Opening Game 2012

March 28, 2012

            Ichiro goes 4 for 5 at the Tokyo Dome! Film at 11!

            But, I’d kind of like to see the replay on that infield single in the fourth. Albeit he didn’t get the call, Cliff Pennington made a sensational play on a soft line the one-hopped the hole, flashing a lightning-quick transition to skim a perfect strike off the turf on a bang-bang play at first base. But, Ichiro got the safe call. The Tokyo Dome giveth. The Tokyo Dome taketh away.

            Pennington has become quite a story for the A’s, though. No doubt, it’s the dichotomy. He’s at once a throwback player, as well as the epitome of the modern Moneyball era in Oakland.

            As the poster boy for the A’s billboard adverts in 2011, Pennington seemed an unlikely choice. Yet, across the board, the 2011 A’s were a low-profile ensemble of unlikely players. And, while Pennington hasn’t exactly emerged as a big-league star, he has established himself as one of the premier iron men in the game. Over the last two seasons, he has appeared in 304 games – all but one as the team’s shortstop.

            Defense aside – it’s tough to portray his Gold Glove tools accurately after he led the American League in errors in 2010 – the big vault for Pennington is to the top of the batting order. He impressed in today’s opener out of the No. 2 spot, going 2 for 5 while scoring Oakland’s only run in a 3-1 loss.

            But, you’ve got to wonder if Pennington might be an option to hit third in the lineup. Despite hitting for just a .260 career average, last season he hit .348 with runners in scoring position. And, for what it’s worth, he went 2 for 3 in his only game as Oakland’s No. 3 hitter. In defense of Coco Crisp, though, he didn’t do too badly in that department either, hitting .298 with RISP last year, and career-wise has outslugged Pennington by 30 points.

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Skyline off home run schneid

March 27, 2012

            It’s taken 22 games, but Skyline College is finally off the home run schneid.

            In the fourth inning of yesterday’s 3-1 loss, Skyline catcher Colton Hicks got into a 2-2 fastball from Hartnell College pitcher Andrew Astone, and deposited it over the left field wall for the first home run by any Skyline player this season. As a team, Skyline tabbed over 700 at bats this season before yesterday’s fourth-inning homer.

            It’s not just Skyline, though. California Community College offense is paling across the board. Although the Trojans were the last team in the Coast Conference Pacific to go homerless, it took Gavilan College until March 10 to get a bomb on the board. And, Coast Confence Golden Gate neighbor City College of San Francisco is one of eight teams in state that has yet to go deep this year – although, CCSF does play at a home field that does not have an outfield fence.

            Five teams in conference – Mission, West Valley, DeAnza, Ohlone, and College of San Mateo – enter into play today with just two home runs as a team.

            Conversely, two teams in conference are amply slugging. Cañada College paces the Coast Conference with 15 homers, with Hartnell College close behind with 14. Each team boasts a home run leader, with Cañada sophomore Zach Turner and Hartnell sophomore Marc Flores tied with six apiece in the race for state home run champ. 

            Overall, Skyline has scuffled on the JUCO circuit this season, and at 4-18, currently have one of the worst overall records among Northern California teams. Only CCSF is worse at 3-18-1.

            Skyline had one other bright spot yesterday – the performance of freshman starting pitcher Tyler Cyr. The right-hander actually served up a home run on the second pitch of the game to Hartnell leadoff hitter Jordan Holler. Cyr bounced back to hurl seven shutout frames, throwing 145 pitches over eight innings, allowing six hits, six walks, and a hit batsman, while striking out four, eventually giving way to the bullpen to take a no-decision.

            Cyr found a sensational groove in the early innings, setting down nine straight at one point. At 6-foot-1 and wiry strong, Cyr features an over-the-top delivery, and can really bring it. In addition to having zip on his fastball, he is working on a 12-to-6 curveball that is occasionally dazzling, and can lock in with a filthy changeup that backs up late and loud like a screwball.


USF pitcher Kyle Zimmer

March 26, 2012

            Baseball wise, University of San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer is the textbook definition of a workhorse.

            “Oh, he’s a big stud,” USF head coach Nino Giarratano said.

            Revered as one of the top college pitchers in the nation, Zimmer entered the year ranked No. 15 on the heralded Baseball America Top 100 college prospects list. Friday, the big stud substantiated the hype, notching his second consecutive complete-game shutout with a 2-0 win over UC Santa Barbara.

