International. If you are counting - and they are in Miami no matter how much FIU fans say they don't consider the Owls a rival - that's three consecutive years the Owls have ended the season for the Golden Panthers.

Sending FIU packing certainly takes the sting out the two embarassing losses to top-seeded Middle Tennesse, a team which may earn an at-large bid for the NCAA Regionals if it doesn't win the SBC Tournament (provided it ever stops raining in Troy, Ala.)

McCormack finished with a 30-26 record in his first season and has already began the preparation for 2010. There are some good young players on the team to give reason to believe next season there may not be a mad rush to make the post-season, but it was a fun last few weeks of a succesful season.
Cutcher wins Sun Belt award
Here's proof hard work pays off.

Florida Atlantic's Steve Cutcher was named the Video Coordinator of the Year for the Sun Belt Conference. I can't really scout the competition, but I can't imagine there are too many more of video coordinators in the Sun Belt who put in as many hours at Cutcher.



Cutcher's position, which old-timers would call "film guys," is often a thankless one, so it's good staff members like Cutcher can get some well-deserved recognition.

Sun Belt Softball Championships head to FAU: The 2012 Sun Belt Conference Softball Championship Tournament was awarded to FAU at the annual conference meetings

FAU has played host to the Atlantic Sun tournament before, but this will be the first time the softball team has played host to the Sun Belt tournament.

This upcoming season, FAU will play host to the Sun Belt Women's Soccer Tournament on Nov. 4-7.
FAU broadcaster Bishop a real pro

After trying to watch live video of the Sun Belt baseball tournament on Sun Belt Extra, I have come to the following conclusion: The Most Valuable Player this year, at least as far as FAUOwlAccess.com is concerned, is Steve Bishop.

For those who don't know the name, you probably know the voice. For the past two seasons Bishop has been the voice of the Owls' baseball, women's basketball and several men's basketball games as he describes the action on FAUSports.com.

I may be giving away a trade secret, but Bishop has often been our lifeline to describing the action when FAU is on the road. We also often listen to Bishop's call of the action for the home games - OK that is not by choice, but rather by necessity. The FAU pressbox doesnt have a radio booth so Chuck King and I were quite a captive audience for just about every game of the season.

Bishop is knowledgeable and enthusiatic about the FAU baseball team and we have enjoyed bringing audio clips of some of his more memorable calls on this site. You can listen to Bishop's call of FAU's 12-inning 10-9 victory over FIU on Friday by clicking here.


The sad news, the next two losses for the Owls will not only mean the end of the season, but the end of Bishop's tenure at FAU. Bishop, technically an intern, was one of several who were told their services were no longer needed a few weeks ago. Ever the professional, Bishop has stayed on and will be on FAUsports.com today describing the action from Troy.

It's a real shame Bishop won't be back next year - even worse, there isn't a concrete plan to replace him. If FAU doesnt care enough about its own sports to broadcast them, how can it expect the public to connect with its teams?

I'm ashamed I considered following the game on video - a near impossibility since the picture feezes every few seconds (on my computer at least). Instead I think I'll be listening in as Bishop describes the action for what could be the final time and will be sad to hear him signing off for the final time at FAU.
FAU won't go winless in the SBC tournament
The erratic play offered by Florida Atlantic throughout the season makes it easy to be pessimistic about the Owls' chances in the Sun Belt Baseball Tournament. That's especially true if you haven't been to their games and are simply looking at their stats.

But there is reason for optomism. Take Barry Rooks, for example. When he takes the mound on Wednesday to start FAU's tournament opener against Middle Tennessee, he'll be dragging a 5.00 ERA with him. But that number can be deceiving. Much of that number can be attributed to a couple of bad starts, one of which caused coach John McCormack to shut him down for almost a month with an elbow injury.

But Rooks' best start of the season came against MTSU, when he allowed three runs - two earned - in 7 2/3 innings. He's also pitched well out of the pen in recent weeks. When healthy, Rooks has been the Owls best pitcher this season and he has proven he can handle the Blue Raiders strong line-up.

