World Cup Crib Notes Day 8

England and Uruguay, two of the tournament’s strongest teams to lose their openers, play in what is essentially a must-win match for each side on Thursday, and is the pick of the day’s matches.Colombia vs. Ivory Coast: 12 p.m. EDTUruguay vs. England: 3 p.m. EDTJapan vs. Greece: 6 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities. IN DEPTHColombia versus Ivory Coast should be a slightly better match than England versus Uruguay, according to the method we’ve been using to identify each day’s best match (calculating the harmonic mean of each team’s Soccer Power Index rating). But they’re also much more mismatched: Colombia ranks fifth in SPI among the 32 World Cup teams, while Ivory Coast ranks 17th. England and Uruguay rank ninth and 11th, respectively, so while there will be a bit less quality on the pitch according to SPI, it should be a closer contest.FiveThirtyEight’s SPI-based model gives England a 37.3 percent chance of winning, compared to 33.9 percent for Uruguay. Colombia, meanwhile, has a 54.2 percent chance of beating Ivory Coast, and just a 25.7 percent chance of losing. We touted England’s opener, against Italy, as likely to be one the group stage’s most competitive matches; England-Uruguay could be just as close.This match wasn’t supposed to be a must-win for the pre-tournament co-favorites in Group D. Uruguay and England each started the Cup with a more than 60 percent chance of making it through the group. Then, disaster struck: Each team lost its opener: England 2-1 to Italy and Uruguay 3-1 to Costa Rica.England and Uruguay each can blame bad luck for their poor starts, though the true culprit may be failure to succeed at the twin soccer skills of finishing and goalkeeping. TruMedia, which provides soccer stats to ESPN based on Opta’s match-logging, estimates how many goals a team should score, using the location of the shots it takes and a model based on where those shots are taken and how successful they are. (There are other, similar models of expected goals.)By TruMedia estimates, instead of losing 2-1, England should have expected to score 1.32 goals against Italy and yielded 1.01. And Uruguay could have expected to lose 1.32-1.27, instead of 3-1, to Costa Rica. (There are no fractional goals in soccer, but this is a probability-based model, so it shows how teams could have expected to do, on average, given the shots they took and allowed.)Those are two of the worst results for teams in their Cup openers this year, relative to expectations. Two teams other than England that produced better scoring opportunities than their opponents also lost: Ghana, against the United States; and Algeria, against Belgium. And two teams other than Uruguay lost by even more than expected based on scoring chances: Greece, against Colombia; and defending champion Spain, against the Netherlands. That new way of looking at Colombia’s 3-0 defeat of Greece might mean Thursday’s other two matches will be closer than they appear, since Colombia is heavily favored against Ivory Coast and Japan is favored against Greece.Then again, this method may just identify teams that are better at creating and denying opportunities than they are at finishing and keeping balls out of the goal. Maybe Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling weren’t unlucky in going a combined 0 for 7 on shots against Italy — maybe they’re not good finishers. And the same goes for Spain, eliminated from the knockout stage after scoring just one goal against an expected total of 3.43 goals in its two matches.The last World Cup showed that some teams that struggle to finish and to deny opponents shots in their openers rebound later in the tournament. Spain lost its opener to Switzerland in 2010 despite producing and allowing shots that should have given it a 0.34-goal win, on average. Spain won its next six matches, and the World Cup. But other sides that fit the profile didn’t produce better results in their second and third matches: France, Cameroon and Algeria all looked primed to improve yet exited the 2010 tournament without a win. England and Uruguay must try to channel Spain’s 2010 improvement. The side that doesn’t likely only gets one more match in this tournament.YESTERDAYCONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, is the only confederation with a winning record against Europe’s UEFA at the World Cup, 87-78-48 all-time. And not much has changed this year. On Wednesday, Chile became the third South American team to beat a European side in four tries in Brazil, eliminating defending champion Spain with a 2-0 win.Goalkeeper Iker Casillas is a legend in Spain, but he has had a nightmare tournament, making crucial errors that both of Spain’s first two opponents converted for goals. In 2010, Casillas stopped 15 of 17 shots on goal, captaining Spain to its first World Cup title. Casillas was excellent again at Euro 2012, making 15 saves of 16 shots on goal, as Spain successfully defended its European championship.Casillas has faced 14 shots on goal in two games at the 2014 World Cup. Seven found the back of the net.Spain’s problems aren’t just in goal. Diego Costa scored on 27 of 54 shots on target (50 percent) in La Liga play during the 2013-14 season, better than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Costa steered Atlético Madrid to the title.In Brazil, Costa has four shots in two games, with one on target. Against Chile, he finished with 20 touches before being subbed off. In Atlético’s league games last season, Costa averaged 39 touches per 90 minutes.But let’s not blame Spain’s offensive woes all on Costa; he wasn’t alone in his inability to penetrate Chile’s defense. Chile finished with 33 clearances, the most by a team to beat Spain in the World Cup since clearances have been tracked (starting in 1966). Defense, plus Spain’s critical errors, has Chile in the World Cup knockout stage for the second consecutive tournament, with Spain’s golden generation on the outside looking in. — Zachary Singer, statistics analyst, ESPNOFF THE PITCHWe’re projecting Japan versus Greece as Thursday’s lowest-scoring and one of its closest matches, 1.1-1.2. It turns out these countries have a pretty symbiotic relationship when it comes to their trade, according to OECD trade data from 2012. Japanese exports to Greece are unsurprisingly dominated by cars and car parts (which, with a small percentage of other machinery such as computers, made up about 65 percent of the exports). Greece reciprocates with a healthy dose of refined petroleum (36 percent of exports), as well as a wide range of food, including everything from pasta and chocolate to seafood and olive oil. Greece may not be able to match Japan’s $179 million in exports, but its $126 million isn’t too shabby, either. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGBrazil’s Presidents Are More Maradona Than PeléWorld Cup Players You Need to Know: Mexico Goalkeeper Guillermo OchoaSportstorialist World Cup Edition: Ghana Wore It Best; Alexi Lalas Wore It … Not the Best read more

