Sunday Summations - The Happy Mother's Day Edition

First off, my salutes on this Mother's Day to the greatest Mother of all - Frank Zappa. As the bandleader for the Mother's of Invention in the late 60s and early 70s, this composer was nonpareil in the disciplines of musical talent or as a visionary satirist.

FrankZappa.jpg
Zappa. A true renaissance man.

Okay, another great weekend in the books in college baseball. Man, the conference races around the country are freakin' nuts! Plus, I can't believe we're down to the last weekend before the post-season. Gah! Where does the time go?

And everybody raise a frosty stein of brew to Lafayette (32-17), the second team to go in for a tux fitting as they punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a 7-3 win over Army.

Like Brown last week, this was the Leos first ever conference, er... league title in the Patriot League. Unlike the Bears, though, this won't be their first NCAA tournament. But it will be the first since 1990. Congrats to Joe Kinney, his staff and the Leopards players in rebounding from last year's 18-26 finish. Great picture of them dog-piling on their website. (Glad the little kid is still wearing the batting helmet before joining in.).

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I just flew in from Minneapolis on a flight from that much-hated Northwest Airlines. Tonight's flight was wrought with problems (shocking... shocking.). First we had to sit on the tarmac for a half-hour, before finally pulling back into the terminal because of an electrical problem. So we all sat.

And yes, I'd rather they fix things than try to fly with something busted. Don't be a wiseacre. But it's still not comforting knowing this airplane is held together by duct tape and bailing wire.

So we were delayed a good hour or so. And of course, I got another God damn middle seat assignment on that airlines again. What the bloody hell?! How do I get so "lucky"?

And I have to admit, after being at a baseball game all day, I didn't smell like a spring day. Those Swedish bikini models seated on both sides of me couldn't have been happy about that.

Anyway, great trip this weekend to the land of fishing and hockey. Got to see some games at a venue I had yet to see games at. So I was pumped about that.

Stayed downtown in a hotel right in the heart of the city. Was a short drive each day to the campus and to Siebert Field which is on the back side of the campus.

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What I liked about Minneapolis/Minnesota in general:

1- Maybe I was just in the right parts of town, but there didn't seem to be a lot of vagrants and ne'er-do-wells hanging around downtown. Not once did I get hit up for money or was I sitting at a stoplight and have some guy start cleaning my already-spotless windshield on my rental car while demanding money.

2- Pretty clean city too. Things were tidy, for the most part in downtown Minneapolis.

3- Lots of modern architecture. Had some old, dated brick buildings that looked like they were from the 30s or 40s here and there. But for the most part, it was a fairly "new" looking city.

4- Loved the "skywalks" all around downtown. According to the Gopher baseball media guide, 52 city blocks are connected by these elevated catwalks that connect buildings. Pretty cool feature. And I'm sure most of the impetus for that was for people to avoid walking outside amongst the bitter cold temps in the winter.

5- Outdoor people. Don't know if it was because of the quick rise in temperatures there lately, but going across campus, you saw countless numbers of people hanging out on grassy areas, catching rays or just being outside.

6- Close proximity of the airport. Unlike most cities I've been to recently, the Minneapolis airport is a short drive from downtown. That's a nice change.


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What I saw at Siebert Field today---
Ohio State - 3
Minnesota - 5
Boy, the difference between today/slash/Friday and yesterday was about as stark as you could get. The Gophers played like a team with confidence and solid effort in their two wins this weekend. But yesterday, Ohio State looked like a national championship contender, battering the Hell out of the U's staff. But today it was as if the Gopher pitching staff showed up in this alley fight with a gang of Hell's Angels as escorts. They held OSU to just five hits all day, made some great defensive plays and looked solid making the routine ones.

Even No. 9 hitter Jeremy Chlan looked to have a hop in his step, going 3-for-3 with two key RBI to pace the offense. Chlan also made a trio of really nice plays at second base.

OSU, on the other hand, could not have played better baseball on Saturday, belting the ball at just the right moments and committing just one error in the 14 innings of play, that occurring during the second at-bat of the day.