Offensively, Jeremy Griffiths appears to be coming out of his season-long slump. David Wilson, who's been solid all season, is swinging his hottest bat, and Tom Hatcher (photo) also seems to be finding a groove.

That's not to say I think FAU will win the tournament. They've been far too inconsistent to make that prediction. But I do think the Owls will win at least one game. Aside from MTSU and Troy, there is no team I would fear more in a single-game showdown than the Owls.

Block out: McCormack was holding out hope that second baseman William Block would have his academic issues solved in time to join the Owls for the tournament, but that didn't happen. When the Owls turned in their roster earlier today, Ryan Garton's name was present. Block's wasn't.

Finding his stroke: Looks like McCormack made a pretty good choice when selecting Jeremy Griffiths as the Owls' entrant in the SBC home run hitting contest, held Tuesday night. After hitting three of his five home runs on the season in the final series, Griffiths turned around and hit six bombs in the first round. He didn't fare as well in the second round, when participants were only given five outs. An individual winner wasn't crowned. The West easily defeated Griffith's East squad 45-29 in the team competition.

Award shutout: The SBC released its All-Conference teams tonight and there wasn't an Owl on the first or second team. I guess that's what happens when you struggle to reach the tournament. To be fair, there really aren't any Owls whose numbers really stand out. But did anyone who was at the final series really think four FIU players should make the first team?

Here are the awards:

2009 All-Sun Belt Conference Baseball First Team
SP - Kenneth Roberts Middle Tennessee; Matt Hightower WKU
RP - Coty Woods, Middle Tennessee
C - David Doss, South Alabama
1B - Mike Martinez, FIU
2B - Ryan Mollica, FIU
SS - Ben Soignier, ULM
3B - Wade Gaynor, WKU
OF - Tyler Townsend, FIU; Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee; Chad Cregar, WKU
DH - Tim Jobe, FIU
U - Michael Precise, Troy

2009 All-Sun Belt Conference Baseball Second Team
SP - Tom Ebert, FIU; Matt Ridings, WKU
RP - Chris Sorce, Troy
C - Drew Robertson, Middle Tennessee
1B - Ryan Ditthardt, Troy
2B - Boomer Blanchard, ULM
SS - Terrence Dayleg, WKU
3B - Rawley Bishop, Middle Tennessee
OF - Jon Prevost, ULM; Nathan Hines, Middle Tennessee; Adam Heisler, South Alabama
DH - Scott Hawkins, Louisiana-Lafayette
U - Murray Watts, Arkansas State

Player of the Year - Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee
Pitcher of the Year - Matt Hightower, WKU
Freshman of the Year - Tyler Ray, Troy
Newcomer of the Year - Boomer Blanchard. ULM
Coach of the Year - Chris Finwood, WKU

As always, stick with FAUOwlAccess.com for all the latest FAU baseball news.
Ozga may catch for FAU in SBC tourney
The news that Mike Albaladejo will be taking over for the injured Nick Criaris behind the plate for the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament begs this question: What will Florida Atlantic do if something happens to Albaladejo?

The Owls' emergency catcher is first baseman Travis Ozga, and he would actually welcome the opportunity to get behind the plate.

"I love catching," Ozga said. "It's great. It's like riding a bike. I'm really excited to be back there."

Ozga caught during his sophomore season before moving to the infield. He was almost back behind the plate during Friday's must-win game against Florida International. Albaladejo started that game, but was replaced by Criaris midway through. Criaris led off the 12th inning with a single and would have been lifted for a pinch runner had he reached second, but Criaris was erased as part of a double play.

The above photo of Ozga shows him wearing shin guards in preparation for catching the final innings.

Though Ozga hasn't caught during a game this season, he has stayed in shape by catching some bullpens.

