Saturday, April 30, 2011

Live blog: Michigan State football spring game


Green wins, 24-10

Since the game wasn't on TV, special writer Anthony Fenech covered the action from Spartan Stadium for today's spring game. See the transcript below. The Green team won, 24-10.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns and 285 yards in leading the Green team offense.

Green wins, 24-10

Since the game wasn't on TV, special writer Anthony Fenech covered the action from Spartan Stadium for today's spring game. See the transcript below. The Green team won, 24-10.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns and 285 yards in leading the Green team offense.

No score yet with about seven minutes left in the first quarter. It's Green vs. White today in a game format.

No score at the end of first quarter.

Green gets on the scoreboard in second quarter: Cousins to a wide-open Dion Sims after a quick play-fake for a 7-0 lead.

Kevin Muma hits the field goal for 28 yards out to end the first half. Score: Green 7, White 3.

Cousins throws to Caper for a five-yard touchdown on third down. Extra point good. Green takes 14-3 lead in the third quarter.

In fourth quarter, White team closes the gap. Maxwell throws 38-yard TD pass to Keshawn Martin. Green 14, White 10.

Dan Conroy with a 44-yard FG to give Green a 17-10 lead with 6:18 left in spring game.

Kirk Cousins hits Dion Sims for a 42-yd TD pass to give Green a 24-10 lead with 4:24 left.

Final score: 24-10.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Live blog: Second and third rounds of NFL Draft


Follow along as special writer Anthony Fenech live-blogs during the second and third rounds of the NFL draft this evening in New York.

Now, Anthony's isn't in New York, but is watching and reading the latest happenings. Comment on each pick, especially when the Lions select 12th in the second round (No. 44) and 11th in the third round (No. 75). We'll kick things off at 6 p.m.

The first pick on Day 2 is Virginia's Ras-I Dowling. He's pick No. 33 for New England.

The Lions pick at 44.

Another cornerback taken at No. 44. Bills take Aaron Williams from Texas.

With the No. 44 pick, the Lions chose Titus Young, a wide receiver from Boise State.

Detroit traded with Seattle for the 57th pick and took Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure.

Michigan LB Jonas Mouton was taken by the Chargers with the 61st pick.

PODCAST: Project 989 -- Signing off

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Live blog: First round of NFL Draft welcomes new crop of talent


Not many saw this one coming. The Lions add to their defensive line with Auburn's Nick Fairley in the first round of the NFL draft.

Follow along as special writer Anthony Fenech live-blogs during the first round of the NFL draft tonight in New York.

Now, Anthony's isn't in New York, but is watching and reading the latest happenings. Comment on each pick, especially when the Lions select at 13. We'll kick things off at 8 p.m.

Not many saw this one coming. The Lions add to their defensive line with Auburn's Nick Fairley in the first round of the NFL draft.

Follow along as special writer Anthony Fenech live-blogs during the first round of the NFL draft tonight in New York.

Now, Anthony's isn't in New York, but is watching and reading the latest happenings. Comment on each pick, especially when the Lions select at 13. We'll kick things off at 8 p.m.

8:05: No. 1 pick: Panthers select Auburn QB Cam Newton

8:14: No. 2 pick: Broncos select Texas A&M LB Von Miller

8:20: No. 3 pick: Bills select Alabama DL Marcell Dareus

8:23: No. 4 pick: Bengals select Georgia WR A.J. Green

8:30: No. 5 pick: Cardinals select LSU CB Patrick Peterson

8:35: No. 6 pick: Falcons select Alabama WR Julio Jones

8:41: No. 7 pick: 49ers select Missouri DE Aldon Smith

8:44: No. 8 pick: Titans select Washington QB Jake Locker

8:53: No. 9 pick: Cowboys select USC OL Tyron Smith

9:02: No. 10 pick: Jaguars select Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert

9:08: No. 11 pick: Texans select Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt

9:16: No. 12 pick: Vikings select Florida State QB Christian Ponder

9:20: No. 13 pick: Lions select Auburn DL Nick Fairley

9:30: No. 14 pick: Rams select North Carolina DE Robert Quinn

9:35: No. 15 pick: Dolphins select Florida OL Mike Pouncey

9:42: No. 16 pick: Redskins select Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

9:49: No. 17 pick: Patriots select Colorado OT Nate Solder

9:53: No. 18 pick: Chargers select Illinois DT Corey Liuget

10:01: No. 19 pick: Giants select Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

10:11: No. 20 pick: Buccaneers select Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

