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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Welcome back Rocket; now you better win

So Roger Clemens is once again a Houston Astro. Now, for all the money ($3.5 million per month roughly), he better produce.

And here's why: Clemens is set to rejoin the Astros on June 22 at home against Minnesota. That's a month and change earlier than the nonwaiver trade deadline. Therefore, Clemens better be as good, if not better, than he was last season.

The Astros already are 6 1/2 games behind St. Louis and enter the games of May 31 3 1/2 games out of the wild card. Certainly those are smaller deficits than they faced last season at this time.

But, this is going to be the one acquisition GM Tim Purpura can make because of the money involved and the only way it will be deemed a success is if the Astros are again playing the next to last week in October against an AL team.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

SI recognizes ex-Shreveport tennis player

So Andy Roddick's out of the French Open after retiring with an injury and only two American men made it past the first round. Hardly a shocker. U.S. men's tennis isn't exactly setting the world on fire these days.
Last week's Sports Illustrated pointed out that there are only four American men ranked in the ATP's top 50. The information was in a breakout box with a story on 14-year-old Sekou Bangoura, a up-and-coming player ranked No. 4 nationally in Boys' 14.
The breakout box included five other players to watch.
One of those was former Shreveporter Ryan Harrison, son of former Pierremont Oaks pro Pat Harrison.
SI cites Harrison, 14, for finishing second in the Boys 16s singles at the USTA International Spring Championships in April. Ryan is currently ranked No. 8 nationally in Boys' 14 singles.
The Harrisons live in New Braunfels, Texas, now. As SI says, Ryan trains there and Pat is a coach. Ryan's brother Christian is also an up-and-comer. He's ranked No. 2 in the nation in Boys 12 singles.
Maybe there is hope for U.S. men's tennis.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Committee does LSU wrong

Let's get this straight: I'm not an LSU baseball fan. I may be the farthest thing from one.

But, even I can see the NCAA baseball selection committee did the Tigers wrong. While I don't think LSU's body of work warranted a regional bid, LSU did deserve to go ahead of Mississippi State.

Sure the Tigers lost 2 of 3 games to State, but that was when the Bulldogs were rolling along on an 18-0 start to the season. At the end of the year, neither team was good, but LSU did finish a half-game ahead of State in the SEC and made the conference tournament. The Bulldogs did not.

My biggest rail on the committee the last couple of years has been its propensity to not live up to its promise of "growing the game nationally." By taking only 8 SEC teams this year instead of the 9 it took the last couple of years, that helps do that. Now, a San Diego and a San Francisco get into the tournament, giving it a little different look.

Still, if you're going to leave LSU at home, do the same for those who finished below the Tigers.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Celebrate the milestone, not the man

Like him or not, Barry Bonds will probably go down as the best hitter of his generation and his accomplishments will be among the greatest in the game's history.

That doesn't mean you have to like him, but you do have to respect him.

Still, this shouldn't be about Bonds the alleged steroid user, or Bonds the alleged tax cheat, or Bonds the less-than-media-friendly slugger.

No, baseball fans shouldn't celebrate Bonds. Instead, the enormity of 715 itself should be celebrated. Only two hitters in the 100-plus years of this country's national pastime have reached that number.

So, for a second, forget Bonds' flaws -- be they perceived or real -- and just revel in 715 for a moment.

715 NOT TARNISHED IN THIS BOOK

Barry Bonds finally passed the Babe with home run No. 715.
I know I'm in the minority here, but this accomplishment, unfortunately, will be tarnished by most.
The fact is that 715 home runs is far and away the best mark in the "steroid era." While nothing has been proven, even the naysayers have to admit he can't possibly have been the only guy trying to get an edge. So even if you believe he did something illegal, no one else seemed to be able to collect anywhere near 700 homers.
Steroids don't help you see the ball or hit the ball. What Barry Bonds has done with his home run total is quite amazing. Is he a jerk? Draw your own conclusions on that. The point is, he's one helluva hitter!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No Fun League Part One Zillion

So the NFL won't let Reggie Bush wear No. 5.

There may not be a more self-righteous group in the entire world than the National Football League. They don't want to change their jersey number rules because, heaven forbid, it may be tougher on game officials keeping up with eligible and ineligible linemen and the like.

Good grief. College officials have no problem with it, but NFL officials do? Give me a break.

The NFL is corporate America -- the good and the bad. The good is that the NFL is a fine-tuned machine that rolls over every other sports competition in the country. The bad is that it enforces rules (TD celebrations, uniform codes and the like) that are in place only because they can make those rules.

Reggie Bush wearing No. 5 in New Orleans would have meant thousands to Katrina relief after he pledged to donate some of his proceeds.

The NFL figures it has done enough for Katrina relief. And maybe they have.

That still doesn't make Tuesday's ruling any smarter.

Draft lottery unkind to Tyrus Thomas

Speaking of the NBA Draft, the draft lottery was held last night with the Toronto Raptors getting the No. 1 pick.

A handful of Internet mock drafts (and we all know who accurate those are) had Thomas going as the No. 1 pick before the lottery. However, it appears that will change.

