Numero uno: When is Mike Leake going to get off that fat goose egg in the win column? Indications are that it will be soon, as Leake pitched a great game against Pittsburgh last week only to receive minimal run support in a 3-2 loss. Although the Reds have again lucked out in not having to face Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg during this weekend's series, Leake opens the series against the Gio Gonzalez (3-1), the Nationals' number two. The Nationals have received plenty of hype this year between their first place standing in the NL East and the introduction of 19-year-old standout Bryce Harper. Surprisingly, Washington’s offensive numbers are far from gaudy, in the bottom third of major league ranks in three major offensive categories — the Reds are only slightly better.
Clearly the Reds have decided to save the arm of Chapman for later in the season. He could have stayed in for the ninth, but limiting his innings will keep him fresh. I expect to see Chapman inserted into the starting rotation sometime in July if the Reds remain the hunt for a playoff spot. With clutch performances like last night the Reds can only continue to improve — a must considering their next five series are against winning clubs.
Mick Cronin’s overhaul of the University of Cincinnati basketball program was destined to be a multi-year effort. No one could be expected to take over a program with one scholarship player and only the summer to recruit his first class and then immediately compete in the Big East. UC’s first two seasons under Cronin were going to suck because of the talent level available — even at the JUCO level — at that point in the game, and starting that late with such a sketchy group affected Cronin’s first full year of recruiting as well.
It happened again. This time it didn’t include cat chasing or yelling in the streets at 3 a.m., but Brian Kelly’s outrageous head coaching decisions yesterday threatened to ruin a perfectly good Friday night, just like they did last Saturday.
In yet another episode of "I'm a Real Person and McCain Is a Phony," Barack Obama yesterday told ESPN's Chris Berman that if he could change one thing about sports that it would be to eliminate the current college football championship format in favor of an eight-team playoff.
The exchange was a pre-taped segment that aired during halftime of Monday Night Football. McCain was asked the same question, and his response was that he would do everything he can to eliminate performance enhancing drugs because they threaten the integrity of the game. What an asshole.
Late Sunday night, as the Cincinnati-Florida State game prepared to determine the final member of this year’s Sweet Sixteen, the national analysis dudes all started talking about how the state of Ohio had gone 7-0 up to that point — Ohio University had just defeated South Florida to get into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the 1960s. Ohio State and Xavier were both already in.
Cincinnati went on to win a physical, back-and-forth game against FSU, which finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference and won the ACC tournament. It was the first time in the history of UC’s program that the team beat a higher-seeded opponent in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 6 seed Bearcats will play No. 2 seed Ohio State at 9:45 p.m. Thursday in Boston, which means the state of Ohio will suffer its first loss of the 2012 NCAA Tournament then.
After a second-round comeback win over Notre Dame, Xavier found itself in the fortunate position of facing a team called “Lehigh” rather than one called “Duke.” Lehigh was one of two 15 seeds to defeat a No. 2 seed in this year’s second-round of play, and the “Mountain Hawks” made actually game of against Xavier, which didn’t have the game in hand until less than five minutes remained. Xavier will now play No. 3 seed Baylor at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Atlanta.
Ohio University upset 4-seeded Michigan in the second round and then ousted No. 13 seed South Florida in the third. The Bobcats will play No. 1 seed North Carolina at 7:47 p.m. Friday in St. Louis.
Ohio State beat Loyola (Md.) and Gonzaga to earn its spot in the Sweet Sixteen. OSU and Cincinnati last faced each other in the NCAA Tournament in the 1962 National Championship game, which UC won 71–59. (UC also defeated OSU in the 1961 title game, 70-65.) The Ohio State-Cincinnati winner will face the winner of Syracuse-Wisconsin, setting up a potential rematch of the Big East Tournament semifinal game when Cincinnati upset Syracuse.
MORE SWEET NEARBY TEAMS:
The Ohio Valley’s hoops success easily spreads beyond just the Ohio teams — three more schools within 100 miles are in the Sweet Sixteen: Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana. Kentucky and Indiana are actually matched up in the South Region (9:45 p.m. Friday in Atlanta), while Louisville faces Michigan State in the West (7:47 p.m. Thursday in Phoenix).
BIG EAST REPRESENT:
The Big East again this year sent more teams to the NCAA Tournament than any other conference, and four of its nine are still standing: Syracuse, Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville. Each of these schools is in a separate region, so it’s still technically possible for an all-Big East Final Four.