10:20: No. 21 pick: Browns select Baylor DT Phil Taylor

10:26: No. 22 pick: Colts select Boston College OL Anthony Castonzo

10:34: No. 23 pick: Eagles select Baylor OG Danny Watkins

10:41: No. 24 pick: Saints select California DE Cameron Jordan

10:51: No. 25 pick: Seahawks select Alabama OG James Carpenter

11:04: No. 26 pick: Chiefs select Pittsburgh WR Jonathan Baldwin

11:10: No. 27 pick: Ravens select Colorado CB Jimmy Smith

11:14: No. 28 pick: Saints select Alabama RB Mark Ingram

11:20: No. 29 pick: Bears select Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

11:25: No. 30 pick: Jets select Temple DT Muhammad Wikerson

11:28: No. 31 pick: Steelers select Ohio State DE Cam Heyward

11:37: No. 32 pick: Packers select Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

PODCAST: Project 989 -- NFL draft preview

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kent State 9, CMU 3: Sloppy defense, pitching allow Golden Flashes to even series

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 16, 2011

The Chippewas are familiar with Kyle Hallock.

And on Friday, head coach Steve Jaksa even took it a step further.

“We’re very friendly with him,” he said. “He knows us well.”

Last season, as a junior, the Kent State starting pitcher beat Central Michigan in the regular season. He beat them in the postseason. And now, he’s beaten them in back-to-back seasons.

Hallock threw seven innings of three-run baseball on Saturday as the Golden Flashes won the middle game of a three-game set at Theunissen Stadium, 9-3.

“We knew that if we won today, we would win the series,” Jaksa said. “And we knew that they would battle like hell today because they didn’t want to lose the series.”

Four errors and nine walks allowed sunk the Chippewas and Kent State took advantage of those opportunities, plating eight of its nine runs with two outs.

“Anytime you give somebody that many opportunities,” Jaksa said, “there’s going to be a significant difference in how the game is played.”

Junior right-hander Zach Cooper struggled with his command throughout the afternoon, allowing six runs on six hits while walking five through four innings.

Four of Cooper’s runs allowed were unearned.

“It was a tough day today,” Cooper said. “I didn’t have my best stuff and just tried to fight through it.”

After allowing a single to Kent State left-fielder Joe Koch to start the game followed by back-to-back walks, Cooper almost fought his way through the first inning unscathed, striking the next two batters out before being called for a balk, scoring Koch.

He struck out the following batter to end the inning.

“I didn’t pause,” he said of the balk. “There was definitely a point there where I was upset because obviously I could have gotten through that inning without giving up a run.”

The Chippewas tied the game with two runs in the third inning, but Kent State responded with four of its own in the fourth inning.

“We gave them momentum we didn’t need to give them,” Jaksa said.

Golden Flashes shortstop Jimmy Rider had a two-run double in the fourth and finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs on the day.

CMU (17-18, 6-5 MAC) scored a run in the sixth before Kent State (23-11, 9-2 MAC) answered with a pair in the seventh and a run in the ninth to put the game out of reach.

Senior first baseman Brendan Emmett had three hits.

“We put ourselves in position,” Jaksa said. “But we couldn’t come all the way back today.”

The series wraps up Sunday afternoon as senior right-hander Jake Sabol (3-2, 3.32 ERA) puts his shutout streak on the line against Golden Flashes left-handed junior David Starn (5-1, 1.68).

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

CMU 2, Kent State 1: Walk-off single gives Chippewas win in series opener

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 16, 2011

Steve Jaksa said he told him to hit a home run.

“I thought that would be easy,” Jaksa joked.

Jordan Dean said Jaksa told him to take the first pitch.

“Skip wanted me to see one,” Dean said.

And with Friday’s series opener against Mid-American Conference West Division-leading Kent State tied at one in the bottom of the ninth, the sophomore second baseman took two pitches, both sliders, before dropping a two-out fastball into center field and scoring Tyler Hall from third base as Central Michigan walked-off with a 2-1 victory at Theunissen Stadium.

“The coaches told me they were going to start me off with a slider,” Dean said. “I was just looking for anything in the zone, he left a fastball over the plate, I stuck my bat out and got one into center field.”

Dean’s single capped the Chippewas late-inning comeback after Kent State starting pitcher Andrew Chafin stymied the offense for much of the blustery afternoon.

Trailing by a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, junior outfielder Sam Russell tripled to the wall in right field before Jaksa called on senior infielder Tom Howard to pinch-hit.

“We told him to make sure he was ready,” Jaksa said.

And Howard was ready, laying off a first-pitch slider in the dirt before lining a fastball to left-center, just out of the reach of diving Golden Flashes left-fielder Joe Koch to plate Russell.