Thomas is an athletic power forward who can run the court. The Raptors already have Chris Bosh and Charlie Villaneuva, athletic forwards who can run the court. So at first glance it appears that, while Thomas likely will remain a lottery pick, he won't become the first LSU player since Shaquille O'Neal to go No. 1 overall.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wrong about the Mavs

Anyone who has been at 222 Lake Street the last week or so pretty much knows what I thought of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.

Lots of talent. Lots of offense. Not much heart.

Well, well, well.

What do you know, the Mavericks knocked off the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Monday night to advance to the Western Conference finals.

So I was wrong about the heart.

You know why? Because a surgeon named Avery Johnson has given this team a heart transplant.

The Mavericks play defense now, something they rarely did for Don Nelson. They haven't given up much on the offensive end to add defense to their game.

They are a legitimate threat to win the NBA championship, something that hasn't been possible since the late 1980s.

And in case you think the NBA Draft doesn't matter, I was at the Mavericks' draft in 2004 when they drafted a kid named Josh Howard. I'd say that has worked out for Dallas.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bring the Jags here

Southern University AD Greg LaFleur was in town today to speak to grads about the Jags playing a game here. The bottom line (and he was honest enough to share it) is assuring the team can cover all its expenses and clear $250,000 in profit. If that's too tough, either Texas Southern or Prairie View could be enticed to move their 2006 home games against Southern here.
That seems far more likely for now until Southern officials see firsthand if they can fill Independence Stadium. When that happens, a home game in Shreveport won't be far behind.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

LSU owes Bianco

The first thank-you note LSU baseball coach Smoke Laval should sit down and write needs to go to Oxford, Miss., and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco.

Because Bianco had his team fired up and ready to play Saturday, the Tigers are going to the SEC Tournament. Had the Rebels come out flat against Mississippi State on Saturday, LSU would be sitting at home wondering about its NCAA Tournament chances for a week.

Instead, Bianco's Rebels jumped on the Bulldogs and held on, eliminating their most bitter rival. So Tiger Nation, time to thank Bianco, a former LSU player, for saving your baseball season.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Time to redefine greatness

For the past 15 years, the SEC has been college baseball's best conference in terms of depth, exposure and talent.

Is it that way anymore? Um, that's a solid maybe.

There is no dominant team in the SEC this year. There really wasn't one last year. Yes the 2005 Florida Gators reached the College World Series championship series but they were far from dominant.

Now, with two games to play, Kentucky of all teams is in position to win the overall SEC title. I know John Cohen is a great college baseball coach, but it's still Kentucky. The only thing Kentucky should see No. 1 in is basketball.

The SEC is still a very, very good baseball conference. But, make no mistake, it's not great. Just because everyone can beat everyone doesn't make a league great.

If you're looking for a dominant team, look outside the SEC, Big 12 and ACC. I'm not saying a power conference team won't be dogpiling in Omaha, but the most dominant teams this year (Rice, Cal State Fullerton) come from outside the BCS conferences.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Leave it to Benson

On the day the New Orleans Saints announced record season ticket sales, Saints owner Tom Benson found it in his heart to express disappointment in the sale of luxury suites at the Superdome. To be fair, Benson said the sales were improving.

Still, he couldn't bask in the glory of season ticket sales over the 54,000 mark. Instead there was a mention of disappointing luxury suite sales (81 have been sold for the coming season).

This Benson-Saints fan relationship apparently will always be a tense one. Even when he does the right thing, the wrong thing is not far behind with Benson.

The best thing that could happen for Saints fans is a fast start on the football field to forget about all of the off-the-field stuff.

High school football's friend

It doesn't seem like high school football has many friends these days. ESPN seems intent on putting a college football game on television each Friday night in the fall. Even Louisiana Tech will have one of those Friday night home games this season.

But then there is at least one friend of high school football - the Green Bay Packers.

The Green Bay Packers?

Yes, the Packers could have squashed Wisconsin high school football with its final preseason game on a Friday night. The team asked the NFL to allow it to play on a Thursday night. The league nixed that idea.

So instead of a Friday night game forcing fans to choose between the preps and the pros, the Packers announced a starting time of 3 p.m. on Sept. 1 - a Friday - against the Tennessee Titans.

Kudos to the Packers.

High school football is a tradition across the country on Friday nights and it should be left that way. The colleges need to stick to Saturday - even those Thursday night games are a bit much, not to mention Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday games. And the pros, Sunday and Monday is enough for the NFL.

Thanks Packers for restoring some faith in sports.

Valpo hits the road

With Wednesday's announcement that Valparaiso is leaving the Mid-Con, Centenary will be among just five league teams fielding a baseball team after next season unless new members are found. That puts the Mid-Con one team short of the six minimum for the NCAA to guarantee a tournament berth.

IPFW, North Dakota State and South Dakota state are all interested in joining the league.

It will hurt the Mid-Con's image without the Crusaders, the league's highest profile men's basketball team. But just as with life, Mid-Con officials will have to pack up and move on.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And then there were two

The Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings currently have the dubious honor of being one only two af2 teams without a victory in 2006. The expansion Everett Hawks and the Wings play the Tulsa Talons and the Memphis Xplorers respectively this week, so they're likely to stay winless.

The local af2 club has now lost 11 consecutive games dating back to June 18, 2005 when they defeated Oklahoma City 54-46 in the CenturyTel Center.

