Loy has put herself in a position to qualify for one of college golf's most prestigious events. And she's doing it at mid-major ETSU. How about that?
It's nice to write stories like this.
Loy has put herself in a position to qualify for one of college golf's most prestigious events. And she's doing it at mid-major ETSU. How about that?
Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of Marques Bovre's passing.
Everyone has an artist -- painter, sculptor, writer, musician, etc. -- who's impacted them on more than just an aesthetic level. An artist who tells your story better than you ever could. Marques was, and is, like that for me.
I had the chance to talk to him maybe only a handful of times, and he wouldn't have been able to recognize me from a bike rack or a bubbler. But it felt like he knew me. More importantly, it felt like he helped me learn about myself, and life, more clearly.
It's not hyperbole to call him a genius. Nor is it hyperbole to say that he and the Evil Twins' never getting the opportunity to, well, become famous rock stars was an injustice. The world at large would have benefited from hearing his music and watching a kick-ass band perform. It will always annoy me that it didn't happen.
When I'm asked, "What's the best concert you ever saw?," my answer will start with obvious, big-name performers -- The Police, Paul McCartney, R.E.M., U2, Pink Floyd, INXS -- before I dust off my alternative bona fides and mention Squeeze, The Smithereens, Jellyfish, or The Church.
But I'll always end with Marques Bovre & The Evil Twins. Like that slushy Saturday night in January when they absolutely packed The Crystal Corner Bar. Or that warm Friday night in June when they absolutely packed the Union Terrace. Or when they crushed their gigs at Summerfest, steadily drawing more and more people who came as curious onlookers and left as fans. There were countless shows like that.
Still, the gigs were only part of it. Marques' catalog of songs includes far too much genius to quantify. But it's worth a try. Here's a place to start.
It's still tough to believe he's physically left us, and weird to realize I'm older now than he was when he went to the next realm. But, in a way, he'll always be here.
The good people at the Buc Sports Network (here's the YouTube page) work long and hard to keep ETSU fans informed and entertained. They get to games long before they start, and don't leave until long after they're over. Truly unsung heroes.
One of the BSN's more popular features is highlight packages. Those packages almost always include audio from the television broadcast, of course. But, for women's basketball highlights, they'll occasionally tap into the radio call.
That's twice included me painting the word picture for an exclusively audio audience. If you're interested in how radio and television can mesh, take a look-and-listen:
1. Bucs at Furman, 18 January 2018
2. Bucs vs Samford, SoCon Tournament Quarterfinals, 2 March 2017
Of course, the highlight packages don't have context on their own. To find out how those games wound up, check out the respective game stories, here and here.
My next BSN Radio broadcast is Thursday, February 15, when ETSU hosts Wofford in a special Education Day matchup. Air time is 10:30 am, online at 640 WXSM -- click on "Listen Live."
The MiLB season pretty much keeps me on lockdown, of course. But when it ends there's traditionally been something of a brief lull and an opportunity to exhale and re-set. Just not this time.
This year I've started on as an Athletics Communications Assistant at East Tennessee State, which began in August and overlapped with my Princeton Rays play-by-play responsibilities. Said overlap included a dizzying learning curve at the new job and left little time for activities like blog upkeep and maintenance. Something's gotta give, right?
Which explains why this page went quiet for as long as it has.
But the fall sports season is pretty much over, and while the winter schedule will still be busy there's a good chance the now-foreign concept of "free time" may reintroduce itself.
So keep an eye peeled for an increased activity level, and thanks for your patience.
A good guy will be laid to rest today.
Pat Dawson passed away last week – much, much too soon – and the world is a worse place for it.
Our paths overlapped at Concord University, where I was SID and the Mountain Lions’ play-by-play voice and he was an assistant coach for a football program ascending from irrelevance. The rise to the top is always thrilling, and it was an exciting time in Athens.
Concord went just 1-21 over the 2007 and 2008 seasons. But by 2011, Pat’s first season on Garin Justice’s staff, the Mountain Lions completed a remarkable turnaround that included an unlikely conference championship and a spot in the NCAA playoffs.
All the coaches were helpful and easy to work with. But Pat and I, both being somewhat low on the athletic department totem pole, had more chances to talk freely about things. He’d give me the straight dope on what was going on with the team, knowing that what needed to be kept in confidence would be treated as such. He was also unfailingly enthusiastic, and it was clear that he loved what he was doing.
