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Published: Wednesday, March 07, 2018 @ 10:27 AM
— So, how about those Wright State Raiders?
Coach Scott Nagy’s team took care of business Tuesday night in Detroit, downing heavy underdog Cleveland State in the Horizon League championship game to claim a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Not everyone loves conference tournaments deciding who gets to go to the Big Dance, but it sure worked out of the Raiders this time.
This is as good an example as any of the tournament working out overall because the Horizon League race was close all year.
Northern Kentucky came out one game better than WSU in the end, but the Raiders swept the season series with the Norse so they can realistically claim being the best team in the league.
Ironically, Cleveland State was 12-23 but beat both WSU and NKU.
While their three-point win over the Raiders in February ultimately prevented WSU from claiming a share of the regular season crown, CSU’s upset of the Norse in the league tournament was even more damaging. It assured NKU won’t be going back to the NCAA tournament for a second straight season, but that’s the system.
It benefited NKU last season as multiple upsets cleared the way for their feel-good run, and now it is Wright State’s turn.
Big Lou with the final snip on the players’ net pic.twitter.com/0HyHTe82O4— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) March 7, 2018
So, how long will the Raiders be able to hang around next week?
They will have an uphill climb if they get a 14 or 15 seed, as projected by Joe Lunardi, but this is a team that could be dangerous because of its versatility.
The Raiders have a star big man in Loudon Love, a sharp-shooting senior guard in Grant Benzinger, a heady point guard in Cole Gentry and multiple wings who can play defense and get you the occasional basket.
WSU ranks 49th in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, so they are going to make it hard for an opponent to run away and hide.
The question will be if the Raiders can get enough offense…
Don’t look now: Wright State is for real https://t.co/CCgQn1T1g7— Thomas Gnau (@ThomasGnau) February 17, 2018
Miami University extended coach Chuck Martin’s contract this week — but only for two years.
Is that a message his bosses think he’s done an admirable-but-not-quite-good-enough job?
Obviously stability is important in college football, and Marin has made enough improvement from the disastrous situation he inherited to earn more years to move the RedHawks further up the MAC food chain.
However, he still has only three seasons left on his contract.
That leaves him vulnerable to opponents on the recruiting trail putting a seed of doubt in the minds of current high school juniors about whether or not he will be in Oxford for their entire career.
So on one hand this is smart business at a time many athletics departments seem all too eager to hand out crazy contracts that will ultimately cost them a lot of money, but on the other it could hinder Martin’s efforts to succeed in the long run, too.
Then again, if it is a message, it’s probably a fair one.
Miami failed to build on the momentum from closing the 2016 regular season on a six-game winning streak, losing a couple of games it probably should not have and ultimately missing the postseason.
Martin’s recruiting has so far been above average compared to the rest of the MAC, though, so that’s good reason for optimism…
Speaking of college football, spring football is officially underway at Ohio State.
Urban Meyer was surprisingly candid when speaking about his quarterback race potentially being affected by Joe Burrow’s situation.
The fourth-year junior is set to graduate this spring and could transfer somewhere else — an opportunity made more enticing by the fact he wouldn’t have to sit out a year before playing.
If the battle between Burrow and Dwayne Haskins Jr. is close at all — and I suspect it will be — Meyer would probably prefer not to make a definitive decision until preseason practice.
However, the coach will have to think long and hard about just how likely Burrow would be to overtake Haskins if the sophomore comes out of spring ahead and then convey that message to Burrow.
Even then Burrow’s decision would presumably be no slam-dunk because he is a competitor and likely knows going to a different situation offers no guarantees, either, because any number of other unforeseen variables could come into play.
Just ask Malik Zaire. The former Alter star left Notre Dame but ended up in a quarterback quagmire at Florida.
His father told Cox Media Group in January the Gators coaches sold him a bill of goods, and now he is left to try to continue his football career at the next level without having gained much of any playing experience in college.Follow @marcushartman
Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 3:07 PM
— The Dayton Dragons wrapped up the first half of the Midwest League season with an 8-0 loss to West Michigan on Sunday.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s been an up-and-down season so far for the Cincinnati Reds’ Single-A affiliate.
Dayton finished the first half in sixth place in the Eastern division, 15.5 games behind leader Bowling Green.
This marks a major departure from last season when the Dragons streaked through the first half and had clinched a wildcard berth when it was over.
The Dragons opened the season on a three-game losing streak.
Then they won their next nine only to lose eight in a row.
After that came a six-game winning streak.
Things leveled off to a certain extent after that, but there were still losing streaks of seven and eight games along with a five-game winning streak.
The Dragons were a league-worst 9-23 on the road in the first half.
They posted a 22-14 mark in front of the fans at Fifth Third Field, however, and that might not come as much of a surprise for a roster that is pretty young.
Speaking of youth...
Many of the preseason headlines were devoted to Hunter Greene, the 18-year-old pitching phenom with the triple-digit fastball who was the No. 2 pick in last year’s MLB draft.
However, the best teenager on the team so far has been Jeter Downs.
The infielder leads the team in hits (68) and stolen bases (18) while sharing the team lead in doubles (15) with Montrell Marshall.
RedsMinorLeagues.com notes Downs, who turns 20 on July 27, has already put up some impressive power numbers compared to previous teenage Dragons.