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What The NCAAs Longest Win Streak Looks Like

Related: Hot Takedown The No. 1-ranked Connecticut Huskies beat the 6th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks 66-55 on Monday night for their NCAA-record 100th consecutive win. They last lost on Nov. 17, 2014, when they fell to the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal, 88-86 in overtime. That loss snapped a 47-game winning streak itself, meaning that, between March 13, 2013, and today, the Huskies have won four NCAA Championships and lost one game.Yes, once more for emphasis: Between March 13, 2013, and today, the Huskies have four times as many national championships as they have losses.This is Connecticut’s third record-breaking streak this millennium. First, between 2001 and 2003, they won 70 games in a row – the longest winning streak in NCAA women’s basketball history, and in 2008-10, they won 90 games to break UCLA’s 88-game record set in 1970-74. Here’s what being the mother of all powerhouses looks like: Who’s Going Where As The NBA Trade Deadline Approaches? Though they’ve managed to keep the streak that was built on the back of Breanna Stewart’s remarkable career going, the Huskies haven’t dominated as much as they’re used to. This is unsurprising, considering they lost Stewart and their two other best players to the WNBA draft after last season (those players went 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall). Indeed, they’re probably having one of their worst statistical seasons in several years. Unfortunately for the rest of basketball, the Huskies’ off years are the stuff most schools’ dreams are made of: The streak is likely to survive into the NCAA tournament. The Huskies have one game scheduled against a ranked opponent: Feb. 27 against 22nd-ranked University of South Florida Bulls – whom the Huskies beat in January 102-37 (no joke). But once they get to the tournament, they have a better chance than most years of losing, particularly to the Maryland Terrapins, whom they only beat by 6 points in December, or the Baylor Lady Bears, who despite also losing to the Huskies in November have been putting up Huskies numbers themselves this season. Leading by only 2 points with under 6 minutes left in the third quarter against the Gamecocks, the Huskies looked beatable — yet they won again. Such has been the story of the season so far. We’ll see if they can keep it up through March Madness. read more

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The Good The Bad And The WTF Of NBA Free Agency