Concord went on to greater heights in 2014, and Pat rose through the ranks to become defensive coordinator in 2016. To lose him now, too soon, is a tragedy. Heartbreaking. And unfair.
A good guy will be laid to rest today.
Rest in peace, and thank you, Pat Dawson.
The Appalachian League faces an uncertain future. Franchises in Pulaski, Greeneville, Johnson City and Danville are on solid footing, but the same can't be said for places like Princeton and Elizabethton.
The Minnesota Twins have had a team in Elizabethton since 1974, and it's been one of the most accomplished in the league. The E-Twins have won ten league championships, the most recent in 2012, and are a perennial contender. But the on-field accomplishments haven't translated to the turnstiles -- Elizabethton has finished no better than 5th in attendance in the past five seasons.
Elizabethton's home park -- Joe O'Brien Field -- opened when the Twins arrived 43 years ago, and it's been showing its age for more than a decade. That, the middling attendance numbers, and the city's deliberate approach to funding upgrades to the ballpark have put the long-running Twins affiliation in jeopardy.
During the Princeton Rays' recent series at Elizabethton, I sat down with E-Twins General Manager Mike Mains for a candid, illuminating conversation on the future of professional baseball in a town of 14,000 people.
That interview will be aired in three parts, in the "Dugout Show" segment of the Princeton Rays' Pre-Game Show during the P-Rays series at Bluefield. The pre-game show begins at 6:45 pm EDT on Saturday, July 8th, 5:45 pm on Sunday, July 9th, and 6:45 pm on Monday, July 10th.
You can hear the pre-game show -- and the game -- online, on the Princeton Rays Network.
On this 6th of June, when we pause to remember the D-Day invasion of Normandy and honor those who gave their lives in Operation Overlord, it’s easy to overlook that this is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.
We know the outcome of Midway and its significance to the War in the Pacific. It’s worth noting that it came a mere six months after Pearl Harbor – the blink of an eye, really -- at a time when Japan’s power was at its zenith. It would be another three years for the Allies to gain final victory, but remember Japan had a decade-plus head start on waging war, and America and its allies had to cover imposing distances to uproot Japan from the territory it had taken.
It’s also worth pondering what the war – and our world today – would be like had Japan taken Midway and secured the Aleutian islands they invaded in concert. As someone who thoroughly enjoys “speculative history” (and has read this book several times) and Midway is a fertile topic.
Winning Midway would have given Japan a forward base about 1300 miles from Pearl Harbor, and had the US Navy suffered significant losses during the battle it would have been too weak to mount a serious challenge. Holding the Aleutians would have put Japan in a position to threaten Alaska and its abundant natural resources.
Had the US lost Midway but emerged with its fleet of aircraft carriers intact, perhaps the Navy would have been able to wage a defensive, harassing campaign to keep Japan at bay and give America’s overwhelming industrial might enough time to win the war -- although the victory would not have come as soon as 1945.
And even had America been able to recover from a loss at Midway, the ripple effects could have tipped the entire war to the Axis’ favor. In the summer of 1942, the Wehrmacht was still steamrolling through the Soviet Union and Japan was running rampant in southeast Asia. A reeling America would not have been able to buttress its allies in Europe, and….
The possible outcomes are far too horrific.
But, thankfully, America went on to achieve what is perhaps its greatest accomplishment – defeating Imperial Japan AND Nazi Germany less than four years after being dragged into a war it didn’t want and didn’t start. Without victory at Midway, that doesn't happen.
Is it possible – or permissible – to root for two opposing teams at the same time?
I hope so.
The roots of my sports fandom are basic: Geography and family. I’m a Milwaukee-area Cheesehead, which means I was born into fondness for the Packers, Badgers, Brewers and Bucks. But Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL franchise, which has left me as something of a free agent when it comes to a favorite team.
Well, that’s not entirely true. My late grandfather – born and raised in Chicago – was a Blackhawks fan, and he passed that along to me. At least as much as he could.
Back when Grampa was still alive, the NHL had a much smaller broadcast footprint than today, and when Bill Wirtz owned the Blackhawks, his fossilized thinking on broadcast coverage made the team a non-entity on TV. Meaning that even as I lived within a reasonably short drive of old Chicago Stadium, the chances of watching the Oilers or Bruins were far greater than seeing the Hawks.
