Bengals land guard, Ohio State defender in mock draft

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 3:01 PM

In Matt Miller’s latest mock draft for Bleacher Report, the Bengals get stronger up front.

Cincinnati lands Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson at No. 12, a coup given that he’s a top five player in the class, according to Miller.

The Bengals offensive line was (and I'm being nice) trash this year,” Miller said. “Both young tackles (Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher) struggled, and the team sorely missed Kevin Zeitler who left for Cleveland in free agency. Quenton Nelson can't fix the problems at tackle, but he can step right in and be a dominant left guard.”

Miller is right: The offensive line was among the team’s biggest weaknesses, and snagging Nelson would be a huge addition.

In the second round, Cincinnati stays local and takes linebacker Jerome Baker from Ohio State.

Linebacker has long been a need. Putting Baker next to Vontaze Burfict has the makings of turning what’s routinely been one of the Bengals’ lesser units into a strength.

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Wright State rallies to win Horizon baseball title in historic fashion

Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 2:11 PM

Burdick bomb sends Wright State to NCAA tournament

It’s debatable what soared higher Saturday afternoon, the go-ahead home run Wright State junior Peyton Burdick launched in the bottom of the seventh inning, or the bat he flung in the air halfway down the first base line to celebrate the shot.

Burdick’s two-run homer off UIC reliever Alex Padilla capped the comeback after a disastrous fourth inning as WSU won the Horizon League championship and earned a berth to the NCAA tournament with an 11-9 victory at Nischwitz Stadium.

“(Padilla) spiked a curveball the pitch before, and I told myself ‘he’s going to throw a fastball here,’” Burdick said. “I just told myself ‘don’t miss,’ and I didn’t miss.”

>> Sampen gem carries WSU into HL tournament final

On his trot toward first base, Burdick looked into the WSU dugout and put a finger to his lips in a “ssshhhh” motion.

“(The Flames) started chirping and I couldn’t do that to their dugout, so I had to keep it within ours,” said Burdick, who flipped the bat as high as he could after making the gesture.

The victory sends WSU to the NCAA tournament for the ninth time as a Division I program, and third in the last four years. The Raiders will find out Monday at noon whom they will play and where.

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Burdick’s ninth home run of the season helped him earn tournament MVP honors, but it was teammate Zach Weatherford who was the catalyst to the comeback after UIC erased an early 5-0 deficit with a seven-run fourth to go up 8-5.

Weatherford’s solo home run with one out in the seventh preceded Burdick’s game-winning homer, and he added an RBI double in the ninth for an insurance run as part of his four-hit afternoon.

“After Z hit his, it was like ‘all right, now it’s my turn to do something,” Burdick said.

>> Snyder named HL Player of the Year

The Raiders outscored their three opponents 31-12 in the tournament, winning their first two games easily before surviving the wild championship game.

Wright State scored five runs in the first inning to jump out to an early lead, but UIC got seven in the fourth via three extra-base hits, four walks, two WSU errors and a hit batter.

“I brought the guys up after that and said ‘If you thought this was going to be easy, you’re crazy,’” WSU coach Jeff Mercer said. “That got a little bit of a laugh and a smile, and I said, ‘We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine because we’re the better team and we’re more prepared and we’re tough as hell. We’re going to keep coming and keep chugging along and we did just that.”

The Raiders got an RBI single by Zane Harris in the fourth to make it 8-6 and closed within 8-7 on a Seth Gray RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, but UIC’s Aaron Ackerman led off the seventh with a solo home run to push the lead back to two.

>> Butler grad comes up big for Wright State in tourney opener

Then Weatherford and Burdick struck.

“When you’ve got superstar players that are able to go out there and compete like crazy, you keep putting the bat in their hand and they’re eventually going to find a way to come through for you,” said Mercer, the HL Coach of the Year. “It was the first time we’ve shown that resiliency. We’ve done it every day all year, and we did it again today. I expected that from them.”

After Burdick gave WSU the lead, Daniel Kreuzer retired UIC in order in the eighth, and staff ace Ryan Weiss, who started Thursday’s tournament opener, nailed down the save with a perfect ninth to set off the celebration.

In addition to Burdick and Weatherford, HL Player of the Year Gabe Snyder also had a big day, going 4 for 4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base.