There have been a handful of seismic shifts since NBA free agency began earlier this month — LeBron James heading west to join the Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins signing with Golden State and Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard being shipped to Canada for DeMar DeRozan — but the dust is finally beginning to settle some, allowing us to make sense of what has happened.Two things have become relatively clear: 1) This was a lean, challenging year for players who might have otherwise taken long-term deals, as around half of the pacts this summer have been for a single season; 2) With Cousins in tow, the Warriors may be in a league of their own again when it comes to contending for the title.But that doesn’t mean we can’t give a brief rundown of the teams that have wowed, disappointed or befuddled us this offseason. Here’s our look at the good, the bad and the confusing from the past month.WinnersIndiana PacersThe Pacers were arguably the league’s biggest surprise last season, going from what many analysts figured would be a lottery team after the Paul George trade with Oklahoma City to one win away from knocking out LeBron and the Cavaliers in the first round. An enormous part of that, of course, was Victor Oladipo having a better statistical campaign than George en route to becoming an All-Star and winning the Most Improved Player award.The other element flew under the radar but was just as integral: Indiana’s offense, gladly taking what the defense gave it, went against the grain and launched far more midrange jump shots than any other club, essentially making the Pacers the antithesis of the Rockets. With a group of decent jump-shooters, the strategy worked. But as a team that doesn’t shoot a ton of threes or get to the line much (Indiana had the NBA’s fifth-lowest 3-point attempt rate and the fifth-worst free-throw rate), the Pacers could have entered the 2018-19 season somewhat vulnerable to opponents who can score in bunches more quickly and efficiently.But inking perpetual-motion sharpshooter Doug McDermott should make Indiana less predictable and more of a threat from outside. And Tyreke Evans — who has quietly shot nearly 39 percent from the arc over the past three years after shooting about 28 percent in his first six seasons — was a solid, under-the-radar pickup who should be a huge upgrade over Lance Stephenson.Kyle O’Quinn, who came over for the room exception at one year and $4.5 million, will fit right in with the Pacers’ offensive philosophy; he hit better than 44 percent of his long 2s last season. He can get himself in trouble as a playmaker, but he’ll be a more-than-adequate backup to Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis.Almost no analyst will pick the Pacers to land a top-three seed in the East. But should the Celtics, Raptors or Sixers struggle out of the gate, it wouldn’t be that surprising if Indiana did just that. The Pacers finished just outside the top 10 last season in both offensive and defensive efficiency — a hint that they weren’t far from contention. If things break right for them this year, they could reach that level with their improved roster.Memphis GrizzliesJust when we thought we had left the Grit-n-Grind era behind us, it found its way back into our hearts and, soon enough, onto the court at FedEx Forum.The Grizzlies battled through a miserable year that included the firing of coach David Fizdale after he and center Marc Gasol failed to see eye-to-eye, and that was after losing point guard Mike Conley to a heel injury that eventually led to season-ending surgery. From the outside, a total teardown might have seemed like the best course of action. But for a small-market franchise — which has big-money deals on the books and is already dealing with attendance problems — that avenue might have been too dire, leading the club to reload instead.Memphis did so by trying to get back to what made it special a few years ago: It loaded up on solid players who aren’t the most glitzy but tend to get the job done on both ends of the floor.While they started that process at the draft with forward Jaren Jackson Jr. — a player whom FiveThirtyEight’s projection models like a great deal — the Grizzlies also landed advanced-stats darling Kyle Anderson, who ranked second among small forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus this past season. With his ball-handling ability and size, Anderson is a lower-scoring, better-defending version of the Grizzlies’ Chandler Parsons, who has been sapped by injuries in recent years. Memphis also picked up wing Garrett Temple, a reliable defender and 39-percent 3-point shooter this past year, from Sacramento via trade.It’s not often that a 22-win team jumps into the playoff conversation without adding a bona fide star. But merely getting healthy again after adding this many capable two-way players could let the Grizzlies improve by leaps and bounds.LosersPortland Trail BlazersSimilar to how the Raptors needed a shakeup after multiple seasons fizzled out in a similar manner, the Blazers seemingly needed one in 2017-18, too. Even after realizing they couldn’t go about things the exact same way and altering a handful of schematic details, those fixes weren’t nearly enough, and the club got swept in the first round by Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.But the beatdown didn’t bring about big changes for the West’s No. 3 seed. Instead, the Blazers brought back restricted free agent center Jusuf Nurkic (who’s highly productive when he’s not getting whacked in the face) while losing solid bench contributors in guard Shabazz Napier and reserve big Ed Davis.1Seth Curry may be able to replace Napier’s production, and the hope is that skilled big man Zach Collins can play a bigger role in his second year.If there’s a sour taste in the mouths of Blazers fans, though, it should stem from the notion that Portland could have — and possibly would have — completed a sign-and-trade for Cousins had it not been that he and Nurkic have representatives who work for the same agency, potentially creating a conflict. Such a deal would have provided the sort of shakeup that a capped-out team like Portland needs. Instead, we may see this team — one of the few that enjoyed good health last year — finish near the bottom of the playoff pool in the West.Houston RocketsAny way you slice it, it’s tough to make sense of the Rockets’ offseason. This team was one decent half away from knocking off the vaunted Warriors and reaching the NBA Finals when its players short-circuited and couldn’t make a 3-pointer to save their lives.The Rockets were close enough that you could almost understand bringing back the same team to try again. But instead, Houston lost starting forward Trevor Ariza right out of the gate (granted, for big money at $15 million this season with a young Phoenix team). Then Luc Mbah a Moute followed suit, rejoining the Clippers about a week later for just one year and $4.3 million. Both were enormous contributors to the Rockets’ vast defensive improvement, and they played key roles in the team’s switch-everything scheme, a must-have against a club like Golden State, which screens away from the ball so well.Houston’s interest in Carmelo Anthony wasn’t terribly surprising, after it pursued him the year before. Yet while there’s a chance Anthony plays far better with the Rockets than he did in a down year with Oklahoma City, it’s hard to see him being much better than either of the two aforementioned wing players, given how Anthony is frequently exploited on defense.James Ennis may help in replacing the lost production on D, and getting guard De’Anthony Melton in the second round of the draft was seemingly a steal. Still, with the gap between the Rockets and Warriors as small as it was in the postseason, you get the feeling that these moves might have widened the chasm.Somewhere in betweenChicago BullsEven if you don’t think Zach LaVine is worth the four years and $78 million that the Bulls ponied up to keep him from becoming a Sacramento King, the logic is clear: LaVine, at one point, was the centerpiece of what Chicago got in the Jimmy Butler deal last summer.What’s tougher to understand is the logic behind pairing LaVine with free agent Jabari Parker.Yes, this ACL-hobbled duo has clear scoring chops, and both are just 23. But neither can really defend on the wing just yet, potentially making life far more challenging for impressive youngster Wendell Carter Jr. than it should be this early on.“Well, I don’t know — I just stick to my strengths,” Parker said when asked about defense during a Chicago radio interview. “Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense. … I’m not gonna say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. I’ve scored 30s and 20s off of guys who say they try to play defense.”The Parker deal, for two years and $40 million, isn’t awful. The second year of the contract is a team option, giving the Bulls an out if he doesn’t return to form. But the biggest challenge, and one that gives analysts around the league pause, is his defense. Statistically, Parker has surrendered2By percentage, with a minimum of 5,000 possessions against. more blow-by opportunities on D than any other NBA player over the past three seasons, according to data from Second Spectrum. Some of that, of course, stems from the head-scratching scheme the Bucks used for so long. But other times, it was a function of Parker playing out of position at small forward, where he’s not quick enough to stay in front.It’s safe to assume that someone — be it Parker, the guy he’s guarding or both — is going to score a lot next season. We look forward to seeing who gets the upper hand.Los Angeles LakersNo one is knocking the LeBron signing itself. (How could you?) But add me to the list of people who have struggled to understand the free-agent signings around him.Regardless of whether you plan to have James control the ball a ton or you prefer that he operates more from the post, he would benefit most by having a stable of capable jump-shooters to give him the time and space he needs to create scoring chances.For the better part of eight years, James’s rosters have generally featured several shooting specialists who afford him ample room to drive and kick. A number of players — James Jones, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Matthew Dellavedova, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, just to name a few — have logged seasons in which they shot 40 percent or better3On 100 attempts or more. from deep when playing alongside James. By contrast, no one on this Lakers roster — outside of James — has ever logged even one season of 40 percent or better.4On 100 attempts or more.This might be an arbitrary threshold. Aside from the fact that many players on this club are in the early stages of their career, Brandon Ingram shot 39.0 percent from there last year, and Josh Hart was at 39.6 percent. And it seems a given that the team’s best young players stand to take massive steps forward by playing with a great setup man who demands so much of the opponent’s attention.The bigger question, in light of comments he made during the NBA Finals, is whether this team will possess the sort of collective basketball IQ that James feels he needs around him. We know Rajon Rondo, however combustible he might be, is set in that regard. But the additions of Stephenson and JaVale McGee were tougher to square from that standpoint.At their best, with the right surroundings, Stephenson and McGee can lead the NBA in triple-doubles and wreak havoc in pick-and-roll scenarios, respectively. At their worst, they create blooper reels. We have no idea which versions will emerge. But rest assured: LeBron and the youthful Lakers will be anything but boring as we tune in to find out. read more

