Thursday, June 30, 2016

College World Series - Coastal Carolina Wins National Championship


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[Note: This article was compiled as a series of live updates during Thursday afternoon's game]

Omaha, Neb. - With rain postponing the national championship game between Arizona and Coastal Carolina last night, the finale was moved to today at 1 PM. The best-of-three championship series was tied at 1-1 going into this afternoon.

Through five innings, and with dueling aces Andrew Beckwith and Bobby Dalbec pitching for CCU and Arizona respectively, the game remained scoreless. Coastal got two runners on base in the top of the sixth with one out. Dalbec then struck out right fielder Connor Owings. A fielding and throwing error by Arizona's second baseman on a grounder off the bat of Zach Remillard put the Chants' up 2-0. DH G.K. Young followed with a two-run homer to make it 4-0.

After the Chants' Tyler Chadwick singled to center, Dalbec exited the game. Cameron Ming came in in relief and closed out the inning. The Wildcats answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, also aided by a fielding error. With two outs and men on first and second, Beckwith was lifted for reliever Bobby Holmes. Holmes promptly struck out SS Louis Boyd to end the threat with the Chants leading, 4-2.

CCU then went scoreless in the top of the seventh and Alex Cunningham relieved Holmes in the bottom of the frame. Cunningham escaped trouble with two runners on via a ground ball double play to end the inning. The eighth was scoreless for both teams.

The Chanticleers were silenced in the top of the ninth. The Wildcats scored on a walk, single, and sac fly, all with one out. Arizona now trailed, 4-3. First baseman Ryan Aguilar later doubled to put runners on second and third with two outs.

Cunningham then struck out Ryan Haug for the Chanticleers to claim their first national title in their first trip to the College World Series.




Tuesday, June 28, 2016

College World Series Game Two Report





[Note: This article was compiled as a series of live updates during Tuesday night's game]

Omaha, Neb. - The Arizona Wildcats jumped out to an early lead in the College World Series finals again on Tuesday night, putting up a run in the first off Coastal Carolina's Mike Morrison to take a 1-0 advantage. Coastal came back to score two and take a 2-1 lead on a one-out single by Anthony Marks in the top of the third.

The Wildcats entered the game up 1-0 in the best-of-three series.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Wildcats threatened with runners on second and third and one out after a sacrifice bunt. Morrison responded with two strikeouts to close out the inning and bring his tally on the evening to six K's. Arizona starter Kevin Ginkel was effective as well with seven strikeouts through five.

Arizona put runners on first and third with no one out in the bottom of the fifth, before Morrison registered his seventh strikeout. The Wildcats then drew even at 2-2 on a fielder's choice off the bat of Ryan Aguilar. Morrison struck out third baseman Bobby Dalbec to end the inning. The Chanticleers' right-hander continued through the sixth with a career-high ten strikeouts.

Ginkel toed the rubber to start the seventh and continued with a low-nineties fastball, striking out two and matching Morrison's total for the evening. Morrison ended his evening after 6 2/3 and 103 pitches. Reliever Bobby Holmes entered the game in relief after the Coastal starter was hit hard, both for outs. After yielding a single to hot-hitting right fielder Zach Gibbons, Holmes closed out the seventh.

Left-hander Cameron Ming entered the game on the hill to start the eighth for the Wildcats. Anthony Marks began the inning with his third single of the game for the Chants. Shortstop Michael Paez moved Marks to second on a sacrifice. Lefty Connor Owings entered the box with one out and hit a short flare to left that dropped in, scoring Marks from second to give Coastal a 3-2 lead.

Third baseman Zach Remillard then pulled a double down the left field line, moving Owings to third. Ming was lifted for fellow left-hander Alfonso Rivas. Designated hitter G.K. Young drove in both Owings and Remillard on a single to run the score to 5-2, but was thrown out at second attempting to stretch it into a double. Second baseman Tyler Chadwick followed with a two-out single, chasing Rivas. Centerfielder Billy Cooke popped out to first to end the inning with Coastal up by three runs heading into the bottom of the eighth.