Jeremy Randolph earned the win in relief after bouncing back from a rough start that saw him walk the first three batters he faced in UIC’s seven-run fourth.

Weatherford somehow was omitted from the all-tournament team despite hitting .462 (6 for 13) with six RBIs, three runs scored and two stolen bases.

The six RBIs were the most of any player, and his six hits and one home run were tied for the most, while his 10 total bases were one shy of the tournament lead.

Joining Burdick on the all-tournament team were Seth Gray, JD Orr, Bentley Jones, Caleb Sampen, Chase Slone and Ryan Weiss.

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Wayne sprints to Division I boys regional track title

Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 11:26 AM


            Wayne teammates Justin Harris (left) and Zarik Brown celebrate after they helped win the 1,600-meter relay and clinch the team title over Centerville at Friday’s Division I regional track and field meet at Wayne High School. JEFF GILBERT / CONTRIBUTED
Wayne teammates Justin Harris (left) and Zarik Brown celebrate after they helped win the 1,600-meter relay and clinch the team title over Centerville at Friday’s Division I regional track and field meet at Wayne High School. JEFF GILBERT / CONTRIBUTED

Zarik Brown was walking near the podium next to the Wayne High School track Friday night when his teammate Joel Craig turned around and said, “You’re so loud over there.”

Brown just smiled. The four medals clanging around his neck were making all the noise. But not as much noise as Brown and his Wayne teammates made at the Division I regional. The Warriors won their eighth regional title and first since 2012 on the legs of Brown, Justin Harris, two relay teams and Craig, the shot put champion.

“(Friday) was one of their best efforts of the year and we’re peaking at the right time,” said longtime Wayne coach Mike Fernandez.

» PHOTO GALLERY: D-I regional track and field at Wayne

»RELATED: Milton-Union senior makes final state push

Harris and Brown, both juniors, will compete in four events at next weekend’s state meet at Ohio State as will Springfield sprinter and long jumper Quincy Scott. Wayne will try to add an outdoor team title to the indoor title they won earlier this year.

Harris won the 110-meter hurdles (14.13) and the 300 hurdles (37.61), denying runner-up Joshua Byars-Mason of Trotwood-Madison in both races.

“It was a pretty good day overall,” Harris said. “I should be dropping more times coming into the state meet, so I feel good coming into next week.”

»NO JOKE: Northwestern teammates are a 1-3 punch

»REGIONAL TRACK: “It’s all about moving on”

Brown and Scott raced each other to the finish three times. Scott won the 100 (10.80) and Brown was second (10.86). Brown won the 200 (21.31) and Scott was runner-up (21.61). They ran anchor in the 400 relay and Wayne’s team of Jaden Roberts, Diante Lesperance, Harris and Brown (41.69) held off runner-up Springfield.

“It really pushes me to go to my max,” Brown said of his races against Scott. “Every meet we see each other we know it’s going to be tough. We usually end up PR’ing a lot.”

»IT’S A RECORD: Lakota East flash passes mark that stood since 1990

»PHOTO GALLERY: D-I district track at Wayne

The race for the team title was completed (Wayne 83, Centerville 68, Springfield 41) in the 4x400 relay. Wayne’s team of Harris, Davontae McKee, Lucas Houk and Brown won (3:17.90) and Centerville was third.

“The fours, they call it a man’s race, so you gotta finish it through all the way,” Harris said. “I love the 400.”

So does Brown. He took the baton for the last leg in fourth place and started to gain ground immediately.

“That’s his best race, and the irony is I took him out of the open 400 because I needed him for the 4x400, 200, 4x100 and 100,” said Fernandez, who made that decision to maximize team points. “Our goal is to see if we can win next week as a team.”

»RELATED: Butler making surprise D-I baseball run

»RELATED: Elks’ vaulters push each other to the limit

Craig will be a big part of that effort. He won the shot put (56-0.25). His finished seventh at state last year at 56-11.5.

“I know I’ve got way more energy in my body,” said Craig, who also placed fifth in discus. . “I’ve been practicing for it, I’ve been wanting it, I’ve been thirsty, I’ve been hungry, I’m going to get it.”

Wayne will also be represented in the girls meet by Taylor Robertson and the 400 relay. Robertson placed second in the long jump and fourth in pole vault.

»OHSAA: No more stacking teams

Beavercreek sophomore Eileen Yang won her second regional pole vault title (12-4). She placed ninth at state last year.