McCormack hopes he doesn't have to use Ozga behind the plate this week. Albaladejo will start. Criaris could be called upon to catch an inning or two, and if he is forced to bat it's unlikely he'll be able to do much more than bunt.

As it stands now, Ozga will likely only be called upon if Albaladejo needs to be replaced in the early innings.

Of course, FAUOwlAccess.com will have complete coverage of the Owls' progress during the tournament.
Griffiths to represent FAU in home run derby
Tom Hatcher and William Block led Florida Atlantic with nine home runs each. David Wilson belted seven. None of those three, however, will be swinging for FAU during the Sun Belt Conference Home Run Derby to be held Tuesday at Troy.

Instead, FAU coach John McCormack tabbed Jeremy Griffiths, who hit three of his five home runs on the season over the final weekend against Florida International.

McCormack decided to let the ballpark dictate his choice. According to McCormack, Troy's field is more conducive to home runs to right field, which suits left-handed power hitters better.

He was leaning toward having Criaris take his hacks before the left-handed hitting catcher injured a muscle in his side on Sunday.

"(Griffiths is) one of the more consistant guys in BP in hitting them out," McCormack said. "It won't show it from his stats, but he is."

Griffiths struggled at the plate much of the season but appeared to be coming out of his slump during the season's final weeks. McCormack was concerned that swinging for the fences might alter Griffiths' swing for the tournament, but the senior right fielder assured him that wouldn't be the case.

"We called him last night before we put his name in and said, 'If this is going to get you going in the wrong direction, then we won't do it," McCormack said. "And he was like, 'No I'm fine.'"

Former Owl Mike McKenna won the contest last season.

The eighth-seeded Owls hope to begin their Sun Belt Tournament run on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. against top-seeded Middle Tennessee.

Check back with FAUOwlAccess.com for complete previews before the tournament and game coverage during the event.
Owls get help they needed
The talk at FAU Stadium this week was centered on what was going in far off locales like Little Rock, Ark. and New Orleans as much as what was taking place in Boca Raton.

FAU knew it could make it into the Sun Belt tournament by sweeping FIU this weekend, but anything short of that and it would need some help from other teams around the league.

The Owls won the first two games in dramatic fashion, but lost 17-10 on Saturday - no sweep - but the Owls got what they needed when UALR beat Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette pounded New Orleans.

FAU must be living right, because at the beginning of the day it seemed like UALR defeating ASU was a long shot. But the Owls make it in and it should be interesting to see how the Owls fare. I know it's a different dynamic, but the softball team went to the SBC Tournament as the No. 7 seed and made it to the championship game.

Who knows how they will fare, but making it to the tourney - especially after winning an SBC series in back-to-back weeks - in the first year under new coach John McCormack is something Owl fans should feel good about.

They may not win the thing, but at least they are in it.
FAU begins final 'next big series'
Florida Atlantic coaches and players have been talking about their next big weekend series for more than a month. Tonight, the next big series become the last big series.

The Owls enter the tonight's series against Florida International in ninth place in the Sun Belt Conference, with only the top eight making the post-season tournament. FAU does, however, control its own destiny. Sweep the series and they'll be playing next weekend. Win two and there's a good chance they'll earn a berth.

"Now it's drop dead," FAU coach John McCormack said. "It's here. It's been looming out there for the past couple of weeks."

It's a good thing, too, because the Owls have grown tired of thinking and talking about their plight.

"It's a relief," first baseman Travis Ozga (photo) said. "This is it. It's do to die right now. We're either going to come through big and make it to the conference tournament or we are not, and that's what it boils down to."

FAU has offered little reason to believe they can sweep the series. They haven't posted a three-game conference sweep all year (they did sweep two from Louisiana-Lafayette in a rain-shortened series). In fact, they haven't won three consecutive conference games at any point this season.

That's not to say they can't do it. They have the talent. It simply seems more likely that they will need a little help to get into the tournament, which means that when Saturday's 1 p.m. game ends, Owls fans will likely be rushing home to catch the conclusion of the televised Lousiana-Lafayette vs. New Orleans game.

