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Boys Baseball: Metea Knocks Off WWS, Advances To First Regional Final

After Metea Valley struggled in three straight losses last week, Mustangs coach Craig Tomczak had every right to be concerned about his team’s bats going into Thursday’s regional semifinal against Wheaton Warrenville South.

But the Mustangs pushed any doubt aside, pounding out 16 hits and 12 runs in their 12-5 victory over the Tigers.

Metea Valley, the No. 10 seed in the Romeoville sectional, advances to play second-seeded Hinsdale South at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Waubonsie Valley regional final.

“We didn’t swing the bats real well last week and I was a little nervous going in to the game today,” Tomczak said. “Our approach today was great. It took us a couple innings to get going, but everyone always says that hitting is contagious, and that one inning we put a bunch of hits together.”

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Ryan O’Neil. Wheaton South was in position to add more – they had the bases loaded with just one out – but Metea pitcher Tom Bolle induced a double play to end the inning.

The Mustangs’ bats broke out in the third inning, scoring five runs on six hits. Kenny Obendorf, Michael Mooney, Billy Sheeren, Austin Kinnavy and Ben Doiron all chipped in RBI singles during the inning as the Mustangs took a 5-1 advantage.

Metea (17-18) added two more runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Kinnavy and Obendorf.

In the seventh inning, the Mustangs had their second five-run frame. Andrew Fox started the scoring with an RBI single that brought home Kinnavy. Then with two outs and two strikes, Mooney launched a grand slam to left field that put Metea up 12-1. It was the junior first baseman’s first grand slam at any level.

“It was really exciting,” Mooney said. “I was trying to get the bat on the ball, it worked out.”

Obendorf went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored while Kinnavy went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Of the Mustangs 16 hits, 15 were singles. Mooney’s grand slam was Metea’s first and only extra base hit.

“We have the type of team that if we get a lead, I think we’re better offensively. Then we can bunt a little bit, we can hit and run, we can steal bases from time to time,” Tomczak said. “We have a lot of base hit guys, and when you’re trailing, it’s hard to do the things we like to do offensively.”

The Tigers got RBI base hits from Kevin Giltz and O’Neil as they scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Metea pitcher Adam Cielinski relieved Bolle with two outs in the inning and retired the only batter he faced to clinch the Mustangs’ 12-5 victory.

The Mustangs will make their first ever appearance in a regional final game on Saturday. Tomczak said the Mustangs want to go even farther.

“These kids have worked hard for it for three years. But our job is not done, we’re not satisfied by any means,” Tomczak said. “But we know the job Saturday is going to be really, really tough. They’ve got a real good team.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Girls Soccer: Naperville North Knocks Off Wheaton South For Regional Title

Naperville North warms up before Friday’s regional final in Bolingbrook.

There are no easy games for teams placed in the murderers’ row that is the Naperville North 3A girls soccer sectional.

On Friday, Naperville North claimed the Bolingbrook regional title after it held off a second half rally from Wheaton Warrenville South.

Abby Mangefrida, Zoe Swift and Abbie Boswell each scored for the Huskies in their 3-1 victory.

“You know that you’re going to have a dogfight every game from here on out,” North coach Steve Goletz said. “That’s what makes it fun for us, you know you’re getting a great game every time. They’re going to be exciting games, and that’s all you can ask for.”

The Huskies will face Neuqua Valley next Wednesday at home in a sectional semifinal.

North broke through for two goals in a span of two minutes midway through the first half in Friday’s game.

The Huskies took a 1-0 lead 21 minutes into the game when Mangefrida’s shot from 20 yards out deflected off a Tiger defender and past goalie Abbey Fuster.

Two minutes later, a perfect feed from junior midfielder Jill Van Kampen set up a goal by Swift that put the Huskies up 2-0.

“It was perfect, Jill gave me a great ball through, and I just ran to to it,” Swift said. “She did most of the work, I just finished it.”

Wheaton South’s Alexis Jakuszewski cut the Tigers deficit in half 17 minutes after halftime. The freshman defender’s lob floated over the outstretched arms of Huskies goalie Allison Hitchcock and into the back of the net, making the score 2-1.

The Tigers had a couple chances to tie the game, but couldn’t break through. The Huskies started to breath easier with a minute left in the game after Boswell scored off a pass from junior midfielder Cora Climo to put North up 3-1.

North had a bit of a scare late in the second half when Swift went down after a collision with two Tiger defenders. Swift left the game after laying on the field for a couple minutes during an injury timeout.

However, the Huskies’ star forward returned to action seven minutes later, and after the game, Swift said she suffered a nasty scratch to her shin.

“I’m OK, it’ll be fine,” Swift said.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Win or Lose Tonight, LSU Still Deserves A National Championship

The Honey Badger gets all the attention, but Morris Claiborne has been LSU’s best defender this season.

A lot will be at stake tonight when LSU and Alabama face off in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. Legacy, pride, the aforementioned BCS Championship, the No. 1 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, and of course, all the Allstate Insurance.