“I was sitting fastball,” Howard said. “Got one middle-in and put a good swing on it.”

“He’s been a spark off the bench all season,” Dean said. “He had like 20 guys giving him advice on the way to the plate, but knowing Tommy, he just stayed calm and hit the ball. It was huge.”

Starting pitchers Chafin and Trent Howard set the tone for a pitcher’s duel early, with both left-handers blanking their opponent through the first six innings.

Howard exploded out of the gate, striking out the first nine batters he faced, and finished with 11 strikeouts in seven innings. Chafin, an expected high pick in June’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, struck out 13 in eight innings. Both pitchers allowed a run on four hits.

“You couldn’t ask for more from Trent’s performance,” Jaksa said. “If he gives us that every Friday, we’re in every game.”

Kent State opened the scoring in the seventh, after third baseman Travis Shaw doubled and designated hitter Jason Bagoly singled him home.

CMU responded with a run in the eighth and, after reliever Dietrich Enns stranded a runner on third in the ninth, another run in the final frame to win.

“Across the board, it was a heck of a game played at home,” Jaksa said. “We knew we needed it.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PODCAST: Project 989 -- Wings, Tigers and Chippewas, oh my!

Just in time: After two years playing junior college baseball, 3B Tyler Hall excels at CMU

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 14, 2011

He could have been doing this two years ago; playing everyday, hitting everyday, fielding and throwing, annoying his opponents as one of the shortest guys on the field, but performing the tallest.

“Absolutely I could have,” he said.

And he should have been doing this two years ago; playing everyday at the Division I level, hitting, stealing and diving, one of the smallest guys on the field but always thriving.

“He’s usually been the best at every level,” his dad said.

And he probably would have been doing this two years ago; playing everyday for Central Michigan, hitting everyday for average and for power, but one of the smartest guys on the field hasn’t always been the smartest with school.

“We were tracking him for a long time,” his coach said.

“I’m hanging in with school a little better,” he said.

These days, Tyler Hall is doing it. He’s playing everyday at third base, the only Chippewas player to start every game this year. He’s hitting everyday, leading the team in batting average. He’s fielding at a new position. He’s an offensive catalyst in a familiar position.

And right now, in the first season in Mount Pleasant, the junior infielder is smiling.

“Things are going good for me right now,” Hall said. “I think it’s just about timing.”

And the time is right for Hall, who has roughly eased his way into a role as the Chippewas’ starting third baseman, filling a hole left by James Teas.

Roughly, because the adjustment from shortstop – where he played his entire career previously – to the hot corner has been a work in progress, highlighted by bumps, bruises, a team-high 19 errors and a bad hop off the shoulder blade earlier this season in Las Vegas.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “It’s a big adjustment and I’ve been putting in a lot of hours on the field to get adjusted to it.”

Easily, because Hall has picked up right where he left off at the plate, following up back-to-back seasons of hitting over .400 at Grand Rapids Community College by leading the Chippewas in batting average (.344), slugging percentage (.480), on-base percentage (.461) and stolen bases (11).

Through 33 games, Hall is leading the Mid-American Conference in batting average for players with at least 120 at-bats.
“Hitting is the strong point of my game,” he said. “For me, personally, I thought I was going to hit a little better than I am now.”

Kyle Hall knew the time was right when his son was a sophomore.

“We could tell that he was the kid that was going to make it to the next level,” the former Rockford and current Sparta High School varsity baseball coach said.

So father called son up to varsity, where he served as the rock of Rockford’s team at shortstop, and a few years later stood behind the batting cage for one of Hall’s first practices at GRCC, when amidst the noise of baseballs ping-ponging over the fence, he heard the guy next to him say, “Wow, that kid’s pretty good.”

The guy was former major league player and Grand Rapids native John Vander Wal.

“That told me he was, in fact, pretty good,” the elder Hall said.

And during his time at GRCC, Hall was more than pretty good. His first year, he hit .481. His second year, he hit .482, becoming only the fourth player in history to earn first-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American honors in two consecutive years and earned a trip to the Netherlands as part of the NJCAA USA Baseball All-Stars.

“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” he said of competing against teams throughout Europe for a month last summer.

And it was an experience he would have missed had the 5-foot-10, 170-pound infielder kept his grades up in high school, which delayed his introduction to the MAC by a couple of years.

“School wasn’t really my thing in high school,” Hall said. “In high school you don’t think grades really have an affect on your life.”

But they did and even a good senior season academically couldn’t pass the cut to a four-year school, so he stayed at home while Chippewas head coach Steve Jaksa stayed in pursuit.