Aguilar singled off Holmes to start off the Arizona eighth. Dalbec then walked to put on two with no one out. Holmes then walked the bases loaded before getting his first out on an infield fly from Jared Oliva. First baseman Kevin Woodall, Jr. made a diving stop on a grounder and threw to second for out number two, while Aguilar scored to make it 5-3. An error by Paez on a grounder scored Dalbec. Cody Ramer flew out to Marks in leftfield to end the inning with the Chants' lead narrowed to 5-4.

Coastal went quietly in the top of the ninth against Arizona reliever Cody Deason.

Holmes got Gibbons to pop out to Woodall for out number one in the bottom of the frame. A second pop out to Paez at short, and the Chants closed to within an out of game three. Aguilar then lined out to Woodall at first to close it out.

One game remains to decide the 2016 season and its national champion.







Monday, June 27, 2016

Books: Michael Howard's 'The First World War'

The First World War by Michael Howard (photo - Oxford University Press)

The fog of war is a familiar term that describes the chaos that often prevails during battle, and as often obscures its details in recollection. A modified definition could easily be applied to the entirety of World War I. Few understand it well (including myself) despite its place as one of the most chronicled subjects in modern history.

To help lift the fog, I recently picked up a concise history written by Michael Howard entitled The First World War. I'd just finished listening to the excellent Dead Wake by Erik Larson that detailed the tragic, but preventable, sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 by a German U-Boat and wanted to learn more than I knew about the War. The Flynns lost a family member, my great uncle, to its trenches and I know the echoes of that tragedy long outlasted the span of the conflict. I knew as well that I'd read enough of about the War that a 1,000-page tome on the topic wasn't something that I was interested in starting on Memorial Day weekend. 

The First World War, in that regard, is perfect. Howard well describes the cascading (and confusing) alliances that drew Europe, and then the world, into the conflict following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. For us Americans in the crowd, it also does a fine job detailing our late, yet crucial, entry into the fray. Doughboys weren't on the European continent long relative to the length of the War, but their arrival was key to keeping it from lasting much longer. 

Howard's work weighs in at a taut 176 pages (including indices), and while the subject precludes it from anyone's list of light summertime reads, it's a great start to understanding the event that shaped so many of the last century of summers  for better and worse. - TF

Saturday, June 25, 2016

College Baseball: Coastal Carolina Wins, Advances to CWS Finals

CCU pitcher Andrew Beckwith (photo - canva.com filter, CCU Athletics)
Omaha, Neb. - Coastal Carolina defeated TCU, 7-5, in the 2016 College World Series (CWS) on Saturday night. With the win the Chanticleers advanced to the CWS Finals beginning on Monday where they'll face the Arizona Wildcats (48-22). Earlier in the day Arizona topped Oklahoma State, 5-1, to earn their place in the final, best-of-three series.

CCU pitcher Andrew Beckwith kept his squad alive in their first-ever CWS on Friday when he dealt a 137-pitch gem to lift the Chants to a 4-1 victory over the Horned Frogs. The junior right-hander scattered six hits to earn the complete game victory. Beckwith is now 14-1 on the season to go along with a 1.94 ERA. A day earlier, the Horned Frogs earned a 6-1 win over CCU, to push the Chants to the brink of elimination.

TCU ends the year with a 49-18 mark, after capturing the Big-12 tournament championship, the Fort Worth Regional, and the Super Regional to advance to the CWS. The Horned Frogs went 2-2 in Omaha.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

College Baseball: Coastal Carolina Faces TCU in Winners' Bracket Tonight

Coastal Carolina centerfielder Billy Cooke (photo - CCU Athletics)
Omaha, Neb. - The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers made good on their first appearance in a CWS game when they defeated #1-ranked Florida, 2-1, on Sunday. Tonight they face Texas Christian (TCU) (48-16) who, as reported, also won their 2016 Omaha opener. The first pitch is scheduled for 9 PM Eastern at TD AmeriTrade Park and the game will air on ESPN.

Junior righthander Alex Cunningham (9-3) projects as the Chants' starter, and will likely duel with the Horned Frogs' junior righty Brian Howard (9-2). Howard stands 6'9" and has 86 K's in 93 innings of work, both staff bests for TCU. Cunningham has 105 innings under his belt with 91 strikeouts. At the plate, Coastal Carolina (50-16) is batting an even .300 on the season with 488 runs scored, with rightfielder Connor Owings lead all Chants with a .374 average.

