Archive for March, 2010

YSU Softball Splits Twinbill With Canisius

Youngstown State’s softball team felt both ends of a comeback against Canisius on Tuesday.  The Penguins ended up gaining a split in two wild games where no lead was big enough for either team.  Canisius (12-12) took the first game, 7-6, in 10 innings, and YSU rallied late in the nightcap to garner a win, 10-8.

In the first of two games, YSU was unable to hold a 5-1 lead after five innings.  Canisius rallied with three runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh to hold a 7-6 lead.  YSU tacked on a run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

Exposure to a new rule in a sport I know something about is rare.  In the tenth inning of a non-league softball game, the “International Rule” comes into play.  This rule means that the batter that made the last out for a team batting an inning later, starts at second base with nobody out.  With bunting a routine part of fast-pitch softball, the object of the first batter, unless it is your best hitter, is almost always a sacrifice bunt to move the runner on second to third with no outs.  Kind of reminds me of kickball, when there were not enough kids you had to employ the popular “ghost runners”.

Canisius scored in the top of the tenth.  YSU did not score in the bottom.  Ball game, 7-6.

In the first game, Danielle Chase pitched 9 1/3 innings for YSU.  Chase was sore and yielded to Hana Somogyi in the tenth.  Somogyi took over with one out and gave up three consecutive hits before being pulled.  Chase was pinned with the loss.  Kim Klonowski homered for Youngstown State, and Amanda Palmore, Autumn Grove, and Haley Thomas each had two hits.

In the second game, the roles were reversed.  Canisius held an 8-3 lead in the fifth.  The Penguin bats got hot in a hurry as Klonowski (pictured above) hit another homer.  Palmore and Sarah Gabel then socked back-to-back homers to left field, both solo shots, both career-first home runs.

Kayla Vallery (pictured) pitched 4 2/3 innings in relief of starter Cheryl Cale to pick up the win.  Vallery held Canisius to just three hits.  With the win, Youngstown State improved to 6-15 on the season, but showed great determination to fight back and gain the split.

Coach Brian Campbell reflected on what he saw.  “One of the biggest things is that this group has an ‘I don’t give up’ attitude.  The offense has been pretty good all year, but we have to bring the other parts with us.  We can’t expect our offense to explode for that many hits and runs all of the time.  I’m glad they did step up to the table, but we need to bring the other parts of the game.” 

YSU’s Dallas Blocker Named Winner of V Foundation Comeback of The Year Award

Youngstown State University basketball senior player, Dallas Blocker, has been awarded the V Foundation Comeback Award.  ESPN will present the award for the tenth time on April 27th at YSU’s Scholar-Athlete Banquet.  The award will be formally announced tonight, March 30, during ESPN’s coverage of college basketball.

 “It is a great honor to be named the recipient of the 10th Annual V Foundation Comeback Award,” said Blocker. “There are no winners or losers in this. All of the finalists overcame a great deal of adversity and are deserving of this recognition as well. I’m fortunate to have had a tremendous amount of support over the past year. I need to thank my family, Coach (Jerry) Slocum and the entire Youngstown State coaching staff, and our athletic trainer Todd Burkey, who was with me every day during my chemotherapy treatments. I also want to thank The V Foundation, not only for this award, but for all of the work it does for cancer research and saving so many lives of those affected by cancer,” he concluded.

The award is open to all male and female student athletes at all levels and is presented in the honor of the late Coach Jim Valvano.  Valvano was courageous while battling with cancer, inspiring the creation of The V Foundation.

Blocker was profiled earlier in the year on To read his profile interview, click here.  In the profile, Blocker gives a recounting of his battles with cancer in its early stages, what chemo was like, and how he was able to bounce back.

On behalf of the Greater Youngstown Area, extended congratulations to Dallas for having the courage to fight!

Team USA Defeats Frustrated Phantoms, 6-2

Shots on goal usually reflect the type of hockey game that was played.  On Saturday night, Team USA only took 21 shots on goal.  Unfortunately for the Youngstown Phantoms, six of those 21 shots hit the inside of the Phantoms net.  Team USA rode their offensive outburst to a 6-2 win in Youngstown.  The Phantoms outshot Team USA 28-21, but the quality of the Phantoms shots were mostly routine saves for Team USA goaltender John Gibson.