“Last year’s regionals I was kind of a nervous wreck and pacing a lot and breathing really hard,” she said. “This year I got used to it and it was familiar territory because I practice here a lot.”

Troy sophomore Lenea Browder won the discus (149-2) to go with her runner-up shot put finish on Wednesday.

“I did not imagine coming in my freshman year doing it and then my sophomore year doing so much better,” Browder said. “This has been truly a blessing. I’m so happy and I’m so thankful.”

Centerville senior Andrew Craig won the 800 to return to state, where he placed fourth last year. Miamisburg senior Jason Hubbard won the high jump (6-7).

»RELATED: D-I baseball sectional photo gallery

• Minster won four events, including a distance sweep by Emma Watcke, to win the girls team title in the D-III regional at Troy’s Memorial Stadium on Friday, 85-60 over runner-up Columbus Grove.

A sophomore, Watcke placed first in the 1600 (5:01.59) and followed that with a win in the 3200 (11:13.08). Also winning for the Wildcats on Friday was jnior Madeline Magoto in the 800 (2:16.73).

»RELATED: Senior basketball standout a one-season wonder

Minster added seconds in the 4x400 relay and senior Grace Butler in the pole vault. On Wednesday, Minster won the 4x800 relay (9:25.32).

Waynesfield-Goshen won the boys D-III team title, edging Fort Loramie 72-66.

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Chaminade Julienne baseball earns second straight trip to state

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 7:59 PM

Highlights: Chaminade Julienne beats CHCA in regional final

The goal for the Chaminade Julienne baseball team ever since it walked off the field at Huntington Park last June was to earn another chance to play for the state championship.

Last winter, in the weight room at the high school, the Eagles kept track of how many days remained until they would get the chance.

"They had a board in there, and they had a countdown," CJ coach Mike Barhorst said. "It was 78 or 80 days or whatever when we started it."

» PHOTOS: CJ vs. CHCA

On Friday before a Division II regional championship game against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Barhorst reminded them of the countdown.

"One day left until we make it to Huntington," Barhorst said.

The Eagles really have to wait another week, but after beating CHCA 5-4 at Mason High School, they will get the chance to avenge that 4-0 loss to Tallmadge in the state title game, and this time, Tallmadge will be opponent in the semifinals. The teams play at 7 p.m. Friday in Columbus.

The other state semifinal in Division II will pit Circleville against Wapakoneta or Ontario, who play their regional final at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Tallmadge beat Canfield 17-0 on Friday to win its regional. Chaminade Julienne didn't have quite the same easy night. For the second straight day, it experienced a dramatic seventh inning in Mason.

» REGIONAL SEMIFINAL: CJ wins on walk-off singleGame photos | CHCA routs Ross

The Eagles gave up a game-tying run to Columbus Bishop Hartley in the top of the seventh inning Thursday before winning the regional semifinal on a walk-off single by Sebastian Gongora in the bottom of the inning. This time, after scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a throwing error, CJ had a 5-2 lead entering the seventh.

Nick Wissman walked the lead-off batter but then struck out the next two batters. After another walk, CHCA’s Lucas Rotello doubled to left field, scoring two runs.

With the tying run on second, however, Wissman got a groundout to second baseman A.J. Solomon to end the game.

“With a three-run lead, I thought we were going to be in pretty good shape, and then the next thing you know ...,” Barhorst said. “I had a lot of confidence Nick was going to get out of that, but it’s a little too close for comfort.”

Wissman took over in the sixth inning after five solid innings by Gongora, who struck out four and allowed two earned runs. Wissman retired the side in order in the sixth and earned the save in the seventh.

“Sebastian didn’t have his breaking ball early on, but he was still fighting through with his fastball and making good pitches,” Barhorst said. “Nick came in, and I kind of wanted to change things up. I didn’t want to give them another look at Sebastian just in case they started figuring him out. Just to change their view a little bit, I brought in the right-hander, throwing a little harder. It worked out.”

Chaminade Julienne fell behind early for the second straight day but didn’t trail for long. Ryan Peltier hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first to tie the game.

“We gave them that one run in the first inning on another error,” Peltier said. “I watched a ball go by and was expecting fastball. I hopped on it and let it fly.”

