Archive for March, 2012

Kelly Pavlik Returns To The Ring Saturday

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Kelly Pavlik is fighting more than Aaron Jaco (15-2, 5KO’s) on Saturday night.  Pavlik is fighting his critics, again, and looks forward to both challenges.  I got a chance to interview The Ghost via telephone Saturday night and he seems very focused on getting back to the sacred heights he controlled just three short years ago.

“I feel fantastic”, said Pavlik.  ”I weighed in at 169.2 today and that was great because we were shooting for 170.  Everything is really smooth and I am very anxious to get back in there.”

Pavlik (37-2, 32 KO’s), in all probability, will win the fight.  What he wants to accomplish is to deliver a polished performance to leave an impression on the powers that be to get him back on television in June.  He realizes that this is just step one and knows anything can happen.

“I would like to get the rounds of work, but I will not take any chances.  If the opportunity to score a knockout is there, I will not drag it out, I want to win convincingly.  He has two hands and has boxed before, anything can happen.”

When asked if anything was different in training under Robert Garcia‘s watchful eye, Pavlik responded by saying, “There is a little bit of a different approach.  We are doing more rounds with the pads on and more punches.  There is no change in style.  We are only fine-tuning my style and getting back to countering and moving the head.”

The fight is  a scheduled 10-round, 170 pound match that will not be televised.

Details and pictures of the fight will be posted here tomorrow night, check back!

Dannie Williams Starts Strong But Ultimately Falls To Hank Lundy

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After all of the trash talking, a couple of good fighters met in Connecticut for the NABF Championship.  Hank Lundy (22-1-1) got the best of Dannie Williams (21-2) in an entertaining slugfest of a main event on national television.

Williams got out of the gate fast with a knockdown, putting Lundy on the canvas in the first round.  However, Lundy, who is used to getting off of the canvas and finishing strong, dominated the middle rounds with a good jab and got the decision.

Williams was bleeding around the nose after the first, but scored a 10-8 round with the knockdown.  The second round, on my card, was even.  Lundy probably took the lead on the judges cards in about the fifth round and never really looked back.

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The judges scored the fight 98-91, 97-92, and 97-92 for Lundy who came away with the unanimous decision.

The upsetting part of the whole night was the rotten commentary of the ESPN2 announce team.  Between rounds seven and eight coming back from a commercial, the announcers said, “This is why Lundy will win this fight”, as they showed him throw four jabs, landing one of them.  Very critical and obviously had some cash on Lundy.  In fact, Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore should try to be a little less presumptuous.

“He is the boss”, said Tessitore.  ”Lundy is the boss and he has Williams working for him right now.”

Maybe they should quit crying about the controversy in boxing and focus on being a little more unbiased.

Give Williams an A for effort, he hung with a champion and even knocked him down.  He will be back in action soon.

Dannie Williams To Lay It All On The Line Friday On ESPN2

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Last August, Dannie Williams was fighting outside in the parking lot of the Covelli Centre.  In that bout against a journeyman named Oscar Cuero, Williams struggled. He fought a good fight, but his hair kept getting into his face, blinding him from oncoming punches.  By the sixth round, his trainer, Jack Loew, grabbed a roll of white athletic tape and turned his fighter into Gene Simmons.  Williams went on to win the fight.

As you can see by the picture, the hair is gone.  One must wonder if that was by Williams’ choice or if Loew slid the barber an extra twenty to lower the blade a bit. Either way, Williams (21-1, 17 KO’s) faces his toughest challenge to date in Hank Lundy (21-1-1, 11 KO’s) on Friday night in Connecticut at the Foxwoods MGM.  The fight will be nationally televised on ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights.

Williams, since the Cuero fight, has had a couple of tune-ups and stayed very active to set up this payday.  Now fighting out of the DiBella camp, a win could spell even bigger things like HBO in June.

“He brings some skills to the table, but he also brings the NABF title to the table”, said Williams.  ”This is also a WBA eliminator, so something big can happen for the winner.”