With 3:39 elapsed in the game, Team USA struck first when Cole Bardreau connected on a shorthanded chance.  Austin Wuthrich picked up an assist on the goal which gave the 17-year old version of  Team USA the lead for good.

Team USA would tack on another goal with a powerplay score.  Alexx Privatera connected from almost straight on beating Jordan Tibbet.  Privatera’s shot was from about 15 feet and may have deflected off of Tibbet’s shoulder as it bounced the Gatorade bottle resting on top of the net as the puck hit the inside top for the score.  Travis Boyd and Robbie Russo gathered assists on the man-advantage connection.

The Phantoms would cut the margin to 2-1 when Jefferson Dahl scored a shorthanded goal.  Dahl’s interception and tally were good for his 16th goal on the year tying him with Tom Serratore and Brett Gensler for the team lead in that category.  The noisy crowd of just over 2,500 had little to cheer about after this goal.

In the second period, the Phantoms looked good in killing off a two-man penalty, but failed to score on three consecutive powerplay chances.  During the second powerplay, Youngstown did not even get a shot off.  Reid Boucher knocked in his tenth goal of the season to put Team USA ahead 3-1 with 4:37 remaining in the period.

Dylan Margonari picked up his third goal in his twentieth game as a Phantom to cut the Team USA lead back to a single goal at 3-2.  Margonari found twine with 1:57 left in the period while the Phantoms were enjoying yet another powerplay opportunity.

In the third period, goals by Dan Carlson and Travis Boyd hiked the Team USA lead to 5-2.  The two goals were scored less than two minutes apart and put the Phantoms in too big of a hole.  Wuthrich would add another goal with 4:46 left in the game to seal the deal for Team USA (25-29-4).

East Palestine native, JT Miller (above), talked about coming home.  “It is a pleasure to come home and play in front of my family and friends.  We don’t get to come back much during the year, so it is good when we get here.  It is a confidence booster to play here and you always want to be accounted as playing hard in front of people you know.”  Miller will move up to Team USA 18 year-olds next season saying he likes the two-year developmental program.

The Phantoms dropped to 18-35-5 with the loss.  When asked if the last couple of games left in the season were going to be experience builders for the Phantoms rather than trying to actually win, Coach Curt Carr responded, “We are still going to try to win.  I think if the guys know that we as a staff are just building for next year, it sends the wrong message, so we will be battling each day as if we were competing for a playoff spot and do everything we can to win.”

YSU Football Holds First Scrimmage Action

There was a little bit of everything going on at Stambaugh Stadium Saturday afternoon.  A situational scrimmage was held in the midst of Spring football.  There were plenty of bright spots for new coach Eric Wolford to bask upon.  Unfortunately for the players, Wolford is the guy who will go nuts for a couple of days trying to fix things that did not go as planned. 

The players in this environment are almost in a no-win situation.  The offense is going to gain some yards sooner or later.  The defense will nab an interception or record a few sacks.  Every play, someone had to do something wrong.  Unfortunately for the players, Coach Wolford stood comfortably 15 yards behind the offense with his whistle in his mouth and a tablet and inkpen in his hands.  Every play, Wolford would scribble some notes until the next play was ready to go.  Those notes combined with a weekend of film study will give Wolford all the ammo he needs to better prepare his team for the Spring game to be held on April 10. 

Wolford was satisfied with aspects of the practice game but says there are alot of things that have to happen.  “I told the refs before we started if anything was close to call it because I think that was a major problem from last year.  If you don’t get that corrected now, it is going to continue to be there.”  As whistles blew in the backround, Wolford went on to say, “They got backed up enough and put in second-and-long from penalties.  In fact, those boys (pointing to his offense) are over there doing up-downs right now for the penalties.  That’s good, they need that.”

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Dominique Barnes (above), coming off of a solid year, had a nice afternoon for the Penguin offense.  Barnes scored three touchdowns and had 166 yards on eight receptions.  The big play from Barnes came when he  lined up split left and ran a post.  Kurt Hess threw a perfect ball hitting Barnes in stride on the 70-yard touchdown.

Marc Kanetsky and Hess split most of the time at quarterback.  The cerebral Kanetsky is proving that he can control a game by reading a defense and making good decisions without turning the ball over.  I think once the smoke clears that Kanetsky will be given the chance to run this offense.  Hess and Kanetsky both played well Saturday mixing snaps with the first and second units.  Both quarterbacks also had receivers drop a couple of passes that they threw.