TCU has 455 runs (in two fewer games) and is batting .304 as a team. Sunday's hero Luken Baker is 10-60-.380 at the plate for the Horned Frogs.

CCU's dugout looks on during Sunday's win (photo - CCU Athletics)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

College Baseball: TCU Beats Texas Tech to Open CWS

TCU's Luken Baker (photo - Michael Clements/gofrogs.com)
Omaha, NE - The TCU Horned Frogs beat Big 12 rival Texas Tech, 5-3, on Sunday in the 2016 College World Series opener for both teams. They move on to play Coastal Carolina on Tuesday in the winners' bracket of Bracket Two (TCU, Texas Tech, Coastal Carolina, Florida). DH Luken Baker's dramatic, three-run ninth-inning home run was the difference maker for TCU.

Coastal Carolina (50-16), playing in its first CWS, defeated top-ranked Florida, 2-1, in their opener. Andrew Beckwith notched the victory by scattering seven hits and allowing just one earned run. Beckwith is now 13-1 on the season, while the Gators fell to 52-15 and dropped into an elimination game against Texas Tech (46-19).

Durbin Feltman closed out Texas Tech for the win (photo - Michael Clements)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hockey: Pittsburgh Penguins Win Fourth Stanley Cup




San Jose - The Pittsburgh Penguins proved they were the best team in hockey with a 3-1 victory on Sunday night over the San Jose Sharks to win the 2016 Stanley Cup. It was the fourth in the franchise's history, dating back to 1967. For Sid Crosby, it was the second Stanley Cup of his career and the first on the far side of a severe concussion during 2011-2012 that left his future in hockey in question.

Crosby also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2016 NHL playoff MVP. "There were so many guys that contributed, to be honest," Crosby said when asked following the game what set him apart. "I look at this as a total team effort. I just tried to work hard every night and do my job, just like everyone else. I don't know if I did anything different or specific."

For the Sharks, it was an end to the best season in their 25-year history. The game was 2-1 until the final moments when San Jose pulled goalie Martin Jones for an extra skater. The Sharks dropped the first two games in overtime to the Pens before winning the third, also in overtime. Jones led all keepers with 631 playoff saves, while Logan Couture led all scorers with 30 points.

The Pens won the overall series, 4-2.












Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hockey: Jones, Sharks Hold Fast In Stanley Cup Finals




Pittsburgh - With his team facing elimination, goaltender Martin Jones turned away 44 shots by the Pittsburgh Penguins to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 4-2 road victory. With the win, the Sharks stayed alive in the Stanley Cup Finals, and now trail the Pens 3-2 in the series. They return to San Jose to host Pittsburgh at 8 PM Eastern on Sunday.

The visitors jumped out to a 2-0 in the opening moments of the game, only to see the Pens tie it up at 2-2 with nearly 15 minutes still remaining in the period. The two teams combined for four goals in the first 5:06 to set a Stanley Cup Finals record for most goals to open a game. Melker Karlsson buried what proved the difference maker for San Jose with just over five minutes to play in the first.

Following the offensive outburst in the initial period were 38 minutes of scoreless hockey. Joe Pavelski scored an empty-netter in the waning moments of the third to provide the Sharks with the 4-2 winning margin.


Southland Conference: UNO Privateers Leap Forward in 2016


UNO outfielder Hezekiah Randolph (photo - UNO )

New Orleans - The baseball season has concluded for all members of the Southland Conference, as Southeastern Louisiana and Sam Houston State exited the NCAA DI tournament in their respective regionals.

As previously reported, the Southland Conference's UNO Privateers were among the most improved teams in the circuit this season. I first took an interest in the squad after writing an article on the University's struggles following Hurricane Katrina, and again on the arrival of Blake Dean at the helm for the Privateers. The program's past and potential success combine to make the baseball team one of the most interesting to follow in NCAA DI.

The Privateers finished 31-26 on the season and 14-16 in the Southland. In the three prior seasons, UNO had a combined 32 wins. In 2016, they also earned their first invite to the conference tournament, where they played three tight games (including a win over Northwestern State) before being eliminated.

