Archive for June, 2010

Scrappers Finally Win One At Home

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The Mahoning Valley Scrappers took steps forward as a team on Friday night at Eastwood Field.  Having lost the first game of a two-game set to Batavia and winless on the season-opening homestand, the Scrappers had something to prove to the faithful fans. The bats, in particular, Chase Burnette’s wooden bat, supplied more than enough offense in support of a fine start by Alex Kaminsky as the Scrappers finally won one at home, 12-4.

Mahoning Valley (3-5) scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth to open up the scoring.  Chase Burnette and Tyler Cannon produced RBI-singles to put the Scrappers ahead.

In the bottom of the fifth with two outs, Kevin Fontanez hit a soft liner right at Batavia 2B Joey Bergman.  Bergman dropped the ball to keep the inning alive.  Andrew Kinney then knocked Jordan Casas home.  Burnette then promptly hit a 2-run homer (pictured, top) to put the Scrappers up 5-0.

After surrendering a run in the top of the sixth and the score sitting at 5-1 in favor of the Scrappers, Brian Heere hit a sacrifice fly and Casas delivered a nice two-run double down the first base line to put Mahoning Valley comfortably ahead, 8-1.

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Scrappers starter Alex Kaminsky, who pitched at Eastwood Field before signing with the organization for Wright State, threw a nice game.  Kaminsky tossed five full innings and did not surrender a run.  Kaminsky threw 79 pitches and surrendered five hits with 3 K’s and 2 BB.

After Batavia put up two runs in the top of the seventh to make the core 8-3, the Scrappers responded by scoring three runs off of Batavia knuckleballer Houston Summers who struggled to find the plate.  Burnette would tack on a second home run in the bottom of the eighth to push the Scrapper lead to 12-3.

Burnette, who commented after Monday’s 12-0 home-opener beating that there would be a transition period of getting used to wooden bats after using aluminum through college.  ” It’s a big adjustment and will take some time, but we had eleven hits tonight and it really felt good to finally win one at home “.  Burnette finished the game 3-5 with two homers and four RBI’s.

After the game, Manager Travis Fryman was pleased with the hitting and pitching that the Scrapper provided in front of 5, 043 fans.  ” We got some very solid defense tonight and executed really well.  Coming in, I thought Chase [Burnette] had a great swing, tonight he showed it. “

The Scrappers head out to Auburn and Batavia for a five game road trip before returning home Thursday to host three against Jamestown.

Praying That The Vuvuzela Stays With Soccer Exclusively

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Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am not much for reporting on soccer.  I am of Italian heritage, meaning I can’t even speak without using my hands.  So to watch a sport with such little offense is just not my thing.  With the World Cup being played, I broke down, had a lapse of indifference for the sport and a feeling of National Pride as I would turn on the USA’s awesome win over Algeria.

Here was the catch… I had to watch the game with the sound muted because after five minutes of feeling like I was in a beehive, I got nervous and uneasy, waiting to get stung on the couch.  I immediately went to ‘Plan B‘ which was to turn on the radio and watch the television.  The buzzing noise of the vuvuzela was still there, but not as loud.  Annoying but tolerable.  Then the announcer spoke and I thought I was watching the Indy 500 from 1983 with Jackie Stewart calling the action.  TV muted, radio off, no sound.

I did some research.  The vuvuzela is a horn which was originally used to summon distant villagers to attend community gatherings. It is 65 cm. and its tone is stuck on B Flat, there is no change, ever. Luckily, it is a South African trademark at soccer matches.

The disadvantage I put myself at was that I am ignorant to the situations of soccer and could have used the help of a knowledgeable announcer.  Little did I know that the game would go on past the end, when the US would get their game-winning goal from Landon Donovan.  I was happy for our soccer team yet confused about why I cared about it.

I will watch the World Cup as long as the United States is playing.  However, after their run is over, so is mine.  All I pray for is that the annoying vuvuzela will be banned from American sports at all levels.  If I wanted a constant buzz, I would start doing drugs or invest in a honey-producing business.

Here is to our soccer club making a run at the cup (with the sound off).

Scrappers 0-For-The Homestand, 6-3 Losers To Batavia

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The Mahoning Valley Scrappers did not have the most memorable opening home series.  Scoring just three runs in three games against Auburn, the offense seemed starved.  A new series against Batavia offered at least a chance for redemption.  The offense sparked a bit, but the pitching bent at the worst time and a few untimely bounces proved costly as Batavia jumped past the Scrappers, 6-3.