The previously winless South Georgia Wildcats defeated 2005 ArenaCup champs Memphis 48-41 last week, so maybe there's hope for the Wings this week after all. But when you look at the stat that the Battle Wings have won only three road games since the start of the 2003 season, a stretch of 54 games, you realize they may need more than hope.

Coffee time

We're all chipping in to purchase a cup of coffee for Brian McCallum since everything seems to make him sleepy. You think it's bad, now? Just wait for the NFL season. We won't be able to revive him with a sledgehammer.

He's right, however, about the NBA and Barry "I'm beefed up" Bonds. During my traversals of our fair cities, I haven't been asked one question from anyone about either issue.

NBA puts me to sleep

I am pretty sure the Spurs are alive in the playoffs. I know the Heat were recently. Other than that, I have no idea and even less interest. I think Sam Cassell has a team still playing because I saw his photo somewhere. I don't have the slightest idea who he plays for because the NBA is a waste of existence.
How about win a gold medal and then you can call yourselves World Champions. Or at least learn to shoot and/or dribble without carrying the ball.
Next question.

Bonds puts me to sleep

Who cares? We're keeping a watch on a guy moving into second? By cheating? What gets me most is checking the ball before he bats, swapping out with the pitcher a marked ball. I have a question...
WHY???
Is anybody going to care about this ball? If Barry Bonds EVER hits another home run afterward, THAT ball will be more significant. Reminds me of the wasted energy on the 61st and 62nd home run balls McGwire hit. What a lack of thought. It's the new record that matters, not the broken one.

Feels like deja vu

OK, so it's not college basketball, but the similarities for Louisiana schools this baseball season and in the 2004-05 basketball one are eerie.

In the middle of the 04-05 basketball season, it looked as though our state would be lucky to send more than one team to the Big Dance. Alas, LSU rallied and reached the NCAAs, joining Louisiana-Lafayette in Bracketville.

At the midpoint of this college baseball season, LSU, Tulane, ULL, NSU and most of the rest of the state were underperforming and Louisiana could have been nearly shut out of the NCAA Regionals.

But as the most pivotal weekend of the year arrives, Tulane is rolling, ULL is near the top of the Sun Belt, NSU has rallied back into position for the Southland Conference Tournament and LSU is clinging to eighth in the SEC (no small feat given where the Tigers were a month ago.)

So just as we once proclaimed Louisiana to be the "Bad Hoops State" only to see teams rally to the postseason, it looks as though the baseball teams have followed the same cue. So with two weeks until selection day on Memorial Day, my best guess for Louisiana teams in the Regionals: 4 (LSU, Tulane, ULL and McNeese.)

Transitional year in college football ahead

While putting togethere some preseason college football lists for various organizations, it is becoming readily apparent that this is a transitional year, not only in the SEC but nationally.

Consider the Heisman Trophy contenders. There's Brady Quinn at Notre Dame and Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma. Quinn doesn't have the preseason credentials Matt Leinart had at USC a year ago and Peterson was better as a freshman at OU than he was a sophomore.

The best player in the SEC? Who knows? Florida quarterback Chris Leak has the most name recognition but there's bound to be some goofball begging Urban Meyer to play true freshman Tim Tebow. Kenny Irons put up big rushing numbers at Auburn last year, but this is a guy who transferred from South Carolina so you've got to wonder just how good he really is.

No, this is a transitional year. It could be a year where some less heralded player, even a Darren McFadden at Arkansas, comes from seemingly out of nowhere to star. But as far as the Heisman Trophy is concerned, it doesn't hurt to be the best player on one of the best teams. And that will have to play itself out.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dangerous times

You would like to think Baton Rouge is safer than Los Angeles. But it wasn't for Ryan Francis, the USC point guard, who came back home for Mother's Day, only to be shot and killed in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Safety, it seems, is a relative thing.

You might want to say that being out at 3 a.m. is a bad thing. But let's be real here, college kids aren't on the same schedule as the rest of the world. College kids are out at 2 and 3 a.m. and not getting killed every weekend.

You might want to point a finger at the people in the car with Francis that night. But do friend selections have to be matters of life and death?

The shooting of Francis is a reminder of not only how short life is but how dangerous these days are. They remind us again of how we must do something, anything, to stop the senseless killings that happen routinely and go unnoticed until they involve high-profile athletes.

Ryan Francis' death is shocking. Shocking because he was so young. Shocking because of where it happened.

Unfortunately such deaths among young people are not all that shocking at all anymore.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Class 1A baseball championship: Evangel vs. Calvary

Top 5th
Calvary scores two runs to cut it to 11-2. If the 10-run rule is in effect for playoff games, that avoids an early ending. Zeigler doubled to score the runs.
Calvary keeps Evangel from scoring to stay alive in the game.

Bottom 4th
Evangel has scored two more runs and leads 11-0. The game got ugly for a minute when Evangel right fielder Bo Atkins was thrown out following an altercation with Calvary first baseman Randy Zeigler. Cavs catcher Nick Rome, in trying to throw Atkins out at first, hit him in the back with the baseball. After Atkins collided with Zeigler, Atkins appeared to throw him to the ground. The closest umpire wasted no time in throwing out, but Atkins seemed to take his time leaving the field and dugout, turning and talking about something all the way.