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Favorite moment of the weekend---
After Friday's 6-4 loss, Ohio State radio man Marty Bannister wrapped up his radio show, took his headphones off and blew out about 10 seconds of steam. Then he chirped to himself (but loud enough for me to hear), "We could go 0-4 this weekend." And it was true at the time, the Buckeyes looked like they were playing Florida in another sport again. But they rebounded incredibly well to win two games on Saturday.


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What impressed me---
- OSU Saturday starter Jake Hale. The slender-splinter threw a complete-game 6-hitter and struck out six along the way. Take away his error in the first inning (the only E on the day for OSU) and he played nearly flawless and efficient. He's normally their ace reliever (10 saves).

- OSU lead off man J.B. Shuck. His speed was remarkable and he did well at the plate, although his average dipped just below .400 after the end of the four games. Shuck also pitched 6.0 innings of three-hit ball in Saturday's second game to get the W.

- OSU's offense gained 10 points on Saturday alone, going from .314 to .324 with their 22 hits.

- Minnesota CF/leadoff man Matt Nohelty. He had his hit-motor going all weekend, going 5-for-13 and playing lights out in the field. Even the times he got out, he still seemed to pepper the ball pretty well.

- The talkative nature of Minnesota head coach John Anderson. I had seen him interviewed before and even during the 1994 NCAA selection show on ESPN (yes, I remember that) and he always seemed real taciturn and close-lipped. But when I interviewed him on Saturday morning, I hit on a few subjects he really liked talking about, including his mentor, Hall of Fame coach Dick "Chief" Siebert. I'll show you what he said in a day or two.


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What I wans't impressed with---
- Siebert Field.
But I was warned. Actually, the old dog is cool, in a kitschy way. But that's me. It's not going to woo recruits. I'm into retro and all, but some old school stuff is too old school. Siebert needs to be gussied up... or torn down.

- Mike Mee.
Granted, the food poisoning may have had some effect, but my Player of the Year candidate only went 3-for-11. He did make a few defensive plays that shined.

- Perry Costello.
This umpire is apparently liked by nobody. And I can see why. I usually like to give umpires the benefit of the doubt. But his guy wasn't just arrogant, he was pretty bad too. Especially to Ohio State. Though he was bad both ways, he's got some kind of vendetta against the Bucks.

- Ohio State's consistency issues.
This team showed flashes of brilliance. But then reverted back to mediocre form on Sunday. Granted, the injuries and family issues (DeLucia, their best pitcher and Howell, their lead-off hitter) haven't helped. Still this team should be better.


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Now on to the Ouch List for today---

- UCLA.
Today: Lost 11-10 at Arizona State.
That's three straight days the Bruins allow the Devils to come from behind to deep-666 them. Today it was a 9-3 lead in the 6th inning that evaporated. Bruins are now two full games behind ASU in the Pac 10.

- Arkansas.
Today: Lost 9-5 at Alabama.
Why it hurts: The Hogs lost two of three at Bama this weekend, so their chances of a National Seed have taken a hit. But conference-wise, because the Mississippi schools both tapped out, they still hold a two-game lead. Which brings me to...

- Mississippi State.
Today: Lost twice at Georgia.
Why it hurts: Because, even though I'll give them credit for pitching pretty well today, it supports my theory that these guys are over-rated.

- Mississippi.
Today: Lost 9-7 vs. Kentucky.
Why it hurts: I've had my doubts about this team ever since losing twice to Wright State on a weekend. Now they've gone 2-4 vs. Tennessee and Kentucky back-to-back. Too much talent on this team to be playing like that.

- Rutgers.
Today: Lost 10-9 at Pitt.
Why it hurts: The Scarlet Knights went to the trouble of scoring four runs in the 9th to tie the game, but relented a run in the 10th to lose their second game of the weekend. With St. John's beating Cincinnati like a drum, the two are now tied atop the Big East again.

- Florida State.
Today: Lost 11-6 vs. Clemson
Why it hurts: As I've stated before, everybody deserves a Mulligan weekend at this time of season. But this one was kind of ugly. Especially since the Tigers hadn't been playing all that great lately (7-7 since Tax Day). There's still questions about the 'Noles pitching depth.

- Eastern Michigan.
Today: Lost 16-3 vs. Toledo
Why it hurts: The MAC awards the post-season tourney to the regular season champion. After last week's series win against Central Michigan, the Eagles were in the drivers seat. Not now. They fall a game behind with three to play.

