Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PREPS TICKER | Roundball Classic | Davison tackles tall order in Roundball Classic win

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

When Davidson forward Cory Goble walked into the gym for pre-game warm-ups, the first thing he noticed was the height and athleticism on the other side.

“I just went up to the team and said, ‘Let’s beat these NBA players,’” said Goble after Davison’s 50-48 victory.

“They’re big and they can jump,” he continued.

“The only thing they didn’t do was play like a team.”

For a team that carries eight seniors that have played together since eighth grade, playing like a team has become second nature.

“These guys have grown up together and cover each other’s backs,” head coach Dick MacLachlan said.

“I knew it was going to be a competition,” he said.

Boys will be boys

“Turn over!” Gary Westside coach John Boyd, Jr. yelled at the guilty Garry Carter.

“It’s 2 a.m.! We have a game tomorrow!”

The senior prankster was under the sheets with the lights out, trying to cover up his antics of only a few minutes earlier.

As the forward tells it, Carter snuck into the hotel room of freshman Taylor Lavery and doused him with a bottle of hotel soap.

“He jumped up and started hollering, and then coach heard us all hollering and he just snapped,” Carter said, laughing.

The late arrival in town following a five-hour bus ride didn’t affect the Mighty Cougars play, as they beat Detroit King 51-47.

“They made me come out of the room and put some people in check,” Boyd, Jr. said.

“But I like when they’re loose as long as they’re disciplined on the court.”

A child shall lead them

There were two differences between Canton Hoover sophomore Nyles Evans and his Vikings teammates on Monday.

First and most noticeably – because of his bean pole stature and baby face – was the fact that he’s the only underclassmen on the team.

Evans, a 5’11”, 160-pound sophomore is considered by his head coach, Randy Montgomery, “One of the best sophomore point guards in Ohio.”

On the court, he carries the demeanor of a calm and cool upperclassman. On his first basket of the night, he let out a yell to get his team going and late in the first half he wouldn’t back down to what he called “Some light trash talking” with a Detroit Consortium senior on the floor.

To Evans, he’s “At least a junior or senior on the floor,” because of his experience starting as a freshman last season.

Evans tallied 14 points in Hoover’s 68-62 loss to Consortium, but had to leave the game with only three minutes left to go from a sprained ankle.

“When he went down, it threw us off,” Montgomery admitted..

Phi Slama Style

Perhaps more interesting than the action on the court between Detroit Cody and Gary Lew Wallace was the action on the sidelines, with the differing coaching styles between Bryant Tipton and Renaldo Thomas, respectively.

And we’re not talking X’s and O’s, but rather shirts, ties, and shoes.

On one end was Tipton, with his gray shirt, olive green tie, dark gray dress pants, and Cody-inspired green and white sneakers.

On the other end was Thomas, showing off a shiny baby blue suit with a white shirt and matching tie, along with black snakeskin boots, split by a baby blue stripe down the middle to top the outfit off.

Tipton says he does it to have some fun.

“I try to get color coordinated with the school,” he said.

“The kids like it and it’s fun.”

Thomas, however, does it with a purpose in mind.

“I’m the best dressed coach in Indiana,” he says after explaining the six-button designer suit he bought in Chicago.

Thomas says he’s always been the best dressed, dating back to his playing days, where he played in two NCAA championship games alongside Hakeem Olajuwon at Houston.

He chuckles at the notion of his players having a better sense of style.

“They need to emulate my style,” he says.

Cody’s Demetrius Ford, however, doesn’t hesitate to say he dresses better than his coach.

“You know I have better style,” Ford says.

“He’s kind of old school.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

O'Brien shows shooting touch in Powers victory

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Patrick O'Brien has a message for anyone that says big men aren't expected to shoot from the outside: "Everybody has to be able to shoot on the floor."

The Flint Powers junior forward shot 5-for-6 on three-pointers and scored 28 points as the Chargers beat West Bloomfield, 78-66, in Monday's Roundball Classic at Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy.

"It was just one of those days where you know you're feeling it and they just go in," O'Brien said.

With four minutes remaining and the Chargers ahead by seven, O'Brien delivered a near-knockout blow to the Lakers by converting a three-point play on a long-range jumper just inside the top of the key.

West Bloomfield wouldn't go away easily, rattling off seven straight points in just over a minute to cut the deficit to five.

The Chargers never relinquished the lead, however, and put the game out of reach a few moments later when center Rodney Anderson slammed home a two-handed dunk over two Lakers, leaving one of the victims to grimace and shake his head in awe.

Coupled with O'Brien's big perimeter night for Powers was Shane Moreland's 22 points (including four three-pointers), six assists and six steals.
Game results

Detroit Cody 51, Gary (Ind.) Lew Wallace 47: Demetrius Ford had 22 points, eight rebounds and eight steals. Angelo Lewis added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Lew Wallace's Brandon Dawson scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

Detroit Consortium 68, Canton (Ohio) Hoover 62:
Desmond Barnes scored 31 points, and Brendalle Smith had nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks -- including one on Hoover's Dan Daugherty with about a minute left.

Davison 50, Milwaukee Vincent 48:
Cory Gobles scored 11 points, including a jumper with 10 seconds left that quelled a comeback bid by Vincent, which trailed by 12 early in the fourth quarter. Davison's Ryan Schultz led the team with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Michael Weems scored 20 for Vincent.

Gary (Ind.) Westside 51, Detroit King 47:
Xavier Jones had 19 points and 11 rebounds and hit six of his eight fourth-quarter free throws to end a comeback bid by King. Anthony Cannon had 16 points and 10 rebounds for King.

Oak Park Academy 53, Chicago Crane 46:
Kalante Miller had 16 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, and Jalen Crawford scored 15 points for Oak Park. Bill Lee had 17 points and collected six rebounds for Crane.

White Lake Lakeland 63, Harper Woods 42: Blake Heiman scored 13 points to lead four Lakeland players in double figures. Brett Burmeister scored 12, and Matt Acitelli and Michael Fugate each added 11. Michael Childs and James Patrick each scored 13 for Harper Woods.

U-M defends GLI title, shells Spartans

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

When Michigan State’s Tim Crowder was sent off for elbowing with only two seconds remaining in the first period, it wasn’t a good sign of things to come for the Spartans.

Deadlocked at one goal apiece in Sunday’s Great Lakes Invitational final against Michigan, the penalty served as a springboard to a Wolverines offensive outburst in the second period.

Shortly after the Spartans killed Crowder’s penalty early in the period, Michigan’s Ben Winnett scored on a brilliantly orchestrated 3-on-2 from Travis Turnbill and Brandon Naurato, pushing the go-ahead and game-winning goal past the stacked pads of Spartans senior goalie Jeff Lerg.

The Wolverines would make themselves at home inside the Michigan State zone for the remainder of the game, outshooting the Spartans 36-5 the rest of the way while adding three more goals en route to defending their title, 5-1.

“We got the momentum and the goals to go with it,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said about the final two periods.

“Our team was working hard at getting second chances and rebounds.”

Michigan sophomore Louie Caporusso sealed up the tournament MVP award early in the third period with a highlight-reel goal when he broke free, avoided Lerg’s poke check, and lifted a backhand into the top shelf.

“It’s a great feeling,” Caporusso said.

“But any of my teammates could have gotten the MVP, too. It’s the championship that matters.”

Caporusso scored four goals over the weekend and now has 18 on the season, leading the nation.

Senior captain Chris Summers recorded three assists, a career-high, and sophomore Bryan Hogan improved to 11-1-0 on the season.

Michigan became the first GLI team to repeat since Michigan State did so in 1999-2000 and defeated the Spartans in the finals for the first time since 1995.

“It’s great to turn that page in Michigan history and make our mark,” Caporusso said of the feat.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Michigan Tech wins GLI consolation

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Michigan Tech's Brett Olsen was skating alongside the boards in the congested North Dakota zone late in the third period of a tie game when he heard a familiar voice down the ice.

It was sophomore left winger Jordan Baker.

“Net!” yelled Baker.

Olsen looked, saw an opening and feathered the puck towards the net.

After the puck deflected and dribbled off the right pad and stick of sprawling Fighting Sioux goaltender Brad Eidsness, Baker punched home the deciding goal in Michigan Tech’s 2-1 victory over North Dakota in the Great Lakes Invitational consolation game.

“I wasn’t trying to do anything but throw the puck at the net and try to get a rebound,” the freshman said.

Baker’s goal came with just under six minutes remaining in the third period, but the Huskies had to stave off a late North Dakota power play to secure the victory.

Michigan Tech killed all six penalties they were faced with, including three in the final period.

“Our penalty killing was outstanding, especially in the third,” head coach Jamie Russell said.

“We were much more focused today.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spartans' winless streak ends at 11

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Down one goal with 42 seconds left in regulation, North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway found himself in a wide open lane with the puck, directly in front of Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg.

A few minutes earlier, the Fighting Sioux cut Michigan State’s two-goal lead in half, planting the same seeds of doubt into the Spartans that have plagued their 11-game winless streak.

Genoway unloaded a point-blank slap shot and the senior Lerg turned him away, preserving Michigan State’s 2-1 victory in the Great Lakes Invitational semifinals.

“That was the hardest we’ve fought for a victory this year,” Lerg said afterwards.

“We came out with a lot of energy, hitting and crashing the boards.”

The duo of wingers Matt Schepke and Corey Tropp connected on two goals, both scored by Schepke, a senior, giving him nine goals on the season.

“We had great play out of our upperclassmen today,” Spartans head coach Rick Comley said.

Michigan State will now face off with Michigan in the GLI championship game for the tenth time today at Joe Louis Arena at 6:35. The two teams have split their title contests, with Michigan State winning the past five.

The Spartans are seeking their 12th title and will look to end their three-game losing streak to the Wolverines.

Caporusso's hat trick propels U-M to GLI final

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Twelve minutes into Saturday’s Great Lakes Invitational opener, the scoreboard at Joe Louis Arena could have read, “Caporusso 3, Michigan Tech 0.”

Michigan sophomore Louie Caporusso opened the scoring three minutes in, didn’t leave the ice until he scored his second and completed his first period natural hat trick on a controversial goal in the Wolverines’ 5-0 victory over Michigan Tech.

“It was probably the most fun period I’ve had in my life,” Caporusso said.

The center’s first two goals came only 19 seconds apart and were assisted by linemate David Wohlberg, whose play Caporusso credited by saying, “He started those first goals.”

Ironically, Wohlberg almost prevented Caporusso’s third goal when he was sent crashing into Huskies goalie Josh Robinson, having to duck in order to avoid the puck, which sailed into the high right corner of the net.

The play was reviewed and upheld, but the nation’s leading goal scorer (17), had doubts while waiting on the bench.

“I thought it was going to get called back,” he said.

“But after [the goal] stood, I said, ‘Hey, it’s my night, I’ll take it.’”

Michigan (12-7) sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan recorded his second shutout of the season, stopping 15 Michigan Tech shots.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Derek Kinney jump-starts Romulus

By Anthony Fenech
Free Press Special Writer

Derek Kinney didn’t waste any time making his presence felt in the Romulus starting lineup.