Hunter Greene made 12 starts in the first half and finished with a 5.53 ERA. That is the best it has been since he gave up seven runs in less than an inning during his third start.
Green has allowed six runs and seven walks over 23.3 innings in his last five starts. He has struck out 27 while walking seven and allowing 20 hits.
RELATED: Greene loses pitchers’ duel
He has gradually worked up his pitch count, throwing 86 his last time out, and shown that while he is raw, Reds fans have a lot to be excited about.
One of Greene’s batterymates, Hendrick Clementina has been the team’s best hitter so far.
A catcher acquired in the Tony Cingrani trade, Clementina is has a team-best .971 OPS and also leads the club in batting (.316), homers (nine) and RBIs (35).
He is one of five teams to make the all-star team, joining outfielder Marshall, outfield Stuart Fairchild and pitchers Cory Thompson and John Ghyzel.
Was this a successful first half for the Dragons?
In record, obviously not.
The Dragons had the worst on-base percentage in the Midwest League and finished 12th in runs scored. They also had the worst team ERA in the league.
Development is the name of the game at this level, though, and a handful of the guys in Green look like keepers.
That includes Greene, who appears to be on the right track after a rocky run in late April and early May.
Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 9:19 AM
CINCINNATI — Joey Votto played in his 1,500th career game for the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in an 8-6 victory at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Before the game, the Reds shared the numbers on how Votto compares to Hall of Fame first basemen from the last 50 years, including Jim Thome, who will be inducted this summer.
» DRAGONS: Dayton ends first half with loss
Here’s how Votto, at age 34, in his 12th season, stacks up against 12 of the greats through the first 1,500 games of their careers. In short, he compares well — especially in on-base percentage and walks, as you might expect.
Batting average: Rod Carew (.335); Frank Thomas (.321); Johnny Mize (.320); Joey Votto (.313); Jeff Bagwell (.305); Orlando Cepeda (.305); Eddie Murray (.299); George Kelly (.297); Jim Thome (.285); Tony Perez (.284); Ernie Banks (.283); Willie McCovey (.282); Harmon Killebrew (.262);
On-base percentage: Thomas (.441); Votto (.428); Bagwell (.418); Thome (.411); Mize (.406); Carew (.392); McCovey (.385); Killebrew (.375); Murray (.375); Cepeda (.355); Perez (.347); Banks (.344); Kelly (.343);
Slugging percentage: Mize (.580); Thomas (.580); Thome (.566); McCovey (.555); Bagwell (.553); Banks (.536); Votto (.536); Killebrew (.532); Cepeda (.517); Murray (.505); Perez (.484); Kelly (.455); Carew (.450);
Home runs: Killebrew (392); Thome (368); Ernie Banks (353); McCovey (347); Thomas (339); Bagwell (316); Mize (315); Cepeda (279); Murray (275); Votto (263); Perez (246); Kelly (137); Rod Carew (71).
Hits: Rod Carew (1,924); Mize (1,776); Thomas (1,721); Cepeda (1,714); Murray (1,680); Votto (1,662); Bagwell (1,657); Kelly (1,650); Banks (1,618); Perez (1,550); Thome (1,451); McCovey (1,375); Killebrew (1,354);
Walks: Thomas (1,172); Bagwell (1,012); Votto (1,046); Killebrew (919); McCovey (788); Mize (757); Murray (709); Carew (542); Perez (532); Banks (521); Cepeda (388); Kelly (358); Thome (108).
Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 1:47 PM
CINCINNATI — Scooter Gennett, of the Cincinnati Reds, remains ranked third among second basemen in voting for the National League All-Star team.
Gennett has received 743,979 votes, the league announced Monday in its second release of the voting results. He trails the Braves’ Ozzie Albies (915,736) and the Cubs’ Javier Baez (767,417). All three have a wide lead over the fourth-ranked second baseman: the Giants’ Joe Panik (194,634).
Joey Votto also remains fifth in voting among first basemen (189,364), well behind the league’s overall leader in votes, the Braves’ Freddie Freeman (1,433,140).
Eugenio Suarez, who ranked fourth last week, remains fourth this week among third basemen with 228,806 votes. He leads NL third basemen in RBIs (52) and ranks second in the league among all players. The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado (1,124,563) has a wide lead among third basemen.
Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 11:40 AM
— Minutes after the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Billy Price in the first round with the 21st overall pick, the former Ohio center said he expected to be fully cleared by the start of training camp.
Today, Price announced on Twitter he got the news he had been waiting for, writing “Fully cleared for football again” with the emjoi of two hands raised in the air.
Fully cleared for football again 🙌🏼— Billy Price (@b_price53) June 18, 2018
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Price injured his pectoral while bench pressing at the Combine.
He was on the field for rookie camp, OTAs and minicamp, although his participation was limited to position drills and install. Price said last week at the start of minicamp he had been fully cleared for weight room activity. He said he benched 305 pounds — 80 more than the weight that was on the bar when he suffered the injury — and looking forward to today’s appointment because he expected to receive full clearance.
Price will go into training camp, which begins July 26, as the projected starter at center after Russell Bodine, who started all 64 games the last four seasons, signed as a free agent with Buffalo in March.