Batavia got on the board first in the fourth inning.  Victor Sanchez opened the inning for the Muckdogs with a double off of Scrappers starter Kirk Wetmore (pictured).  The next batter, Jon Edwards, hit a rope to dead center which fooled Scrapper CF Jordan Casas. Edwards ended up with an RBI triple.  Two batters later, Audry Perez hit a sacrifice to right field plating Edwards and giving the Muckdogs a 2-0 lead.

Mahoning Valley got a spark in the bottom of the fifth when DH Aaron Fields doubled home Carlos Moncrief and Tyler Cannon to tie the score at two runs each.  Batavia starter Kevin Siegrest seemed to have control of the game until the Scrappers finally got some guys on base.  Siegrest only threw eleven pitches to all six batters he faced in the inning.

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Batavia had a big seventh inning off of Scrapper reliever James Reichenbach.  Rainel Rosario singled to lead off the inning.  Perez followed that with another single.  Yunier Castillo bunted and Reichenbach fielded the ball cleanly and opted to try for the out at second.  His throw pulled 2B Kevin Fontanez off of the bag and everyone was safe with nobody out.  Nicholas Longmire then bashed a Reichenbach offering over the right field fence for a grand slam and a 6-2 Batavia lead.

The Scrappers threatened in the ninth inning when they loaded the bases with just one out.  Tyler Cannon hit the ball at the second basemen to plate a run on a fielder’s choice.  Next up was Moises Montero who looked at three consecutive strikes without a swing and the Scrappers were dealt another loss, falling to 0-4 on the current home stand and 2-5 overall.

After the game, Aaron Fields, who had a clutch game tying double, talked about the general attitude of the team.  ”Everybody is fine.  The good thing about this sport is you can come back tomorrow and do better.”

Manager Travis Fryman was also not yet in panic mode.  Joking about the fresh season Fryman said, “I would bet there are guys in the locker room that don’t know everyone’s name yet.  I don’t even know everyone’s name yet.”

Fryman also went on to talk about the his first week meeting.  ” We talked about the difference between college and pro ball and what differences they realize.  There is much more positive interaction at this level than a player in college where things seem to be more dictated.”

The Scrappers finish up the mini-series with Batavia on Friday, first pitch at Eastwood Field is 7:05 p.m.

Pete Mollica Sighting

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This past Winter, one of the true legends of the Youngstown area stepped away from being simply the best at what he did.  Pete Mollica was a writer for the Youngstown Vindicator newspaper for 33 years, and well-respected by those he wrote with and about.  I had the pleasure of getting to know Mollica by sitting next to him at various YSU sporting events.  Mollica is just one of those people that I felt I knew before I actually met him though, he was just that good of a writer.

Unfortunately, the last year of Mollica’s career was spent covering the end of the Jon Heacock era and an 0-30 YSU Women’s Basketball season that set the wrong records.

To walk into a Mahoning Valley Scrappers press box Thursday evening and see Mollica there doing his thing for the Vindicator brought a smile to my face.  ”I told Rob [Todor] if he needed help, that I would be able to cover some stuff.  I don’t want to do alot, a game here and there, maybe a game a week during high school football.”

When the subject of retirement came up, Mollica was candid in claiming a strong passion for golf.  ”I’m working harder now doing stuff around the house than I did when I was working.  I do try to get out and play golf at least twice a week and sometimes in tournaments or scrambles on a weekend,” claimed Mollica.

Mollica is being spelled by a couple of very good writers in John Moffett and Joe Scalzo who split the Youngstown State activities and will appear at Scrappers games throughout the Summer.  “Joe is my hero.  I feel like he has done more in six months than I did in thirty years.  John is also doing a great job.  They are both great writers,” added Mollica.

The lack of Pete Mollica in the Youngstown newspapers is not a downplay to the efforts of Moffett and Scalzo, I agree with Mollica that they are both great at what they do, I just feel they do it their way, and Pete did it his way.

Scrappers Open At Eastwood Field In Front of Good Crowd

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The 2010 NY-Penn League season officially opened on Friday and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers fared pretty well taking two of three from the Jamestown Jammers.  Monday night, the Scrappers got to play host to the Auburn Doubledays.  In front of 5,099 fans, the Scrappers couldn’t generate any offense and couldn’t get an out in a seven run second inning in losing 12-0.