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Ohio State mens basketball manhandled by Connecticut 7555

OSU redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson (32) posts up during a game against Air Force on Dec. 8 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 74-50.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorThe Ohio State men’s basketball team dipped back under the .500 mark in a game at Connecticut on Saturday afternoon that wasn’t ever much in question.Playing in their first true road game of the season in Storrs, Connecticut, the Buckeyes (4-5) were manhandled in the first half, setting the stage for a 75-55 loss.UCONN (6-3) received heavy contributions from a pair of guards coming off its bench, as senior Omar Calhoun and freshman Jalen Adams combined for 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting.Calhoun’s performance also featured a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.OSU received 15 points from sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate and 14 from junior forward Marc Loving, but an inability to get a stop all afternoon did the visitors in. For the game, UCONN shot a stunning 60.4 percent (32-of-53).The Buckeyes hung around for the early part of the first half, trailing 22-16 at the 10-minute mark. From there, however, the Huskies took complete control, winning the rest of the half 21-6 to take a 21-point lead into the intermission.OSU had no answer for the Huskies’ inside game, as UCONN held a 38-20 edge in points in the paint, including 24-10 in the first half. A big reason for that was redshirt senior forward Shonn Miller, a Cleveland native and transfer from Cornell, who finished the game 5-of-8 for 11 points, while also pulling down nine rebounds.Junior center Amida Brimah was also a factor for the Huskies, contributing 11 points on an efficient 5-of-6 from the field.The Buckeyes led at no point in the game on Saturday, which ended their brief two-game winning streak.OSU also failed to block a shot on Saturday, despite the return of freshman center Daniel Giddens from a two-game absence. Giddens came into the game leading the Big Ten with 3.3 blocks per game, having blocked multiple shots in each of his previous five games. OSU’s previous season low for blocks was four, in the opening game.Freshman guard JaQuan Lyle had a miserable game for the Buckeyes, going 0-of-7 to finish scoreless. It was the third game in his last four that Lyle was held under 10 points.Loving played all 40 minutes for coach Thad Matta, pulling down six rebounds to go with his 14 points.OSU is set to return home to try to reclaim the .500 mark on Wednesday against another Huskies squad, this one of Northern Illinois. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. read more

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Ohio State mens lacrosse to face UMBC in first 2016 game at