"When we play our best game we've been extremely tough to beat and I think over the past couple weeks we've come around, made a turn, and started playing some really good baseball," Ozga said.

Saturday surprise: McCormack isn't being coy by listing Saturday's pitcher as TBA. He really isn't sure exactly who will take the mound. His choice is between Barry Rooks and Brent Adheen.

McCormack would prefer to start Rooks on Saturday, but realizes he may need the big lefty in relief in one of the first two games. All pitchers will be on short leashes this weekend. Rooks has demonstated he can gobble up innings out of the pen if one of the starters falters early. If Rooks is needed in the first two games, Adheen starts the season finale. If FAU starters go deep into Thursday's and Friday's games, look for Rooks to get the ball in the regular season finale.

FAUOwlAccess.com has been the only media outlet to provide consistent, accurate coverage of FAU baseball throughout the season. Needless to say, it's the place to turn for complete coverage of this decisive series.

chuck
Gray to see first action since 2006 vs. FGCU

Florida Atlantic is fighting for its life to make the Sun Belt Conference tournament, but that doesn't mean coach John McCormack doesn't have an eye on the future.

When the Owls step out of conference to face Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, McCormack plans to have redshirt junior Kenny Gray get some action.

Gray hasn't pitched since 2006 due to an arm injury which required Tommy John surgery, but the former star at Atlantic High School is expected to contribute next season.

"At some point you have to just get out there," McCormack said. "I hope he can get out there, throw some strikes and be able to walk off the mound and say he accomplished something."

A good outing vs. the Eagles would go a long way to having Gray penciled in for a starting spot next season, but the biggest thing would be to just show that he can pitch after missing the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons.

"It's been a long road for him, but I give him credit," McCormack said. "He never bowed out, he did everything he was supposed to do and did well in school."

Most fans are immediately concerned with the short-term future i.e. making it to the Sun Belt Tournament, but having Gray take a turn is Example A that McCormack is looking at the bigger picture and the long-term success of the program - a sound strategy.
FAU's pitching pattern clarifies
It's taken almost the full year, but I think I've finally figured out the FAU pitching staff. Basically, each individual is incapable of stringing together back-to-back good starts.

This "ride-the-pine" flu that that has infected the Owls started early in the season. Remember how good Friday Mike Gipson was in one start, only to be a complete mess in the next outing? Well, the virus has now infected most of the staff.

How else can Saturday's 11-4 loss at Arkansas St. be explained? One week after Ahmed Garcia delivered the Owls best pitching pereformance of the season, he couldn't get out of the second inning against the Red Wolves.

Barry Rooks, nearly unhittable out of the pen last week, followed Garcia by allowing the same amount of runs - four- as he got outs.

The pattern hold in reverse, too. On Friday Gipson, who allowed more runs than innings pitched a week ago, shut down the Red Wolves out of the pen as the Owls took the first game of the series.

Friday starter Adam Morrison, who melted down after being spotted a seven-run lead a week ago, did have his second-consecutive sub-par outing, but he tossed arguably FAU's second-best start of the season two weeks ago when he shut down Sun Belt leader Western Kentucky for 6 2/3 innings. Perhaps he hasn't been completely infected, yet.

The good news for FAU? Sunday starter Brent Adheen (photo) was absolutely awful last week, failing to record an out in Sunday's start against New Orleans. That's a good thing. FAU coach John McCormack said ealier this week that he can't imagine Adheen having another start like that. He's likely right - for this week anyway.

If Adheen does pitch like the guy who allowed an early home run to Western Kentucky then stymied the Hilltoppers two weeks ago, which according to the ride-the-pine virus theory he is on schedule to do, FAU should win the series finale.

Then McCormack has to bench him next week against Florida International in the final series of the regular season. Bench Gipson, too. That series will likely determine whether FAU reaches the conference tournament. Morrison, Rooks and Garcia should be the starting rotation next weekend.