“He kept in contact with me and my parents,” said Hall, whose two older sisters also attended CMU. “I love the campus but coaching had a lot to do with it.”

And during the fall of his first year at GRCC, he committed.

“We knew that in high school, he was going the junior college route,” Jaksa said. “And we knew that he could hit. Fortunately enough, he wanted to come here so it was a good match.”

Hall may or may not be the smallest guy on the Chippewas roster – he thinks freshman infielder Pat MacKenzie has him by an inch – but on the field, he could be the team’s biggest force.

“I’m hard to play against,” he said. “People hate to play against me because I do the little things.”

He’s excelled at the high school level, in junior college, overseas and now at the Division I level.

“I think I lucked into a good situation here,” he said. “It was definitely good timing.”

He’s a junior that’s still improving, still learning a new position and new pitchers, trying to get his Division I batting average closer to that of his junior college seasons of yesteryear.

“What’s the biggest difference?” he wondered aloud, between the two levels.

“Probably the timing.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sabol goes the distance again as CMU baseball completes sweep of Akron

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 10, 2011

Early last week, after a Sunday shutout of Ohio, Central Michigan head coach Steve Jaksa joked about getting eight (or nine) more shutouts from starting pitcher Jake Sabol.

A week later and the senior right-hander is only six (or seven) away.

On Sunday, Sabol and the Chippewas put an exclamation point on a weekend sweep of Akron with a 10-0 drubbing at Lee R. Jackson Baseball Field in Akron, Ohio.

“I’m really happy for Jake right now,” Jaksa said. “He’s throwing the ball well.”

Sabol stymied the Zips to the tune of four hits and four strikeouts on an economical 86 pitches to earn his second straight complete game shutout victory. The win was the fifth consecutive for CMU (16-17, 5-4 Mid-American Conference).

“From the outside looking in,” Jaksa said, “We got three wins. I thought we played well, but I thought we played well the first (conference) weekend when we lost three games.”

Sabol faced his only real adversity of the series finale in the first inning when, with a runner on third and one out and Akron’s best hitter — center fielder Drew Turocy — at the plate, he retired Turocy swinging and induced a fly out from Akron cleanup hitter Kurt Gamby.

“It was huge,” Jaksa said of the strikeout.

“It was definitely big,” Sabol said. “I think that set the tone.”

And in the second inning, the Chippewas offense set another tone with a big inning, plating six runs on three hits.

Tyler Hall’s two-run double was the first of four hits on the day for the junior infielder and gave Sabol more than enough breathing room the rest of the way.

“We’ve been swinging the bats really well,” Sabol said. “It’s definitely easier to pitch with a big lead.”

Sabol’s consecutive scoreless innings streak now stands at 18 innings, while Akron’s conference losing streak now stands at nine games.

After the strikeout of Turocy, Sabol never allowed another Akron runner to reach third base.

“They were pretty aggressive, swinging at a lot of first pitches,” he said. “I just tried to stay effective with my sinker, throwing first-pitch strikes and getting them out of the box quick. Just like last weekend.”

Hall had two doubles, three RBI, scored two runs and added a walk to his perfect 4-for-4 day. He leads the team with a .344 average and “Put some really nice swings on the ball,” according to Jaksa.

Saturday doubleheader

On Saturday, the Chippewas swept a doubleheader forced by Friday night rain in a pair of one-run victories.

In the opener, CMU took advantage of four Akron errors and junior left-hander Trent Howard picked up his third win of the season, allowing an unearned run on four hits in seven innings.

In the nightcap, sophomore reliever Dietrich Enns picked up his second save of the day, striking out back-to-back Akron batters looking to preserve an 8-7 victory.

CMU responded to three Zips runs in the first with six of its own in the second.

Senior infielder Brendan Emmett had four hits.

“We have some lineups we’re comfortable with,” Jaksa said. “The guys are in a good place but we need to keep marching forward.”

Junior Zach Cooper was the winning pitcher and all three Chippewas starting pitchers earned victories on the weekend.

“Right now, we’re comfortable with our top three guys in the rotation,” Jaksa said.

The team returns to action on Friday with a weekend series against Kent State at Theunissen Stadium.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Live blog: Tigers cruise to win on Opening Day at Comerica Park


Free Press special writer Anthony Fenech is live-blogging today’s Opening Day contest between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Feel free to discuss the game with Anthony in the chat below. For those of you on our mobile site, we will post periodic game updates below the chat.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

PODCAST: Project 989 -- A podcast success story

CMU's Jake Sabol earns share of MAC West Pitcher of the Week honors

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 05, 2011

Jake Sabol has done it once.