“From here on out, every fight is the biggest fight of my career.  To beat Lundy, I want to score a knockout.  I will test his heart, if he can stand there and take the pressure, then this main event fight might go longer than I want it to, but I see a knockout, and it comes free with the basic cable.”

Williams is starting to get some national recognition.  Call it stronger promoting, better exposure, and defeating quality opponents the last few times out.  He has earned this chance and is anxious to be impressive and look like the more dominant fighter.

“I am real humble”, said Williams.  ”However, after March 30, the fan base is gonna get real big.  Everything is going great and I am focused.  I got a nutritionist now, I am eating three times a day, just not eating the same stuff anymore, and I feel a difference, I feel much stronger.”

“It’s on…  I promise you wont want to miss it!”

Haley Thomas Becomes YSU Softball’s All-Time Runs Leader

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Senior Haley Thomas became Youngstown State’s all-time runs leader as the Penguins softball team defeated, 7-6, and tied, 5-5, Akron in a doubleheader at Lee Jackson Field.  Thomas scored the record-breaking run when she belted a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to give the Penguins a 6-5 advantage.

Thomas’ blast etched her name in the YSU record books, but junior Sarah Gabel‘s two-out, bases-clearing triple in the top of the third capped a four-run inning and put the Guins ahead 4-3.  Gable went 3-for-4 with a triple, double and single and drove in three runs to lead the Penguins’ 11-hit arsenal.

Sophomore Sarah Ingalls also collected three hits with a double and scored twice for the Penguins, who improved to 16-6-1.

The Zips took a 5-4 lead after plating two runs in the bottom of the third inning before Thomas’ home run in the sixth.

The Guins added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Sarah Ingalls drove in Samantha Snodgrass with two outs to put YSU up 7-5. Ingalls clutch hit proved to be the difference after Akron’s Allison Dorr belted a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

Freshman Kayla Haslett, though, relieved winner Casey Crozier (7-3) and shut down the Zips to collect her first career save.

Game two was called due to darkness after six innings with the game tied at 5-5.

YSU Baseball Defeats Akron, 8-4

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The Youngstown State baseball team got five shutout innings from starting pitcher Ryan Krokos and scored five runs in the sixth inning to beat Akron 8-4 on Tuesday afternoon at Eastwood Field.  Krokos pitched five scoreless innings in his first career start, holding the Zips to three hits while striking out one. Marcus Heath had two hits and scored twice while Jason Shirley, Drew Dosch and Kevin Hix all drove in two runs.

Tyler Begun and Brady Stewart had three hits apiece for Akron, which outhit YSU 10-7.  Akron pitchers walked nine batters, and four of them came around to score.

Dosch gave the Penguins the lead early by smacking his third home run of the season in the first inning. David Leon led off YSU’s half of the first with a walk, and Shirley sacrificed him to second. Dosch then hit a full-count pitch into the right-field bullpen to put the Guins up 2-0.

Krokos worked around two-out doubles in both the first and third innings, and he got out of a bigger jam in the fourth. He beaned Begun to start the inning, and a single by Stewart put runners at the corners with nobody out. Begun was then thrown out in a rundown when Dan Burant hit a one-hopper to first. Krokos then induced Bryan White into a 4-6-3 double play that ended the inning.

Akron got an unearned run in the sixth, and Blake Aquadro was able to escape with the bases loaded. He walked Joey Havrilak to start the inning, and he was safe at second when Jack Graham’s flip from second base was wide. YSU got an out at second on a fielder’s choice to leave runners at the corners with one out, and Stewart singled in Havrilak to put the Zips on the board. Aquadro hit Burant to load the bases, but the junior lefty got White to line out to center and struck out Darius Washington to end the inning.

The Penguins answered Akron’s run by scoring five runs and sending 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. After retiring the leadoff batter, reliever Jason McPeek allowed walks to Craig Goubeaux (above) and Dan Hurlimann and a single to Heath to load the bases. Hix brought in Goubeaux with a weak ground out to second, and Phil Lipari walked to re-load the bases. McPeek then beaned Graham on a 3-0 pitch to plate Heath. Andrew Fanning then came in to pitch and walked Leon on a 3-2 pitch to bring in Hurlimann for the third run of the inning. Shirley then brought in Lipari and Graham with a two-run single up the middle that made the score 7-1.