Just look at this weekend's pitching performances. They've - ahh - earned it?

Make sure to check FAUOwlAccess.com to see whether the Owls can beat ASU on Sunday and take the series.

chuck
What do Rooks and State Farm have in common?
Florida Atlantic coach John McCormack surprised me earlier this week when he said the weekend rotation wouldn't feature Barry Rooks.

Rooks began the season as the Saturday starter and was arguably the Owls' best pitcher until arm issues surfaced. Despite a couple of rough outings shortly before being shut down for a few weeks, Rooks still has the third best ERA on the team (4.25) and his three wins are tied for the most among Owl starters.

He didn't start in last weekend's series against New Orleans, but did come out of the bullpen on Sunday to throw seven innings of shutout ball, allowing only two hits and striking out seven.

Based on that performance, and the struggles of FAU's starters, it seemed likely McCormack would put Rooks back in the rotation. That didn't happen. In fact, that performance may have cemented Rooks' role in the pen.

Rooks is an insurance policy. Instead of penciling Rooks in to pitch one specific game, McCormack likes the idea of being able to call on Rooks in any one of the three weekend games.

"It's nice to have Barry there to kinda save us either Friday, Saturday or Sunday if we need it," McCormack said. "He's done it he understands it."

It does make some sense. FAU has put itself in the position where it can't afford to let a starting pitcher work through early-game stuggles. McCormack will have a quick hook all weekend.

McCormack is willing to look past Morrison's struggles last weekend, preferring to concentrate on his outing two weeks ago when he shut down conference-leader Western Kentucky. Ahmed Garcia is coming off an outstanding performance and is a no-brainer to start again on Saturday. Brent Adheen didn't record an out on Sunday, but McCormack believes he's been one of the Owls best pitchers down the stretch. McCormack also doesn't like the way Adheen pitches when coming in from the pen. If he didn't start Adheen, McCormack figures, he'd be shortening his bench because he wouldn't use Adheen at all.

"I can't imagine Adheen having another bad start," McCormack said.

There is risk involved. There's something to be said for knowing when your best pitcher will throw - or even knowing for sure that he will throw.

Check back with FAUOwlAccess.com
for full coverage of the weekend series.

chuck
Bliss, Bodenmiller named All-Conference
Caitlyn Bliss and Blair Bodenmiller were named to the Sun Belt's 2009 All Conference team on Tuesday, a day before Florida Atlantic faces Troy in the first round of of the conference tournament in Texas.

Bliss (left photo) leads the Owls with a .360 average and four triples. She also is third on the squad with 18 RBIs despite missing nearly a month of the season with an injury. Bliss made the team as the designated player.

Bodenmiller (right photo), the Owls shortstop, is the lone Owl to start all 55 regular season-games. She's third on the team with a .260 average, and her 45 hits, 29 runs and 69 total bases are all tops among Owls.

The All Conference performers were honored tonight at a ceremony in Denton, Texas. Seventh-seeded FAU will face Troy on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

A preview of the tournament currently resides on FAUOwlAccess.com

Here is the complete list of All Sun Belt softball players:

FIRST TEAM
Pitchers: Donna Bourgeois (UL-Lafayette, So.); Ashlyn Williams (Troy, So.)
Catcher: Lana Bowers (UL-Lafayette, Jr.)
First Base: Mallory Cantler (North Texas, So.)
Second Base: Terri Ellingsworth (WKU, Sr.)
Third Base: Melissa Verde (UL-Lafayette, Jr.)
Shortstop: Blair Bodenmiller (Florida Atlantic, Jr.)
Outfield: Karli Hubbard (UL-Lafayette, Sr.); Brianna Love (ULM, So.); Heidi Johnson (Troy, Sr.)
Designated Player: Caitlyn Bliss (Florida Atlantic, Sr.)