For the Scrappers starting pitcher, Casey Gaynor, what started as a promising night unexpectedly turned into a very early exit.  Gaynor struck out the side in the first inning and had the large Eastwood Field crowd cheering.  The second inning was a nightmare for Gaynor as he surrendered a 2-RBI double to Jack Murphy.  After a bases-loaded walk forced in another run, DH Carlos Perez took a Gaynor offering out of the park for a grand slam and a 7-0 Doubledays lead.

JD Goryl relieved Gaynor to start the third and struggled with his control.  Auburn tacked on three more runs in the next two innings, two of them on a throw Goryl couldn’t handle covering first base.

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Meanwhile…  Doubledays starter Sam Strickland (pictured) cruised along, going six strong innings and yielding only four hits.  Strickland was replaced by Zach Outman who allowed three Scrappers to reach base in the same inning for the first time in the seventh inning.  Outman pitched out of trouble leaving the bases loaded and freezing Scrappers CF Kevin Rucker with a nasty curveball.

On a bright note for Mahoning Valley, LF Chase Burnette had a pair of hits. Burnette seemed unphased by the home-opening loss and knows that it is one game.  ”We have to respond better to avoid big innings like the one they had on us tonight and have to be more responsive moving forward.”

Scrappers Manager Travis Fryman knows that these first few games are a feeling out process and that his team will be ready to play tomorrow.  ”It’s early in the season and we are not real concerned about this loss.  If we were twenty-five games in there would be some concern.”

Fryman added that many of the new Scrappers will spend the Summer learning how to hit with a wooden bat.  “There will be a period of time, maybe all Summer, for some of these guys to learn how to hit with a wooden bat.”

Eastwood Field Offers Summer Baseball Camp

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A quality Summer baseball camp is being offered to the public for kids ages 6-13 at Eastwood Field.  The instructional camp will take place Wednesday, July 14 through Friday, July 16 and packages can be purchased in different increments.

The camp will feature superior instruction from YSU’s Head Coach, Rich Pasquale. Pasquale and two of his assistants, Craig Antush and Tom Lipari, will conduct several drills to enhance accuracy in development.

  • Camp Option One: 9 a.m. – noon.  Fielding, throwing, base running, and hitting.  Cost $125 and videotaping to take place on Wednesday and Friday for hitting.
  • Camp Option Two: 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m.  Pitching only.  Videotaping will take place on Wednesday and Friday and the cost for pitching camp is $50.
  • Camp Option Three: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. (all day)  Players to receive instruction in both hitting and pitching.  Cost is $150 and videotaping will take place during both the hitting and pitching sections.  Players choosing the third option are to bring a lunch.

Registration fot the camp starts Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. at Eastwood Field’s offices.  The camp is not a YSU or Mahoning Valley Scrappers promotion, but the attendees will be treated to the best of both worlds with supreme facilities and top of the line instruction.

The camp is limited to the first 75 players and will take place rain or shine.  Campers are encouraged to mark any equipment that they bring and may bring and use baseball shoes.

For more information, call the Mahoning Valley Scrappers at 330-505-000 or Craig Antush at 330-539-4577.

YSU Football Profiles: Defensive Coordinator Rick Kravitz

Rick Kravitz has been around the game of football for a long time.  He has coached on the big stage with experience at Western Michigan and North Carolina State, and also at South Florida where he helped a program jump to higher levels.  Coach Kravitz will serve as Defensive Coordinator under the new Eric Wolford regime that has the town buzzing.  I made the comment that Kravitz looks like the guy you could swear was on the opposing bocce team at the MVR for the last five years, he just looks like he has been in Youngstown.  I recently had a chance to speak with him about technology, food, and of course, YSU Football.

Paneech:  How has Youngstown been for you so far?

Kravitz:  I love the community.  Everywhere I go seems to have great food and I think I gained ten pounds since I got up here.  The people are really warm and already recognize us.  We will go to a restaurant to eat and people are coming up to me asking, ‘hey coach, how are we gonna do this year?‘  I have coached at some supposedly big colleges but have never seen the interest as this community shows in Youngstown toward the football program.

Paneech:  What kind of defense will you run as a base this season?

Kravitz:  We will run some variation of a four-man front.  We will change and use a three-man front sometimes.  We will be an aggressive, attacking defense that goes after people.  I don’t like sitting still and all of the movement we will use can make things happen.

