Sunday, October 28, 2007

Offensive balance powers O-G

Ottawa-Glandorf could run with Logan Kaufman.
O-G could pass with Jake Meyer.
That was the difference in O-G's 28-7 victory over Shawnee Friday for the Western Buckeye League championship.
I'd give the O-G offensive line, led by 315-pound A.J. Hohenbrink, the game ball.
The O-line gave Meyer plenty of time to throw. It also paved the way for Kaufman.
Then, there's the O-G defense.
The Titans smothered Brandon Stephenson, holding him to 79 yards on 15 carries. Most of those yards came on a 56-yard touchdown romp.
From my seat in the pressbox Friday, I heard plenty of Shawnee fans complaining and yelling at coach Dick West on what he should have done.
Fans must remember where this program was before West arrived.
And, on this night, pure and simple, the Titans were the better team.
The only down side for the Titans is that wide receiver Luke Bellman injured his collarbone in the game and is probably lost for the playoffs.
But the bottom line is this: The Titans won the WBL and are still playing.
They will open the Division IV playoffs at Fostoria at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plenty of blame to go around

Tribe fans, read this slowly.
Third-base coach Joel Skinner did not cost the Indians the ALCS.
Did he make a mistake in not waving Kenny Lofton home in Game 7?
But go back a few games if you want the reason why the Tribe lost the series.
Ace C.C. Sabathia had a 10.55 ERA in two ALCS starts.
Fausto Cabrera had a 16.50 ERA in the ALCS, including getting blown off the mound in Game 6.
The bullpen, which was the cornerstone to this team, took a few hits, as well. Rafael Perez's ERA was 45.00 in three ALCS appearances. And we all know what happened to team MVP Rafael Betancourt in his Game 7 meltdown.
Then, there's Travis Hafner, who hit .148 with 12 strikeouts in 27 at-bats. Grady Sizemore hit .222 for the series.
And let's give the Red Sox credit. Their pitching was better, especially with Josh Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Forget Skinner.
There are plenty of others who came up short when the series was there for the taking.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

LCC defends NWC title

Lima Central Catholic went to Lafayette and brought back the Northwest Conference football championship Friday. The T-Birds ran over Allen East 28-0.
The LCC offensive line was dominate, especially in the first half when LCC ran out to a 28-0 lead. Chris O'Brien went over 100 yards and Michael Corwin and Todd Ruggley also ran through big holes most of the night.
The T-Birds' defense, led by Scott Kayatin, smothered the Allen East running game and 1,300-yard rusher Blaine Schmitt.
LCC used two quarterbacks. Matt Huffman is the running quarterback, while Lance Helmig came in when the team wanted to throw. Helmig played the second half, with Huffman getting a rest with the team comfortably ahead.
I've never been a big fan of using a two quarterback system. So we'll see how it works out for the T-Birds come playoff time.
One thing is for sure: LCC has the offensive line and the running backs to run over the NWC.
It's done it all year. And it did it Friday night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tribe's pitching the difference

The Indians' bullpen has been dominate.
Indians starters Jake Westbrook in Game 3 and Paul Byrd in Game 4 did their job.
That's been the difference.
And that's why the Indians hold a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox.
Unless Boston can pull itself off the mat with some miracle pitching, the Red Sox are done.
Stick a fork in them.
Indians MVP Rafael Betancourt turned in two more perfect innings of relief Tuesday. That gives him 5.1 shutout innings for the ALCS. Jensen Lewis and Joe Borowski have also done their jobs in the pen.
Meanwhile, Boston's pen with Manny Delcarmen, Eric Gagne, Javier Lopez has been a mess. And Red Sox starters Tim Wakefield, Dice-K and aging Curt Schilling have all taken a beating. Only ace Josh Beckett has pitched well.
The Indians have the superior pitching and a bullpen that has been nasty.
The Red Sox are teetering on saying good night.
And it's because of the Indians' pitching.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reds need much more than Baker