Player of the Year: Karli Hubbard (UL-Lafayette, Sr.)
Pitcher of the Year: Donna Bourgeois (UL-Lafayette, So.)
Freshman of the Year: Christi Orgeron (UL-Lafayette, Fr.)
Newcomer of the Year: Tasha Elmore (Troy, Jr.)
Co-Coach of the Year: Melanie Davis (Troy); Tyra Perry (WKU)

SECOND TEAM
Pitchers: Ryan Rogge (WKU, Sr.); Beth Pilgrim (South Alabama, Jr.)
Catcher: Jessica Landau (FIU, Sr.)
First Base: Gabriele Bridges (UL-Lafayette, So.)
Second Base: Christi Orgeron (UL-Lafayette, Fr.)
Third Base: Martha Davis (Middle Tennessee, Sr.)
Shortstop: Kala Moore (Troy, Jr.)
Outfield: Mariza Martinez (North Texas, So.); Katie Smith (UL-Lafayette, So.); Tasha Elmore (Troy, Jr.)
Designated Player: Tara Donaldson (South Alabama, Sr.)
Good news in New Orleans is good for FAU fans, too
How about the range of emotions experienced by players on both sides of this weekend's series against New Orleans?

FAU started Friday's first game of the most important series of the year to date by jumping out to a 7-0 lead only to lose by seven. A day later Ahmed Garcia followed with the Owls' best pitching performance of the year to even the series at 1-1. Then, a blown call at home plate stymied FAU's seventh inning rally in Sunday's game and the Owls went on to lose the game 5-3.

Yep, FAU players were up and down all weekend - but it was nothing compared to what UNO players experienced. Friday's readers of FAUOwlAccess.com learned that UNO students apparently doomed the entire athletic program by voting against a proposal to raise their student fees to cover an athletic budget shortfall. A few FAU players even said that a couple Privateers talked with them before Friday's game telling them UNO wouldn't have a baseball team, or any other team, next year.

By Sunday, however, despair had turned to hope. Privateers coach Tom Walter spent part of the morning circulating an email from Athletic Director James Miller stating that several private sources had come forward pledging to fund the program.

"I wanted them to not be so quick to jump ship," Walter said following Sunday's game. "Let's give it another few days and make an informed decision instead of making a knee-jerk decision."

The group of donors reportedly involves New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and New Orleans Hornets owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest, so there are some deep pockets. Walter said several legislators are also working to ensure funding of a more permanent nature. Here is a story that does a pretty good job of breaking down where the program stands.

That progress no doubt had an effect on the Privateers on-field attitude on Sunday.

"We had gotten some good news - some positives - so it wasn't all gloom and doom," Walter said. "These kids, they poured their heart and souls into the program. They deserve an opportunity."

Sun Belt officials, whose offices are located in New Orleans, are paying close attention to the financial mess in the Big Easy. Here's hoping New Orleans officials get everything worked out. UNO brings the conference to one of the largest media markets in the country, which can only help with television exposure. And there is no better Sun Belt destination. Lucky Dogs and hand gernades for all my friends!

Taking a stance: FAU shortstop Nick DelGuidice (photo) has been hitting with a new stance in which his left (front) foot starts behind him, nearly out of the batter's box. He brings the foot in to a more normal stance when the pitcher begins his delivery.

DelGuidice said on Sunday that he made the change because he'd been pulling off the ball. He figures that starting so open and then closing his stance forces him to stay closed a little longer through the ball.

How's it working? DelGuidice went 6-for-13 (.462) with two RBIs and five runs scored over the weekend.

chuck
Gagel heads to Division II Tusculum

FAU just sent out an annoucement from Nick Gagel's high school that Gagel, who we already knew would not be back with FAU next season, will play at Division II Tusculum next season.

It's good to see Gagel land on his feet at a place he almost certainly will get more playing time. I know some raised questions about whether he was a legitimate Division I player when he signed with FAU last season, but bringing him in was worth a shot in my opinion. He just didnt pan out.

Here's the entire announcement and good luck to Gagel.