» REGIONAL TRACK: Northwestern takes two of top three spots in discus

In the second inning, Chaminade Julienne took a 3-1 lead. A single by David Ernst scored Solomon. A double by Ben Thomas scored Ernst.

Chaminade Julienne had chances to extend the lead in the next three innings, stranding a total of eight runners and leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth.

In the sixth, Andrew Simones and Peltier walked to lead off the inning. Wissman put down a sacrifice bunt, and the catcher threw the ball past first base, allowing two runs to score as CJ extended its lead to 5-2. It needed both runs to earn its second straight trip to Columbus.

“We wanted to get back,” Peltier said. “We knew we had the team to get back. We just had to take it game by game.”

       

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Sampen gem carries Wright State into Horizon League tournament final

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 2:30 PM

Caleb Sampen takes no-hitter into seventh

Wright State coach Jeff Mercer used an unusual, yet thoroughly accurate word to describe his slight-framed starting pitcher Friday afternoon.

“That guy’s a monster,” Mercer said of Caleb Sampen after the lanky, 185-pound sophomore took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the winners bracket final of the Horizon League tournament.

Sampen lost his no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh on a solid single to left, but WSU had a double-digit lead by then, well on its way to a 10-1 triumph of UIC at Nischwitz Stadium.

“Going in I knew they were a very well-pitched, well-coached team so it was going to be a pitchers’ duel,” Sampen said. “So we talked about mixing early all of my pitches and getting everything in the zone. Just make them beat you. Being able to throw all my pitches for strikes was probably the biggest thing today.”

›› Butler grad comes up big as WSU wins tourney opener

Sampen (5-0) allowed just one baserunner through 5.2 innings, but he issued back-to-back walks and hit a batter to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate. But Sampen got UIC cleanup hitter Scott Ota to ground into an inning-ending force out to keep his no-hitter intact.

“Caleb Sampen was absolutely tremendous,” Mercer said. “He’s a guy you can really rely on, and he showed up today. Great players are tough and competitive, they love the spotlight and they love to be in the big moment, and Caleb’s that guy to a T.”

After Sampen got out of his only jam in the top of the sixth, the WSU offense scored six runs with two outs to blow things open with a 10-0 lead that marked the fifth consecutive game the Raiders have scored in double figures.

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“We know we’re capable of, and we had good at-bats all day,” said WSU No. 9 hitter Zach Weatherford, who was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Weatherford’s two-run single in the bottom of the fourth was the first hit of the game sparked the four-run frame.

Then his RBI bunt single with two outs in the sixth started the six-run onslaught.

“The call came from the dugout because the third baseman was back, and I just trusted it and put it down,” Weatherford said.

UIC manager Mike Dee, still stewing from a missed call a few minutes earlier on a pickoff throw to third base that would have ended the inning, earned an ejection just seconds after walking out to question whether Weatherford beat the throw at the first.

›› WSU offense in high gear

The Raiders added five more runs after the ejection on two-run singles by JD Orr and pinch-hitter Alex Alders and an RBI single by Peyton Burdick.

“We hammered balls the few innings and had nothing to show for it,” Mercer said. “Finally the competitiveness of our at-bats kind of wore on them and our ability to take balls and make (UIC starter Charle Cerny) be in the zone. And as good as he is, he eventually kind of lost feel.”

UIC scored its lone run on a play that put a scare into the WSU dugout. With the bases loaded and two outs, Raiders first baseman Gabe Snyder — the Horizon League Player of the Year — made a diving catch in foul territory in shallow right field and nearly threw out UIC’s Joshua Figueroa at the plate after he tagged up.

›› Snyder named Horizon League Player of the Year

Snyder hurt his left arm on the dive and had to come out of the game, but Mercer said he didn’t think the injury was serious.

“He just slammed the inside of his elbow and hopefully he just kind of hyper-extended it and kind of hit the funny bone,” Mercer said. “I almost yelled ‘don’t catch it.’ I didn’t care about that. We’re up by 10 runs. But players want to make plays. So you can’t take that competitiveness out of them.

“It was a great catch, but I just want to keep the best player maybe in program history healthy,” he added.

WSU goes into Saturday’s 12 p.m. game against the winner of the UIC-Milwaukee game needing to win one of two games to claim the title and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.

If the UIC-Milwaukee winner beats Wright State in the first game Saturday, there will be a winner-take-all final at 4.

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