Bottom 3rd
Evangel scores a run on a bunt by Michael Powers when Calvary pitcher Randy Zeigler couldn't come up with the ball. However, it was a good bunt, and I think the scorer is wrong to give an errors. In fact, I'm more certain the error on RF Derek Blankenship was wrong as Blankenship was chugging to try to make a catch in the gap of a Ragan Baker single. I'm not a baseball expert, but these are high school players and I suspect the scorer scores the Aces games (minor league Alexandria team).
Kade Garlington doubles to score two runs. Dez Duron sacrifices to score another. Tanner Taunton doubles to score another, and it's 9-0, Evangel.

Calvary gets nothing in the first or second inning though Derek Blankenship reached third. Evangel still leads, 4-0, after two complete innings. Khiry Cooper tripled with two outs in the top of the third but is also stranded.

Evangel has virtually no depth as its baseball numbers shrink, but the Eagles have something Calvary doesn't have: key, tested seniors. Players like Jeff Hulett, Dan Kreamer and Chase Jennings will make a big difference today for Evangel.

After a rough time signing on to the blog site -- computers are lovely -- I can predict a strong first inning for Evangel. That's because it's over, and maybe the game is. A Michael Powers two-run homer included, Evangel took a 4-0 lead after one.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Class 4A baseball state title game: Shreve vs. Shaw

Gators win, 7-1. Congrats!

Coker is giving some other Gators a chance to play in the state championship game. Andrew Calantone and John Anderson have come to the plate in the seventh.

Going to the 7th, still Shreve leading, 7-0.

Going to the top of the 6th, the Gators still lead, 7-0. This would the 14th straight win for Shreve and the 37th win in 40 tries. Captain Shreve has no previous state championships in baseball.
Shaw has made a pitching change, bringing in Jaren Rachel.

Top of 5th
Gators at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Charrier scores when a Trevor Deas single bounces over the SS. Shreve starts the inning with four straight singles and scores three to lead, 7-0, going into the bottom.

As YMCA plays between innings, it's obvious who's from New Orleans (fun city) and who's from Shreveport (boring city). With the second batter in the bottom of the fourth, Shreve's no-hitter is gone.

A ball gets past Shreve catcher Clint Ewing with nobody on base, so coach Ronnie Coker makes a nice running grab out of the dugout and throws to the mound in one motion. Nice play, coach!

Third inning
Gators score again when Brandon Charrier singles to left and the outfielder can't pick it up, allowing Zach Johnson to round third and come home. It's 4-0 after the second baseman boots a ball hit by Phillip Freeman and Charrier scores from third.

Shreve still leads, 2-0, after two complete innings.

1st inning
Lance West hits into a double play but scores Zach Johnson from third, 1-0 Gators. Two Shreve hits from the first four batters. Trevor Deas scores on an error by the 2B after Phillip Freeman reaches first safely, 2-0. Freeman is thrown at home to end the half inning. The team seems much more relaxed today, though they haven't been in the field yet. Shaw scores nothing.
There are more than Haughton fans in support of Shreve tonight. A couple of Airline t-shirts, a Northwood player and Cedar Creek administrator Jack Thigpen are also in attendance.

6:56: First pitch, a strike to Zach Johnson.

6:53: The anthem has been played and the ceremonial first pitch thrown by somebody in a large cowboy hat.

6:46: The meeting between the head coaches and umpires just broke up at home plate. Players are being introduced, Shreve, as the visiting team, first.

6:31: There were a handful of Haughton baseball players and at least one coach here last night to cheer on the Gators, a fellow District 1-4A member. It's good to see that good sportsmanship from high school guys. We sometimes don't even see that from adults.

6:28: The press box crew asked the Shaw coach before his Thursday semifinal what to play for the school fight song. He said to get "On Wisconsin," but it was too late. They played "It's raining men" instead every time Shaw scored, and the rather rowdy group of Eagles students loved it and requested it again for the title game. Though the workers retrieved "On Wisconsin" to use for certain instances, they greeted the arrival of the Shaw students with "It's raining men," much to their (odd) pleasure.
The Gators have just taken the field for warmups (6:31).

Austin Ross (7-1) is the projected starter for the Gators. He is considered the No. 3 starter, while Archbishop Shaw has its ace (Zack Barrett, 9-1) after holding him out of a 12-7 semifinal win over Salmen. Shaw has the early lead on fans. A busload of students made the trip yesterday for the 4 p.m. game, was bused back for morning classes and left at lunchtime to return. They are here, decked out in green and ready. They were very rowdy yesterday. Shreve seems to have about 50 fans or so here 40 minutes before the game.
Shaw has just taken the field to warm up (6:23) and Austin Tolliver is walking back-and-forth in front of the Gators dugout with a video camera, documenting the day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mid-Con softball, a joke

You could understand why there were very few Centenary Ladies or Gents selected to the All Mid-Con basketball teams after those two squads finished in the bottom of the league, but the Mid-Con softball coaches embarrassed themselves on Thursday by voting just one Ladies player, Micah Rhodes, to the league's first team.