So, unlike the NFL, where the Packers’ success or lack of it can set my mood at any given time (ask anyone who knows me), I mostly follow the NHL as a fan of the sport, not so much of a of a single team. I still have an affinity for the Blackhawks – and said a quick prayer to Grampa when they returned to glory in 2010 -- but not with the same passion for the teams I was born and raised with. It’s a peculiar position to be in.
But it’s a position with positives. Like this year’s Stanley Cup Final. I have friends who are died-in-the-wool Penguins fans, and from my years living within Pittsburgh’s TV coverage area, I’ve come to like the Pens. At the same time, I currently reside in Nashville’s coverage area and have friends who are Predators fans. (As a newer franchise, Smashville may not have as many diehards as Pittsburgh, but give it time.)
As a hockey fan, the Cup Final will be fun to watch regardless of the outcome. It always is. A group of friends will be sad and I’ll feel bad for them. A group of friends will celebrate and I’ll be happy for them.
Free agency has its benefits.
Two songs have clanged around the old brainpan for roughly the past 48 hours, each inspired by real events.
The first started playing in my head immediately someone in the press box said offhandedly, "I was laughing so hard I literally could not stop crying." (It's also a song that recalls a series of overlapping interlocking romantic foibles from back in the day, which -- for what it's worth -- did not end well.)
Toby Keith & Sting: I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying
The second lunged at me after the discovery of a seemingly long-lost Steely Dan compilation album. Although it's a Donald Fagen solo song, the riff came wearing Ambush and a French twist, with a touch of Tuesday Weld. She's got the right dynamics.
Donald Fagen: New Frontier
This one came to me while out cutting and splitting wood on a warm day.
(In a really rugged, manly way, too -- no power tools, just me with an axe, a sledgehammer and a hand saw.)
The day wasn't hot enough for breathing in the boiling butter, nor was there any drowning, but by the end of the day I'd had more than my fill of insect bomber Buddhist droning. Too many bees.
Still, it was a good head start on next season's firewood. You can never have enough.
XTC: "Summer's Cauldron."
There's really no explanation as to why this song rattled around my head upon waking up, except that I'm on board with the sentiment, and I've spent a good chunk of my career in country radio. Maybe this just boomeranged back at me. But that's alright.
A pleasant little ditty from Lorrie Morgan: "Half Enough."
Faces and voices much higher up the sports media food chain than me have analyzed Mississippi State’s epic upset of UConn in sweeping historical terms – the Huskies’ place in the all-time pantheon of greatness, the impact on the popularity of women’s college basketball, the inspiration it provides to younger female players, and so on.
But strip away everything else, and what happened in Dallas was – not be dismissive – just another basketball game. And basketball games tend to be decided in much the same way the Bulldogs won on Friday night.
For example, defense. Vic Schaefer’s squad defended ferociously for all 45 minutes. They beat UConn to spots; they deflected passes; they were more physical than a team that prides itself on its strength and physicality; they never, ever stopped moving.
Also, quickness. Mississippi State revealed UConn’s greatest flaw – footspeed. Pound-for-pound, the Huskies were bigger and stronger, but the Bulldogs’ guards were able to get past UConn’s perimeter defense to find open areas to shoot or pass, and to start drives to the basket. Morgan William’s game-winning shot was the most obvious example, but it was one of many.
Friday night was not an archetypal example of a favorite having its worst game while the underdog has its best, but UConn wasn’t the UConn we’ve seen all season. They were tentative, unsteady, uncertain and heavy-footed. They moved the ball sluggishly, rarely stretching and stressing the MSU defense. Much of the Huskies’ struggles indeed resulted from the Bulldogs’ effort, but not all – from the opening tip, in a UConn team stocked with star players capable of taking over any game, nobody demanded the ball.
Was Mississippi State’s victory historic? No doubt. Was how they achieved it unique? Not by a long shot.
Being raised by parents who came of age in the late '60s and early '70s, and were inveterate listeners of the old-school AM Top 40 radio of the time, hits from that era are right in my wheelhouse.
So it was no surprise when this classic started bouncing around my head after waking up the other day. (That's when the earworms usually strike. They're crafty like that.)
Added bonus: At the end of the day, I, too, can't wait to see my long-haired girl who makes the world slip away. Sigh.