“Now if he could only do it eight or nine more times,” joked Central Michigan head coach Steve Jaksa.

On Sunday, the senior right-hander threw a six-hit shutout, striking out four and walking one in the Chippewas 9-0 defeat of Ohio.

On Tuesday, he was named Mid-American Conference West Pitcher of the Week.

“It always feels good to be recognized individually,” Sabol said. “It was one of my goals at the beginning of the year to get one of those awards.”

The shutout and weekly award were both firsts in Sabol’s collegiate career.

“He really deserved it,” Jaksa said. “He pitched one heck of a game.”

Sabol allowed only one Bobcats runner to reach scoring position in the first six innings, completed the second game and won the third MAC game of his collegiate career. He is 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA in 34-plus innings this year, recording 21 strikeouts to six walks.

Sabol throws five pitches: two fastballs, a sinker, changeup and slider, with his fastball sitting around 90 miles per hour.

He models his pitching off Roy Halliday of the Philadelphia Phillies and Derek Lowe, a Michigan native and opening day starting pitcher of the Atlanta Braves.

“I like to throw a lot of sinkers,” he said. “To get contact and keep the guys behind me inside the game.”

In his career, Sabol has a 6.28 ERA in 37 appearances, pitching 91-plus innings.

He shared the weekly award with Cal Bowling of Ball State.

“Anytime you throw a shutout in our conference, it’s going to get noticed,” Jaksa said.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Offensive explosion lifts CMU baseball to series win against Ohio

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 03, 2011

In the week’s time since Central Michigan starting pitcher Jake Sabol was chased in the third inning of last Saturday’s start against Miami, the senior right-hander decided to go back to the drawing board.

“I watched a lot of film trying to rebound from my last outing,” he said. “I wasn’t really getting on top of the ball or throwing a good two-seam fastball and I was trying to blow people away.”

And the tale of the tape was evident on Sunday, in the rubber game of a weekend series against Ohio, as Sabol pitched the Chippewas to a series victory in a 9-0 blanking of the Bobcats at Bob Wren Stadium in Athens, Ohio.

CMU jumped on top of Ohio early, scoring runs in each of its first six innings, while Sabol threw an effective two-seam fastball — limiting the Bobcats to only six hits — and didn’t try to overpower the Ohio lineup, striking out four with a walk.

“I thought the work really paid off,” he said. “I stayed focus, threw a lot of two-seam fastballs and made them put the ball in play a lot.”

The complete game shutout was the first of his collegiate career.

“I’m proud of him,” said Chippewas head coach Steve Jaksa. “He executed the game plan we set up for him and did a great job.”

Offensively, CMU (12-17, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) scored in every inning except the seventh, recorded 16 hits and hit two solo home runs.

After the Chippewas scored a run each in the first two innings, senior outfielder Matt Faiman homered to right field in the fourth, his second of the season, and junior outfielder Scott Phillion homered to left field in the fifth.

The five-run cushion halfway home was more than enough for Sabol, who needed 104 pitches to complete his first game since Feb. 28 of last year.

“It was just a real good baseball game for us today,” Jaksa said.

Sophomore second baseman Jordan Dean had four hits and two stolen bases, and junior outfielder Sam Russell continued his hot hitting, smacking two doubles.

In the series, Russell hit .500 (6-for-12) with five doubles.

“We’re pretty happy with where he’s at,” Jaksa said of Russell, who has emerged as the Chippewas utmost power threat, leading the team in home runs (3), RBI (21) and slugging percentage (.483).

Rest of the series

CMU dropped Saturday’s sandwich game, 6-5, committing four errors behind starting pitcher Zach Cooper.

“The guys didn’t play great defensively,” Jaksa said. “And they’ll tell you as much.”

Cooper struck out six in five-plus innings and Faiman had two hits.

In Friday’s opener, Tom Howard broke an eighth-inning tie with a three-run, pinch-hit home run, propelling the Chippewas to a 9-3 victory.

The senior infielder laid off a first-pitch breaking ball in the dirt before lacing a letter-high fastball over the center field fence for his second home run of the year.

“It was a huge at-bat in a big situation,” Jaksa said. “He was looking for one pitch, got it and kept it going with a big hit.”

Junior left-hander Trent Howard pitched seven innings for the win.

Faiman recorded a pair of hits in each game of the series victory, going 6-for-15 with four runs scored and five driven in.

The Chippewas have won three out of four game and host Michigan on Wednesday at Theunissen Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

“Everybody’s getting in a good place,” Sabol said. “We’re playing well and have to continue to play well so we get back in the hunt.”