OSU sophomore attacker Colin Chell (22) prepares to shoot during a scrimmage against The Hill Academy on Jan. 30. Credit: Kylie Bryant | | For The LanternThe Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is gearing up to host the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Buckeyes’ first game in Ohio Stadium of the 2016 season on Friday.OSU (2-1) is coming off its first loss of the season last week against Massachusetts. The team looked disorganized in the second half, which led to a 16-9 defeat at the hands of the Minutemen.“I think guys are really taking it on themselves as more a personal thing and something that we need to fix within ourselves,” redshirt junior midfielder and co-captain Tyler Pfister said. “We’re definitely learning from it but not dwelling on it.”OSU coach Nick Myers said the team is evaluating last week’s performance, but he does not want his guys to get hung up on it.“There’s been some reflection off of what we thought was a really disappointing loss,” Myers said. “We’re trying to put that behind us now and focus on us and prepare for a very good team that’s coming into Columbus on Friday night.”UMBC is arriving in Columbus on the heels of a loss to Richmond in its first game of the season by a score of 7-5. The team had a disappointing campaign last year, going 5-8. Still, Myers said he fully expects the program to have a bounceback year.“I just think, top to bottom, it’s a team that’s very disciplined,” he said. “We’re going to have to really work hard as a collective group to have success on Friday night.”UMBC is led by its pair of senior captains: attacker Nate Lewnes and defender Zach Esser.Esser guides a defense that allowed seven goals in the team’s first game. Last year, he became the first defender in the history of UMBC to earn back-to-back America East first-team honors.One of the focuses heading into Friday’s game for the Buckeyes will be stopping the Retrievers’ pair of experienced attackers: Lewnes and junior Max Maxwell.Lewnes saw his 18-game goal-scoring streak, which was sixth in the country at the time, end in the team’s loss to Richmond. A co-captain, Lewnes is the leader of the offense and has been a model of consistency over his first three years at UMBC.Maxwell, who scored a goal last week against Richmond, earned all-rookie team honors as a freshman.OSU senior midfielder and co-captain Kacy Kapinos stressed the importance of the defense playing together in order to stop the UMBC attack.“We have a great, close (defensive) unit in Robby Haus, Chris Mahoney and Erik Evans. It’s just playing team defense,” Kapinos said. “It’s not two guys shutting them down –— it’s everybody talking, communicating (and) making sure we’re all on the same page.” The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Friday at the ‘Shoe.Man-up opportunityOne thing the Buckeyes will look to improve on this week is the man-up. The man-up, or extra-man opportunity, is akin to the power play in hockey. In these situations, the offense has a one-man advantage because a penalty on the other team forces a player to stay off the field for a duration of time.OSU sophomore defender Erik Evans (43) controls the ball during a scrimmage against The Hill Academy on Jan. 30. Credit: Kylie Bryant | | For The LanternOSU has struggled in capitalizing on these opportunities so far this year. The team went 0-4 in man-up opportunities last week against UMass, including failing to score on one occasion when the Minutemen were two players down after a succession of penalties.“We have to give it to UMass,” Kapinos said. “They did a good job in man-down and picked off a couple of our passes.”The Buckeyes have struggled in this area the whole season, only capitalizing on two of their 12 man-up opportunities, which ranks them tied for 47th nationally. “We’re trying to find the right pieces and the right fit, but that’s a fine line,” Myers said of the man-up unit. “We’re going to keep chipping away at it. I’ve got a lot of confidence in that group.”National showcaseFriday’s game against UMBC will be OSU’s first time this year playing in front of a nationally televised audience, as the game is scheduled to be aired on ESPNU.“Playing in the ‘Shoe too is something that guys are really looking forward to, and I think is going to be a motivator for us going into it,” Pfister said.Myers said he knows his team is excited to play in front of viewers across the country, but he wants the team to stay focused on the task at hand.“I think the opportunity, anytime you’re on national TV, to not only play well but to just showcase what Buckeye lacrosse is all about is a responsibility,” Myers said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the next game on our schedule.”What’s nextAfter Friday’s game against UMBC, the Buckeyes are set to host the Midwest Lacrosse Classic. OSU is scheduled play Marquette on March 4 and Bellarmine on March 6. The games are slated for 6 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively, at the ‘Shoe. read more

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Baseball Ohio State splits four games to open season Ratcliff and Washington