Paneech:  Explain how football terminology has changed so much in the past twenty years and gets more complicated every season.  In the past, a defensive end in a 50 would have outside containment and Will, Mike, and Sam didn’t exist.  What is going on with all of these names?

Kravitz:  (laughing) When I first started, which seems now like pre-Civil War, it was the way you talked about it.  The end was a box guy and we would only see an I-backfield or an I-twin set.  If a team dropped to just one back it was really shocking.  Nowadays, with everything so wide open, you need a new category to put everything into.  As the offenses have evolved, we have been forced to come up with new terms.

Paneech:  Who is the greatest college coach you have worked with in the past?

Kravitz:  I have been lucky to have been around some really good people.  Ken Riley, who helped me get my start at Florida A & M, was a great influence.  He is a name that people in the South might know, he played for the Bengals.  I was fortunate to be with Chuck Amato at North Carolina State.  I don’t know who would be the greatest, but all of the guys I have worked with have left their mark on me.

Paneech:  Who is the best college football coach that you have never gotten a chance to work with?

Kravitz:  Oh boy, that’s tough because there are so many good ones.  I lived in Florida, so I have always admired Coach Spurrier and what he did at Florida.  In the same state, Jimmy Johnson at Miami and Bobby Bowden at Florida State were great ones. 

Paneech:  Walk me through a typical day right now, and how it may change in a month.

Kravitz:  I’ll get up around seven, which is pretty late for a football coach.  I get here around eight and we share some scripture before we head into an 8:30 staff meeting.  We are currently preparing scouting reports for our first four opponents.  After that we try to spend time focusing on recruits and how our guys are doing in classes.  I usually go for a run around noon, usually very slowly.  Then I will come back and grab a sandwich.  My wife did a great job making food this week, and a good sandwich is is what gets me to the finish line.  We then finish compiling everything and usually get out of here about 5:30.  In about a month, I will be getting here by six a.m. and getting out at God knows what time.  Wolf [Coach Wolford] is a family guy, so I don’t think time will be too ridiculous.

Paneech:  Spending all of that time in Florida, do you fear the shoveling of snow in about six months?

Kravitz:  I got a taste of it when I was in Michigan.  I was watching television one night, and these Winter weather advisories kept coming on the screen, and I just laughed.  I quit laughing when I looked outside and couldn’t see the ground anymore, they should just say blizzard.  To that point, I had never walked in it, never drove a car in it, and I still am not real fond of it.

Paneech:  Has technology ruined the athletic development of kids in America?

Kravitz:  Well, some kids still get out and do things, and those are the ones who will excel in sports.  My three year-old grandson is outside hitting balls every day.  You are right, there is an effect, but it will be more of a concern with high schools.  We still have the ability at this level to select the better athletes from high schools, but I can see it being a growing  problem at that level.

Paneech:  Having finished Spring workouts, who made a good impression on you.

Kravitz:  I was impressed with quite a few guys.  Deonta Tate is a guy that can bend his knees and make some plays.  Torrance Nicholson is going to do a great job for us up front.  Andre Elliott had a great Spring at Safety.  John Sasson also looked good.  When Coach Wolford came in here, he changed the rules.  We are trying to get back to good hard-nosed football by doing physical things and one-on-one drills.  These kids that I have mentioned have bought into the system.  I think the more we do, that more kids will also buy in.  We need to work on guys being better edge players and we need a little more depth up front.

One Word Answers

Favorite Meal of The Day:  Dinner.

Best Album Ever Made:  Meet The Beatles.

Favorite Beverage:  Arnold Palmer Iced Tea.

Favorite TV Shows:  Two And A Half Men and Criminal Minds.

Toppings You Get On A Pizza:  I love meat, so sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, and some mushrooms.

Best Movie Ever Made:  The Godfather. (Told you he fit in).

Biggest Phobia:  Heights.

Favorite NFL Team:  Tamba Bay.

One Word To Describe Eric Wolford:  Intense.

Worst Habit:  Eating too much.

Penguins Tidbits

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Ahhh… Warm weather, festivals, golf, gardens, swimming, and YSU Football just around the corner.  September 4 is less than three months away and soon the Penguins of Youngstown State will be sweating in preparation for their trip to Happy Valley.  The YSU ticket office is open and there are some quality games scheduled to take place at the Ice Castle this season.  New Coach, Eric Wolford, wants these days to be community-based gatherings of fraternal celebration.  Buy a tailgate pass when you get your tickets.