Kinney, the Eagles 6 foot, 3 inch senior forward, began the Eagles’ MEGA Red opener against Willow Run on a tear, scoring 18 points by the midway point of the second quarter.

He finished with 24 points and seven rebounds in his first starting appearance of the season as the defending league champions defeated Willow Run, 66-50.

“I just blocked everything out and focused,” Kinney said, crediting his consistency in the paint with his fast start.

After splitting the first two games of the year, Romulus coach Nate Oats felt the team needed a boost and inserted Kinney into the starting lineup.

“He’s a tough kid and knows our offense down low,” Oats said.

When asked if Kinney has found a home in the starting lineup, Oats smiled and replied, “I would definitely think so.”

Junior DeAndray Buckley added ten points for the Eagles with a perfect 10-10 night from the foul line.

Romulus (2-1) now takes nine days off before hosting Detroit Finney in the primetime game of the Romulus Holiday Classic on December 27.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The best 50 cents I've spent was on a newspaper

Can you recall the best 50 cents you’ve ever spent?

50 cents? Probably not. But I figured I’d ask anyways.

Well, not to brag or anything, but I can.

It was a sunny and mild late-April morning two years ago, the kind of fraudulent spring day where you know you shouldn’t be wearing only a t-shirt but you do anyways, just to prove to Mother Nature that you can.

I was running a couple of minutes late to my early-morning history class that day, which usually wouldn’t be much of a problem, except I had one of those communist, this-is-the-real-world type teachers.

Alright, maybe communist is a little too harsh. But you get my drift.

You know, the teachers that stop everything and just stare at the helpless, sleep-walking college kids that stumble into the classroom late, as if the other kids with the half-closed, droopy eyelids really care about the point trying to be made.

A couple of minutes turned into a few minutes which turned into a few more minutes and as I pulled into my parking spot at 9:28 – class started at 9:20, don’t ask how I remembered the time – a light bulb turned on in my head:

My article!

The night before, after two long weeks of waiting, I was finally called on to write a prep sports lead story, my first work to find a home in the pages of the Free Press.

Just as quickly as I had pulled in, I reversed out and found the nearest gas station, which wasn’t quite as near as I thought.

I dropped the clerk two quarters, got into my car and scourged the sports section for my article.

Five pages in, there it was. Page 6-D. Top left corner. By Anthony Fenech, Special Writer.

I probably read it a good five times before I left that gas station, and to be perfectly honest, calling it an article would be very generous. It was more like a glorified blurb.

But it didn’t matter to me, not one bit.

I remember my first journalism teacher in college once telling the class, “There’s nothing like seeing your name in print.”

I never fully understood what he meant until that moment.

Which is why yesterday’s news about the two major Detroit newspapers cutting back four days of home-delivered print copies, instead opting for an online version, put another chink into my armored future of becoming a newspaper columnist.

I’m not here to throw numbers around, analyze decisions and ponder what this could mean to the future of print journalism across the country. There’s enough information out there and frankly, I’m not educated enough on the subject to do that.

I’m here to back those gray-paged, ink-filled companions that keep us company at the breakfast table, on the john, and whenever we’re waiting around somewhere with nobody to talk to.

The internet has all but taken the nostalgia away from newspapers, reporting the news faster and quicker, before tomorrow’s paper even hits the press.

But there’s a certain authenticity that still remains about reading the dailies. Whether it be the ink-smeared hands, the newspaper smell, or knowing that the articles you’re reading were keyed away under extreme pressure of deadline, it’s the most genuine form of media out there.

For only 50 cents, you have a day’s worth of reading at your fingertips wherever you go.

Tonight, I am covering a high school basketball game and tomorrow morning, as is tradition, I’ll find a yellow Free Press newsstand and drop in 50 cents, heading straight to the Sports section for my article.

This time though, unlike all of the rest, a small cloud of doubt will creep into the back of my mind, telling me to savor the moment, because one day my trips to the newsstand will be replaced by clicks on a website.

And when that day comes, I’ll think back to the best 50 cents I ever spent, 50 cents that not only cemented my dreams but somehow wiggled my way out of a tardy.

“You’re a half hour late,” my teacher said that day.

I didn’t have a response. But I did have the newspaper in my hand. And I felt pretty cool about that.

He ordered me to sit in the hall.

As I sat there, aimlessly thinking of an excuse that he would buy, throwing the usual traffic jam or car trouble excuses out the window, I saw the newspaper and figured, why not?

“What’s going on here?” he said with the door open just wide enough that kids inside could probably hear.

“Uh … nothing,” I stammered.

“My article is in this newspaper so I drove around looking to find it.”

“Show it to me,” he said, assured that I was making stuff up.

So I did. And he motioned to get inside the class. I spent the next hour wondering if I would get that paper back.

Well, I did. And then spent an uncomfortable ten minutes with him talking about printing presses and five-cent newspapers and about how he used to deliver the paper in the brittle cold.

There’s nothing like seeing your name in print.

Unless, of course, you’re late for class. Then there’s really nothing like seeing your name in print.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Men's track looks for youth to step up during indoor season

Issue date: 12/5/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Coach Jim Knapp has a very young indoor team as he enters his 24th season at the helm of the CMU men's track program.

However, Knapp expects his team to finish in the at the top of the MAC this year despite 34 of his 45 athletes are freshmen or sophomores.

"Our strength is in our younger people," Knapp said. "They're not quite as young as they were (last year)."

Last spring's outdoor team placed fifth at the Mid-American Conference championships, which Knapp believes will bode well for the upcoming indoor season.

"We responded very well towards the end of the outdoor season and that's usually good," Knapp said.

With all of the team's youth, the Chippewas bring back two near-Olympians in fifth-year senior and Abraham Mach and junior Greg Pilling.

Mach is a fifth-year senior attending graduate school and won the past three 800-meter MAC Championships.

"I'm so excited," Mach said. "Now I know what it takes to win and we definitely have a shot."

Pilling sat out last season to train for last year's Canadian Olympic Trials in Windsor, Ontario, where he finished with a bronze medal in the discus with a throw of 177 feet, 1 inch. He also finished ninth in the hammer throw.

But Knapp believes the younger athletes must step up if the team is going to have success.

"We know if we're going to do anything as a team, we're going to need every person to step up," he said.

Knapp said the team should be strong in the throwing events, but is looking for someone to step up in the long jump and triple jump events.

Returning in the jumping events is Oz Lifshitz, a sophomore from Rishon Lezion, Israel, who earned All-MAC honors last year as a freshman.

The team also is looking to avoid injuries as the season progresses.

"Last year we had a lot of injuries," said senior distance runner Sean Anthony. "But we have a lot more depth this year. And that will help us in the MAC Championship meet."

The Chippewas start training when school begins and run until June.

"We're as strong and flexible as possible," Knapp said.

The team opens its season today in East Lansing for the Michigan State Open. According to Knapp, no distance runners will go to rest from the cross country season, and the team will treat it like a scrimmage.

"We're just anxious to get going," he said.

The team's schedule continues on Jan. 9, when the team hosts the Chippewa Open.

The team also will host The Jack Skoog Open on Feb. 20 and Eastern Michigan on April 4 during the outdoor season

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seniors Rudert, Diverio sent off with 16th-place finish

Darling paces Chippewas at 22 minutes, 49 seconds

Issue date: 11/17/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team ended its 2008 campaign Saturday with a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships at Purdue.

Sophomore Melissa Darling paced the Chippewas with a time of 22 minutes, 49 seconds and placed 72nd, marking the first time all season that a runner other than senior Amanda Rudert led the squad.

Coming off of a season-best performance at the Mid-American Conference Championships on Nov. 1, CMU just missed its goal of finishing between 10th and 12th place in the muddy, rainy and windy conditions in West Lafayette, Ind.

"We expected to finish higher," said head coach Karen Lutzke. "But we didn't get out fast enough and we had a hard time holding up and making up the ground."

Sophomore Danielle Dakroub placed 87th with a time of 23 minutes, 3 seconds, while Rudert finished the 6K race in 92nd place, four seconds behind, with a time of 23 minutes, 7 seconds.

CMU finished with 497 points, better than half of the field, and 425 points behind No. 17 Michigan, who, along with No. 8 Wisconsin, automatically will qualify for the NCAA National Championships.

"We just didn't have it yesterday," Lutzke said, when asked to compare her team's performance to the Nov. 1 MAC meet. "It's hard to do what we did that day every time, you're not perfect every meet."

CMU finished as the fourth MAC team in the meet, behind Miami University (6th), Akron (8th) and one spot behind Bowling Green (15th), a team CMU beat at the MAC meet.

Lutzke noted the conditions, especially the high wind gusts, were not ideal running conditions and did not help matters. But the team did not look at it as an excuse.

"Everybody has to run in those conditions so it's not an excuse," Rudert said. "Obviously it's harder to run like that,but we have to take it."

For seniors Rudert and Michelle Diverio, it was an emotional ending to their careers at CMU.

"We cried for a little while," Rudert said. "It was emotional just thinking back on our years and all the friends we made and competed with. I wish I could come back another year."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Inspired by Lohner, team heads to regionals at Indiana

Issue date: 11/14/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

On Oct. 29, the Wednesday before the MAC Championship meet, sophomore Raeanne Lohner went before her teammates and delivered a speech that teammates called both powerful and inspirational.

Lohner, a sophomore from East Grand Rapids, talked of the purpose her high school team ran with while the "E" representing her team was emblazoned on their jerseys. She felt the women's cross country team should feel the same passion running with the CMU Flying "C" across their chests.

"My inspiration was to start a tradition of understanding that we're not only running each race for our teammates, but also running each race for the thousands of other CMU athletes that have worn that jersey and the thousands that will wear it after us," Lohner said.

"It's our responsibility to honor the jersey through competing hard."

Senior Amanda Rudert felt the speech hit home. Three days later, on Nov. 1, the Chippewas turned in their best race of the year, finishing fourth at the MAC Championships while each runner turned in a personal best time.

"Before the race, we all committed to honoring the jersey," Rudert said. "And I know that it helped that weekend."

Two weeks after the breakthrough race, the team travels Saturday to the Great Lakes Regional Championships at West Lafayette, Ind., where both the team and individual runners will be looking to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

"Raeanne is very passionate and I think it was very inspirational for everyone to hear from her what it means to put on the CMU uniform," said coach Karen Lutzke said.

CMU is ranked No. 10 in the recent regional rankings, its highest spot since 2001.

Although Rudert and fellow senior Michelle Diverio are the only seniors competing in the 6K race, Lutzke said the other three still mean a lot.

"It's like they're racing too," Lutzke said. "It's harder for the girls who aren't competing because they want to be competing and it means just as much to them as the girls who are racing."

Rudert stressed that both seniors running want to go out with their best effort for all of the hard work they have put in during their four years.

"Being my last race, I want to put everything I have in and leave it all on the course," she said.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Women also take fourth at MACs

Issue date: 11/3/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Joined by a throng of supporters, the women's cross country team traveled to the 2008 Mid-American Conference Championships in Ypsilanti and performed the best it had all year.

All nine runners turned in personal best runs as the team finished fourth behind Miami University, Akron and Ohio, respectively. It was CMU's best MAC finish since finishing fourth in 2001.