OSU then-junior catcher Jalen Washington (2) swings at a ball during a game against Bethune-Cookman at Bill Davis Stadium on April 1, 2016. Lantern file photoEntering the 2017 season, the biggest question surrounding the Ohio State baseball team was how coach Greg Beals would replace seven everyday starters.The Buckeyes seemed to answer that question emphatically, combining for 21 runs on 18 hits during the first two games at the Sunshine State Classic Series. But, their offense slumped across the final two contests, posting only four runs on 11 hits.The offense found over the weekend came largely from the bats of redshirt senior designated hitter Zach Ratcliff and senior shortstop and co-captain Jalen Washington. Ratcliff hit .438 with seven hits, two home runs, six RBIs and five runs scored. Washington finished the weekend with a .385 batting average, one stolen base, three runs scored and was hit by four pitches.OSU opened its season with a 2-2 start.Game 1 versus Kansas StateA dominant outing from redshirt junior starting pitcher and co-captain Adam Niemeyer on Opening Day helped led the Buckeyes to a 6-3 victory over the Wildcats.The scoring began in the top half of the third for OSU. After Kansas State redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Bryce Ward set the first two down in order, OSU junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt tripled down the right field line. Washington followed that up with a grounder to the second baseman who couldn’t handle it, allowing Washington to reach first and Gantt to score the first Buckeye run of the season.A double and a walk loaded the bases for junior first baseman Bo Coolen who doubled down the left field line, driving in two runs and bringing the OSU lead to 3-0.The next inning, the Buckeyes would again put up a crooked number. After the first two batters of the inning reached base and a sac bunt put them both in scoring position, a wild pitch was thrown by freshman reliever Tyler McKay, allowing sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry to score from third.A walk to Gantt brought Washington to the plate who lined a base hit down the left field line, scoring another run and expanding the Buckeye lead to 5-0. A bases-loaded walk later in the inning added to the OSU lead, putting them ahead 6-0.The only run Niemeyer surrendered came in the bottom half of the sixth inning after the first two runners he faced reached base on a single and an error. A single by redshirt senior outfielder Steve Serratore drove in the run, drawing the Wildcats closer, 6-1. The Wildcats plated two unearned runs off junior reliever Seth Kinker in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Buckeyes held on for the 6-3 victory. Niemeyer finished the game having allowed only one unearned run on six hits, no walks and one strikeout.Game 2 versus DelawareIn a high-scoring affair driven by three grand slams, OSU beat Delaware 15-10 thanks to Ratcliff’s monster day. The fifth-year designated hitter delivered the game’s first runs with a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the second, giving OSU the early 2-0 lead.But Delaware responded in a big way in the top of the third. A grand slam from redshirt senior outfielder Jordan Glover led the Blue Hens’ offensive charge as they jumped out to an early 6-2 lead. An inning later, Delaware added another run to bring the score to 7-2.In the bottom-half of the fourth inning, Ratcliff came up to bat and for the second time, deposited a two-run home run over the left field fence to draw the Buckeyes within five. The Blue Hens responded, adding two more of their own in the top of the fifth.Down 9-4, the OSU offense exploded in the bottom of the seventh inning. Junior second baseman Noah McGowan stepped up to the plate with a bases-loaded opportunity and cashed in with a grand slam, drawing the Scarlet and Gray to within one.The next two batters reached base for Ratcliff who again delivered, this time with a two-RBI double to the right-center field gap. Ratliff would later score, expanding the Buckeye lead to 11-9.The next inning, OSU got right back where they left off. Now with the score tied, Cherry stepped up to the dish with the bases juiced and delivered his second career grand slam to left-center field, jumping the OSU offense out to a commanding 15-9 lead. The Blue Hens added another run in the top of the ninth, but their comeback attempt fell short as OSU won the first game of their Saturday double-header 15-10. Ratcliff finished the day 4-4 with a pair of homers, a walk, four runs scored and six RBIs.Game 3 versus PittsburghThe Buckeye offense came rolling into this game, but they were completely silenced by senior right-hander Josh Falk in a 7-2 loss against Pittsburgh.The Buckeyes drew first blood. Gantt led off the top of the second inning with a ground-rule double and scored on a sacrifice fly from McGowan, giving OSU the early 1-0 lead.Pitt quickly took back the game with two runs scored in the bottom of the second on a two-run double from freshman right fielder Nico Popa. Another run in the bottom of the third expanded their lead to 3-1.The Panthers put up another run in the fourth, one in the seventh and two in the eighth to give them a 7-1 lead. As soon as Falk left the game in the ninth inning, the Buckeye offense started showing some life. The first two batters of the inning went down, but a pair of singles, a hit-by-pitch and an RBI walk from redshirt senior left fielder Shea Murray brought the score to 7-2. The OSU comeback ended there, however, as the pinch-hitter lined out to shortstop to end their comeback.Falk finished the game with eight innings of one-run, three-hit ball. He walked three and struck out seven.Game 4 versus Kansas StateComing off a game where the offense looked stagnant, OSU once again came out of the gate slow, and fell to Kansas State 3-2 in their second meeting with the Wildcats.Down 2-0 in the bottom half of the fifth inning, OSU found some life in their offense. After a triple and a walk put runners on the corners, Gantt singled to right center to put the Scarlet and Gray on the scoreboard. Washington followed that up with a double to left, tying the game at two.The game remained tied until the top of the eighth inning. Redshirt senior shortstop Jake Wodtke led off the frame with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Senior first baseman Jake Scudder followed the sacrifice with a single to center, driving in the Wildcats’ third run of the game and bringing the score to 3-2. In his first game since Tommy John surgery, OSU redshirt senior starting pitcher Jake Post looked solid, delivering six innings with only two runs allowed on five hits while striking out three. Washington and Ratcliff were the only two Buckeye hitters with multi-hit games.The Buckeyes will travel to Surprise, Arizona, on Thursday to begin the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. They open against Utah on at 8 p.m. and will split four games over the weekend between the Utes and the No. 8 Oregon State Beavers. read more

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McGwire discovers that juicing isnt worth the squeeze