The Ladies finished second in the league and have won the Mid-Con postseason tournament title two consecutive seasons. First place Southern Utah landed four first teamers, third place Western Illinois had five and fourth place Oakland put three on the team.

The slight should give coach Mark Montgomery's team some added incentive when the Mid-Con tourney kicks off on Friday.

Class 4A semifinal: Capt. Shreve vs. St. Thomas More

7th inning
Shreve leads off the seventh with singles by Phillip Freeman and David Williams. Nobody out, trailing 8-5. ALEX GARCIA HOMERS WITH TWO ON TO TIE THE GAME AT 8. Still nobody out. STM had a player warming up in the bullpen, but he's a little late. Now, Bobby Darnell comes in with two on and one out, 8-8.

6th inning
Shreve may have gotten hurt by the phantom out at second moving to the high school level. Lance West appeared to be safe but was called for the third out when the shortstop tagged in the vicinity of the base.
Chance Harst hits a large homer to left center to score three runs for an 8-5 lead. We go to the seventh.

5th inning
Andrew Calantone doubles off the right center field fence to score two runs and, mysteriously, prompt the playing of the Louisiana Tech fight song here at ULM. Shreve, 5-3, with two outs and Calantone on second.
STM coaches continue to send runners who have no chance of advancing, losing perhaps two runs in the innings to runners thrown out. Still, the Cougars tie the game on a wild pitch-error combination for one run and a double steal for another. Then again, the first "stealer" then gets thrown out trying to take third. End of inning, 5-5.

4th inning
David Williams hits a monster homer over the right field fence to score two and cut the deficit to 3-2 with one out. When Brandon Charrier walks with the bases loaded to tie the game. Leadoff hitter Jeff Etienne, or more likely the first base coach, makes the bonehead decision of the game, trying to turn a single into a double and getting out with a long fly to left. John Anderson comes in with the bases loaded to get the Cougars out without a run. 3-3

3rd inning
Shreve gets a runner to third in the inning but can't bring him home. STM gets a double but nothing else in the inning. Still STM 3, Gators 0.

2nd inning
Other than a walk, Shreve goes down quickly in the second. The Gators have let STM load the bases with nobody out. That's four Gators errors. Shreve manages to hold the Cougars without a run as Austin Hedges triggers a 4-6-3 double play.

1st inning
Shreve goes down 1-2-3. STM takes a 3-0 lead on a single to right and eventually scores two more virtually all on three errors. The Cougars end up with three hits in the inning also.

The lineups are out and Zach Johnson (7-1) is the starting pitcher for Captain Shreve. Stephen Padgett (9-0) starts for STM.

Archbishop Shaw defeated Salmen, 12-7, in an error-filled (11) first semifinal game. The Gators now try to earn the other spot in Friday's 4A championship game. At 6:47 p.m., STM has the larger fan following, but perhaps a few Gators fans will show up. Shaw had a rather large and rowdy student contingent.

These games are in Monroe at the Louisiana-Monroe baseball field. Like the university's football stadium, it looks like an overdeveloped high school facility. I, having already gone to high school for four years, chose to attend Louisiana Tech, which is about 30 miles closer to Shreveport.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Evangel vs. Opelousas Catholic

Evangel wins and will play Calvary at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the 1A title game.

6th inning
The Vikings get a solo home run from Rob Purser in the top of the inning, but that's all. Evangel comes to bat with a 7-4 lead. OC gets two strikeouts and a fly out to end the inning.

5th inning
Opelousas Catholic goes down three in a row. Evangel's Chase Jennings singles, steals, advances on a wild pitch and scores for a 4-3 lead on a Jeff Hulett single to center. The Vikings are making a pitching change with one out and Hulett on first. Evangel goes up 7-3 on a three-run homer by Ragan Baker. It hit high on the scoreboard, about 25 feet over the ground, approximately 365 feet from home plate.

4th inning
Opelousas Catholic starts the fourth with a Tommy Hebert double, and he scores on a single by Rob Purser. Dustin Ardoin scores on a Matt Hebert fielder's choice. OC leads, 3-1.
Evangel cuts it to 3-2 when Dave Kreamer scores on a squeeze bunt and tie it at 3 on a Dez Duron single to score Michael Powers.

3rd inning
Opelousas Catholic goes down 1-2-3. Evangel does the same. Still tied at 1.

Each team scored a run in the first inning, Evangel's Chase Jennings leading off with a walk and coming home on a Dan Kreamer double. Neither scored in the second inning.

Evangel and Opelousas Catholic met in the Class 1A state football championship in Shreveport's Independence Stadium on Dec. 12, the Eagles winning their 10th state title in that sport.

The P.A. announcer has said the game will start at 9:30, but the coaches and umpires are meeting at home plate now. The Calvary-Northlake Christian game, won by the Cavs with a 14-12 score, endured a 45-minute weather delay.

After the invisible rains: Calvary vs. Northlake Christian

Calvary wins, 14-12, and will play for 1A title at 7 p.m., in Alexandria, on Saturday.

Bottom 7th
Northlake scores one on a sac fly to left and then scores another on a single to center. One out, runner at 1st with Calvary leading, 14-12.

Top 7th
Phillip Windham doubles over the right fielder's head to score two runs and give the Cavs a 13-10 lead with two outs. Khiry Cooper singles to right to score Windham, 14-10.