"I was very pleased," said coach Karen Lutzke. "It was a great effort from top to bottom and that's what needs to happen in a meet like that."

Senior Amanda Rudert once again paced the Chippewas with her best collegiate 5K time of 17 minutes, 46 seconds, breaking her previous record of 18:07.

"We were really excited heading into the meet, committed to competing the entire way and it paid off," Rudert said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more from our performance."

The Chippewas were accompanied by a fan base that, according to Rudert, easily was the best there.

"Our fans were unbelievable," Rudert said.

Made up of family, friends, fellow cross country runners that did not compete and even men's and women's track members, the group was decked out in CMU gear, singing the fight song and shouting motivation the entire race.

"It's all about the program and that kind of support proves it," said Lutzke. "It helps with the girls motivation throughout the course and makes it better when you perform well."

Rudert was followed by sophomore Melissa Darling (18:05), senior Michelle Diverio (18:07), sophomore Danielle Dakroub (18:15) and freshman Raeanne Lohner (18:18) to round out the team's top five.

Central narrowly missed its target of five runners in the meet's top 30. It had three runners with its fourth and fifth runners standing in 33rd and 37th place. The success means the team likely will pass Bowling Green, Toledo and Kent State in the new regional rankings.

Ohio junior Annie Beecham won the meet with a time of 16:56 and Miami won the meet with a score of 39. It had all of its runners place in the top 20.

CMU takes a two-week break from competition to gear up for the Great Lakes Regional, where it most likely will need a top-two finish to qualify for Nationals.

The regional consists of a strong group of teams from the MAC and Big Ten.

"We're running in the right direction," Lutzke said. "We'd like to beat a few more teams before we're done."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Women hope team unity translates to success at MACs

Issue date: 10/31/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team turned into a pack of tie-dyed, singing hippies on Tuesday for the team's annual "Ugly Day."

"The girls can be creative," said coach Karen Lutzke.

"Ugly Day" was the second of the team's four-day spirit week, held during Mid-American Conference Championship week every year.

"We were dressed like the '70s with weird makeup and spray-painted hair," said senior Amanda Rudert. "There's a goofy side to us."

The Chippewas, traveling tomorrow to Eastern Michigan for the conference meet, look at spirit week as a way to clear their minds before the race.

"It's good to unwind from the pressure of the practice week," Lutzke said.

Since circling the date on the calendar during preseason workouts, CMU is looking to save its best meet for its biggest.

"Since I've been here, I haven't seen a more dedicated and passionate team heading into the MAC meet," said senior Michelle Diverio.

The team is looking to rebound from a 38th-place finish at NCAA Pre-Nationals, where it finished behind two MAC teams.

Lutzke points to those teams - Miami and Ohio - plus Akron as the favorites in the 5K race, beginning at noon at Eagle Crest Golf Course in Ypsilanti.

"We have high expectations and high goals, and we want to accomplish them," Diverio said.

Also running in her last MAC Championship meet, Rudert, a fellow senior, wants to go out a winner.

"Our goal is definitely to win the race," Rudert said.

Rudert stressed the importance of competing and believes the rest will fall into place.

She is aiming for All-MAC accolades and new personal record in the meet, attempting to break the 18 minutes, 31 seconds set Sept. 19 at the George Dales Invitational.

"As a freshman, I didn't really understand what the meet was all about," Rudert said. "And after running in it for a few years, your expectations get higher each year."

CMU will carry 10 runners to the race, none of which were disclosed by Lutzke, who believes the team will run competitively and confidently.

"Those two aspects go hand-in-hand," Lutzke said. "Expectations are high for every meet but especially this one, and I think things will come together for us."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Team looks to qualify for first time at Pre-Nationals

Issue date: 10/17/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team faces its biggest challenge yet at NCAA Pre-Nationals on Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

The 6K meet features many of the best teams is women's cross country - including about 20 of 30 ranked teams - and is a welcome big-meet challenge for a team that's entering the final stretch of the season.

"We're really excited that we have a chance to compete against some really good schools," said senior Amanda Rudert. "It will be a good chance to see where we're at."

The Chippewas, who have yet to qualify for a Nationals meet, will compete against 41 other teams on the same course Nationals takes place.

They hope to improve their chances of receiving a return ticket to Terre Haute on Nov. 24, said coach Karen Lutzke.

With a good performance, the team will boost its prospects of earning an at-large bid after the Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 15.

The Nationals field is made up of first- and second-place teams in each region. The remaining bids are awarded at-large to the third and fourth-place teams that beat the highest number of Nationals qualifiers.

This stage provides an opportunity to beat many of those teams.

"It's almost more competitive than Nationals," Lutzke said. "You have teams that are really good that might fall through due to running bad at the regional meet, so in a sense, this meet is almost more competitive because people know they have to run well to have a chance to run at Nationals."

Seniors Michelle Diverio and Rudert believe the team can draw on its Oct. 3 race at Notre Dame for experience and confidence.

"It was a confidence booster, showing us we can run on the same course as those ranked teams," Diverio said. "We've had really positive attitude and everyone's been working hard."

Rudert echoed those thoughts.

"We're thriving in the big meets more than we have in the past and our confidence is higher," she said.

Lutzke will take 11 runners to race on a course she feels is geared more towards strength than speed, not entirely flat but with rolling hills.

After two weeks of rest and training and after what she called a "great workout" on Wednesday, Lutzke is confident about tomorrow's race.

"We're trying to beat as many teams as we can," she said. "I know we're ready."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Subs help women finish third

Issue date: 10/13/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Leaving its top 10 runners at home, the women's cross country teamplaced third out of five teams at the Kensington Metropark on Friday for the Michigan Intercollegiates meet.

Leading the way for the Chippewas was sophomore Kelly Kobylczyk, running the course in 20 minutes, 8 seconds and placing seventh.

Kobylczyk eclipsed her previous high school times on the course by 30 seconds.

"I was really pleased with how she competed and moved up during the race," said coach Karen Lutzke.

CMU's 67 points trailed Western Michigan's meet-winning 33 points and Eastern Michigan's 35 points.

The Chippewas carried only six runners, mostly all underclassmen, as their teammates rested in preparation for Pre-Nationals on Saturday.

"I didn't want those girls to race three weeks in a row," Lutzke said of the decision to rest the runners.

Freshmen Rachael Wessel and Holly Anderson also placed in the top 15. Wessel finished in 11th place with a time of 20:26, and Anderson finished one spot and one second behind her.

"This was an opportunity for these girls to step up to the plate and be counted on as scorers," Lutzke said.

Noting that these runners haven't competed as much recently, Lutzke said she was pleased with the team's performance.

"These girls got their feet wet and did well," Lutzke said. "It wasn't a perfect race, but it definitely wasn't a bad race."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Newly-ranked women to hold out top runners, test youngsters

Issue date: 10/10/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

After two strong performances, the women's cross country team has rejoined the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Great Lakes Region rankings.

The Chippewas are ranked No. 14 and are sixth out of seven MAC teams featured in this week's 15-team ranking.

"It's nice to see our team ranked," said head coach Karen Lutzke.

"I think we're getting better and better. Our goal is not only to be ranked but to improve, and this shows us that we are improving."

The team debuted at No. 15 in the preseason rankings but was left off the list after a slow start.

Senior Amanda Rudert said it was frustrating to drop out, but the team showed determination to get noticed again.

"When we weren't in the rankings and saw the teams that were, we were frustrated because we knew we were just as good, if not better, than some of those teams," she said.

Rudert said the team should aim for a Top 10 ranking by season's end.

CMU is nestled between Bowling Green and Toledo in the rankings, with 13 teams looking up at intrastate rivals Michigan State and Michigan, who hold down the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively.

Lutzke looks at the rankings as a motivational tool.

"If you're not ranked, you should be mad, and if you are ranked, you should be excited," she said. "It adds to the excitement of any sport."

Today, the Chippewas compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate 6K, featuring all of the state's Division I schools except for Michigan and Michigan State.

Lutzke will rest her top 10 runners in preparation for the Pre-National meet next Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind., which also is a 6K race. Lutzke said it should allow some of the young runners an opportunity to compete for their spots in upcoming meets.

"We're heading to the end of the season and we have to make decisions on who can compete in which races," Lutzke said.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rudert bests own record by nearly 30 seconds

Issue date: 10/6/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

For the second time in two races, Amanda Rudert set a new personal record to lead the women's cross country team to a seventh-place finish in Friday's Notre Dame Invitational.

Rudert, a senior, finished 15th out of 198 runners with a time of 18 minutes, 6 seconds, eclipsing her previous record set on Sept. 19 by 25 seconds.

CMU's 223 points were only 20 behind sixth-place Ohio University, last year's MAC champion.

"We were pleased with our performance," Rudert said. "We did a nice job moving up throughout the race and passing competitors in the last mile."

Both Rudert and coach Karen Lutzke complimented the team's improvement in pack running.

After sophomore Danielle Dakroub's 42nd-place finish, four CMU runners finished close together in a pack - Raeanne Lohner (18:46, 57th overall), Michelle Diverio (18:46, 59th), Sarah Squires (18:47, 60th) and Brittany Dixon (18:47, 61st).

"They did a good job and ended up together at the end," Lutzke said.

Lutzke said she would like to see the pack finish 10 to 15 seconds faster, roughly around where Dakroub finished.

"We're definitely getting there and we're so versatile as far as different people being able to step it up," Lutzke said.

Rudert was attempting to break the 18-minute mark, but a slow start hindered her ability to position herself at the beginning of the race.

"You can only catch up so much," Lutzke said, pointing out that Rudert stood around 45th place at the mile mark, doing a good job of catching up toward the end of the race.

Twenty-three teams ran in the Gold Division race, won by Michigan State with 76 total points. Junior Sarah Squires felt the experience against a tougher and bigger field was good for the team.

"We proved to ourselves that we can be right up there with the best of them," Squires said. "This was the biggest race of the year so far and it was great to get the opportunity."

Both Lutzke and her players said the course was narrow at points, which at times proved to make the running very crowded.

"We needed that kind of a race because our upcoming meets will be just as competitive if not more so," Squires said.

CMU will compete in the Michigan Intercollegiates on Friday in Milford before traveling to Terre Haute, Ind., for NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 18.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's time to admit your drafting mistakes

By Anthony Fenech • Free Press Special Writer

We’re about a quarter of the way through this fantasy football season – which means a lot to most of you and a lot more considering the fact NFL football around here is, well, pretty stale to say the least.

Some of you are 0-4, screening everyone’s calls from Bob in public relations to Uncle Bob. If you’re wondering if you should be in that panic state you’re in, yes, you definitely should be. Early on, your team has either been snake-bitten by injury or snake-bitten by a bad draft but if it’s the latter – it’s time to admit it.

Bad drafts happen. But 10 times out of 10, the owner that realizes that quicker will have a better chance to win. By now, you should be leaning a certain way on which players can still fulfill those numbers you drafted them for.

Take your Cleveland Browns, for example. This year’s sexy preseason fantasy team for their high-powered offense has produced just over 210 yards a game so far, dead last in the league. Derek Anderson hasn’t separated himself from the Brady Quinn rumors with a bye week looming and think about where you would have ranked those players with a bad Anderson or a raw Quinn from the beginning. To make matters worse, they have four bad matchups after the bye. So I guess what I’m saying is, trade your Browns.

