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Boys Baseball: 7-Run First Inning Propels Aurora Central Past IMSA

Illinois Math & Science Academy’s baseball team played a road game in their own backyard on Friday as they took on Aurora Central Catholic in a non-conference match-up.

With the IMSA dormitories looming beyond the left field fence, Aurora Central defeated the Titans 11-1 in six innings on the strength of a seven-run first inning outburst.

The Chargers got RBI doubles from Jake McCarthy and Mike Fidler and an RBI single from Matt Musuras as they busted out to an early lead. Mike O’Donnell drove in a run on a ground-out and Phil Schuetz and Musuras scored on passed balls to round out the first inning scoring.

It was a change-of-pace for the Chargers, who have had trouble getting things going in the early innings this season.

“That first inning was huge for us. The first couple innings this year have usually been very slow,” said Aurora Central coach Eric Fulara. “We usually fall behind, so it was really nice to see our boys out ahead early.”

O’Donnell, normally a reliever, started and threw a complete game for Aurora Central (6-8)  The right-handed junior gave up one run and four hits while striking out eight over six innings.

“I put the ball where it needed to go and got outs. I threw strikes, made them hit it and my fielders did well,” said O’Donnell, who also registered two hits and an RBI at the plate.

Chargers catcher Sean Soris, one of three regular starters in Friday’s lineup, broke out of a slump with three hits.

“I was just trying to change things up a bit,” said Soris. “I just wanted to make contact and make them make the plays. They fell for me today, they weren’t the best hits, but they fell.”

Back-to-back RBI hits by Ryan Baker and Andrew Bruss in the sixth inning gave the Chargers an 11-1 lead to end the game.

IMSA (1-8) got its only run in the sixth inning when Sam Kaufman drove in Jon Henricks with a single to center field.

Henricks went 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a triple, and struck out five while giving up no earned runs in three innings of relief.

IMSA coach Bill Bueschen said the Titans, who made four errors in Friday’s loss, need to work on the basics.

“I talk a lot about fundamentals and I talk about making simple routine plays,” said Bueschen. “We just didn’t do that today and all this week.”

Fulara hopes the his Chargers will draw some confidence out of their victory over IMSA.

“These guys have to be confident in themselves,” said Fulara. “I’m one hundred billion percent confident in these guys, I just need them to be confident in themselves. That’s the biggest problem for us.”

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

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NCAA Tournament: Ray McCallum and D.J. Cooper Headline The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching In The Midwest

Ray McCallum and Detroit are a very dangerous 15 seed. Beware Bill Self.

MIDWEST

PG D.J. Cooper, Ohio

2011-2012 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.8 rpg

Michigan beware—Cooper and the Bobcats are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament. As a freshman, Cooper put up 23 points (5-8 three-point shooting) and eight assists as the Bobcats trounced No. 3 seed Georgetown 97-83. The diminutive point guard doesn’t shoot a high percentage (43.0 effective field goal percentage), but he’s an adept ball handler and floor general. Cooper’s assist rate (37.3) is twice as high as high turnover rate (18.1).  The native Chicagoan (attended Seton Academy) is also pesky on defense, ranking 17th in the nation in steal percentage (4.4). There’s a well-done mini-documentary on Cooper on YouTube, check it out.

PG Kerron Johnson, Belmont

2011-2012 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.1 rpg

The Bruins’ point guard was once named Alabama’s Mr. Basketball over current NBA players DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Johnson is now staring in the Atlantic Sun conference, where he leads Belmont in points and assists. The 6’1″ junior is a highly efficient floor general, his offensive rating of 121.1 ranks 66th in the nation and his assist rate (33.6) ranks 47th. Johnson has shot over 60 percent on his two-point field goal attempts this season, and his true shooting percentage of 63.1 is the 48th best mark in the country. However, he’s made just 32 percent of his three-point attempts. Johnson led the nation in steal percentage (6.3) as a sophomore, but he registered steals on just 2.9 percent of possessions this season (278th in the nation).

Johnson put up 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in the Bruins’ first round loss to Wisconsin in last year’s NCAA Tournament. I think Belmont will upset Georgetown and N.C. State on their way to the Sweet 16 in this year’s tournament.

PG Ray McCallum, Detroit

2011-2012 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.9 apg

McCallum turned down offers from UCLA, Arizona and Florida to play for his dad, Ray Sr., at Detroit. His commitment paid off as the Titans are in the Big Dance for the first time since 1999. The sophomore stepped up his game in the Horizon tournament, averaging 23 points (.631 FG%), five assists and five rebounds as the Titans knocked off Youngstown State, Cleveland State and host Valparaiso.

The 6’2″ point guard shot a high percentage on twos (.556) but struggled from behind the arc this season, making just 30 of his 120 three-point attempts (.250 percent).

DraftExpress ranks McCallum 21st among sophomores, and projects him as a late first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. It’s rare to see a 15-seed have a former top-50 recruit and projected first round pick leading their squad, so Kansas can’t take the Titans lightly. McCallum and Indiana transfer Eli Holman (10.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg) could give the Jayhawks some trouble Friday night.

Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, VCU . . . Detroit?

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