Bottom 6th
Northlake gets a couple of runners to second base but can't score in the 6th.

Top 6th
Alex Dempsey scored on a single by Nick Rome to put Calvary ahead, 11-10.

Bottom 5th
Calvary had two outs and a fly ball heading to the outfield for an apparent third out, but the outfielder pulled up to let it drop. Northlake went on to score six runs with two outs to tie the game at 10.

Top 5th
Randy Zeigler doubles off the right field wall to score two, and a Texas Leaguer by Derek Blankenship scores Zeigler. A triple by Kyle Neathery brings home Blankenship, making it 10-4 in Calvary's favor with two outs.

Bottom 4th
Donnie Simpson of Northlake doubles for the first Wolverines hit of the game, driving in a run. Karl Mundt hits to right to score another and cut Calvary's lead to 6-4 with one out.

Top 4th
Randy Zeigler scores from first on a long fly to right center by Gip Hendrix. Kyle Neathery singles to center to score Alex Dempsey. Calvary leads, 6-2.

Bottom 3rd
Calvary hasn't given up a hit but was walked nine batters, including the first two of this inning. One has been picked off, leaving a runner at first with one out.

Top 3rd
Calvary gets two walks after the rain delay, but a fly ball ends the inning with the Cavs still leading, 4-2.

Supposedly we'll be playing again in 5 minutes (app. 6:17 p.m.), apparently without warming up much at all.

Time for Sutton, Toms to keep up

Former Grambling coach Doug Williams announced two more confirmations for his charity golf tournament - former Cowboys receiver and future Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and Tampa Bay star Anthony McFarland.

They join NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, Jacksonville QB Byron Leftwich and Tampa Bay receiver and former LSU star Michael Clayton. That's some pretty impressive star power.

Hal Sutton and David Toms' charity tournament has yet to release its field, but you can bet c-list actor Dennis Haskins will be there. Nothing against Dennis Haskins because he does offer his time to come to Shreveport to play for a good cause, but he's best known for playing principal Mr. Belding on the TV show "Saved by the Bell," and doesn't exactly have what you would call drawing power.

McFarland and Williams did play in the celebrity shootout last year, but with Williams' own golf tournament to organize, I doubt they'll be back for the Sutton tournament.

The tournament has brought in big-name PGA talent (Chris DiMarco, John Daly, Ben Crenshaw and Davis Love III come to mind immediately), but DiMarco and Daly backed out last year and Crenshaw hasn't been back since his appearance in 2003.

The tournament has brought in some big-name talent, like the 2004 tournament that featured Daly, DiMarco, Love III and Stewart Cink. Last year's pool featured Ryder Cup participants Cink and Chris Riley, but also Larry Mize, Scott Simpson (Bill Murray's favorite partner), and Shaun Micheel - names that may draw a few blanks when mentioned to the casual fan.

So it's time to draw out the big guns. What would it take to get Vijay Singh or Sergio Garcia or even, dare I say, Tiger Woods to the event? How about some of the old-timers like Tom Watson or Tom Kite, or even, dare I say, Jack Nicklaus?

Class 1A state baseball: Calvary vs. Northlake Christian

Top 3rd
The infield lights were somehow switched off, so the umps stopped the game for them to warm up (15 minutes), but now the rain has begun to fall and the tarp is being rolled out. Strap in! The tarp is now being rolled up and we could be back in action by 6:30ish. It was basically a rainless rain delay with one flashy lighting strike somewhere in the distance.

Bottom 2nd
It's raining lightly. Northlake has the bases loaded with nobody out. Calvary changes pitchers, bringing SS Gip Hendrix to the mound. Hendrix gets the Cavs out of the inning without giving up a run. That could be huge later.

Top 2nd
Calvary DH Craig Rascoe leads of by sending a high fastball over the 16-foot left field wall to tie the game at 2. Singles by Nick Rome and Randy Zeigler drive in runs for a 4-2 Calvary lead. Northlake Christian removed its LF two batters ago and is doing its best to stall as he warms up in the bullpen.

Bottom 1st
With runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, a Calvary wild pitch scores Northlake's Jeremy Aliff. Plenty of control problems so far for both starters. Don't be surprised to see a 15-13 game if they don't settle down. Another walk brings in Northlake's Donnie Sampson, and the Wolverines lead 2-1.

Top 1st
Calvary scores with bases loaded, one out, on a particularly wild pitch. It hit in the grass about four yards in front of the plate and rolled to the wall. Nick Rome came home from third and slid into home, 1-0 Calvary. Two strikeouts follow and the Cavs lead, 1-0, middle of first.

We are 13 minutes from the first pitch -- if things run on time -- of Calvary's state semifinal game against Northlake Christian. The Cavs are in pregame warmups, Doug Pederson hitting some fly balls to outfielders right now. The weather is the big question today. Forecasters say anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent chance of rain, thunder, high winds and even hail. Evangel is scheduled to play Opelousas Catholic at 7 p.m. Here's a prediction that game will be late due to weather.
By the way, those making their way to Bringhurst Field here in Alexandria can ignore those Mapquest or Mapfinder internet directions. They're wrong.
Best of luck finding the stadium.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Texas, Arkansas ... who cares

The Monday announcement about the renewal of a football series between Texas and Arkansas has all the exciement of LSU announcing a series with Southern Mississippi. There could be that much difference between the two schools.