May 4, 2009

Former Jeffersontown High School standout Nick Gagel has decided to transfer from Florida Atlantic University to NCAA Division 2 Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee and signed his scholarship papers today. One of the main factors in transferring to Tusculum was the opportunity to play right away and not have to sit out a year. In addition, Nick was very comfortable with the coaches, system and the school because Tusculum had previously recruited him out of high school.

Nick played in 10 games for the Owls as a freshman this season averaging 4.5 minutes per game. He started and played 19 minutes and scored 4 points against Western Kentucky in February. In high school, Nick set school records by making 210 three point shots in his career and by shooting 49% from the 3 point line for his career. He was named All State his senior season as well as KABC 7th region player of the year averaging 15.8 points, 4.1 assists and 3 rebounds.

Nick chose Tusculum over Kentucky Wesleyan, Southern Indiana, Ashland University, Lynn University, Lee University and Union University (TN).
He is excited about playing in a winning program for Coach Jim Boone on a team that went 20-11 last season before losing in the NCAA regional and helping them pursue a goal of winning a National Championship.


Quote from Tusculum Head Coach Jim Boone

"We are so pleased that Nick has chosen Tusculum College to continue his academic and athletic career. In every way, Nick Gagel represents what we search for in our recruiting, as a player, a student and most importantly as a person. He is obviously an outstanding player, that has had great success, but as good a player as Nick is, he is a better person."

"Nick is inheriting a very good basketball team, we return 6 of our top 8 players including South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year, Kyle Moore. This is an outstanding opportunity for Nick, not only to contribute immediately, for significant playing time and to play a very important role, but to become part of a highly successful program. Needless to say we are very excited to welcome Nick to the pioneer family."
Garcia's confidence could stabilize Owls
Where does Florida Atlantic turn after last night's pitching debacle rendered today's contest against New Orleans a must win? To a freshman making only the second start of his career.

Ahmed Garcia (2-1, 4.68) certainly has the confidence to handle it. Earlier this week McCormack surprisly chose Garcia to deliver Saturday's 4 p.m. first pitch. Neither McCormack nor Garcia could have imagined the left hander would be taking the mound hours after a game in which the Owls jumped to a 7-0 lead only to lose by seven, 19-12.

After starting the season slowly, Garcia has become one of the Owls' most effective pitchers. He pitched into the seventh inning in his lone start, allowing four runs in a win over Bryant on April 18. Garcia held a potent Western Kentucky offense scoreless in four innings of relief on Sunday before allowing the winning run to score in the ninth.

Absorbing the loss didn't shake Garcia's confidence.

"I've always been a starter, since I was a kid," the newly-turned 19-year-old said on Wednesday. "All I wanted was for them to give me a chance to show what I can do as a starter. ... At the beginning it was difficult for me to buy into the reliever position. In my mind I was a starter. That's what I do."

FAU coach John McCormack won't have to worry about a lackadaisical performance from Garcia. He's all energy, always in motion. McCormack's biggest job today may be keeping Garcia from getting too amped. It better be caffeine-free Coke today.

Early in the year Garcia's energy drew comparisons to former Florida pitcher Dontrelle Willis' mound demeanor. Those comparisons don't fly with Garcia, who says he's never really watched Willis pitch.

"I don't follow baseball that much," Garcia said. "It's not that I don't like to watch baseball, it's that I don't like to be a spectator. I like people watching me play."

Garcia (left photo) does admit to patterning his high leg kick delivery after another former major leaguer, though. Garcia, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States at the age of 10, always liked the style of fellow Cuban Orlando Hernandez. That's El Duque, courtesy of the New York Post, in the right photo. They throw with different hands. Other than that, it's pretty close.

What does Garcia say about those who bypass the El Duque comparisons, instead insisting he's a Willis clone?

"I'm not like Dontrelle Willis," Garcia says with a smile. "Dontrelle Willis is like me."

As always, FAUOwlAccess.com will have a complete report from Saturday's game.

chuck

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