Defensively, DB Brandian Ross (above) enjoyed the enthusiasm and competitiveness exhibited in the scrimmage situation.  “The receivers and the linemen have the biggest mouths.  When we get to shut them up it is the best feeling in the world.  That was like a conference game to me today.  It was physical, it was fast, and it was alot of plays, just like a normal game.”  

All-in-all, Wolford seemed pleased with the effort.  “There are obviously positives at some positions and negatives at others.  Usually, what happens is you compliment someone, and the next scrimmage it goes the other way.  When you compliment somebody, usually they come back the next day and  disappoint you.  We are going to see how the defense responds to a compliment.  Our linebackers played well running downhill and hitting their gaps.  I like what [Deonta] Tate is doing back there for us, he is showing potential.  [Jamaine]  Cook (pictured) may not have had alot of yards, but he makes guys miss.”

When asked about Dominique Barnes making some big plays, Wolford said, “Yeah, he needed to step up and make some plays here.  I think Dominique now understands that no one is grandfathered in around here.  In the past when you were ‘the guy’ around here you might have had a long leash, well,  these guys are all on a short leash nowadays.” 

ysu helmet

5 Things You Can Forget About In The Upcoming Baseball Season

Ah… A new season, finallyMajor League Baseball couldn’t start soon enough.  Fantasy owners are chirping about who the sleepers are, fans are purchasing tickets to enjoy a game on a Spring day, and it all starts next week.  Before you laugh at these five predictions, remember who picked the Saints to win the Super Bowl last August, and who picked Butler to beat Syracuse three weeks ago.

The following five items are heavily debated baseball topics for the upcoming year.  Having heard both sides of a few arguments over the past few months, presents the five things you can forget about in the 2010 MLB season.

  • The Cleveland Indians will contend.  Forget it.  Cleveland has chosen to go the same route as the Pittsburgh Pirates, profit at the end of the year.  The bullpen was supposed to be the strength of this year’s team, but Kerry Wood is only getting exercise when riding his bike to the Cleveland Clinic.  No closer.  Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner are both injury prone as well.  Hafner (looking good as always at Spring Training) blows a gasket every May and misses a couple of months.  The rotation is trashMark Redman is the starting catcher even though he couldn’t start anywhere else in recent years.  Finally, Manny Acta, the new manager, has done next to nothing to merit his title, yet he will be shoved down our throats as a savior (ala Mike Holmgren) all season long.  Brace yourselves Tribe fans, it is gonna be a long year.

  • The New York Yankees will repeat as champions.  Wrong, they will not.  By spending billions of dollars over the past ten years and walking away with a single championship, the Yankees have regressed.  George’s fat wallet is still on auto pilot, but the level of expectation can’t be matched regardless of what they accomplish during the regular season.  Andy Pettitte should have retired, AJ Burnett is an every other year pitcher with a DL history for blisters.  Can’t Big George afford Bactine and some Band-Aids?  The Yankees will have a potent offense, they always do, especially with the Fisher Price right field poke for a home run at the new stadium.  Pitching will doom the Yankees and expect most of the heat to fall on Joba Chamberlain, a ‘work in progress’ to be a permanent fixture in the starting rotation.

  • Toronto should go about .500.  The Blue Jays will be lucky to go .300 this season.  The starting rotation is a mess.  Roy Halladay was it.  Guys that were expected to step up are hurt and the Jays are gonna be hurling a bunch of nobody’s all year long.  Bring back Dennis Lamp, Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy, and Luis Leal, hell…  let Jesse Barfield pitch too, they would all be better than the watermelon lobbing staff that the Canadians will present this season.

  • Tim Lincecum will have an off year because of his fat contract signing.  Look for Little Timmy to duplicate last year and then some.  He missed four starts last season and still approached a few records.  The Cy Young will stay by the bay and the Giants, who have other good pitchers, and a prospect named Madison Bumgarner who will make a difference by seasons end, can contend if and only if they get some offense.  Barry Bonds is gone (for now, anyway) and the Giants and Lincecum might be drowning in champagne  this October.