Heath doubled and scored on Hix’s sacrifice fly in the seventh to give the Guins an 8-1 lead. Akron made it 8-2 when Jared Turocy singled in Devan Ahart in the eighth, and the Zips scored on a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly in the ninth for the final tally.

Akron starter Matt Gebacz allowed two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out four in five innings. All five runs in the sixth were charged to McPeek.

YSU and Akron will play again on Wednesday at Canal Park. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

Getting To The Other Side Of The Fence

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Over the past few years, the facilities have improved, some coaching changes have been made, and school spirit is as high as it has been in about twenty years.  Ron Strollo (above) is finally getting to see the benefits of his hard work.  The athletic director at Youngstown State had come under fire three years ago.  When Jon Heacock was failing, both basketball programs were declining, and all the other sports we had to have for scholarship and conference alignment purposes, no one was sure if Strollo could survive.

Not only has he survived, he has prospered.  The whole athletic community has prospered.

Ask Eric Wolford.  Wolford was appointed to be the savior of a football program that seemed to cater to individuals instead of team.  All Wolford has done in two years is put a program in place, recruited like it is his last day on Earth, surrounded himself with good coaches, and worked on good character and life skills tirelessly for his players.  The expectation on Wolford’s 2012 Penguins is to win.  With a victory over FCS Champion North Dakota State last season, expectations on the coming season are very high.

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Perhaps no coach is more misunderstood than Jerry Slocum.  Recently completing his seventh season at the helm, the reserved, but opinionated, coach proved he can win. Strollo rewarded Slocum with a contract extension, and Slocum paid back when he put the best product of his tenure on the court last season.  Slocum is in the Top-10 list for wins of active coaches and knows the game of basketball.  People are sometimes critical of his personality, but no one should ever question his ability to coach.  Strollo made the right decision in rewarding Slocum a few more years as the program continues to move forward.

Bob Boldon probably couldn’t get the pen out of his pocket soon enough to sign a contract to coach women’s basketball at YSU.  It is a nice place to start, following a departed coach who went 0-30 the year before.  Boldon has had good success in installing a three-point shooting offense and is always preaching defense, he is a good choice, another feather in Strollo’s cap.

Rich Pasquale will endure some growing pains with his 2012 YSU baseball squad. Pasquale has a very young team with only two seniors and is another tireless recruiter.  Don’t be surprised to see this team in the hunt next season as they get their bearings and learn to play together.  Coach Campbell is at that point now with the Lady Penguins softball team.  These girls can flat out play.  He has pitching, he has hitting, and he is proving very proficient at managing both.

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Recently, the Penguins hosted the Horizon League Indoor Track Meet.  The WATTS proved to be a terrific venue for the event and Strollo reflected on the feedback.

“The feedback has been positive.  Obviously there are a few things, as we will go through growing pains, that need fixed.  We will address those minor issues. Fortunately, we ran college and high school meets a month and a half prior to tune up for that event.”

The weekend of the Horizon Meet, there were also basketball home games and the swimming home finale.

“There is no question we don’t mind being busy if that is what it takes.”

Strollo has surrounded himself with outstanding personnel.  This department has evolved into a prototype of how a collegiate athletic department should be run.  The marketing and sports information departments have exemplified consistency, which can be tough with subpar products.  Fortunately, the products are ‘new and improved’ and will continue to draw bigger crowds.  Keep up the good work Ron Strollo, and thanks for what you have done so far.

UIC Completes Sweep Of YSU With 8-0 Win

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Three UIC pitchers combined to hold the Youngstown State baseball team to five hits, and the Flames completed a three-game sweep of the Penguins with an 8-0 victory on Sunday at Les Miller Field.