And don’t expect to be getting face value for your trade bait. You’re going to have to bite the bullet and make your moves with what you have. If you’re 0-4, chances are those players aren’t as good as you thought and therefore, you will have less interest. The urgency to shake things up only increases in one-divison formats because you don’t have multiple games against your division mates to make up ground.

The sun hasn’t set on your season just yet, but the street lights are coming on. Here are some guy’s I’d target in return for your Big Name, No Gain players:

Your St. Louis Rams – Now for those of you that are desperate for a win, skip to my Lou over to the next one. The Rams are useless this week and another loss will shrink your comeback chances that much more. Jim Haslett is the interim head coach and his teams in New Orleans finished in the top 10 for touchdown passes in four of those five years. They put up pretty good offensive numbers, not including 2005, when they went 3-13 and Haslett was fired. I’d be surprised not to see Marc Bulger back onto the field after the bye and Steven Jackson owners have been rewarded for their patience. For what it’s worth, I’d take Torry Holt with open arms, too.

Ronnie Brown, RB, MIA – Now this is one hits close to home. You could say he’s my fantasy kryptonite. That guy you think of as your fantasy baby. Yeah, that five-touchdown day against the Patriots was an aberration and yeah, the Dolphins might still be bad, but when he is on the field and healthy, he straight up does work. And yeah, again, I can’t convince you that the single wing is going to keep working against NFL defenses, but he was on his way to fantasy player of the year last year before he got hurt without those plays. But I’m just throwing that out there.

Randy Moss, WR, NE – Alright, I’m treading a very fine line here because he fits that big name, no game description. But do you want to see what an owner is really made of? Replace Tom Brady with Matt Cassel and say, “Here’s your first-round pick.” Getting blown out by the Dolphins probably made for a fun New England bye week under Bill Belichick, and I’m not sold that Cassel – or any quarterback, that is – can’t hook up for Moss when all the guy does is get open. Unfortunately, Moss also has time ticking on his fuse ala Terrell Owens, and the more he struggles, the more cause for cover in the once-so-invincible Pats country.

Walking the Waiver Wire:

Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, WR, SEA – All signs point to a return for Matt Hasselbeck’s top two targets in Seattle. Timing might take a week or two but one could argue the passing game will flourish more than in the past with a solid running game thus far.

Mewelde Moore, RB, PIT – Rookie Rashard Mendenhall injured himself Monday night and will spend the rest of the season on the IR, Willie Parker’s status is still in doubt and whoever’s running in Pittsburgh will get plenty of touches, trying to open Ben Roethlisberger’s passing game up again.

Deuce McAllister, RB, NO – Deuce got loose in his first real game back, rushing 20 times for 73 yards and a touchdown, so it looks like he’s going to get his touches following another knee surgery. He could be useful in a flex spot right away but I wouldn’t draft him to handcuff Reggie Bush, because you’d have a hard time starting both running backs in such a pass-happy offense.

Steve Breaston, WR, ARI – If you’re a in a deep league and need a bye-week fill in, keep an eye on Anquan Boldin’s health after the scary helmet-to-helmet hit that had him carted off the field Sunday. If he doesn’t suit up, Breaston could put up decent numbers yet again: He had 122 receiving yards and nine receptions in Kurt Warner’s impressive air (472 passing yards) and ground (three fumbles lost) display on Sunday. And yes, that’s pretty cool that I wrote about Steve Breaston in terms of fantasy worth.

Rudert, women's cross country look to build off wins at Notre Dame

Issue date: 10/3/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

After a two-week hiatus from racing competitively, the women's cross country team will go up against some of the nation's top talent.

CMU travels to South Bend, Ind., today to compete in the 48-team Notre Dame Invitational.

The Chippewas will look to follow up their breakthrough performance two weeks ago at Western Michigan with another strong showing. They compete at 2 p.m. in the Gold Division race against 24 other teams, including Mid-American Conference opponents Ball State, Ohio and Western Michigan.

"It's going to be a lot different," said coach Karen Lutzke. "There's going to be more bodies and it's going to be a more competitive atmosphere. But it's the kind of race situation that we need to get used to."

Between both the Gold and Blue division races, 11 nationally-ranked teams will be competing, including No. 2 Florida State, No. 7 Princeton and No. 8 Michigan State - a team CMU faced twice earlier this season.

Junior Sarah Squires is looking forward to the opportunity to square off against top competition.

"The important thing for us this meet is to be competitive," she said. "With a race this big, we will have plenty of people to run with and to chase after."

In its last race on Sept. 19, CMU defeated Eastern and Western Michigan in Three Rivers. Senior Amanda Rudert placed first, ahead of four teammates who also placed in the top 10.

Lutzke said in the two weeks since their victory, practice has been running smoothly, with the girls alternating days of hard, medium and easy running intensity.

"You can't run hard every single day," Lutzke said. "A runner's body can only take so much pounding and so much hard running until it starts dragging."

Today's race will be held on the Notre Dame Golf Course, a flat course without many hills, generally quick for racers.

But Lutzke said there won't be much of an opportunity to move up, with more than 200 runners compared to the normal 40 the team is accustomed to.

Rudert, fresh off of her first collegiate victory, looks at the meet as an opportunity for the team to make a statement.

"As a team, we were frustrated with the recent regional rankings," she said. "So we are going into this race to prove that our team should be on that ranking list."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rudert fights through injuries to become No. 1 for women's cross

Issue date: 9/26/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Last Friday, Amanda Rudert won her first collegiate race, placing first in the George Dales Invitational, helping the women's cross country team to its first team win of the season.

The victory was yet another milestone in the senior's successful running career, a career that began because of a fall.

Rudert, a Mount Pleasant senior, had spent much of her sophomore and junior years battling injuries before a physical therapist assisted in rehabilitating her back to full strength for her senior year.

As she ran in regionals in fall 2004 with a trip to the state finals in her sight, Rudert's comeback was nearly complete.

That is, until she fell.

"I just remember waking up with my mom and my teammates standing there clapping," Rudert said. "I didn't really know what happened."

Rudert unexpectedly passed out during the race and was rushed to the hospital, where test after test was performed.

After bouts with numerous respiratory infections and bronchitis during the remainder of her senior year, Rudert was recommended to see a specialist. She had asthma.

"The doctor helped me out a lot, and since visiting him, the asthma's been under control," Rudert said. "I was able to run a lot more miles and train more consistently because I was healthy."

Now, nearly four years later, Rudert is excelling on the collegiate scene, surpassing not only other runners but her high school performance as well.

"I wasn't really good in high school," Rudert said, laughing.

Head coach Karen Lutzke believes that is a driving force in Rudert's performance.

"Amanda's high school career didn't end anywhere near the way she wanted it to," Lutzke said. "Because of her health issues, she was a slow starter.

" But instead of excelling in high school, she's excelling in college."

As a biomedical sciences major planning to attend medical school after graduation, Rudert is as much high-paced off the course as she is on it. She juggles a 3.85 grade-point average, volunteer work and church.

Coupled with her persistence, Rudert believes her faith helped her hurdle the obstacles she faced.

"I owe so much of my success to my supportive family, teammates and coaches, but most importantly to God," she said. "If you expect to succeed and are committed and are willing to stand up to the struggles and hard times, it's going to pay off and reward you eventually. You just have to give it time."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Women win first season invitational

Issue date: 9/22/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team followed up two subpar performances in non-scoring meets with its best race of the year Friday at the George Dales Invitational.

Senior Amanda Rudert won her first collegiate race with a time of 18 minutes, 31 seconds, and all scoring Central runners finished in the top 10. The Chippewas beat Western and Eastern Michigan by 16 and 31 points, respectively, in Three Rivers.

"We had our best performance of the year so far," Lutzke said. "I was really pleased with the effort we got across the board and not just from our top few runners, from our first to last runners."

After a disappointing meet at the Spartan Invitational last week, in which its top runner placed 20th overall, the team accomplished both goals of running as a pack and closing the gap between its top five runners.

Lutzke said the team raced together for just about half the race and the gap closed from 49 seconds in the previous week to 41 seconds on Friday.

Rounding out the scoring positions were sophomores Raeanna Lohner (fourth place, 18:35) and Brittany Dixon (fifth, 18:38), junior Sarah Squires (eighth, 18:49) and senior Kelly McClure (10th, 18:54).

The pace-setting Rudert accomplished her goals after last week's practices.

"I personally needed to practice going out faster from the start, and this race provided a great opportunity for that," Rudert said.

Lutzke echoed those thoughts.

"She pretty much controlled the race from the gun," she said. "She led the pack and made a move around the two-mile mark and executed our plan perfectly. Amanda's really strong over the last mile."

Lutzke also believed Rudert's confidence was the biggest difference in her performance.

"We took the race out from the start and did a great job working together and pushing each other," Rudert said. "It was a big improvement from last week and I'm very happy with how we raced."

Lutzke said Lohner and Dixon competed well with the front-running pack and called Squires' race a breakthrough. She acknowledged the difficulty that comes with the transition from track to cross country, where the race is longer than the 1,500-meter event in track.

"She's been doing really well on the track and it was a big race for her and the team," Lutzke said.

The team gets a weekend off before traveling Oct. 3 to the Adidas Notre Dame Invite in Notre Dame, Ind.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Poor performance motivates women

Issue date: 9/19/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The goal for the women's cross country team is simple after a poor performance last Friday at the Spartan Invitational, - improve.

The team runs today in Western Michigan's Bronco Invitational at Three Rivers to compete in its first scored meet of the year against fellow intrastate rivals Western and Eastern Michigan.

"We've had a real good week of practice," said coach Karen Lutzke. "Our workouts this week have been geared towards what we need to do as a team to get better, and that's learning how to run together and push each other."

Senior Amanda Rudert believes that today, the team will put last week's subpar effort in the past.

"We weren't very happy with how we raced last weekend," Rudert said. "We're very excited to make a comeback this weekend and turn in some good times on a fast course."

Last Friday, Rudert paced CMU with a time of 22 minutes, 38 seconds in the 6K. However, the team disappointingly increased the gap among its top five runners.

"There were a few things that we weren't doing the best that we could - specifically pack running - and having our gap between one and five getting smaller," Rudert said.

After a team meeting Monday during practice this week designed to re-evaluate where they stand early in the season, CMU concentrated on running more as a team. The method not only pushes themselves, but their competition.

Rudert also echoed Lutzke's thoughts on challenging herself more in races.

"Sometimes I get afraid of going out too quickly with the lead pack and that's something I'm working on," she said.

Rudert said that during practice this week, she was working on starting quicker and establishing herself with the lead pack. Lutzke expects the entire team to bounce back today in the 5K meet.

"I expect everybody to do well and to run together and push each other," she said. "We want to do our best each time we're out there and nobody's perfect. But I really think we're refreshed and ready to go on Friday."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Homecoming ceremony to honor past athletes

Issue date: 9/12/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Writer

In honor of Finch Fieldhouse and Rose Arena making way to the newly renovated CMU Events Center in the near future, 70 former athletes – 35 each from both venues – have been chosen to the All-Finch Fieldhouse and All-Rose Arena teams as the most accomplished student-athletes of those buildings.