  • The Chicago Cubs will suck.  I see the Cubs winning the division this yearAlfonso Soriano is going to fly back with a season enjoyed by few.  The Cubs are one of the best balanced teams on paper and have a respectable leader in Lou Piniella who knows how to construct winning teams.  The rotation is pretty solid and the position players can hit.  If Aramis Ramirez can stay healthy and Soriano can return to form, beware National League, no one can touch this team.  Expect Zambrano and Lilly to have good numbers and a high amount of quality starts.

Spring Football Is Intense Under The New Wolford Administration

It’s MarchIn like a lion, out like a lamb.  If new YSU Coach Eric Wolford and his staff had their way, March would come in like a lion, and go out a bigger, faster, and stronger lion that was more physical at month’s end.  Saturday afternoon marked the first full-contact practice for the Penguins. The intensity was at a fever-pitch level as the team, at midpractice, broke into Oklahoma drills.

Oklahoma drills are simply one blocker, one defender, and one ball carrier.  Someone gets the best of someone else every play.  There are two bags set about four yards apart that the runner, who starts at a 5-yard drop,  must stay between.  The defender has the task of shedding his block and making a good tackle.  It is a great intensity builder and there was little disappointment on that front Saturday.

Coach Wolford saw good and bad on the first official day of contact.  “I was not really pleased at what I saw.  We need to be more physical, so we need to do more physical things at practices, that might be all we do.  Right now our coaches have more energy than some of the players.”

After the Oklahoma drill, the team broke into specialty groups.  The group with the most question marks remains the quarterback position.  All four quarterbacks in camp (pictured) took snaps with different units.  As Wolford had explained earlier, this position is of the most importance and he was not sure what exactly to expect coming into Spring ball.

When asked about the high-pitched practice where some players had to be seperated, Wolford (above) remarked, “I think it’s good.  Football is not for everyone.  If you don’t like contact and flying around and  getting excited, and getting red eyes and panting a little bit, then this may not be for you.  There are some guys out here who I’m not sure know what football is all about.  My expectations are for us to be a very physical football team, and we have got to address that immediately.”

Marc Kanetsky, one of the four quarterback candidates, commented on the atmosphere.  “Everything is more uptempo.  Coach [Wolford] is real intense.  If you are doing something wrong, he will get in your face and let you know about it.  We just have to keep learning the new system and working to get better every day.”


Beware The Butler Bulldogs In The NCAA Tournament

The Horizon League may well be one of the most underestimated conferences in all of college basketball.  Few programs have had the success that Butler has enjoyed over the past few seasons.  For some reason, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee seeded the Horizon League regular season and tournament champions as a #5 seed.

Butler (28-4) finished the season ranked at #11.  If the math is true, they should have gotten a #3 seeding.  Instead they draw a quality first round opponent in UTEP, another underseeded team.  The Bulldogs also just ran the table in the Horizon League (first time that has ever been done), and hold the longest winning streak in the country at 20 games.

Three of the Bulldogs losses came to teams in the Big Dance.  Minnesota, Clemson (one point), and Georgetown all managed to beat Butler during the regular season.  Butler, however, holds wins against Siena, Ohio State, and Xavier, three more tournament teams.

Coach Brad Stevens, in just his third season, has an overall 77-14 record.  Stevens is trotting a young team onto the court to face UTEP with just one Senior (Willie Veasley, pictured), one Junior (Matt Howard), and three Sophomores (Gordon Hayward, Ronald Nored, and Shelvin Mack).

If the Bulldogs can defeat UTEP, they would face the winner of the Vanderbilt-Murray State contest.  If they can win two games in a row, they will be in the Sweet 16 and in all likelihood have a date with #1 seed SyracuseButler can beat Syracuse.  Write that down somewhere.

No matter how far Horizon League teams seem to go in the tournament (Butler, Cleveland State, and Valpo have all done well in recent years) the reality seems that a #5 seed is the best the selection committee can give the conference. 

Good Luck Butler!  Represent the Horizon League with pride and knock ’em all down a peg or two.

(photo of Willie Veasley courtesy of Ron Stevens)

YSU Softball Green Team Commercial

Cindy Martin Resigns As YSU Women’s Basketball Coach

John Wooden would have had trouble winning a game with seven players dressed.  Pat Summitt would have quit midseason.  Phil Jackson would have went nuts.  Cindy Martin stuck it out.