I, Zack Meisel, an aspiring journalist, used Spark Notes.I didn’t use them to help my performance on exams. I only used them when necessary to assist me in catching up on missed reading assignments in high school.Trust me, Spark Notes can’t explain a character’s symbolization of love. Spark Notes can’t produce a detailed essay exploring a novel’s motifs. Ever since I was young, I’ve been a skilled writer. I can confidently declare that reading Spark Notes did not affect my grades in any way. I still would have fared well in English classes without the extra boost from the ‘Notes.This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, to admit to such wrongdoing (now choking up, holding back tears).Hopefully my admission to such a heinous act won’t deter voters from considering me for the Journalism Hall of Fame one day.Coming clean about my dependence has given me vindication. It cleanses my soul that I can finally talk about the past.Enter Mark McGwire.The once-robust home run machine has received a paltry portion of the vote for the Hall of Fame. So — coincidentally, we are to believe — just one week after Andre Dawson was the only slugger selected to baseball’s exclusive club, McGwire finally pronounced his sorrow for juicing up during the ‘90s.He attributed his steroid use to aiding in his recovery from countless injuries. He claimed that not one of his 583 home runs resulted from an injection of any performance enhancing substance.And yet, no one seems satisfied.Even Ray Charles could see that the likes of McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and hundreds of others were using during the 15-year steroid rage, but hindsight is 20/20. No one seemed to care about all of the bulging biceps in 1998 when Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy were jockeying for the main slice of MLB home run history.The torrential downpour of steroid revelations has stirred up a cloud of hypocrisy around baseball’s most controversial era. We want athletes to be truthful, but our memories of those athletes become tarnished once they admit to “cheating.” Don’t ask for the truth if you’re afraid to hear it.Whether McGwire and Co. should earn a spot in the Hall of Fame depends on the consensus opinion of baseball experts around the country. The problem is, we’re far from a unanimous viewpoint.No one is buying McGwire’s assertion that the juice didn’t enhance his play on the field. But what purpose do his admittance and apology serve if the public can’t agree on its reaction to it?We all suspected the man of loading up syringes during his career, so why is it now that we jump on his decrepit back? Did his admission really re-shape anything anyone assumed about him?McGwire wouldn’t talk about the past before a congressional hearing in 2005, and he wasn’t the only one looking foolish on the stand. Sosa suddenly forgot the English language and Rafael Palmeiro lied through his teeth.Finally, though, when the man decided to open his closet full of skeletons, no one was content with the confession.The guy clearly messed up, along with hundreds of others, many of whom haven’t been made public yet. We know that for an extended period of time, the sport of baseball was completely diluted.But followers of America’s pastime must arrive at a consensus about what treatment these untruthful athletes should receive. Last May, Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez earned a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Immediately upon his return, he was embraced by his Los Angeles following. Fans brushed his misdeed under the infield grass, as if he never cheated. Ah, Manny just being Manny.That’s the double standard that keeps Major League Baseball in limbo. Both Ramirez and McGwire knew the effects and consequences of their actions. For McGwire, there were no potential punishments. Yet, he is the one crucified after revealing his transgressions.It’s time to implement an even playing field for all athletes linked to performance enhancers.I fessed up to my Spark Notes use. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I can only hope that my ninth-grade English teacher forgives me. read more

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Columbus Clippers honor Howard Hopalong Cassady with bobblehead

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, high atop the president’s suite along the first base side of Huntington Park, 78-year-old Howard “Hopalong” Cassady watched as almost 2,000 bobbleheads bearing his likeness circulated throughout the ballpark. Wearing a black and white, Hawaiian-style, button-up shirt, appropriate for the 85-degree game-time temperature, the former Ohio State Heisman-Trophy winner was at the ballpark because he was being honored by the Columbus Clippers as part of the organization’s “Columbus Icons Bobblehead Series.” The special nine-game series is something the Clippers are doing to help celebrate Columbus’ bicentennial, and Sunday’s “Howard ‘Hopalong’ Cassady Bobblehead Day” was third game in which fans had an opportunity to purchase a bobblehead of a “Columbus Icon.” “We used to do bobblehead nights for Major Leaguers who came through Columbus,” said Clippers media director Joe Santry. “Fans really liked it and we thought it would be good to do for the bicentennial.” All nine bobbleheads in the series represent a specific genre of Columbus’ history, Santry said, and all of the honorees are from Columbus. At the select games throughout the season, fans can purchase the bobblehead of the “Columbus Icon” being honored for $10 at the game or can buy a special $15 box-seat ticket that includes a voucher for the bobblehead. Tickets for box seats normally sell for $12. One Clippers fan that likes the bobblehead idea is Columbus resident Dave Muir, who bought a Cassady bobblehead at the Sunday’s game. “I think it’s great to honor the city’s own with bobbleheads,” he said. “The idea of ‘Columbus Icons’ to celebrate the city’s history is a really neat idea and I’ll try to collect as many as I can.” Santry said the Clippers chose Cassady as a “Columbus Icon” to represent the professional athletes the city has produced. Cassady, who declined to comment, played in the NFL from 1956 to 1963 with the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns. He was the first Heisman-Trophy winner born in Columbus, winning the award in 1955, his senior season with the Buckeyes. He was a two-time consensus All-American in football, helping OSU to the 1954 National Championship. He played baseball for the Buckeyes as well. Following graduation, the Columbus-native received professional offers from the NFL and MLB. Choosing to stick with football, Detroit selected Cassady third overall in the 1956 NFL Draft, and won the NFL championship a year later in 1957. After retiring from the NFL, Cassady became a special assistant in the New York Yankees organization in 1973 and was an assistant coach for the Clippers, who at the time was the Triple-A affiliate of New York, from 1992 to 2003. Santry, who spent time with Cassady as the media director for the Clippers organization, said the former Buckeye is a wonderful person. “He spent so many years with the organization, he is like a grandfather to us,” he said. “He’s a great guy.” Santry would not admit that Cassady’s ties to the Clippers gave him an edge over the other Columbus natives considered for the professional athlete bobblehead, but he said “it didn’t hurt.” Cassady is the first of three bobbleheads associated with OSU athletics. Bobbleheads of Olympian Jesse Owens and former Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes will be available on July 29 and Aug. 12, respectively. For some fans, the bobbleheads associated with OSU ties are the most sought after. “Anytime I see a bobblehead of a former Buckeye being given out or available for purchase, I try to get it,” Larry Mitchell said. “I’ve got mostly football guys, so when I saw it was ‘Hop’ bobblehead day, I knew I had to come get one.” Mitchell, from Pataskala, said he plans on returning for the Owens and Hayes bobbleheads to add to his collection of about 40 Buckeyes-related bobbleheads that he said he started after the football team won the 2002 National Championship. “I have a lot of dust collectors,” he said with a grin. The Clippers bobblehead series honors more than just Columbus’ sports history. Non-sports related bobbleheads in the series include World War I veteran Eddie Rickenbacker, fast-food businessman Dave Thomas, the Columbus Zoo’s Jack Hanna and author James Thurber. “It’s a cool idea to celebrate not only the city’s sports history, but other aspects of our city’s rich history,” Muir said. read more