These teams will be highlighted before and during halftime of the October 11 homecoming football game against Temple, the ceremonies designed to not only honor the former athletes but to kick off the capital fundraising campaign for the CMU Events Center.

Fans were encouraged to vote online at the Chippewas official athletic site during the month of July to elect individuals to the historic teams.

Mike Burns, Don Edwards, Ben Kelso, Dick Parfitt and Steve Pung were the leading vote-getters for the All-Finch team while Casey Cunningham, Chris Kaman, Dan Majerle, Ben Poquette and Dan Roundfield were the top five tallies on the on the All-Rose team.

According to Sports Information Director Don Helinski, 310 ballots were submitted online. Helinski noted that the department is not releasing the amount of votes the top five athletes received.

“We were looking for ways to really celebrate the great athletic accomplishments that have happened in Finch and Rose as we move towards a new, single event center that will house all of our sports teams,” Athletic Director Dave Heeke said.

The festivities will begin on homecoming Saturday with an invitation-only CMU Events Center Prelude prior to the football game.

“It’s going to be a big tailgate event,” stated Heeke.

During halftime, the players will be honored with an on-the-field ceremony in front of the Chippewa faithful.

Although all former players and their families were invited to participate in the weekend of homecoming activities, there is no word on the number that will attend.

Associate Athletic Director Jay Lanctot believes that while the fundraising is helpful, the ceremony will be a celebration of Central athletics.

“We want to emphasize just how proud we are of our past in terms of our athletes and their achievements and what they have done for our athletics,” Lanctot said.

The event will attempt to bring the past and present together, celebrating past achievements while looking at the current state of CMU athletics with an eye to the future, the CMU Events Center, embodying the campaign’s slogan:

“A proud past, a promising future.”

MAC, Big Ten rivals await at Spartan Invite

Unscored meet gives CMU chance to see conference foes

Issue date: 9/5/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Today, for the second time in two meets, the women's cross country team tests its mettle against nationally-ranked competition from last year as it travels to East Lansing to race in the 6K Spartan Invitational.

Teams competing in the meet include host Michigan State - which finished last season ranked fifth in the country - fellow MAC rivals Western Michigan and Miami, and Division II Grand Valley State.

By traveling south, CMU returns the favor to Michigan State, which traveled north two weeks ago for the Jeff Drenth Memorial. In the 5K race, six Central runners placed in the top 15, with senior Amanda Rudert turning in the fastest time in 18 minutes, 53 seconds.

While Rudert's performance was stellar in the opener, coach Karen Lutzke says she is more focused on the runners behind the pace-setter.

"We're looking to close the gap between our top five runners and trying to cut the spread down to 15-20 seconds and not 30-40 seconds," Lutzke said. "But that doesn't mean we want Amanda to run any slower. We want Amanda to run faster and everybody else to run faster so they're closer to where Amanda is right now."

The race will be held at the Forest Akers East Golf Course on the campus of MSU - called a "fast track" by Lutzke - at 1:35 p.m. The unscored meet is CMU's first 6K of the season.

Senior Michelle Diverio doesn't think CMU should have any problems.

"We train for long distances. Most of us run over 40 miles a week, so I don't think it's physically that much of an adjustment for us to do the 6K as opposed to the 5K," Diverio said. "But mentally, it takes more focus because you're out on the course racing for a longer time."

The meet, while unscored, will give CMU the opportunity to measure up against its MAC opponents while gaining valuable race experience. Both the regional and pre-national meets are 6K races.

Several undisclosed runners will sit out today to rest for next week's first scored meet in Kalamazoo against Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rudert leads women's cross

Issue date: 9/5/08

The women's cross country team opened its 2008 campaign last Friday with the unscored Jeff Drenth Memorial at University Park against Michigan State.

Senior Amanda Rudert led CMU with a sixth-place finish in 18 minutes, 53 seconds in the 5K race. Five other Central runners placed in the Top 15: junior Kelly McClure, sophomores Danielle Dakroub, Raeanne Lohner Kylee Kubacki and senior Michelle Diverio.

"It went well," coach Karen Lutzke said of the season opener. "It could have gone better, but it definitely could have gone worse. We had some good performances and we have people that need to step it up."

Friday's race also was the season opener for the Spartans, a team that finished last season ranked No. 5 in the nation.

"Michigan State a really good team that has a lot of national-caliber athletes," Lutzke said. "We have a lot of good athletes too, and I was pleased overall with how we did."

One of the bright spots on a day that was very bright, very sunny, and very hot was the return of Diverio from injury.

"She's been banged up a little bit, so I'm really impressed with how she came back and moved herself up in the race," Lutzke said.

Diverio finished 15th with a time of 19:40.

Lutzke said some things could have gone better, however.

"Closing the gap between our top five runners," Lutzke said. "You want your front runner up as high as they can be and you want No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 really close to them because five people score."

Rudert finished sixth, followed by McClure, Dakroub, Lohner and Kubacki placing 10th through 13th, respectively.

Central travels to East Lansing for an unscored meet in the Spartan Invitational on Sept.12, then takes on Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan in Kalamazoo on Sept. 19 for the first scored meet of the season.

Compiled by staff reporter Anthony Fenech.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

MSU at Cal game blog Aug. 30

Final thoughts

• Another tough pill for local football fans to swallow. First, the disappointment in Ann Arbor, then, on the opposite side of the country, the disappointment follows.

• First thing that stands out to me is Cal's sophomore running back Jahvid Best. You heard some whispers about him before and I've heard comparisons to Reggie Bush. At first, those sounded a little far-fetched but this guy is sweet, real sweet. He finished the game with 280 total yards: 113 rushing, 63 receiving and 104 returning.

• He's a big-play guy. He accounted for five plays of 20 yards or more and 11 plays of over 10 yards or more.

• Hoyer didn't play great but he didn't play bad, either -- whatever that means. 325 yards is a lot but they were playing from behind virtually the whole second half. His receivers also didn't help him out with the completion percentage.

• This was a real good game. I can't say that it surpassed my expectations because heading in, I was expecting this kind of game. It was high-scoring, competitive until the end and there were a lot of big plays.

Fourth quarter

• Cal starts its fourth drive of the second half at its own eight-yard line. I'm expecting and hoping for a Jahvid Best show -- he's one play away from being my favorite college player.

• The drive stalls but their punter is a freshman and he's sweet too. He downs one inside the MSU five-yard line. I've been meaning to say I like Cal's jerseys too. I might start a NCAA dynasty with Cal. Too bad I still play NCAA 2006. True story.

• MSU takes over deep in their own zone. Really deep. At the three. Two plays in, Hoyer gets on a little sideline roll, executing consecutive completions of 19 and 25 as they try and dig out of their hole.

• No. 83 -- I can't lie I don't even know his name -- but he drops a pass to kill the drive. He hasn't played the best game of his life today. A big holding penalty earlier and a couple of drops.

• Roughing the kicker penalties have to take one year off of a coach's life. Cal is whistled for one and the drive is still alive.

• With 11:05 left in the fourth, Ringer bounces outside then inside then sprints back outside for a touchdown. 24-21, Cal.

• There's my boy Best ... 35 yards on the kickoff return. Moments later, an Eli Manning to David Tyree moment. Riley scrambles around and is draped by a Spartan defender. He stays on his feet, figures why not, and throws a 26-yard prayer complete to Morrah.

• Then my main man Best -- who, no offense to MSU fans is my favorite college player -- does his thing and weaves to the four, followed a couple of plays later by a Cal touchdown. Riley to Ta'ufo'ou. Read that name. Try it. I dare you. Now let me pick up my handy Cal depth chart and see what the pronounciation is (tau-FOH-oh). 31-21, Cal.

• Swenson hits a 35-yarder to cut the lead to seven. 4:38 to go. 31-24, Cal. Both teams have two timeouts. Cue The Final Countdown, baby.

• Oh, how quickly a seven-point lead can double. First play, Shane Vereen busts one off-tackle down the sidelines and he is gone. Like long gone. He outran two Spartan defenders for 81 yards. He's a freshman too. If there's one thing I learned about Cal today, it's they have two fast running backs. 38-24, Cal.

• MSU gets the ball back and just when the Spartans appear dead in the water, they catch another break in the form of a Cal interception that touched the turf in between the defenders outstretched hands. It was a really nice play, capitalizing on a bad throw by Hoyer, short and behind the receiver. Dantonio challenged the call and won.

• Two plays later, Hoyer connects with Dell for a 29-yard touchdown and MSU is back within a touchdown.

• As MSU prepares to decide to put the fate of the game in the hands of their defense or kicker, I have to say this: Hoyer has played a good game. The interception to end the half wasn't a good pass but for the most pat he's shown a strong and accurate arm and his receivers haven't given him any help today.
The Spartans elect to kick deep and here we go ...

• Vereen and Best combine for a first down and the clock is dwindling on Michigan State's opener.

• Michigan State holds them on third down and Cal runs the clock out to 40 seconds after the punt bounces around and out of play.

• Hoyer and the Spartans have 40 seconds and needs 72 yards to tie.

• First play: Hoyer connects with Dell for 22 yards and he receives one heck of a hit in the process and hangs on. Ball is at midfield.

• I swear I was going to give Dell a nickname earlier in the blog and now I feel as if I'm behind the curve -- this guy has impressed me big time -- he's got nine receptions for 201 yards and a touchdown. "The Computer" was going to be the nickname by the way. That was stupid, I know.

• Three more incomplete passes put the clock at 18 seconds on 4th and 10 and this play is the game.

• Hoyer overshoots a receiver, the ball tipping off two Cal defensive backs, and all that's left to do is kill the clock. Cal wins, 38-31.

Third quarter

• Cal can't get anything going on their first drive and on fourth-down, the snap is low and the ball skips by the punter Anger. He tries to scoop the ball up and give it a boot but the Spartan defense swarms him and now the breaks that were going Cal's way in the first half are pointing towards the green and white.

• Starting just outside the ten, Dantonio rides Ringer into the end zone for four rushes, culminating in a one-yard touchdown. 17-14, Cal, 11:00 left in the third quarter.

• Riley is starting to make himself feel at home in the MSU secondary. He hooks up with senior Sean Young down the left sideline for a 42-yard gain, down to the six-yard line. Two plays later, Cal scores on a four-yard touchdown pass from Riley to Morrah for a 10-point Cal lead as the lights start to show at the stadium. 24-14, Cal, with six minutes left in the third.

• Dantonio insists on continuing to run Ringer -- who has 19 carries for 54 yards -- and Ringer isn't getting much help from his offensive line. The space just isn't there. Late in the third, I would start creating some tempo with Hoyer, who has only thrown one pass this half.

Halftime thoughts

• In the first half, Dantonio tried desperately to get Ringer involved, but he finished the half with only 35 yards on 13 carries.

• His counterpart, Jahvid Best, is looking more and more like he's going to fulfill the promise he carried into the season. He has 121 yards of total offense so far.

• Michigan State -- although putting together patches of streaky offense -- seems allergic to the end zone. Five punts, an interception and missed field goal aren't going to get the job done.