SWEET SIXTEEN SCHEDULE:
Thursday, March 22
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse
(Boston): 7:15 p.m. on CBS
Louisville vs. Michigan
State (Phoenix): 7:47 p.m. on TBS
Cincinnati vs. Ohio
State (Boston): 9:45 p.m. on CBS
Florida vs. Marquette
(Phoenix): 10:17 p.m. on TBS
Friday, March 23
Baylor vs. Xavier
(Atlanta): 7:15 p.m. on CBS
North Carolina vs. Ohio
(St. Louis): 7:47 p.m. on TBS
Kentucky vs. Indiana
(Atlanta): 9:45 p.m. on CBS
Kansas vs. N.C. State
(St. Louis): 10:17 p.m. on TBS
When Reds pitcher Mike Leake hit his first career home run Monday night off Braves starter Mike Minor at Great American Ballpark, it landed directly in the lap of 20-year-old casual-turned-hardcore fan Caleb Lloyd, who was sitting at the edge of the left field bleachers.
It was also Lloyd's first home run catch, he said later.
When Zach Cozart hit a homer to mark the occasion of the Reds first back-to-back jacks since last season, the ball headed toward the same general vicinity of the first homer, bounced a couple seats away from where Lloyd was sitting and landed directly into his free hand (the other was occupied by his previous homer catch).
The last time that happened was never. I think dude should call Guinness.
(Drew Stubbs followed Cozart's jack with a home run of his own, making it a rare back-to-back-to-back homer hat trick. Sadly, it went to right center field, not directly in Lloyd's pocket.)
The Reds' TV crew invited Lloyd up to the broadcast booth to hang out for a bit. He spoke to the media before last night's game, where he was also named the team's honorary captain and delivered the game card to the ump before the first pitch.
To make the story even more perfect, Lloyd reportedly returned to Leake his first home run ball to keep as a memento and he gave the friend who he said "dragged" him to the game the other ball. What a guy!
That wasn't the first Reds fan's fancy fielding move this year to trump any made on the field (at least for the day). At Yankee Stadium just four days before Monday's miraculous catches, a young Reds fan amongst the savage Yankee masses gracefully swooped a Joey Votto foul ball out of mid air with his glove while his father (also decked out in Reds gear) hoisted him up a good four feet into the air.
The father/son combo was up for ESPN's Web Gem that night, put up against a play at home by Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers. The Reds fans won the vote 63 percent to Andrus' 37 percent. (He's probably pissed. I mean, he had to perform his play all by himself!)
The cool surprise ending to this story — according to Jim Day's postgame report on Fox Sports Ohio, the man from the two-person foul-ball catching team was Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan's brother-in-the-law; the kid was the catcher's nephew.
Roller derby fans won’t be able to catch the Cincinnati Rollergirls’ season-opening contest against Grand Rapids this weekend because it’s taking place in Michigan, but the group will host its second tryout of the season next week, leading up to their March 10 home opener against St. Louis.
On Saturday the Cincinnati Rollergirls will get their season started with a bout against the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. The Rollergirls’ A-team, the Black Sheep, open the season ranked No. 8 in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's North Central Region. The Grand Raggidies are No. 11, though the Black Sheep have handily defeated them in both previous contests, the most recent of which was two years ago.
Next week the Rollergirls will host their second tryout of the year, scheduled for Feb. 26 at The Skatin’ Place in Colerain Township (3211 Lina Place). Tryouts are open to women who are at least 18 years old and will include this set of minimum skill requirements.
The Rollergirls won’t start their home schedule until March 10 when they host the Arch Rival Rollergirls of St. Louis. During halftime a new roller derby team for girls ages 8-17, the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls, will debut.
Rollergirls home games
take place at the Cincinnati Gardens (2250 Seymour Ave., Norwood).
Tickets are $10, parking is free and lots of beer is available, with
$1 happy hour specials starting at 6 p.m. (bouts start at 7). Season
tickets are now available at www.cincinnatirollergirls.com
and single-game tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.
Kids’ tickets are $5 advance/$6 door (kids 6 and younger free) and
you can sit right next to the track and have people crash onto you
Here's a funny commercial the Rollergirls put on the internet.
This week’s addition of 6-foot-5 shooting guard Lance Stephenson to UC’s 2009 recruiting class will have effects far beyond the instant upgrade it means for the Bearcats’ starting swingman position. Stephenson — a big shooting guard fast and strong enough to drive to the basket — is one of the rarest commodities in college basketball. (Google “Pitt’s Sam Young jams on UC — 2008” for evidence of its beauty.)
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