Highlights for the squad included starting off the season auspiciously with a three-game sweep of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Invitational. The hosts beat Alcorn State, Grambling, and Louisiana Tech in succession. Another highlight came early in the season with a three-game sweep of Valparaiso (30-28) of the Horizon League.

Individually, outfielder Hezekiah Randolph started all 57 games, one of three Privateers to do so along with Dakota Dean and Aaron Palmer. Both Dean and Palmer arrived in New Orleans this season following stellar junior college careers at Northwest Florida State. Randolph tied with Dean in RBIs (45), and his 71 hits were second only to Palmer's 78.

Privateers' righthander Riley Hodge (photo - UNO)

On the hill, junior Riley Hodge was the team's workhorse, making 17 appearances including 15 starts. His 4.23 ERA was second on the team to leader Daniel Martinez (2.75), while Hodge led the team with 93.2 innings pitched.

Following the season-ending loss to McNeese State in 13 innings, head coach Dean said of his Privateers, "They know how to win now. They know the amount of work it takes and these seniors have laid the foundation for what we hope to do moving forward and that's win championships."
- TF

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

College Baseball: Postseason Moves to Super Regional Round



                      Mississippi State (shown here in the 2013 CWS) is one of 16 remaining teams (Getty Images)

Indianapolis - The NCAA DI baseball postseason pared off three-quarters of the field in its initial round of play and now moves to the Super Regional round. The Super Regionals are a series of eight three-game series hosted by the higher-seeded team. The eight advancing teams will comprise the College World Series field.

Two #3 seeds advanced out of the regionals (Boston College, East Carolina) while the remaining 14 teams were first or second seeds in their opening round series.

The matchups and locations are as follows (rankings indicate the national seeding for the team, if applicable, entering the 64-team tournament):

Friday, June 10
Boston College (34-20) vs. #3 Miami (Fla.) (48-11) - Coral Gables, FL
#5 Texas Tech (45-17) vs. East Carolina (37-21-1) - Lubbock, TX
Arizona (42-21) vs. #6 Mississippi State (44-16) - Starkville, MS
TCU (45-15) vs. #4 Texas A&M (44-16-1) - College Station, TX

Saturday, June 11
Florida State (40-20) vs. #1 Florida (50-13) - Gainesville, FL
Coastal Carolina (47-16) vs. #8 LSU (45-19) - Baton Rouge, LA
UC-Santa Barbara (40-18-1) vs. Louisville (50-12) - Louisville, KY
Oklahoma State (39-20) vs. South Carolina (46-16) - Columbia, SC


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hockey: Penguins Move Closer to Stanley Cup




San Jose - The Pittsburgh Penguins pushed the San Jose Sharks to the brink of elimination on Monday evening when they took game four of the Stanley Cup finals, 3-1. Pittsburgh now holds a 3-1 series heading into game five on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Rookie goalie Matt Murray has 14 playoff wins this year, one shy of the all-time mark. Three different keepers (Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall, and Cam Ward) hold the postseason wins record of 15. Sharks keeper Martin Jones has 13 wins and 563 saves. He will need to break the all-time wins mark for San Jose to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2016.

Ian Cole, Evgeni Malkin, and Eric Fehr all scored for Pittsburgh on Monday night while Melker Karlsson scored San Jose's sole goal.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hockey: San Jose Sharks Win Game Three in OT





San Jose - The San Jose Sharks staved off a 3-0 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, 3-2. The finals are proving one of the most competitive in recent years as all three contests to date have gone to overtime.

Former Washington Capital Joel Ward scored a critical goal at 8:48 in the third period to draw the Sharks to a 2-2 tie. Joonas Donskoi buried the game winner at 12:18 in overtime to send the home crowd home happy. Goalie Martin Jones was outstanding, turning away 40-42 Pittsburgh offerings. The Vancouver native has 592 goals in the playoffs to lead all NHL keepers this year.

Pittsburgh won the first two on home ice, while the Sharks grabbed their first Stanley Cup series win in franchise history at home in game three. The San Jose franchise is celebrating its 25th season this year.