The Vogues: Five O'Clock World
If you prefer a slicker updated version still faithful to the original, here's the 1988 cover from New Wave/Psychedelic eccentric Julian Cope.
Added bonus: The middle eight reference to Petula Clark's "I Know a Place."
Dan Rowe passed away on March 17.
Somewhere around four or five lifetimes ago, doing some networking, I had the chance to talk with him more than once.
He was easygoing, generous with his time and supportive of a young guy looking to climb up a few rungs of the ladder. He was someone who had reached an apex level of sportscasting, yet found the time to listen to the demo reel of a relative newbie.
He said he liked my work. "You have what it takes. Stick with it." I'll always appreciate and respect his selflessness and optimism, especially since I haven't always acted that way when others have reached out to me.
Dan was also an outstanding broadcaster.
My condolences go out to his family, friends, and legions of fans and admirers.
A bit more modern today. Woke up with the main riff in my head.
Arctic Monkeys: Do I Wanna Know?
...and it's guaranteed to raise a smile.
So let me introduce to you the most thrilling thing, for all these years, that's happened to me in play-by-play: March 15, 1997, when the Elkhorn Elks won the Wisconsin Division 2 Girl's Basketball State Championship.
[Read Todd Mishler's outstanding 2014 retrospective here.]
From its first days, Elkhorn High School girl's basketball didn't have much success. The Elks never made it out of Regionals -- the first week of Wisconsin's three-week post-season tournament -- in their first 20 years. In those days, winning 10 games in a season was cause for celebration.
But as the program plodded through so-so campaigns in the mid-'90s, fans pointed to a promising class that was making its mark first as freshmen, then in JV. This group of girls, it was hoped, would take the Lady Elks to the next level.
Indeed, this group led Elkhorn to its first-ever appearance in Sectionals (the second week of the tournament) as juniors in 1996. A blowout loss in the semifinals did nothing to dampen the expectations for the next year. This group delivered.
Elkhorn lost only two games in 1996-97, to Wilmot and Jefferson, each traditional Southern Lakes Conference powers. The Lady Elks made Fred Suchy Gymnasium the place to be, won the conference championship (back when it WAS the Southern Lakes, know what I mean?), then braced for the post-season.
As Todd Mishler reminds us, 1997 was before Wisconsin started seeding its playoffs; the bracket pre-determined by the WIAA (the state's high school governing body) sent Elkhorn through a murderer's row. In the Regionals, the Lady Elks had to meet Fort Atkinson (a traditional power from the rugged Badger Conference, coached by the legendary Pete von Allmen, which prided itself on being a blueblood), and Jefferson, again (coached by the legendary Steve Rogers).
Wins over the Blackhawks and Eagles qualified Elkhorn for Sectionals, and ... truth be told, if Leah Hefte wasn't injured early, maybe the semifinal wouldn't turn out the way it did. But the Elks grinded out an electric overtime win in a sauna-hot gym in Edgerton, getting them within a game of State.
There was one more hurdle, and it was substantial -- having to play Sauk Prairie (another Badger Conference power) on its home floor, as the pre-determined WIAA brackets struck again.
Elkhorn fans traveled well, but it was, of course, a largely pro-Sauk Prairie crowd that turned out for another game that went down to the wire. But ... and maybe this is purely hindsight, I don't remember feeling the Elks were ever in danger, even when starting small forward Brook Van Dyke got in foul trouble (for the second straight game).
From there it was on to State, and Madison, and history. Elkhorn dispatched Whitefish Bay (a Milwaukee-area power) in the semifinals; all five starters scored in double figures, with Van Dyke and center Bridget Seegers posting double-doubles. That set up the upset of defending champion Kimberly (which had won 51 of its last 52 games) in the championship game. The Field House never looked so good in purple.
Note: The box score of the Kimberly mistakenly attributes Van Dyke's stat line to Dawn Greving. It's worth pointing out because, well, it's the right thing to do, and Van Dyke's perfect day from 3-point range. I think she made (memory fails me) maybe five or six three's in the prior 25 games combined, and each of her long shots against Kimberly came at just the right time. She was clutch.
So many things made Elkhorn's "Cinderella" run so memorable. It was the inaugural State title, of course, and the first rocket ride to the top is always the most exciting. The entire community came together behind the girls -- there's nothing like a small town supporting its team. Jim Henriott and his coaching staff and Dean Wilson and his athletic department staff were beyond amazing to work with. And, of course, there the girls themselves.
Henriott was right about their "businesslike fashion" and how well they bought into and played their roles. But it seemed like they knew, at the time, that they were part of something special, and they were truly enjoying it. They were in the moment, they rose to it, and they were more than happy to take the small-market radio station that covered them along for the ride.
It'll take a bit of searching, but I may have a cassette tape of the State championship game stored away somewhere. If I unearth it I'll do my best to get the audio into a digital format and post it here.
In the week after the win over Kimberly, a kind soul in Elkhorn High School's AV department dubbed the audio of the radio call over the video of the statewide television broadcast and put it on a VHS cassette. I never found out who did it, but I'm eternally grateful. I still have that tape. Maybe someday I'll upload it to YouTube.
The team also gave me a framed, 3' x 4' autographed picture, taken when they hoisted Henriott on their shoulders after clinching the conference. I still have that, too.
So, thanks again to Brooke and Bridget, and Heather and Erin and Katie, and Kelly and Christie and Liz and Stefanie and Melissa and Dawn and Michelle, and all the ladies. The championship, and the memories, would have been impossible without all of you. Go Elks!
If you had my brain, you'd have to babysit the occasional weird thought. In particular, earworms -- including some real humdingers -- most often striking right as I wake up.
Not being a neurologist, it's beyond my understanding why my synapses fire in the specific order to produce this (three days ago) or this (one day last week) or this (a recurring earworm from last summer).
Although, truth be told, I understand the last one. It's a great summer song.
Some of the earworms are irritating. Some are mashups; one morning brought with a blend of the theme from 'M*A*S*H' and Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus," for reasons that defy understanding.
It's said the best way to get rid of an earworm is to share it, and since I have an online platform to share with an untold number of people, I'm going to go ahead and do that. My apologies in advance.
TODAY'S EARWORM OF THE DAY
The Beatles: "Your Mother Should Know"
Yes, brace yourself for lots of Beatles earworms. They're my favorite band of all time -- arguably, the the greatest band ever -- and odds are they'll appear frequently here in the TEOTD.
Jim Harbaugh: "Tom Brady is the greatest football player to ever play."
Jim Brown: "Pardon me?"
Lawrence Taylor: "What did you say?"
Jim Thorpe: "Seriously?"
Walter Payton: "What?"
Deacon Jones: "Don't get me started about quarterbacks."
Paul Hornung: "Tell me about Brady's versatility, willya?"
Johnny Unitas: "He's not even the greatest quarterback."
Joe Montana: "What Johnny said."
Otto Graham: "What Joe said."
Bart Starr: "What Otto said."
Don Hutson: "...and Brady revolutionized the game how?"
Jerry Rice: "...and I was better than Hutson!"
Jerry Kramer: "Why am I not in the Hall of Fame again?"
Gayle Sayers: "If I had modern medicine and all that money to pay for dietitians and trainers...."
Dick Butkus: "Same with me."
Bo Jackson: "Me, too."
Red Grange: "Greatest? Did I hear that right?"
Brett Favre: "If I didn't have to play for Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman...."
John Hannah: "Hell, Brady might even be the greatest Patriot."
Forrest Gregg: "Lombardi called me the greatest player he ever coached. I'll just leave that here."
Barry Sanders: "If I played for an organization that had a clue...."
The 12th Man: "What about Russel Wilson or Richard Sherman or Marshawn Lynch or--"
Everyone Else: "Shut up!"
(Gleaned from my personal Facebook page, 6 February 2017)
There has been widespread conjecture about why the NFL’s TV ratings have dropped this season. Some of the league’s maladies may not be fixable, but many are – like its officiating.
The Cavalcade of Incompetence on Monday night – which wound up impacting the outcome of the game – gives further fuel to claims the NFL’s on-field product has become overly officious. It also moves public perception of the NFL a few thoroughfares closer to the NBA’s neighborhood, where open distrust of officiating is so ingrained that it’s permanently stained into the woodwork.
The Buffalo-Seattle contest was a stand-alone feature game which wasn’t decided until literally the final play. The result will have a bearing on both the Bills’ playoff chances and the Seahawks’ hopes of winning the NFC West. On the surface, it was precisely the type of game the NFL would like to present to a national television audience.
But that’s not what anyone is talking about.
Instead, Conversation Topic #1 is all about the “what the (expletive) were they thinking?” way the officials handled the end of the 1st half; Conversation Topic #2 is Seattle’s secondary getting away with de-cleating a Bills receiver in the end zone on the last play of the game, when Buffalo still had a chance to win. There was no penalty.
But there’s a clear path for the NFL to take toward no longer looking lost in the woods: Full-time officials. I’m not the first person to suggest it, of course, but it’s a move that must be made. Employing officials full-time is well within the league's budget. While it won’t completely eliminate on-field mistakes, it will reduce them, while pumping helium into the league’s sinking standing in the eyes of the public.
It’s a matter of trust, and a quick, easy fix. Make it so.
My grandfather – the greatest man I’ll ever know – was born in 1921 and raised on the north side of Chicago. He was a Cubs fan literally his entire life.
The Cubs won five pennants in his lifetime, but only one after he turned 12, and the last time they played in a World Series he was in China, not yet mustered out of the Army Air Corps in World War II.
Family legend says he had a hard time in September 1969, which may explain why he was so sanguine during the 1984 season, a summer of giddiness that ended with a fall in in San Diego. He didn’t talk much baseball after that. In fact, only 62 days after the Padres completed their comeback, my grandfather passed away. Little did he know what was then a 76-year wait between championships would plod on, and on, and on, for another 32.
My grandfather made me a Cubs fan, too. I loved him unconditionally, and he loved the Cubs unconditionally, and like any other little boy I followed Grandpa’s lead. And, to hear him talk about the Cubs, how could I not?
He told stories, wonderful stories. About running to Wrigley Field after school to catch the 3:00 games. About watching Gabby Hartnett and Joe McCarthy. About how, during the Depression, a kid could get free admission to the bleachers by bringing back enough batting practice baseballs hit on to Waveland Avenue.
My Cubs fandom ended when my Brewers switched from the American League to that National in 1994. After that, they weren’t “Loveable Losers,” they were divisional rivals, and as much as I love Wrigley Field, the choice was easy. Milwaukee’s where I’m from.
That doesn’t mean I’m not happy for my many friends who are Cubs fans, and for Cubs fans in general. But what makes me happiest is remembering my Grandpa, how much he loved the Cubs, how dearly I wish he was here to enjoy a night like this, and how much I hope he knows the unbelievable has happened: The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions.
Play-By-Play announcers, young and old, remember not only the abject greatness of Vin Scully, but the lessons to learn from him:
> Do your homework. Then do more.
> Don't talk through your nose. Dulcet tones don't come out of your sinuses.
> Shut up every once in a while. Every sport has its pauses, but especially baseball. Know the pace. Don't feel obligated to never stop talking. From time to time, let the atmosphere speak.
> When the situation demands it, raise the volume of your voice. But don't scream.
> GOATs don't need gimmicks. Go easy on the catchphrases. Use them sparingly.
> In an adjunct to the above, remember to never put yourself above the game. Fans want to hear the game, not you calling it. Be humble.
> With that in mind, try as hard as you can to hold on to your dignity and gratitude. They may occasionally elude your grasp; never let them slip through your fingers.
How great is Vin Scully? This great: We can honestly say baseball -- the entire game, sport and business of baseball -- is lessened by him leaving it.
Look, there's a lot of season left. But when it comes to Wisconsin football's detractors, let's play the reversal game.
Say, for example, that a highly-ranked Wisconsin team opened its season playing LSU in New Orleans. In front of an ear-splitting Superdome crowd, the Badgers can't get out of their own way, never get in sync, and suffer a late two-point loss.
It's no big stretch to imagine the post-game narrative -- Wisconsin was overrated, can't move the ball against LSU's traditionally physical defense, can't compete with the SEC, blah diddy blah diddy blah.
Wisconsin falls out of the Top Ten. A road loss to a third-tier conference opponent a few weeks later quashes for good the Badgers' high pre-season expectations.
What's curious about this scenario is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, many football pundits believe it actually happened. They call Wisconsin "a farce" and "fraudulent," and dismiss the team's promising start as "a product of the system," as if having a winning system is a bad thing.