- Michigan.
Today: Lost twice (badly) vs. Penn State.
Why it hurts: With 2nd place Minnesota splitting four games against Ohio State, the Wolverines could've put dirt on that grave. Now there's still hope for a Big 10 title for the Gophers.

- Memphis.
Today: Lost 10-5 vs. Houston.
Why it hurts: The Tigers have been bandied about as an at-large possibility for the NCAA tournament, but losing two-of-three at home here will probably make their RPI dip and puts them into a tie for third with the Coogs in C-USA play.

- Oregon State.
Today: Lost 5-3 vs. Washington State.
Why it hurts: Like Ole Miss above, I've had my doubts about the Beavers since I saw them lose vs. Gonzaga in Arizona back in February. They have now gone 2-5 against Northwest neighbors Washington, Wazzu and the Zags.

- Winthrop.
Today: Lost 9-6 at Liberty
Why it hurts: Well obviously, now they're in second place behind Coastal Carolina. Had they kept that No. 1 standing in the Big South, they still had an argument for an at-large bid. But they've got the Chants coming to their stadium this coming weekend, so redemption is at hand.

- Manhattan.
Today: Lost 8-4 vs. LeMoyne.
Why it hurts: That valuable top spot in the NEC tournament is now lost. The Jaspers were scorching hot coming in, but now all the momentum just went out the window.

- Louisiana Tech.
Today: Lost 8-2 at Fresno State.
Why it hurts: By losing two-of-three in Fresno, the Techsters fall to 3rd place in the WAC behind surging Nevada. Plus, and this is a bigger plus, at 5.5 games out of first in the WAC, they are further off the radar in at-large land too.

- VCU.
Today: Lost 3-1 vs. Delaware.
Why it hurts: A double-whammy. By losing two-of-three to UD at The Diamond, no less, the Rams fall a game behind Old Dominion in the CAA title chase and also fall into a 2nd place tie with the Blue Hens.

- College of Charleston.
Today: Lost 10-5 vs. UNC-Greensboro.
Why it hurts: Ding! Ding!... Western Carolina has officially caught them in the SoCon standings and are tied at 18-6. Now, this is as big of an "ouch" as it could be because the Coogs beat the Cats in three straight way back in March. But things are much more interesting now.

- St. Peter's.
Today: Lost 16-1 at Iona.
Why it hurts: 'Coz I like the Peacocks, that's why!


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Just thought I'd rehash this---
My Favorite Airlines:
1- Jet Blue. - TVs, legroom.
2- Frontier. - TVs, Denver terminal restaurant "Jimmy's"
3- Alaska. - TVs, good service.
4- Midwest. - First class-like seats all throughout.
5- American. - Added legroom shows they care.
1,453rd- Northwest. - "Excuse me Miss, does this plane even have A/C?"

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Okay, I've spouted enough. We'll do the Teams of the Week thing tomorrow night, kinda late. But I think you'll dig it.

Special thanks once again to Steve Geller and Jeff Weurth, the Minnesota and Ohio State SIDs. They were cool dudes and helped me out a lot this weekend. Also thanks to the Ohio State radio team of Marty Bannister and Bryan Mannino, they kept me laughing all weekend long. Oh and the Minnesota fans I met were pretty cool too. Dig 'em.

G'night.

Comments

Eric

First let me say it was great to see your acknowlegement of Lafayette winning the Patriot League Championship for the first time. It is nice to get the ink, but you may want to check your records regarding the Leopards record last season. They were 27-24 not 18-26.

Aside from that love your work, look forward to readin it every week.

1. the skywalks are great (especially in the winter).

2. spring in Minnesota is the best. Months of girls in turtlenecks and sweaters then it gets warm and you think a wave of new citizens moved into the state.

3. Northwest does suck.

4. They've been trying to replace Seibert for years.

Come back next year to watch the Gophers host the Big Ten tourney!

Mike

You're right. I'm a dipstick. I was looking at 2005, not 2006. You see, sometimes, when it's 1am, the no-doz isn't working and I'm groggy from reading Emails about half-price Canadian medication and prescription-free viagra, I can slip-up every so often. My bad. And of course, thanks for readin'. Go Leos.

Eric

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert