Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Football scheduling news ...

Only 115 days — or a little over 16 weeks — until the western Kentucky football season starts off with a bang, the season-opening tilt between crosstown rivals Lone Oak and Paducah Tilghman.

But a look at some of the top teams' schedules reveals some interesting non-district matchups.

Lone Oak's schedule has undergone a major upgrade — Owensboro is now a Class 4A district opponent and the non-district slate includes Tilghman, defending Class 5A runner-up Christian County and a bowl-game date at Hopkinsville.

Tilghman's second game is against powerhouse Evansville Reitz, a contest that is part of a bowl game that was originally scheduled to have been played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. Word is the bowl may be moved elsewhere in town, perhaps at Louisville Trinity, but nothing has yet been set.

The Tornado also has a first meeting with Crittenden County and a late-season game at Clarksville Northeast, a Class 5A team in Tennessee that went 8-5 and reached the state quarterfinals last season, falling 24-21 to eventual state runner-up Hendersonville.

Mayfield will open up with Greenwood at a bowl game in Bowling Green, with a potential matchup with Warren Central (and ex-Graves County coach Mike Rogers) in 2012. The Cardinals will take on Evansville Harrison in the Alliance Bowl at Graves County, with the host school meeting Madisonville. And the Cardinals will renew acquaintances with Murray for the first time since Kentucky realigned into six classes after the 2006 season.

Reidland's schedule includes an early-September game at Lake County, a Tennessee Class A quarterfinalist last fall.

Crittenden County and Trigg County haven't hooked up in over a decade and will meet in Trigg's Wildcat Chevrlolet Bowl. The Rockets will host the Kentucky National Guard Warrior Bowl to open the season, taking on Hopkins Central with Caldwell County also meeting Union County.

Monday, April 25, 2011

College player updates ...

Few pitchers in college baseball have improved as much as former Marshall County left-hander Cody Forsythe, who threw seven shutout innings at Creighton on Saturday. Forsythe, a sophomore, allowed four hits and struck out 10 and has put together some impressive numbers for the Salukis — Forsythe is 5-3 with a 2.08 ERA and has only nine walks and 50 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Former Heath star Chad Wright is hitting .314 with four home runs and 27 RBI for Kentucky and leads the Wildcats with a .423 on-base percentage.

Gabriel Shaw has struggled in recent outings for Louisville and is now 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA. There are reports that Shaw, a St. Mary product, has yet to recover some lost velocity on his fastball after undergoing elbow surgery in the summer of 2009.

James Jones is continuing to throw well in his role as the closer for Louisiana-Monroe. James, a Ballard Memorial product, is 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA with only 27 hits allowed in 40 innings. He has five saves and has walked 12 batters to go with 37 strikeouts.

Minor league updates ...

Former Heath pitcher Daniel Webb allowed just four singles in seven innings on Sunday for Lansing of the Midwest League, his best start of the season. Webb is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in three starts for Lansing, the Toronto Blue Jays' low-Class A team. Webb has allowed 17 hits in 14 innings with four walks and eight strikeouts.

Pope County product Michael Broadway has a 1.80 ERA in five innings at Mississippi, the Atlanta Braves' Double-A club. Broadway has allowed three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Daniel Calhoun, a Murray State product, is 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA in relief for Palm Beach, the St. Louis Cardinals' high-Class A team in the Florida State League.

Jonathan Roof is off to a good start for Hickory, the Texas Rangers' entry in the Low-A South Atlantic League. Roof, a St. Mary product who played collegiately at Michigan State, is hitting .292-1-8 in 48 at-bats and has stolen four bases. Roof, drafted as a shortstop, has also seen some time in the outfield.

Older brother Eric Roof, his former St. Mary/Michigan State teammate, has two hits in his first 14 at-bats for Lakeland, the Detroit Tigers' entry in the Florida State League. Shawn Roof, the oldest of former major leaguer Gene Roof's three sons, is 2-for-15 for Erie, the Tigers' Double-A affiliate.

Former Murray State star Wes Cunningham is hitting .222 with five RBI in 45 at-bats for Fort Wayne, the San Diego Padres' team in the Midwest League.

Monday, April 18, 2011

All A delays ...

I went to the All A Classic regional softball championship on Sunday afternoon, watching Reidland and Heath play in pleasant conditions, with some sun and a temperature in the 70s.

Meanwhile, the four semifinalists in the regional small-school baseball tournament were practicing after tournament host Mayfield postponed their games yet another day.

Needless to say, the question was asked of me more than once: "Why isn't the baseball tournament playing today?"

Good question.

Mayfield doesn't have a full-infield tarp — it only has tarps that cover the pitcher's mound and the home plate area. And someone on Mayfield's staff indicated that the field still had water standing behind second base and the infield grass remained "mushy."

Fair enough. But that raises two questions:

1. Why isn't the tournament being played at a site that has a full-infield tarp?

2. Why weren't the semifinals moved to a suitable neutral field, perhaps nearby Graves County or Lone Oak?

The second answer seems apparent. Mayfield's program benefits from the concession revenue generated at the tournament.

But the tournament has been needlessly delayed, so much so that teams have had enough rest that would enable them to get around the state pitching rules that would have come into play, had the semifinals been played on the weekend.

For instance, Hickman County's Trevor Hicks threw seven innings in a 4-3 win over Mayfield on Thursday night and would have been unavailable to pitch on the weekend. However, he is eligible to pitch against Reidland in tonight's semifinals.

Now, whether Hicks is able to bounce back and be equally as effective on three days' rest after a 102-pitch outing is another question.

The delays will also affect when the First Region champion gets to play its sectional game against Third Region champion Owensboro Catholic — the winner of that game advances to the state tournament, which is May 7-8 at Whitaker Bank Park (formerly Applebee's Park) in Lexington.

Owensboro Catholic has guidelines that prohibit athletic contests during Holy Week, which would prevent the Aces from playing this weekend, since this Sunday is Easter. The Aces are also scheduled to play in the LIT the following weekend, so the First Region winner will likely have to make the trip to Owensboro on a school night.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Smart guy, that Shaka ...

Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart, who took his basketball team from much-maligned NCAA tournament invite to the Final Four, made a motherlode of money over the last three weeks. Smart got a five-year contract extension today that bumps his base salary from $325,000 to $1.2 million. That adds up to more than $4 million over the next four seasons.

Now, if Butler wins a national championship, what the heck does Brad Stevens make next year?