Arkansas fans, who are about as realistic as the idiots who think we should pull out of Iraq, like to point to past close games with the Longhorns. But that was then and this is now. Texas long ago surpassed the lowly Hogs in talent, so the series will be as much fun as watching a re-run of a recent Oklahoma-Nebraska matchup.

Arkansans can do all the sooey-pig calling they want, but they better make sure their rear ends have extra padding because they're in for a butt whipping from the Big 12.

Swing and a miss for John Brady

No one should be surprised Dallas forward Darrell Arthur chose Kansas over LSU and Baylor on Tuesday.

The Tigers were late in the recruiting race for Arthur. Kansas has more basketball tradition than LSU or Baylor. His decision makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is LSU's inability to recruit impact talent nationally. Under Dale Brown, the Tigers were able to recruit players from Louisville (Rudy Macklin), New Jersey (Greg Cook), Los Angeles (John Williams) and San Antonio (Shaquille O'Neal). LSU's best players in recent years - Stromile Swift (Shreveport), Glen Davis (Baton Rouge) and Tyrus Thomas (Baton Rouge) are Louisiana products.

This isn't to say LSU should abandon its state roots. But in college basketball, a national presence is almost a necessity to be an elite program.

Unlike college football, where recruiting nationally can be worrisome, college basketball almost requires one or two national recruits each year to stay on top.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Getting hot at the right time

Two weeks ago, LSU, Tulane and Northwestern State all were left for dead in their conference baseball races.

Look at them now.

LSU swept Auburn on the road and pulled to within a half-game of eighth place in the SEC. Tulane got another sweep at home and is pressuring the top three in Conference USA. And the Demons just swept Southland Conference-leading Lamar over the weekend to vault to two games over .500 in the SLC.

Sure, there still are questions. Can LSU and Tulane earn at-large NCAA Tournament bids? Can the Demons stay hot and make a run at the SLC tourney title?

We'll see in the next three weeks, but one things for sure: This past weekend was like old times for college baseball in Louisiana.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kudos to LSUS baseball

College baseball's postseason conference tournaments normally lead to some ugly scores on the weekends. So it's to LSUS' credit the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament never got ugly.

The Pilots allowed only 10 runs in four tournament games. They didn't allow more than six runs in any game in the tournament.

They also won the tournament today, defeating Belhaven 7-2 in the championship game.

Pilots coach Rocke Musgraves has built a program that is a contender on both a conference and national level on a yearly basis. His work at LSUS should attract the attention of schools looking for a head coach. Because Musgraves has not only built a program, but he has maintained it as well.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Thank God for satellite TV

If satellite radio is a great invention, satellite TV isn't far behind.

With DirecTV you have the NFL to carry you through the fall and winter. If you are so inclined, NBA, NHL and college basketball can take up to the spring. And then, thank you God, baseball.

As a Boston Red Sox fan, this is the next best thing to being at Fenway - Don and Jerry on NESN, Joe and Jerry on XM.

It's hard to believe that as a child you were thankful just to get the Atlanta Braves on the SuperStation because otherwise it was the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC and Monday Night Baseball on ABC. The rest of the week was left to the box scores and the imagination.

Then came the Chicago Cubs on WGN in the early 1980s. Now, the greatest invention of all, baseball via satellite.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thanks for the scholarship coach!

Dallas drafted Grambling DE Jason Hatcher over the weekend and Hatcher replied that he "didn't have the best of the coaching" at his alma mater.

Wow! Five minutes out the door and already he's tossing Melvin Spears and his staff under the Sportran No. 5 bus.

So much for his teammate Bruce Eugene getting drafted. Eugene's weight probably had the most to do with that, but the kid is very mobile for his size and a strong arm with good touch. The Saints signed him as a free agent.

Supposedly, Eugene had one of the highest Wonderlic scores at the combine. Eugene scores high and doesn't get drafted. Vince Young has problems filling out his name on the same test and goes No. 3 overall.
Why bother taking it then?

Does membership into Mensa require a draft?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tech baseball takes slide

Just when they had their fans in a frenzy, the Louisiana Tech baseball team threw a damper on the season by losing five consecutive games at Sacremento State and at New Mexico State by a combined seven runs.

Even Tuesday night's 8-7 victory over UL-Monroe will do little to revive the momentum that has been lost. The Bulldogs will need to sweep Hawaii this weekend to get the diamond revival back to a fever pitch.

Despite the losses, however, Tech baseball coach Wade Simoneaux appears to have his team on the cusp of something special. A couple of more highly regarded recruiting classes should have him where he wants to be.

LHSAA needs baseball postseason series

This is not a new idea. Heck, it's been out there in other states for at least three decades (which may say something about us here in Louisiana), but here goes: The Louisiana High School Athletic Association needs to have two-out-of-three series for its postseason and not a one-and-done playoff.

Baseball is not a sport that lends itself to a single elimination format. A two-out-of-three format at least requires a prep team to have some semblance of pitching, not one pitcher and hope for something crazy to happen to win the game.