The Reds hired Dusty Baker as their next manager.
Please excuse me while I yawn.
Baker seems to be a pleasant fellow. I saw him sign autographs and chat with fans for close to 45 minutes after another loss at Wrigley Field last year.
But whether Baker can or can't manage isn't the question. He did take the Giants to the World Series. He guided the Cubs to the playoffs before they collapsed and finished 66-96 in 2006.
The Reds need pitching, pitching and more pitching.
Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are the only givens in the rotation.
The bullpen is a complete mess. Youngster Jared Burton showed promise and veteran David Weathers was steady. The remainder of the pen proved to be a nightly adventure.
Baker is probably a good choice. Interim manager Pete Mackanin would have been just as worthy.
The Reds aren't going anywhere without pitching. The staff needs two more starters and at least three more relievers.
Top prospects first baseman-outfielder Joey Votto and outfielder Jay Bruce, The Sporting News' minor league player of the year, won't fill that void.
Either will Baker.

Shawnee's defense shines

It's time to talk about the Shawnee defense.
Most of the year the Shawnee spotlight has been on running back Brandon Stephenson.
And rightly so.
The junior is one of the top backs in the state.
But Shawnee's defense has been like a wall the last few weeks.
The Indians' had two fourth-quarter stands Friday to post a 14-7 victory at St. Marys.
It was Shawnee's first victory at St. Marys since 1966.
Shawnee defensive end Tyler Rhoades provided the game-winning sack in the final seconds on a fourth-and-goal play.
Yes, that's the same Rhoades who had four sacks in a 35-14 victory at Defiance.
The Shawnee linebackers made the big stops when they had to. Sophomore Nick Truesdale had 17 tackles, while fellow sophomore Zac Rosenbauer made 15 tackles. Sheldon Hall had 11 tackles, including one where he probably loosened a few fillings.
Stephenson and the defense have put the Indians in a position where they control their own destiny.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tribe is counting on its pen

Sure, the Indians have starters C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.
But if the Indians are to bump off the highly paid Red Sox, the bullpen will have to continue to produce.
One area the Indians have the advantage is their bullpen.
OK, closer Joe Borowski is as steady as a wino around the holidays, but the rest of the pen is close to unhittable. Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt and Jensen Lewis form the best bullpen trio among the final four teams. It will be up to them to subdue the Red Sox big bats of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell.
The Indians also need a good series from the unsung guys like Victor Martinez, Casey Blake and Ryan Garko.
I'm not making a prediction, but the Red Sox are favored.
But that means nothing this time of year.
You can ask last year's 83-win Cardinals all about that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

You need a great bullpen

Pitching, pitching and more pitching.
The Indians had it in their Division Series victory over the Yankees.
The Yankees' arms were either old and worn out or young and burned out.
The Indians' starters' were far superior to the Yankees, even No. 4 starter Paul Byrd, who handcuffed the Yankees in Game 4. Before that, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona did their job. They got the ballgame to the bullpen.
The real difference was the pen. The Indians' pen allowed only two earned runs in the series. Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis and even shaky Joe Borowski did their jobs baffling a solid Yankees' lineup.
On the other side, the Indians hammered Chien-Ming Wang TWICE. The Tribe was beating on Roger Clemens before he was suddenly hurting and needed to be removed from the game. Only Andy Pettitte was effective among the Yankee starters.
The Indians also got plenty of key two-out RBI hits.
Timely hitting and plenty of pitching, including a strong bullpen.
It worked in the Division Series.
The Indians will need more of the same against Boston, which has its rotation set with Josh Beckett, Dice-K Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'd take my chances with Marmol

Cubs set-up man Carlos Marmol had done the job all year.
So why bash Cubs manager Lou Piniella for bringing him in to start the seventh inning of Game 1 against the Diamondbacks?
Sure, Marmol didn't do the job, giving up two runs, including a home run to Mark Reynolds in a 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the Division Series Wednesday.
Could starter Carlos Zambrano gone another inning?
He had only thrown 85 pitches in giving up one run on four hits through six innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
But Marmol had dominated all year. In 59 games, he had a 1.43 earned-run average. He had 96 strikeouts in 69 innings.
So, second guess Piniella all you want for holding Zambrano back since he's scheduled to start Game 4. But this game was on the bullpen's shoulders.
And on this night, the Cubs' bullpen collapsed.