One thing that should not be decided tonight is the AP National Championship. Win or lose, the Bayou Bengals deserve a share of the national championship.

Why? Because the Tigers would still own the best resume in college football.

LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa back on Nov. 5th in “The Game of the Century.” To me, that victory is more impressive than a hypothetical Alabama victory in the BCS Championship Game. Not only did LSU manage to win on the road, they did so in the middle of the regular season, not after a 36 day layoff.

And as so many proponents of the silly BCS system like to preach, the college football regular season is sacred. So shouldn’t a regular season victory hold more weight than a bowl victory?

But LSU’s season was a whole lot more than that one game, even if it was “the game of the century.” As of right now, Les Miles’ team has earned victories over the champions of two BCS bowls (Oregon, Rose and West Virgina, Orange). And if Alabama wins the BCS Championship Game, it means LSU would have beaten three of the five 2012 BCS bowl winners. LSU also beat Arkansas, the champion of the Cotton Bowl, which this year was of higher quality (No. 6 Arkansas vs No. 8 Kansas State) than the Sugar Bowl (No. 11 Virginia Tech vs No. 13 Michigan).

LSU managed to beat eight bowl teams during the regular season, and six of those teams went on to win their bowl games (Alabama is still TBD, of course). The Tigers’ success wasn’t the product of home cooking. They beat Big East Champion West Virginia and National Semifinalist Alabama on the road, and PAC-12 Champion Oregon at a neutral site (albeit, Dallas is much closer to Louisiana than it is Oregon).

While a victory over LSU would obviously boost their resume, Alabama’s credentials would still be lacking in comparison to LSU. Nick Saban’s squad’s best regular season win was a 38-14 home victory against Arkansas (LSU beat the Razorbacks at home 42-17). The Crimson Tide’s best non-conference win a 27-11 road victory against Penn State, a team with an embarrassing offense. I’m honestly surprised the Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden and the Nittany Lions managed 11 points against the outstanding Alabama defense.

There has been some debate over whether Oklahoma State could earn a split of the National Championship should LSU trip up tonight. While Oklahoma State had a great season, I have no idea how the Cowboys could earn a split title over LSU. Oklahoma State has some impressive victories (Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor), but they lost on the road to unranked Iowa State. LSU’s one loss would be to No. 2 Alabama, a team they also beat.

A No. 1 AP vote for the Cowboys would be illogical, but as we all know by now, there’s not much logic in college football, so who knows what will happen.

With a win tonight, LSU will wrap up one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football, and we’ll all be spared another silly debate bred by the illogical BCS system.

But even if LSU can’t get their hands on all the Allstate Insurance tonight, the Bayou Bengals should still be recognized for their outstanding achievements in the regular season.

EPILOGUE:

I. Was. Wrong.

Alabama totally dominated LSU tonight. A 21-0 loss looks bad, but in all honesty, it was worse than that. LSU was never close to scoring. The offensive play calling was pathetic. Those screen passes were not going to work tonight. Neither was the speed option. LSU didn’t get the memo, they kept running them into the fourth quarter.

Alabama’s defense put on one hell of performance, and the Crimson Tide offense and special teams should be commended for not allowing LSU to score. The only way the Tigers were going to reach the end zone tonight was through a turnover or punt/kick return.

I just did not expect LSU to get dominated like they did tonight. I figured if they lost it’d be by a touchdown or less. But, as the game turned out, there is really no way LSU can say they deserve a share of the National Championship. The Tigers had the opportunity to prove to everybody that they were the best team in the country and they couldn’t deliver.

Congratulations to Alabama for being CONSENSUS National Champions. You guys earned it.

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Fun With MLB Awards and Playoff Predictions

AL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Ellsbury had a tremendous season all around. He got on base at a .376 clip, hit over 30 homers, stole almost 40 bases and played great defense in center. I gave Ellsbury the slight nod over Jose Bautista (MLB’s best hitter in 2011) because of Ellsbury’s superior defense at a premium position. Ellsbury’s speed, he stole 39 bases, also helped put him over the top.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

.321 AVG, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, 32 HR, 39, SB, 9.6 WAR

2. Jose Bautista, TOR

.302 AVG, .447 OBP, .608 SLG, 1.056 OPS, 43 HR, 8.4 WAR

3. Justin Verlander, DET

24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 170 ERA+, 8.6 WAR

4. Miguel Cabrera, DET

.344 AVG, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 7.3 WAR

5. Curtis Granderson, NYY

.262 AVG, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 25 SB, 6.9 WAR

6. Dustin Pedroia, BOS

.307 AVG, .387 OBP, .474 SLG, 21 HR, 26 SB, 8.0 WAR

7. Ian Kinsler, TEX

.255 AVG, .355 OBP, .477 SLG, 32 HR, 30 SB, 7.8 WAR

8. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

.338 AVG, .410 OBP, .548 SLG, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 6.4 WAR

9. Robinson Cano, NYY

.302 AVG, .349 OBP, .533 SLG, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 5.6 WAR

10. CC Sabathia, NYY

19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 147 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

AL CY YOUNG

Verlander has been flat out dominant this season, and gets my vote for Cy Young. However, the resumes of Verlander and Sabathia are closer than it is made out to be, as Verlander is seen as the far and away favorite.

1. Justin Verlander, DET

24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 170 ERA+, 8.6 WAR

2. CC Sabathia, NYY

19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 147 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

3. Jered Weaver, LAA

18-8, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 158 ERA+, 6.6 WAR

4. C.J. Wilson, TEX

16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 152 ERA+, 5.0 WAR

5. Dan Haren, LAA

16-10, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 5.81 K/BB, 120 ERA+, 4.0 WAR

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Hellickson is clearly the AL’s rookie of the year for his solid performance this entire season. However, is he even the most talented rookie pitcher on the Rays? Phenom Matt Moore, who only made one start for the Rays this season, will be the Game 1 starter for Tampa tomorrow.

1. Jeremy Hellickson, TB

13-10, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 126 ERA+, 4.2 WAR

2. Eric Hosmer, KC

.293 AVG, .334 OBP, .465 SLG, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 1.6 WAR

3. Dustin Ackley, SEA

.273 AVG, .348 OBP, .417 SLG, .340 wOBA, 2.7 WAR

4. Mark Trumbo, LAA

.254 AVG, .291 OBP, .477 SLG, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 2.3 WAR

5. Ivan Nova, NYY

16-4, 3.70 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 5.3 K/9, 119 ERA+, 3.6 ERA

This is a really close call. Kemp and Braun both had great seasons, and no matter who wins the winner will be deserving. However, I went with Kemp because his offensive are slightly better than Braun’s, and he plays a more premium position than Braun, and plays it a bit better.

NL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

1. Matt Kemp, LAD

.324 AVG, .399 OBP, .586 SLG, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, 8.7 WAR

2. Ryan Braun, MIL

.332 AVG, .397 OBP, .531 SLG, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, 7.8 WAR

3. Justin Upton, ARZ

.289 AVG, .369 OBP, .529 SLG, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, 6.5 WAR

4. Joey Votto, CIN

.309 AVG, .416 OBP, .531 SLG, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 6.8 WAR

5. Prince Fielder, MIL

.299 AVG, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 5.6 WAR

6. Troy Tulowitzki, COL

.302 AVG, .372 OBP, .544 SLG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 6.2 WAR

7. Shane Victorino, PHI

.279 AVG, .355 OBP, .491 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 5.8 WAR

8. Albert Pujols, STL

.299 AVG, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 5.2 WAR

9. Lance Berkman, STL

.301 AVG, .412 OBP, .547 SLG, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 5.0 WAR

10. Jose Reyes, NYM

.337 AVG, .384 OBP, .493 SLG, 39 SB, .386 wOBA, 6.3 WAR

Again, another close call. I’m going with Kershaw because his numbers are just a bit better than Halladay, who had another tremendous season. Lee also had a Cy-worthy season for the Phils. Man, is that rotation going to be a beast in the playoffs.

NL CY YOUNG

1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD

21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 163 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

2. Roy Halladay, PHI

19-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 164 ERA+, 7.4 WAR

3. Cliff Lee, PHI

17-8, 2.40 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 5.67 K/BB, 161 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

4. Ian Kennedy, ARZ

21-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 137 ERA+, 5.5 WAR

5. Matt Cain, SF

12-11, 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 123 ERA+, 3.9 WAR

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Kimbrel stumbled down the stretch, perhaps due to overuse by manager Fredi Gonzalez. It’s no wonder Gonzalez wanted Kimbrel on the mound as much as possible because Kimbrel was flat out un-hittable before September.

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL

46 Saves, 2.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 14.8 K/9, 181 ERA+, 3.0 WAR

2. Vance Worley, PHI

11-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 129 ERA+, 2.8 WAR

3. Freddie Freeman, ATL

.282 AVG, .346 OBP, .448 SLG, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 1.1 WAR

4. Danny Espinosa, WSH

.236 AVG, .323 OBP, .414 SLG, 21 HR, 17 SB, 3.5 WAR

5. Wilson Ramos, WSH

.267 AVG, .334 OBP, .445 SLG, 15 HR, .332 wOBA, 3.1 WAR

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

DIVISION SERIES

Brewers over D-Backs in 4

Phillies over Cardinals in 3

Yankees over Tigers in 4

Rangers over Rays in 4

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Brewers over Phillies in 7

Rangers over Yankees in 6

WORLD SERIES

Brewers over Rangers in 6

MVP: Corey Hart

My predictions are usually wrong, and this is one case where I really, really hope I’m wrong. Anybody but the Brewers, please…

Everything is going Wisconsin’s way (sports wise, definitely not with politics)

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