Even at 4-0, Wisconsin's season could still go sideways in a hurry. At Michigan, vs Ohio State, at Iowa, and vs Nebraska can do that to a team.
There's no denying the Badgers nearly soiled themselves against Georgia State. But prying the lid off on Sparty, in East Lansing, isn't easy, and 4-0 is not a fluke.
Wisconsin traditionally does well when two important factors are in place: Being overlooked and underappreciated, and having a good offensive line. Check, and check.
This anti-Badger bias is getting old, and needs to stop.
From blowout to shut out.
Friday night, the Princeton Rays belted out four home runs – three from 17-year old shortstop Adrian Rondon – in a 16-2 rout of Burlington. Less than 24 hours later, the P-Rays mustered only six hits as the Royals blanked them, 5-0, Saturday night in front of 3,827 fans at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
The Royals prevented Princeton from sweeping their three-game, season-opening series, and dealt the P-Rays just the third loss in their last 12 games on Burlington’s home field.
Royals starting pitcher Garrett Davila – who grew less than two hours from Burlington – sparkled in his professional debut. The 19-year old left-hander allowed only three singles over 5.2 innings, walking three and striking out five, while about 30 of his family and friends watched from the stands.
Princeton starter Jose Disla gave up only three hits over 4.1 innings, but walked three, and was lifted 69 pitches. Reliever Brian McAfee allowed five hits and one run in 1.2 innings before giving way to Peter Bayer. The hard-throwing right-hander worked the final two innings, striking out five but surrendering a solo home run to Chris DeVito in the 7th.
DeVito’s homer aside, Burlington relied on what historians used to call “inside baseball.” The Royals scratched out their first run in the bottom of the 1st, when Nicky Lopez led off with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Zane Evans’ sacrifice fly.
In the 4th, DeVito drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on another wild pitch from Disla, went to third on a flyout and scored on Vance Vizcaino’s infield single.
In the 5th, Tyler Straub led off with a single, advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on a groundout by Lopez, and scored on Jonathan McCray's single. Evans moved McCray to third with a well-placed hit-and-run single, with McCray coming home on DeVito’s fielder’s choice.
Blake Grant-Parks – a 2014 P-Ray back with Princeton – led the lineup by singling twice and reaching on a fielder’s choice.
If Adrian Rondon ever becomes a legend, tonight will be part of it.
The highly-touted Princeton Rays shortstop had the best day of his young career Friday night, belting three home runs and driving in nine runs in the P-Rays’ 16-2 road rout over Burlington.
Rondon drew international attention when he signed a $2.9 million free agent contract with the Tampa Bay organization on July 7, 2014 – his 16th birthday. He never found his footing in his first professional season, posting a .166/.256/.234 slash line for the Rays’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2015.
Rondon doubled, drove in a run and scored twice in his Appalachian League on Thursday night, a 7-4 win at Burlington Athletic Stadium. Friday, in front of 1563 fans gathered for the Royals’ fireworks night, Rondon was explosive.
The 17-year old went the opposite way for his first home run, lofting a 1-2 pitch from Burlington starter Andre Davis just inside the foul pole in the right field corner, a two-run blast the put the P-Rays ahead 4-0 in the top of the 1st.
Rondon most definitely pulled his second homer, turning an 0-1 fastball from reliever Jose Veras into a laser-beam three-run shot to left that staked Princeton to an 8-1 lead in the 6th.
Rondon saved his best for last. With the bases loaded and two out in the 8th, he caught up to a 2-1 pitch from Anthony Kidston and crushed it into a grand slam that closed out the scoring.
The home runs were the first three of Rondon’s career.
Rondon’s fireworks display obscured a big night from catcher Rafelin Lorenzo, who finished a triple short of the cycle – including a two-run homer in the 7th -- driving in three runs and scoring three times. Right field Eleardo Cabrera reached base four times in six plate appearances and scored four runs.
The Princeton pitching staff flourished with the run support. The starter, 18-year old left-hander Resly Linares, lasted four innings, allowing one run – a solo home run by Zane Evans in the 4th -- on two hits with three walks and one strikeout. Nineteen-year old Sandy Brito worked two solid relief innings – giving up only a solo homer by Chris DeVito in the 6th – and returning P-Ray Ethan Clark finished with three hitless innings, allowing only one baserunner.
Willingly adding to the cacophony of unsolicited opinions.