Flames starter Charlie Weinberg allowed four hits and struck out six batters in seven innings, and Mike Schoolcraft and Tim Suminski both threw scoreless innings of relief. UIC’s pitchers also did not issue a walk or a hit batsman on the afternoon.

YSU starter Pat Shedlock had his first off outing in three weeks, allowing five earned runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings. Four relievers combined to hold the Flames without an earned run over 4.2 innings. YSU had four errors that led to three unearned runs.

David Leon and Kevin Hix both had two hits for the Penguins, and YSU’s Drew Dosch was kept off base for the first time in 25 games, dating back to last season.

Ryan Boss was a single away from hitting for the cycle for UIC. The sophomore designated hitter was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

Boss homered with two outs in the first to give UIC a 1-0 lead, and Jon Ryan scored on a two-out error in the second as the Flames built a two-run advantage. Boss and Alex De LaRosa then hit back-to-back RBI doubles, and Joe Betcher added a run-scoring single in the third to make the score 5-0. A sacrifice fly by Ryan Shober and an RBI triple from Boss in the fourth put the Flames up 7-0. UIC got an unearned run on a fielder’s choice ground out in the eighth for its final run.

YSU will play Akron in a home-and-home series during the upcoming week. The Penguins will host the Zips at Eastwood Field at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, and they’ll play at Canal Park in Akron on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Indiana’s Bus Breaks, But Offense Runs Just Fine In 5-2 Win Over Phantoms

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The Youngstown Phantoms, in front of one of the biggest crowds of the year, fell prey to the Indiana Ice, 5-2.  The start of the game was pushed back almost an hour because the bus carrying the Indiana team broke down somewhere en route to the Covelli Centre.  The way this game went, the Phantoms would have hoped that the spare would have been flat too.

In the first period, no one could get the puck into the net.  Solid goaltending by Matt O’Connor for the Phantoms and Jon Gillies for the Ice saw a couple of zeroes at the end of the first twenty minutes.  The two netminders combined to stop 26 shots.

Indiana broke the “Ice” on the scoreless game when Danill Tarasov recorded his 38th goal of the season beating O’Connor glove side.  Tarasov’s goal was unassisted and came with 17:39 to go in the second period.

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The Phantoms were able to tie the game at a goal apiece briefly.  Austin Cangelosi (above) recorded his 26th goal of the season with 15:59 remaining in the second.  Cangelosi gathered a Mike Ambrosia shot that bounced off of Gillies and stuffed it back into the net.  Ambrosia was given an assist on Cangelosi’s even-strength goal.

The Ice (32-14-7) would then explode for a couple of quick goals to take a 3-1 lead.  Ryan Obuchowski scored the first with 14:58 to play in the second period.  A few minutes later, Tarasov connected again, sneaking the puck past O’Connor with both teams playing a man down.  The Ice took a commanding three goal lead with 2:30 remaining in the second period when Emil Romig connected in a high-traffic situation in front of a crowded goal crease.

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In the third period, the Ice tacked on another goal to make it 5-1 when Robert Polesello took a pass from behind the net and drilled it past O’Connor.  Obuchowski and Nieves were credited assists on the goal.

The Phantoms (30-17-7) had a few chances to tighten the game in the third period, but failed to make it happen until Eric Sweetman connected with 4:29 left to play to make it 5-2.  Sweetman went high on the glove side for his fourth goal of the season.

The Ice took 55 shots compared to the Phantoms 37.

YSU Spring Football: The Process Is Primed

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With Youngstown State starting Spring football, a good question heading into 2012 would be, ‘Is the “process” that the program has undertaken since Eric Wolford got hired ready?’  Time will tell, but at Saturday’s full-pads practice, Coach Wolford seemed very encouraged by what he saw.

“We told the offense that it was a first-and-ten situation and they had to get four yards, and they didn’t do it.”, said Wolford.  ”I saw some improvement and some good things and as the Spring goes on I expect to see more.”