With two years remaining on her contract, Coach Cindy Martin has resigned as head basketball coach at Youngstown State University.  In two seasons, Martin compiled a record of 3 wins and 57 losses, including an obstacle filled 0-30 campaign this year.  Beyond the numbers, so many factors worked against Martin in her two years.  This year, the numbers were a mess.  Having really only two post players made the Lady Penguins weak in the middle, especially when one would go out for a breather, or God forbid, foul trouble.

Martin only had two Seniors, Rachael Manuel and Kaitlyn March.  March dressed but was limited because of shin problems, and Manuel has been an improving work in progress since she got here.  Many of the players on the team were not even her recruits.  Credit her and the staff for finding Brandi Brown, a Horizon League Newcomer of  The Year finalist.

It’s a real shame that Martin has opted to go.  Those on the inside will tell you that there is nobody you will ever meet more competitive than Coach Martin.  Press conference after press conference, she always managed to take something positive and build on it.  She never used the numbers disadvantage as a crutch or an excuse.  Martin also never said a negative word about Youngstown, her staff, or her players because she believed in all of them.

Director of Athletics, Ron Strollo, said the choice to resign was Martin’s.  “We were surprised at Coach Martin’s decision to resign at this time.  She accepted a difficult challenge in rebuilding the winning tradition of YSU women’s basketball, and she and her staff worked tirelessly the past two years toward that end. We understand the end results of this past season put their efforts to the test, but a full examination of the extenuating circumstances that led to this year’s outcomes makes those familiar with the situation supportive of the progress she made.”

“I have decided to step down from my position because I feel in my heart it is what’s best for the program at this time,” Martin said. “I want to thank Youngstown State University and the athletic department for the wonderful opportunity. We signed back-to-back recruiting classes that are committed to their successes both on and off the court.”

Martin’s influence was obvious in her players who completed 30 community service projects over the past two years.  Academics were also important to the Lady Penguins as the team had a combined 3.29 GPA.

Best of luck to Cindy Martin!  She has paved the groundwork for the future of YSU Basketball over the next few years.

NFL Scouts Evaluate Seniors, Jones Runs Routes

Donald Jones, the former Youngstown State Penguin, came home for a visit and he didn’t come alone.  Jones ran routes on the Stambaugh Stadium turf early Monday morning.  Scouts from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis were there early to evaluate select Seniors in various categories.

To enter Stambaugh Stadium at 7 am brought back memories of the dreaded eight o’clock classes.  Looking around, the weight room was full of life as several people were doing workouts.  Unsure of where the scouts, players to be tested, or Donald Jones were, Jon Moffett, of the Vindicator, and I walked into the gym to strategize where to be.  Walking toward us was Donald Jones.  Jones had a big smile on his wide awake face and stopped to chat.  “It feels great to be home”, exclaimed Jones.

When asked what to expect today, Jones knew exactly what he would be doing.  “They [NFL scouts] are pretty happy with my numbers from the combine.  All they want me to do today is run routes.”  Jones did just that putting on a good show as classmate Aaron Pitts threw balls to Jones.

Jones enhanced his draft status with a good showing at the NFL Combine a couple of weeks ago.  He tied for first benching 225 pounds a set amount of times and he also ran a 4.47  40-yard dash.  He is projected to go in the fifth round, where he would be a steal.  Jones has the size, speed, and hands to carry a team and as an added bonus the NFL needs a few guys like DJ with their heads screwed on straight.

Phil Kreidler, a scout from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, remembered me from the Pitt and South Dakota State games, where we spoke about Jones.  His task on this day was to put other Penguins through some tests in hopes of scooping up a good free agent or two.  “We have the guys run two forties, vertical jump, broad jump, and we look for explosiveness.  We also see how many times each person can bench 225.  We then move to some agility drills to evaluate their overall athletic ability and a few change of direction drill as well.”

If someone performs well, Kreidler reports back to the Steelers.  “We grade every Senior and look to see if maybe someone can be helpful to us as a free agent.  Every guy gets a specific grade based on their performance here today.  We then get together and go over every single player we give a draft grade to.”

Many of  last years Seniors were present for the testing.  Mychal Savage (pictured), Lenny Wicks, Dana Brown, Jabari Scott, and Brandon Summers, were all there to get timed, tested, and put there numbers on the board in hopes of making it to the National Football League.  Good luck to all who participated!