Second quarter

• Early in the second, the fleet-footed Best shows a glimpse of the Reggie Bush comparisons that have been floated around. He takes the handoff, cuts left and eludes a defender, scampering for 20 yards. Five minutes in, he has eight rushes for 47 yards.

• Cal can't cash in inside the ten and caps the 13-play, 66-yard drive with a field goal to take a 10-0 lead with 9:48 to play in the first half.

• MSU's offense -- which showed flashes early on but couldn't prolong those into points -- is starting to gain a rhythm with their first second-quarter possession. Ringer is grinding out tough yards and Hoyer delivers a nice pass to Mark Dell with a defensive lineman in his face.

• Awarded with a 15 yards after a Cal facemask, Ringer shifts his way to the doorstep of the goal line from the nine-yard line but there's a Michigan State hold and two plays later, they're behind the 20 facing third and long.

• On third and long, Hoyer delivers a pinpoint toss into the outstretched arms of Dell, just inside the end zone for a MSU touchdown -- but hold your horses, people, here comes the review team. It was an absolute perfect pass from Hoyer, as Dell was just outside the 15 when he let the ball fly, and the catch was equally as spectacular. A handful of replays later, the play is erased and out trots the field goal team.

• Being reviewed was the question of if the ball hit the ground, and it looked like Dell had his hand cradling it, but the official decided otherwise.

• Tough break for MSU. A perfectly executed play determined by less than an inch on replay. If I were wearing the zebra stripes, I would have upheld the cal on the field.

• MSU's special teams continue to implode as Brett Swenson pulls the chip-shot wide left into a sea of blue and gold. Cal takes over deep in their own zone with just over six minutes left in the half.

• Tedford is now giving senior Nate Longshore -- who received much criticism for his play during 2007 -- a number of snaps behind center, spelling the sophomore Riley, who was named the starter last week.

• On the first play of the drive, Riley connects with tight end Cameron Morrah for a 50-yard reception down the left sidelines. One play, half of the football field and Cal is in business again.

• After two more completions, Longshore is intercepted by senior safety Otis Wiley at the goal line. Like being shot out of a cannon, Wiley shoots up the gut to midfield.

• A huge play for the Spartan defense. Cal was barreling down on more points and was moving down the field with ease.

• After another three-and-out -- all Hoyer incompletions -- Cal takes over inside of their ten. Two plays later, Longshore heaves an ill-advised pass into a trio of Spartans, right into the hands of Wiley -- his second interception of the game. This time, all Wiley can see is the house and he takes a trip for six. 10-7, Cal, 3:00 second quarter.

• I don't know what they're doing with this quarterback carousel, but Longshore has two picks in five attempts. Riley has none in nine and has about 100 more yards. You do the math.

• Cal gets the ball back and Best does what he does, well, Best: Riley dumps him off a pass and he sprints his way down the field for a 42-yard gain.

• Two plays later -- after a 24-yard Riley completion, making one wonder why any other Cal quarterback would take a snap this game -- Best takes a handoff, uses his speed to dust three Spartans to the right and scores. 17-7, California, 1:45 left in the half.

• Today's ABC sideline reporter Heather Cox feels the need to report to us the most obvious of information: Best is a sprinter. He's a football player that wants to run track for Cal, and his numbers would meet the Olympic qualifying standards. So, in other words, he's really, really, really fast.

• With a minute left in the half, Hoyer orchestrates a Spartan drive into the Cal zone, looking to steal a few points heading into the half, but his first and 10 pass from the 12-yard line with 20 seconds left is an awful lob that's intercepted by Cal and the half ends.

First quarter

• It's a beautiful evening at Memorial Stadium and Dantonio is wasting no time in serving Cal a heavy dose of Ringer -- he is back deep to return the first kick and takes the first two rushes, gaining a total of five yards to set up an early 3rd and 5 for the Spartans.

• Senior quarterback Brian Hoyer -- looking to turn his past failures around -- will be searching early for a go-to guy after Devin Thomas bolted early for the draft in April. The early money is on redshirt freshman B.J. Cunningham: Hoyer completed two early passes to Cunningham for first downs and then connected for a long touchdown that was called back for offensive pass interference.

• MSU just barely avoids an early-game disaster as the drive stalls with a deep incomplete pass to Cunningham -- targeted for the fourth time on this drive. On the next play, a bad snap forces punter Aaron Bates to corral the ball on a bounce and get the kick off just in time.

• Cal goes three-and-out and the Spartans immediately return the favor after a booming Cal punt pins them inside their own 20. On fourth down, with Bates standing in his own end zone, he receives yet another low snap and this time he can't get the kick off: Cal's Brett Johnson blocks the punt, and it's recovered at the five by corner Bryant Nnanbuife, who dives in for a Cal touchdown. 7-0, California, 7:41 left in the first.

• MSU's insuing drive stalls at the Cal 37. Ringer has 24 yards on eight carries thus far -- more than half of the Spartans early offensive plays have gone through him.

• Coming into the game, it was no secret Ringer was going to get force-fed the ball, and it shows so far. Cal is stacking the line and nullifying any penetration by the MSU offensive line, routinely making contact with the runner within a yard or two of the line of scrimmage.

• The first quarter ends with Cal in possession at their own 35. The early special teams blunder aside, both the Spartans offense and defense has looked solid but if they're going to ride or die with Ringer, the big boys up front need to start pushing their weight.


The second year of the Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State kicks off roughly 2,300 miles west of East Lansing in Berkeley, California, where the Spartans will battle the Golden Bears of California in an intriguing opening week matchup that is merely as a blip on the opening week radar screen.

Tonight’s nationwide buzz is all about the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta, pitting two Top 25 teams, but this game could easily shape up as tonight’s best.

Here we have the Big Ten versus the Pac 10, two seven-win bowl teams from last year that finished near the bottom of their respective conferences yet bring to the table solid coaching, talent and promise.

In just a year’s time, Dantonio has seemingly changed the culture of Michigan State football, having his kids believing in the system. This isn’t your same old Spartan squad, and although last year’s record will disagree, all six losses in 2007 were by seven points or less.

Grabbing headlines for Michigan State is senior running back Javon Ringer, one of the best backs in the nation, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards last year while deferring a portion of carries to the departed Jehuu Caulcrick.

As clich̩ as it sounds, look for the Spartans to utilize Ringer early and often against a Cal defense that last year had problems stopping the ground game, allowing 164 yards per game in their 3-4 defense Рa defense historically good against the run.

Cal, who is notoriously overrated year-in and year-out, has good team speed on both sides of the ball and keep an eye out for sophomore running back/kick returner Jahvid Best. Best is a explosive runner, earning first-team All-Pac 10 special teams honors as a freshman with a 27-yard average on kicks last year. He missed three games last season due to a hip injury, but when running the ball, he gained 10 or more yards 37% of the time and Cal has a knack for churning out 1,000-yard rushers. (See: Arrington, J.J. and Lynch, Marshawn).

Cal coach Jeff Tedford – known around the country as a quarterback guru – will break in sophomore Kevin Riley for his first season opener and Tedford is 4-0 in his career against the Big Ten.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blue Jays at Tigers game blog Aug. 14


Fasten your seatbelts, folks, because history could be made today at Comerica Park. It’s not the kind of history Tigers fans want to see made, nor is it the kind of history anybody really cares about.

But after the opening three games of this series have embedded an image of a Tigers squad falling off the baseball map, desperately trying to cling on to anything to stop their freefall, we turn to the opening page of today’s Toronto Blue Jays game notes. (Talk about investigative journalism!)

Here is the second bulletin for today’s game: “The Blue Jays are looking to sweep the Tigers in a 4-game series for the 1st time in club history”

So there you have it. Either the Tigers win today, or they go down in history as the only Tiger team in history to drop a four-game set to their brothers from north of the border. And that’s just embarrassing.

Sarcasm aside, it’s been a lowly 20 games since the Tigers swept Kansas City, looking primed for a second-half run. In that span, the club has gone 7-13 – 3-7 in their previous ten – and has seen their bullpen go from bad to seemingly improved to bad to worse to “UGH!”, their playoff hopes going from maybe to non-existent.

Stellar rookie Armando Galarraga (10-4, 3.23 ERA) takes the hill against the recently recalled Jesse Litsch (8-7, 4.46). Galarraga’s second start this season came in Toronto, where he held the Blue Jays scoreless in 5 2/3 innings for the win.

Litsch opened his 2008 campaign on fire, with an April and May record of 7-1. Since June he has gone 16 with an ERA just above six, earning him a demotion to Triple-A Syracuse, where he made three starts. This is his first start since his demotion.

Blue Jays lineup: 2B Inglett, 3B Scutaro, RF Rios, CF Wells, DH Stairs, LF Lind, 1B Overbay, C Zaun, SS McDonald

Tigers lineup: CF Granderson, 2B Polanco, RF Ordonez, 1B Cabrera, DH Sheffield, LF Joyce, SS Renteria, 3B Inge, C Sardinha

Top First

Galarraga delivers today’s first pitch at six minutes past one, the weather an absolutely perfect 81-degree day with the sun shining through a small patch of clouds. With the team reeling, it’s days like this that keep the stands looking healthy.

Two pitches later, Toronto leadoff man Joe Inglett singles to right.

Marco Scutaro grounds a pitch sharply up the middle but Polanco takes a few steps to his right and snags it with a backhand and flips to Renteria for the force out.

Alex Rios follows by ripping a hanging Galarraga slider down the left field line – but just foul. Later in the at-bat, Rios grounds out to Inge, who forces Scutaro out at second. Rios beats the throw at first.

Last night’s villain – hitting a grand slam for Toronto’s only runs of the game – Vernon Wells grounds out to short to end the inning.

Bottom first

Granderson leads off with a deep fly to right center, straight at the scoreboard, looking like either a home run or an easy Granderson triple, but Rios catches up with the fly at the warning track, the wind helping to keep that one in the yard.

With two outs, Ordonez walks and Cabrera goes down on your normal 3-4-1 putout to end the inning. Lyle Overbay dove to his left, got leather on the ball but it skirted past him, only to be corralled by Inglett at second and flipped to the pitcher Litsch for the out.

Top second

Former Tiger Matt Stairs looks at strike three to open the top half of the second. If you don’t remember Stairs donning the Old English D, don’t fret because most people don’t. His defining moment as a Tiger came in the final game of the 2006 regular season, when his 8th inning home run against Kansas City wasn’t enough to propel the team to a division title.

After an Adam Lind walk, Overbay flies out to left and Gregg Zaun takes a called strike three to end the inning, Galarraga’s second called strikeout of the inning.

Bottom second

“BOO! ... first pitch … BOO! … second pitch …” That’s some guy sitting in the section behind the Jays dugout, trying to scare Sheffield off. The boos have considerably tapered off since Monday – think his two homers on Tuesday have anything to do with it? – but as he strikes out swinging, the tension between Sheffield and the fans remains.

Litsch strikes out Joyce on a nasty full count breaking ball for the second out.

Renteria singles through the hole at short and on the next pitch to Inge, he’s plunked in the shoulder, but the Tigers can’t capitalize. Backup catcher Sardinha – with a make-a-wish average of .111 at the time – grounds out to Litsch to end the inning. Through two at Comerica, no score.