The series sits at 2-1, Pittsburgh, and will resume on Monday night in San Jose.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali Dies at 74





Phoenix - Former three-time world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali died on Friday at age 74 at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center. Known simply as "The Greatest," Ali succumbed after a valiant 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease. Particularly in the latter years of his life, Ali championed humanitarian efforts away from the ring that were as enduring as his legacy in it. In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for, among other efforts, his work in advancing human rights.

As a younger man, Ali was viewed less generously in the public eye, particularly when he was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. I've read a handful of books on the Champ, none better than Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. The United States of America by Howard L. Bingham and Max Wallace. It offers a nuanced account of the formidable challenges that Ali (then Cassius Clay) faced at the time.

His battles with Joe Frazier were, as with many my age, the highlights of our sports youth. I rooted for Frazier as I could tell - even as a boy - that Smokin' Joe wasn't as talented as Ali and struggled to match the Champ's hand speed in the ring and verbal velocity away from it. The two fought a trio of bouts, with Frazier capturing the first and Ali winning the second and third.

Still, when it came time for my first childhood bout - an older neighbor named Louis had a penchant for kicking and pulling the hair of passing kids - I had to ask my father for permission. My father only agreed if we both wore boxing gloves. "Dad, can you get me the gloves Ali wears?" I asked. I wanted to leave nothing to chance. He assented.

My mom, unaware of the arrangement, watched me walk slowly up the street with my gloves lofted skyward, ala Ali. She quizzed my father at home and ran up the street to stop it mid-third. By my card I was up, and apparently on Louis's as well, as he never bothered me again.

Ali was imperfect, brave, talented and courageous. With age, his courage gained hold and, as with many, his youthful bluster diminished. It's the combination of these attributes that made him the consummate boxer and imbued his great heroics with a compelling humanity. - TF




Friday, June 3, 2016

College Baseball: NCAA Tournament Begins, Includes Recent Champs



Charlottesville- The NCAA Division I baseball tournament began today and the 2014 and 2015 champions – Vanderbilt and Virginia, respectively – are in the 64-team field. The two faced each other in the the finals of the CWS in both 2014 and 2015.

The Cavaliers host the Charlottesville Regional that includes #2-seeded Bryant, #3 East Carolina,  and #4 William & Mary. In the first game, Virginia (38-20) showed that it's again a team to be wary of in 2016 as it defeated the CAA's William & Mary (29-30), 17-4. Starter Alec Bettinger (3-5) got the win for the Cavs.

Vanderbilt hosts #2-seeded UC-Santa Barbara (37-18-1), #3 Washington (32-21) and #4 Xavier (30-28) in the Nashville Regional. In the regional's only final to date, UC-SB knocked off Washington, 3-2, in 14 innings. 

(All photos used with permission and are copyright Getty Images) 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Baseball: 75 Years Ago the Nation Loses its Iron Horse



New York - 75 years ago on June 2, 1941, the world lost Lou Gehrig to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating and fatal disorder that today is often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease."

Time Magazine noted how Gehrig was poignantly honored in ballparks across the nation at the time of his death:

In every ball park, flags drooped at half-mast. In New York's Polo Grounds, Brooklyn's Ebbets Field and Detroit's Briggs Stadium - where New York ball clubs were playing - tier upon tier of fans stood bareheaded for a minute of silent tribute. In baseball's Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., mourners filed past a black-draped plaque. For the baseball world last week mourned 37-year-old Lou Gehrig, onetime Yankee first baseman, who had succumbed after two years to a rare, incurable disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 

Gehrig most enduring legacy, among many, was a 2,130 consecutive game streak that ended during the 1939 season when he benched himself for what he felt was his subpar performance. He received the ALS diagnosis in June of the same year from the Mayo Clinic. 

Gehrig delivered his now-famous speech a month later on on July 4, 1939 on "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day." An excerpt from the speech has been quoted countless times to illustrate both the caliber of Gehrig as a man and as a source of hope for those waging battles with disease or difficult circumstances.  

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”

ALS afflicts roughly 5,600 people in the U.S. today. In recent years, former NFL'er OJ Brigance has proven an eloquent, inspiring successor to Gehrig in the public eye as he wages his own battle with ALS.

(All photos used with permission and are copyright Getty Images) 




Another Western State Adds Varsity Lacrosse

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