            Burly build and fierce stuff aside, Zimmer brings a unique presence to the field. Emerging from a pregame bullpen – heaving for breath with flush cheeks and dripping sweat – he indeed embodies a thoroughbred. Once he climbs the game mound, though, he’s like a different guy. Cool and composed, Zimmer is a model of efficiency.

            Of course, his strikeout numbers jump off the page. After leading the Dons staff with 89 strikeouts last season, he has already fanned 45 this year. This comes as no surprise from a fireballer that reaches 95 mph on the radar gun. Surprising, though, is that such live stuff comes in the form of an uber-control pitcher, as Zimmer has walked just six batters in 45 innings, while touting a 2-1 record with a 1.62 ERA.   

            “Kyle just attacks,” Giarratano said. “I think that’s where you see the consistency. If you attack all the time, you’re in a pretty good situation.”

            Quite a contrast to a year ago when Zimmer was hardly a blip on the prospect radar. A year ago today, he had never gone the distance in a college game, and failed to get out of the fifth inning in a Saturday start against a scuffling University of the Pacific offense.

            Soon thereafter, though, on April 9, he turned a corner. Locking up with St. Mary’s University, Zimmer notched USF’s first win in West Coast Conference play – a 1-0 victory in which Zimmer struck out a career-high 14. By season’s end, he took over as the staff’s Friday starter, and would go on to earn a May 27 win over Gonzaga, as the Dons clinched their first WCC title since 2006.

            “I thought (he came into his own) last year, the way he pitched down the stretch when he won for us at Gonzaga to win the conference championship,” Giarratano said. “He pitched in the regional (playoff) against UCLA to beat them 3-0. An 11-strikeout performance kind of dictated where he would be. He had a great summer in the Cape, and now he’s here as a No. 1.”

            After taking two of three from UC Santa Barbara, USF (13-13) has one more non-conference game – hosting Sacramento State Wednesday at 2 p.m. – before WCC play opens Friday against University of San Diego, with Zimmer riding a 19-inning scoreless streak.


HOOPS, Kansas vs. UNC

March 24, 2012

3-25-12

            This is a baseball blog. So, as an inaugural blog post, I can think of no better topic than … you guessed it … March Madness.

            What a first half of basketball, hey? If you’re like me and know practically nothing about the inner-workings of college hoops (or any basketball for that matter,) you may understand the humbling feeling of a big game reduced to its rudimentary elements – Blue Jerseys vs. Teal Jerseys.

            Of course, I’m referring to Kansas vs. North Carolina. Even though the Jayhawks ran away with it late in the second half, what a shootout to set the stage for the Final Four. Even before tipoff, you could see all the makings of a thriller taking shape. Not only was it to be the featured Sunday afternoon game, and the final contest of the prelim bracket leading to the championship round in New Orleans. But, more so, Kentucky’s blowout of Baylor earlier this morning was a telltale signpost that a throw-down was a brewing in St. Louis.

            Still, Kansas’s thrilling 80-67 win to advance to the Final Four stands to be a mere forethought for next weekend’s epic showdown between Kentucky and Louisville – incidentally, the inspiration for this blog entry. I admit, this is a bit of a glorified shout-out….

            Back in the heyday of upstart message boards, one of the first pals I ever befriended in cyberspace was a girl named Sarah. Her screen name being UKLawGirl, it goes without saying she is a serious Wildcats fan. And, while I’ve never been a fan of college hoops, I have always loosely affiliated with Louisville. Probably, it simply has something to do with the name of the school being akin to Louisville Slugger. Obviously, a baseball guy, here.

            I took a lot of grief from Sarah regarding my faux love for Louisville. Once, in an attempt to “remedy” this, she even sent me a UK hoops t-shirt.

            So, it looks as though March Madness has steered the Wildcats and the Cardinals into a collision course, in what has the potential to be one of the greatest clashes in the history of college basketball. Yet, from where I’ll be sitting, the big game will likewise be reduced to the rudimentary elements – Red Jerseys vs. Blue Jerseys. While I’ll be rooting for Red Jerseys, somewhere in the back of my head I’ll also be rooting for UKLawGirl. After all, Sarah, you deserve it.

            And, to anyone reading this, thanks for checking out my blog. As previously stated, I’m a baseball guy … and, this site will essentially be a baseball blog. Your bearing with my novice (at best) basketball rambling is appreciated.

            Future (baseball) entries will be much more expert, I promise.