YSU, the only team to beat reigning FCS Champion, North Dakota State, last season, will feel pressure for this program to win.  For two years, Wolford has explained in depth that in a technologically driven society of ‘now’, where everything seems needed at the very moment it is desired, that this is a process.  Now that Wolford has pieces in place, the process needs to transition into the standard, which Wolford defines as winning championships.

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One of the reasons YSU can win championships is the lethal team of Kurt Hess and Shane Montgomery.  Montgomery is an offensive genius, last year’s stats would back that statement.  Hess is just a good person.  We talked for 15 minutes after practice Saturday about the start of Major League Baseball, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, his schoolwork, this website, and many other things.  It is hard not to root for someone like Hess.

“We definitely feel the pressure to win now”, remarked Hess.  ”Jelani [Berassa] and I walked out here on the field this Winter.  We came in at the same time under Coach Heacock, but it never felt like this.  There is electricity on this field of magic and we know we want to bottle it this season.”

The Saturday practice was more of an acclamation to full gear than all-out hitting filled session.  By next Saturday, the team’s first scrimmage, the noise will be easily heard between the whistles.

YSU Baseball Records Come-From-Behind 4-3 League Win

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Marcus Heath (above) tied the game with an RBI single in the ninth inning, and Jeremy Banks hit a walk-off RBI single in the 11th to lift the Youngstown State baseball team to a 4-3 win over Milwaukee on Sunday at Eastwood Field.

Heath drove in all three runs for YSU in the first nine innings, and Banks and Drew Dosch both had two-out hits in their final three at bats. Dosch finished 5-for-6 as he, Banks and Heath combined for 10 of YSU’s 12 hits in the second through fourth spots in the line-up. Both Heath and Banks were down 0-2 in the count with two outs in their tying and winning hits.

YSU got a solid start from Pat Shedlock, and the Penguins bullpen did not allow a run in five innings. Ryan Krokos threw a scoreless 11th inning to earn his first collegiate win, and Nic Manuppelli and Kevin McCulloh were also strong in relief.

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Milwaukee’s bullpen, which did not allow a run in 4.2 innings in the first two games of the series, surrendered two runs to the Penguins in four innings.

Will Fadness put Milwaukee up 1-0 in the first when he brought in Michael Porcaro with a two-out single. Paul Hoenecke and Jonathan Capasso then had RBI doubles in the third for Milwaukee that gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead. After Capasso doubled with two outs, he went to third on a passed ball with two outs. He was then thrown out at the plate trying to score on a pitch that bounced away from YSU catcher Craig Goubeaux. Milwaukee only had one runner reach third base the rest of the game.

The Penguins scored two unearned runs in the fifth to cut the deficit to 3-2. Jack Graham drew a one-out walk and went to second when Capasso dropped a tailing line drive in left field from Jason Shirley. First baseman Phil Striggow then couldn’t come up with a grounder from Drew Dosch, and the Penguins had the bases loaded with one out. Milwaukee starter Mike Schneider got Banks to line out to third on a check swing for the second out, but Heath hit a ground-rule double into the left-field bullpen to plate two runs on the first pitch of his at bat.

YSU left the bases loaded in the seventh, but the Guins got some two-out lightning from the heart of their order in the ninth. Milwaukee closer Jordan Guth got Jack Graham to pop out on the first pitch of his at bat and struck out Shirley on four pitches for two quick outs. Dosch and Banks extended the game with back-to-back singles, and Heath singled in Dosch on the eighth pitch of his at bat to tie the score at 3-3.

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Manuppelli worked around a leadoff single and a two-out error in the 10th, and Krokos allowed a single and walk in the 11th before escaping. Just as in the ninth, Dosch got things going in the bottom of the 11th with a two-out single to left. He moved to second on a key wild pitch that forced the outfield to move in for a potential play at the plate, and Banks’s winner landed just past a diving Luke Meeter in deep right center.

Shedlock posted his third straight quality start, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out five in six innings. Schneider did not allow an earned run on five hits in 6.2 innings, and Jake Long took the loss in allowing the run in the 11th.

Youngstown State will play its only scheduled game of the year at Cene Park on Tuesday against Notre Dame College. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.