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Ohio State rolls past Long Beach State in 34point rout

Coming off a game in which he scored a career-high 22 points, coach Thad Matta said that he wanted to see how LaQuinton Ross handled success. The sophomore forward responded with another statement performance on Saturday for Ohio State. Ross scored 16 points and pulled down a career-high nine rebounds as OSU (6-1) dispatched Long Beach State, 89-55. “I came out strong this game too,” Ross said. “I tried to show my coaches that I’m not going to base my whole season off that last game.” Matta said he liked what he saw. “The big thing with LaQuinton is continuing to just focus on all the little aspects of the game,” added Matta. “To get him playing his best basketball is obviously good for our team.” Ross wasn’t the only bench player to make an impact for OSU. Sophomore guard Shannon Scott scored just three points, but dished out nine assists and secured five rebounds. Sophomore center Amir Williams contributed with seven points and a blocked shot. In all, OSU’s bench outscored LBSU’s, 37-14. “I felt like all those guys that came in brought some energy, brought some cohesiveness,” Matta said. “Everybody came in and shared the basketball.” After making less than 40 percent of their field goals in the past two games, the Buckeyes regained their shooting touch against the 49ers. OSU connected on 31-66 (47 percent) of its shots, including 10-30 from 3-point range. The 30 3-point attempts were a season-high for OSU, and in part a product of LBSU’s defense. The 49ers seemed content to sit in a zone and cut off OSU’s penetration on drives, with the cost of giving up open looks from deep. In the first half the strategy had some success. The Buckeyes couldn’t capitalize on several wide-open looks and connected on just 4-15 3-point attempts. But in the second half the Buckeyes caught fire, made five of their first six from behind the arc, and used the deep ball to put LBSU away. “The guys work so hard on their shooting,” Matta said. “It’s amazing, it kind of becomes contagious, and when somebody knocks one down it carries over. I don’t know if I want to shoot 30 3’s in a game. We’ve got to continue to find our shooting touch and make shots.” Junior forward Deshaun Thomas led the team in scoring with 18 points. The loss drops LBSU to 3-6 on the season, in part because of a grueling non-conference schedule. Before falling to No. 7 OSU, the 49ers were defeated by No. 4 Syracuse, No. 8 Arizona and No. 20 North Carolina. LBSU coach Dan Monson said that the Buckeyes separate themselves from the other teams on the defensive end of the floor. “Of those teams, OSU is the best defensive team,” Monson said. “[Junior point guard Aaron] Craft is as good of an on-ball defender as anyone in the country.” OSU’s defense frustrated LBSU all day, and held the 49ers to 31 percent shooting. “Coach Matta wants good defense to be the identity of this team so we do a lot of defensive drills in practice,” said junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. “Right now as a team we’re playing together well on the defensive end of the floor.” OSU returns to action on Dec. 12 in a home game against Savannah State. read more

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Former Buckeye Aaron Craft officially signs with Golden State Warriors

Then-senior guard Aaron Craft (4) caries the ball down the court in a game against Dayton. OSU lost, 60-59, at First Niagara Center March 20.Credit: Ritika Shah / Lantern TV News directorFormer Ohio State basketball player Aaron Craft has officially signed with the Golden State Warriors, according to NBA.com.Golden State elected not to release the details of Craft’s contract — nor the contracts of fellow free agents James McAdoo and Mitchell Watt, who were signed along with Craft — in accordance with team policy, the website said.Craft played in five games for the Warrior’s NBA Summer League team and averaged 7.4 points per game to go with better than two steals, rebounds and assists per game for the summer.The Findlay, Ohio, native played four years at OSU and earned a plethora of individual honors including being named the 2014 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He played in a total of 148 games during his time in Columbus, starting every game he played in during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He averaged 8.9 points in his Buckeye career and became the school’s all-time assist leader with 694 helpers.Craft is set to wear No. 2 for the Warriors after donning the No. 4 shirt at OSU, according to the NBA’s release.Golden State’s preseason is scheduled to start Oct. 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles. The Warriors’ regular season schedule is set to begin Oct. 29 against the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, Calif. read more

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