Top third

Another former Tiger, John McDonald, leads off the third inning for Toronto and slaps one to the middle of the diamond, where Renteria closes in on the ball, retrieves it and takes one too many steps and fires late to first. McDonald was busting down the line and beats the throw. Renteria has to know the runner and his clock has to tell him that he can’t take the extra step and near-double clutch to get the runner out. The play is scored a single.

Inglett strikes out unjustly on an appeal to third base for the first out of the inning. Replays show his wrists never broke, keeping the bat head behind the plate. The pitch before was a backdoor slider that just missed the outside corner, so I’m thinking that had a little something to do with the appeal.

With two out and a man on first, Rios gave Galarraga all that he could ask for and more. It was an epic 11-pitch at-bat with five straight two-strike foul balls – one of which went straight into one of the TV or radio booths to my left – finally ending with Rios swinging over a Galarraga slider for his fourth strikeout.

Bottom third

Granderson draws a walk to open the third but that goes for naught as Polanco grounds into a 6-4-3 double play five pitches into his at-bat for a twin killing.

Magglio grounds hard into the hole at short and is nearly thrown out by an off-balance McDonald, but Magglio switches into his Michael Phelps-like second gear halfway down the line and beats the throw.

Cabrera grinds through a seven-pitch at-bat but ultimately grounds out to Litsch to end the inning. No score after three.

Top fourth

Inge records the first two outs of the fourth in typical Inge fashion. First, Wells hits a rocket to third that he plays on the short hop, then Stairs rolls one to his left – in shortstop territory, I might add – that he pounces on before delivering a dart that Cabrera scoops at first. Not bad for a catcher.

Lind flies out to end Galarraga’s first 1-2-3 inning of the day. Through four innings, he stands at 59 pitches.

Bottom fourth

Sheffield grounds out softly to lead off, the boos picking up with both outs made today, followed by Joyce nearly finding the hole at second base but he’s denied a base hit when Inglett makes a diving stop to his left for the second out of the inning.

Renteria lines out to third and we head to the fifth in a scoreless tie.

Top fifth

Galarraga’s fifth inning line one pitch in: One pitch, one hit, one run. Lyle Overbay disposes of the initial offering about 10 rows deep in right field, giving the Jays a 1-0 lead. The pitch was belt-high, right where they like ‘em.

After retiring the next two batters, Galarraga finds himself in a little bit of trouble after allowing two singles to Inglett and Scutaro. Scutaro’s single was a high chopper that hit off the hard dirt right in front of home plate, bounced once, then off of Galarraga’s right hand who tried to bare-hand the ball. Two on, two outs with Rios at the plate.

Did you know Alex Rios – whose non-abbreviated first name is Alexis – was born in Alabama? Neither did I, until I watched a Jays game on CBC earlier this year. Useless information aside, the Alabama-born Rios grounds to Renteria, who flips to Polanco for the ever-dangerous looking third out. Once again, Renteria needs to speed up that internal clock because it looked like Scutaro was very, very close to being safe on that play.

Tigers down one going into the bottom of the fifth, 1-0.

Bottom fifth

Inge flies out to right, Sardinha pops out to second base in the middle of the diamond, nearly touching the heavens in the process, and Granderson strikes out swinging in the Tigers fifth.

Litsch is pitching very well. He has three strikeouts and has limited the Tigers to only two hits, both singles. Jays up, 1-0 through five.

Top sixth

Wells grounds out to start the inning, followed by Stairs walking. Lind battles through an at-bat but finally flies out hard to Granderson for the second out.

Overbay grounds out to Polanco to end the inning and Galarraga is through six innings with his pitch count hovering right over the 90-pitch mark.

Bottom sixth

With one out, Magglio flies out deep on the first pitch he sees to the warning track in left field.

Cabrera bloops a pitch into right center between the second baseman Inglett and the centerfielder Wells for a two-out hit.

Sheffield then grounds one hard into the hole at short where McDonald makes a nifty play, leaping and delivering the throw in mid-air to second, where Cabrera is forced out by a step. 1-0 Toronto after six innings of play.

Both pitchers are pitching well, only allowing eight hits between them.

Top seventh

Galarraga trots – yes, he trots versus the majority of other pitchers walking – back out to the mound to start the seventh and promptly induces two fly outs to Ordonez in right.

On a 1-2 count to Inglett, Galarraga freezes him with a fastball right down the pipe, possibly his last pitch of the game, No. 108. The strikeout is his sixth of the game.

Bottom seventh

Matt Joyce leads off the Tigers seventh, with the crowd still on its feet after the seventh inning stretch. And stretch a couple runs across is exactly what the Tigers need to do right about now.

Joyce lines a single up the middle for the Tigers first leadoff baserunner of the game.

Renteria flies to left for the first out of the inning.

Litsch’s first pitch to Inge registers as his 106th of the game, and the Jays have double-barreled action in their bullpen – both a righty and lefty.

Inge grounds sharply down the third-base line, the ball fielded by Scutaro after two steps to his left. He forces Joyce out at first, but Inge beats the double play throw to keep the Tigers seventh alive.

Sardinha pops out to Inglett – who drifted to right field – to end the inning.

In his first start back from the minors, Litsch has dealt the Tigers seven innings of shutout ball, allowing only four hits. 1-0 Toronto after seven innings of play.

Top eighth

Jim Leyland elects to leave Galarraga in the ballgame, and with one out, Rios triples into the right-center gap. Granderson appeared to misplay the ball just a little bit, but the misplay wouldn’t have mattered, as Rios – who has good speed – was motoring around second before the ball reached Granderson.

With one out and Rios on third, Galarraga is pitching to the dangerous Mr. Wells with the infield brought in.

On a 3-1 pitch, Wells grounds one up the middle, a ball that looks like it will scoot through the cheating infield. Renteria takes one step to his left, dives, not coming up with the ball cleanly but keeping it in the infield. Rios can’t advance and the shortstop collects himself and throws Wells out at first.

Leyland is still leaning on Galarraga – with two pitchers up in the ‘pen – and Galarraga delivers, inducing a groundout off the bat of Stairs to Polanco at second.

Kudos to the skipper for letting Galarraga earn his stripes out on the mound. Experience like this for a young pitcher is invaluable, especially for a pitcher like Galarraga, who has shown his resiliency and mental toughness more than any pitcher on the staff.

With two at-bats left, the Tigers need to tally a run. Blue Jays 1, Tigers 0.

Bottom eighth

Granderson smokes one deep to the wall in right center, only to be denied of an extra-base hit for the second time today as three-time Gold Glove winner Wells outstretches his left arm behind his head and makes a wonderful catch a handful of feet away from the scoreboard. Patrolling the outfield in Toronto, Wells won three straight Gold Gloves between 2004-06.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston calls to his bullpen – southpaw Jesse Carlson entered the game strictly to face Granderson – for the right-handed Jason Frasor.

Frasor quickly falls behind Polanco 3-0, but works his way back, ultimately walking Polanco on a low pitch in the dirt.

Ordonez flies out to center, putting Cabrera at the dish with two outs and a runner on first.

Frasor uncorks a wild pitch and Polanco advances to second. It’s a big play that won’t get much pub in the box score, because now the tying run is on second and a base hit will most likely get the job done.

Cabrera comes through and singles hard through the hole at short. Polanco rounds third and heads for home, looking to score easily and does. Lind air-mails the ball from left field, over Zaun’s head and Cabrera reaches second base. Tigers tie the game at one in the eighth.

Oh, the irony in baseball. Toronto elects to intentionally walk Sheffield, drawing a symphonic array of boos from the crowd. Earlier in the game, Sheffield was receiving the boos, now the fans are booing the Jays for walking him. Two on, two out for Matt Joyce.

Joyce walks to load the bases for Renteria.

I had just enough time between the at-bats to get up, grab a pop, and get back into my seat by the time the Tigers had the lead. Renteria delivers on a first-pitch 94-MPH fastball that he laces into the left-center gap for a double, scoring two Tigers on the play.

The healthy crowd at Comerica has shown its first signs of life with the Tigers newfound lead.

Toronto makes a pitching change and Inge is up with runners on second and third and two outs.

Inge lines a single past the diving Scutaro into left field, plating two more Tigers, the good guys exploding for five runs in the bottom of the eighth – all with two outs.

Sardinha strikes out to end the big inning, and the team gets a round of applause as they try to close the game out in the ninth.

5-1, Tigers, with one to play.

Top ninth

Fernando Rodney jogs out to the mound to face Lind, Overbay and Zaun in the ninth as the Tigers try to avoid the four-game sweep.

Rodney retires the side in order, capping the game with two strikeouts, the last of which saw Zaun trotting down the first base line with an expected walk, only to be punched out at home.

Tigers win, 5-1 and avoid the sweep at home.


Both pitchers, Galarraga and Litsch, threw gems for their respective teams. Galarraga’s only blemish was a solo home run to Overbay in the fifth and Litsch shut down the Tigers through seven, only to see the bullpen squander his lead in the eighth.

When people look at the box score, they will see five Tigers runs in the bottom frame of the eighth. The five is important but the fact that all five came with two outs carries more weight.

I’m not even going to reference any kind of playoff race right here, because their play as of late doesn’t condone that. There’s nothing that we’ve seen as of late that indicates this squad is capable of putting together the kind of winning streak that is required to pull back into the race. Today’s win was nice, but it’s just a win.

Now the Tigers look forward to a weekend series at home against the Baltimore Orioles, who they split a four-game set with right after the All-Star break.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tigers at Indians game blog July 31


After playing into the wee hours of the night yesterday, the Tigers and Indians suit up for an early high noon game on the banks of Lake Erie – Detroit looking to take three of four from Cleveland, attempting to claw back into the A.L. Central picture.

Justin Verlander takes the hill for the Tigers, who are fresh off the heels of a thrilling 13-inning victory last night, and he faces the recently activated Fausto Carmona – a notorious Tiger killer that was sidelined for two months before returning in a not-so-grand fashion four days ago.

Carmona was tagged for nine earned runs on seven hits in just over two innings on July 26 in his first start off the disabled list against Minnesota. At first glance, one would assume the Tigers high-octane offense, hitting as well as at any point this season, would be a recipe for disaster for the Tribe.

But ever since 2006, when we saw a young Carmona raise his hands in disbelief as he watched former Tiger Pudge Rodriguez take a first-pitch fastball over the left field wall for a walk-off home run at Comerica Park, he has had the Tigers number, with a 4-2 record and 3.05 ERA.

Verlander looks to rebound from last Saturday’s shellacking at the hands of the White Sox, who dealt him his shortest out of the season en route to allowing seven earned runs. Verlander hasn’t fared well against Cleveland early in his career, with his ERA hovering over six.

Tigers lineup: CF Granderson, 2B Santiago, 3B Guillen, 1B Cabrera, RF Joyce, DH Thames, SS Renteria, LF Raburn, C Sardinha

Indians lineup: DH Sizemore, CF Gutierrez, LF Francisco, SS Peralta, RF Choo, 3B Marte, 1B Garko, C Fasano, 2B Cabrera

Top first

Granderson leads the game off with a single up the middle on a 2-2 count, Carmona’s fifth straight fastball of the at-bat.