Alas, the playoff movement has never gained much steam in Louisiana and that's too bad. There's a lot of good baseball played in this state. Unfortunately, the best teams don't always win as often as they should.

Techsters pipeline

Trinity Valley Community College continues to be a pipeline for Lady Techsters basketball talent. With Tuesday's signing of Lady Cards' forward Jokierra Sneed, the Techsters now have inked seven TVCC players and a coach over the past few years.

Sneed joins Betty Lennox, Kenya Bibbs, Essence Perry, Lakiste Barkus, Tiffany Thompson, along with early spring signee Sierra Nixon, as former TVCC players choosing to wear the red and blue. Former head coach Kurt Budke was the head coach at Trinity Valley before joining the Techsters as an assistant coach under Leon Barmore.

Lennox was by far the best of that bunch, although Perry was a serviceable point guard and Barkus had her moments. With Sneed in the fold, Techsters coach Chris Long will have at least 14 players on his bench this fall, including seven players 6-foot-1 or taller.

That's gotta give Techsters fans some optimism heading into the fall.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hold on, Saints fans

Before you rush out and buy your New Orleans Saints season tickets due to the excitement of the Reggie Bush drafting, remember what franchise you're supporting.

Ol' Tom Benson is still in charge, and he's the same guy who punked our state while we were going through the throes of Hurricane Katrina. Remember his stealing money from the state, his engagement to the city of San Antonio, his continual flirtation with taking his team elsewhere? You want to pad that guy's wallet? Whatever.

And if you think one player will make the Saints a Super Bowl contender, you're living in a dream world. With or without Bush in the lineup, the Saints will continue their futility in 2006 that we have all become accustomed to.

Show the Sports some love this year

If there was ever a local franchise that needed a good showing of support from fans this year - it's the Sports.

They have a new General Manager in Terri Sipes, who's been in professional baseball for years now, going back to the Captains' days. She's a local person who knows what it takes to get people to the ballpark. She's not going to put a hot tub in the beer garden to attract fans and she won't isolate them either by not mingling with them at games and thanking them for their support.

It really isn't bad baseball out at Fair Grounds Field either. Sure, people will scoff at the notion of independent minor league baseball, but it's not that horrible. The Sports' new league, the American Association, has the top franchises from the Central League and the Northern League, including the St. Paul Saints considered to be the pinnacle of indy ball. Any team that has Bill Murray as a co-owner has got to be decent, right?

If the Shreveport Shock-hers, the local women's pro football team, can get 1,000 people at Independence Stadium for their opening game, the Sports can draw that on a semi-nightly basis.

The Sports open their season on May 11 at Fort Worth and start their home schedule on May16.

Saints are still a joke

The Saints may have drafted Reggie Bush, but their organization is still a joke.

We wanted to have a story for Tuesday talking about how ticket sales are going for the Saints-Cowboys preseason game at Independence Stadium. I called the Saints director of ticket sales and the media relations department and each time I got the same response - We don't have those figures.

Unbelievable. An NFL organization doesn't know how many tickets it has sold for a preseason game in August? Don't they have computers in their office? I know Tom Benson is a cheap owner, but come on, spring for a couple of Dells will ya?

This floors me. The winning organizations, like the Cowboys and the Patriots, are run like one at every level.

No wonder the Saints haven't won anything.

Saints have an identity

Well, what do you know. The New Orleans Saints have been run like a professional football team for three whole months.

The team that has lacked an identity for years has one now - they're Reggie Bush's team, and Drew Brees' team and Deuce McAllister's team. They're a team being molded in the way new coach Sean Payton wants -- character, toughness and intelligence. Let's face it, the Saints were lacking all three of those last year.

Knowing their history, you keep waiting for the Saints to do something stupid. So far, in the Payton Era, they don't appear to be doing anything head scratching.

That may be the biggest upset of all.

Saints fans are now on the clock

Saints fans weren't the only ones hooting for joy to have Reggie Bush fall into their laps during Saturday's first round of the NFL Draft ... so was Tom Benson and that's not great news for New Orleans.

Bush potentially becomes Benson's first class ticket out of town.

IF, Saints fans can't come out in droves for one of the most anticipated rookie debut seasons in years, than what argument can anyone make for keeping the Saints in Louisiana? Reggie Bush equals ticket sales, merchandise sales, national attention and hype. Fair or not, Bush is football's Michael Jordan.

And Air Jordan didn't play in half-filled venues.

Saints fans from Shreveport to Monroe to Lafayette to Baton Rouge are going to have to make the march to New Orleans. If not, expect the following lead paragraph in newspapers around the country.

"Citing lagging attendance and slumping revenues despite a breakout season by the unanimous choice for the NFL rookie of the year, Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and NFL Commissioner (fill in name here) announced that the team will be moving to Los Angeles for the 2007 NFL season."

Or ... if the NFL really wanted to make a splash it could do the following. The San Diego Chargers move to Los Angeles giving the second largest TV market in the U.S. an instantly competitive team that the SoCals are already familiar with, and the Saints move to San Diego, hometown of the one and only Reggie Bush.

Pull that off and do you think anyone is talking about poor New Orleans?

The Saints fans only defense is a strong offense at the ticket window.