Here is a promo schedule of this year’s YSU home schedule:

Sept. 11 (Butler, 6 p.m.) State Farm Kids Day (tailgate); Coca-Cola / 27 WKBN Schedule Magnet giveaway; BJ Alan Phantom Fireworks Postgame Extravaganza;  Howland High School Marching Band at half; $5 Super September game tickets.

Sept. 18 (Central Connecticut St,  6 p.m.) State Farm Kids Day (tailgate); PNC Bank / Fox Youngstown schedule poster giveaway;  BJ Alan Phantom Fireworks Postgame Extravaganza;  Lakeview High School Marching Band at half;  $5 Super September game tickets.

Sept. 25 (Southern Illinois,  4 p.m.) State Farm Kids Day (tailgate);  Coca-Cola / WFMJ TV-21 / Farmers National Bank water bottle giveaway;  Boardman High School Marching Band at half;  $5 Super September game tickets.

Oct. 9 (North Dakota St., 4 p.m.) McDonald’s / myvalleysports.com keychain giveaway;  Poland High School Marching Band at half.

Oct. 30 (Northern Iowa, 1 p.m.) Homecoming! Athletic Hall of Fame Game;  Lyden Oil / WFMJ TV-21 Stadium Cup giveaway;  Homecoming Parade before the kickoff.

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The YSU Women’s Softball Team has signed Samantha Snodgrass.  She was recently named the Gatorade Player of The Year for the entire State of West Virginia.  Snodgrass pitched 21 consecutive innings of scoreless ball and recorded 11 strikeouts in a game then came back and whiffed 14 in the next game during West Virginia’s State Tournament.  She posted a 28-1 record with an ERA of 0.39 during the regular season.

Oh, yeah, she can hit too.  Snodgrass batted .473 with 13 homers and compiled 54 RBI.  Welcome to YSU!

  • Leetonia’s Aaron Merrill is at it again.  Merrill has been breaking shot put and discus records anywhere he has thrown.  Merrill was recently selected First-Team ESPN The Magazine/ CoSIDA All-District IV for the second year in a row.  Merrill sports a 3.79 GPA and is majoring in Criminal Justice.  Merrill, who posted a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in the Spring Semester, won the indoor and outdoor shot put conference titles.
  • YSU Baseball Sr. Tom Clayton was named the Player of The Year in the Horizon League.  Clayton was the first Penguin in 56 years to earn such notoriety.  Clayton batted .414, scored 43 runs, hit 15 doubles and 10 home runs and knocked in 44 runners in 47 games this season.
  • Speaking of baseball success, Jacke Healey and Eric Marzec were selected late in the 2010 MLB Draft.  Good luck to both of the former Penguin standouts!

This Just In… LeBron James Will Join The Big-12

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In some stunning news, LeBron James revealed that he will join the Big 12 Athletic Conference and sidestep the Harlem Globetrotters, for now.  James has been debating what to do with his future and the Cavs don’t seem to be extending any olive branches.

I still feel as though LeBron will remain a Cavalier, but the firings of Mike Brown and Danny Ferry and the fact that management has declared that Tom Izzo got an interview without James’ permission indicate stupidity.

How can Mike Brown go from being the NBA Coach of The Year in 2009 to being in the unemployment line in 2010?  Sure, my Aunt Mary could probably coach that team and win 45 games, but why make a scapegoat out of a guy who obviously was put there to do what LeBron wanted?

Danny Ferry being dismissed makes some sense.  Building around LeBron James has been a huge failure for him and his last shot again produced nothing.  Mo Williams is decent, but other than that, Ferry has laid a goose egg.  Shaq is eligible for Social Security next year and Delonte West is a head case, to put it mildly.  LeBron needs a co-star, a Garnett, a Bosh, or a Wade, because he will remain the player that needs to be shut down for the opponent to have a chance at winning.

Granted, there are not that many guys who I would want to have the ball more than James late in a ballgame.  However, when teams collapse on him and he kicks the ball out to wide open players who can’t hit shots, there is a problem.

If Izzo comes, and LeBron stays, which seem to have to go hand-in-hand, this team needs a makeover from the top down.  The only player I might keep is J J Hickson. He has an upside and is still developing.  Every other current Cavs roster spot is either filled by someone who was once great, or by someone else who was supposed to be great. Nobody, other than James, that plays hoops in Cleveland is even close to great, not right now.