With Granderson on first, Santiago squares to bunt and Carmona’s high fastball slips by him, off the catcher Fasano’s glove, and square off the shoulder of home plate umpire Wally Bell. Fasano can’t find the ball as Granderson rounds second and heads to third, but the Tigers bat boy grabs the ball while Garko marches in from first.

Initially, Granderson heads back to second. But after both managers convene with the umpiring crew, Granderson is awarded third. Although the bat boy touched the ball, Granderson would have easily made it to third because the Indians couldn’t find the baseball.

After the short delay, Santiago lines out to third base followed by Guillen sacrificing home the first run of the game on a fly out to center field.

The hot-hitting Miguel Cabrera grounds out to short to end the inning, but the Tigers put one on the board in the first frame.

Bottom first

Verlander retires Sizemore and Gutierrez to start the game, the latter sent down swinging at a 98 MPH fastball on the outside black for strike three.

Ahead in the count against Francisco – who hit two home runs in last night’s marathon – Verlander elevates a fastball that Francisco puts in the right-center gap for a two-out double.

Peralta follows with a second consecutive Indians double that bounces on the warning track just inside the foul line in left field and bounces into the stands. Francisco scores and ties the game.

Verlander strikes out Choo to end the inning, not being able to finish the deal on the Indians in the first after jumping out to two quick outs.

Jacobs, er, Progressive Field has been a house of horrors for Verlander, where he made his professional debut way back in 2005. He is 1-5 with a balloon-like 8.91 ERA in Cleveland.

Top second

With one out, Thames hits a scorcher to left field that appears headed to the wall but is nabbed by Francisco in an absolutely great catch. He was sprinting left-to-right towards left-center and laid out, making the grab in mid-air for the second out.

Renteria walks and Raburn grounds out to third to end the top of the second for the Tigers.

Bottom second

Verlander induces two lazy pop outs by Marte and Garko and strikes out the much-traveled Sal Fasano with a nasty curveball in the dirt that Fasano just throws the bat at.

Verlander is still running too deep into counts – his pitch count sitting at 39 after two innings – and will need to extend deep into the game today as the bullpen is depleted from last night.

Top third

With one out, Granderson rolls a grounder to first base that is played by Garko and shuffled to Carmona, who drops the ball as Granderson is bearing down on first base. Granderson – who hustles out of the box equally as fast whether it’s a groundout to short or a liner down the right field line – looked to have been safe without the Carmona mishap. The play is ruled a single and Granderson is 2-2 on the day. He’s now 10-16 in the four-game set so far.

Santiago grounds out, moving Granderson to second, and then Guillen gets ahead 3-0 and finds himself walking back to the dugout after Carmona climbs back and frames a 93 MPH sinker on the outside corner that Guillen takes for strike three.

Bottom third

Asdrubal Cabrera – a Carlos Guillen look-alike and play-alike – draws a leadoff walk off Verlander to open the bottom half of the third. Up next is the ever-dangerous Sizemore.

During the Sizemore at-bat, which Verlander was in relative control of, jumping ahead early, Verlander reaches the half-century mark of pitches. That means barring an unforeseen increase in command and control, he’s headed for a sixth, maybe seventh, inning exit today. Sizemore flied out to the warning track in left for the first out.

Gutierrez follows with a warning-track fly out of his own, in right-center and with Granderson and Joyce converging on one another, with Granderson finally taking charge and catching the ball all the while barely avoiding a collision. Two outs.

Verlander strikes out Francisco on a nasty curveball to end the inning, his fourth strikeout of the game. Game tied at one after three.

Top fourth

The Tigers go down quietly in the third as Cabrera whiffs on Carmona’s high heat followed by a pair of groundouts off the bats of Joyce and Thames.

Carmona is throwing everything hard, his fastball in the 94-95 MPH range, with a moving sinker that comes in around 92.

Bottom fourth

Verlander is absolutely cruising, striking out the side in the bottom of the fourth. He nailed Peralta and Choo swinging and left Marte talking to himself on his trip back to the dugout after pulling an Uncle Charlie out of his back pocket and twirling it into the inside corner for strike three.

After last night’s hit fest, today’s game has belonged to the men on the rubber early on.

Top fifth

Carmona’s power sinker is on, making the Tigers hitters beat the ball into the ground for easy outs. He retires the side on ground outs, the last of which was a very nice play by Marte at third. Renteria lined one of the dirt and Marte took one step to his left and made a good scoop on the hard liner.

We head into the bottom of the fifth and these two pitchers are really making this blog a breeze today. Three outs, a few sentences, three outs.

Bottom fifth

Verlander has seven strikeouts heading into the inning, three shy of his season high.

Garko weakly grounds out to Verlander to open the inning. Verlander has now retired seven straight.

The streak comes to an end and Verlander’s control – or lack thereof – catches up to him once again. On a 2-2 count, he runs a fastball in too tight to Fasano and hits him. It was a close call – the replays don’t show any clear evidence of ball making contact with player, but Fasano is standing on first either way.

Verlander follows the hit batsmen up with a walk of Cabrera, his second of the game.

Well, that’s what happens when you walk the No. 8 and 9 hitters with the Indians most dangerous hitter coming up. Verlander grooves a first-pitch fastball right down the pipe and potential 30-30 hitter Grady Sizemore disposes of it into the Tigers bullpen in right field for a three-run home run. The home run is Sizemore’s 27th of the season and it’s his second straight game with a three-run jack. Indians lead 4-1 heading into the sixth.

Top sixth

Santiago reaches base for the first Tigers baserunner in ten at-bats after Carmona plunks him on the right foot with one out. To this point, the sinker-baller has retired 10 Tigers hitters on ground ball outs.

Guillen follows Santiago’s hit-by-pitch with a single into left field and for the first time all game, the Tigers have something brewing here in the sixth.

Cabrera swings at Carmona’s first offering and pops it straight up to second base. The other Cabrera – Indians second baseman Asdrubal – loses it in the midday sun and it falls behind him. The infield fly rule is called and Cabrera is out, but Santiago advances to third. Runners on the corner, two outs for Joyce.

Joyce grounds out to Cabrera, who misplays the backhand. The ball squirts a few feet behind him and Guillen beats the recovery throw to the bag. Santiago scores and the Tigers trim the damage from Sizemore’s home run to two.

Bottom sixth

Shin Soo Choo – I just had to type that out – singles to right with one out followed by Marte fouling out high down the right field foul line, a play where Joyce had to make a sprinting basket catch.

With Choo on first with two outs, Verlander walks Garko on four straight pitches. Leyland makes a trip to the mound but doesn’t pull Verlander – newly recalled lefty Clay Rapada is warming in the bullpen – and on his very first pitch, the fu manchu’ed Fasano softly singles to left, scoring the Indians fifth run.

Verlander is yanked and Rapada comes in from the bullpen. Cabrera singles to right – the big boy Garko is held at third – and Sizemore is up with the bases loaded. This could get ugly in a hurry.

Rapada hits Sizemore – home plate umpire Wally Bell says it hit him but I don’t think it did – and a run comes home. 6-2 Indians.

Gutierrez grounds out to short with the bases juiced to end the inning and the Tigers head into the seventh facing a four-run deficit.

Top seventh

Verlander’s final line: 5 2/3 IP, 5 HA, 6 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 HB. Something not recorded in the stat line: 114 pitches. In just over five innings. That’s just not going to get it done, especially on a day where the bullpen is thin.

The sun in right field has shown its ugly face yet again, this time on a Renteria fly out to Choo, who loses it while the ball drops behind him. Renteria gets second on the error that’s called a double.

Ryan Raburn singles through the hole into right and the Tigers now have runners on the corners with no outs. Carmona’s sinker doesn’t have as sharp of a bite as it had earlier and he looks to be tiring just a bit, with a few recent pitches up in the zone.

He unleashes a wild pitch that ricochets off the dirt, off Fasano and drops right on the “I” of the Indians script logo behind home plate. Renteria scores easily while Fasano tries to pitch the ball backhand with his glove to home plate. He misses the backhand, overruns the ball and Raburn advances to third. That was a horribly stupid play by Fasano, as he had no chance of getting Renteria at home.

Eric Wedge trots out to the mound and lifts Carmona, bringing in the left-handed Rafael Perez.

On the first pitch Perez throws, Granderson drag bunts down the first base line. He gets the ball up and it floats right past first base in fair territory. Garko is in position to field the ball and have a footrace with Granderson to the bag but the ball skips off the top of his glove. Granderson on first with one out.

After a handful of two-strike foul balls, Santiago finally puts one in play and through the hole into left field. Again, the Tigers brew up some sixth inning offense. Runners on first and second with one out.

Guillen hits a chopper to short and the Indians execute a difficult 6-4-3 double play as Santiago takes Cabrera out at second. The throw is strong and on line though, and Guillen is called out by a step. A missed opportunity by the Tigers to really get back into the game.

Bottom seventh

Rapada breezes through the bottom of the seventh, striking out two. Indians lead 6-4 heading into the eighth.

Top eighth

Perez dominates the Tigers in the eighth, striking out Cabrera, Ordonez (pinch-hitting for Joyce) and Thames swinging.

Bottom eighth

Garko singles off Rapada to center with one out and while lurking on first base, Rapada throws one between Cabrera’s legs and Garko advances. For the life of me I can’t understand why he cared about Garko on first.

Fasano then doubles off the wall in left to put an insurance run on the board in the form of the fleet-footed (sarcastic) Ryan Garko. Indians lead by three, 7-4.

After two more Rapada walks to load the bases, Leyland comes out to bring in reliever Aqualino Lopez. This inning is taking way, way too long.

Gutierrez drives in a run by sacrificing to center and scoring Fasano and the Indians lead by four. Lopez strikes out Peralta to finally end this inning and we go to the ninth.

Top ninth

Cleveland brings in Masu Kobayashi – no, not the hot dog guy – and he shuts the door on the Tigers in the ninth, retiring them in order. Indians win, 9-4.


So after today’s loss, the Tigers split the four-game series with the Indians and don’t make up any ground on the White Sox and Twins, now sitting at six games behind first place with both of those teams facing off against each other tonight. Splitting isn’t going to get the job done. They need to beat the teams they should beat if they want any chance of getting back in the race, especially with the difficulty they’ve been having with Chicago and Minnesota.

After 22 hits last night, the Tigers could only muster six today, as Fausto Carmona shut them down for the most part. The sinker-baller, in his second start off the disabled list, looked like his old self, his velocity was high and he was keeping the ball low, inducing a bunch of ground balls.

Justin Verlander continues to take us on a Todd Jones-esque roller coaster ride. He consistently gets ran in the fifth and sixth inning and he doesn’t have the control to go deep into games. He falls behind hitters way too often and sure, he struck out nine today, which is fine and dandy, but he walked two batters he shouldn’t have and made a big mistake to Grady Sizemore in the form of a three-run homer.

Now the Tigers travel to Tampa Bay to face the upstart and A.L. East-leading Rays. They will be facing the teeth of the Rays pitching staff, facing both lefty Scott Kazmir and right-hander James Shields.