Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tough Break

The 'Cats fell to Ohio State 2-1 in today's Big Ten Championship game. In all honesty, they did not deserve to win. Northwestern's lone run came courtesy of a comedy of errors committed by OSU, and aside from those miscues, Wildcat bats were kept totally silent. Ohio State walked off with the win in the bottom of the 7th on a throwing error by Darcy Sengewald--absolutely heartbreaking.

Ray, Kyle and I have returned to Evanston--where we are looking forward to tomorrow's selection show for softball, as well as the women's lacrosse team's 1st round NCAA game.

More to come...

The trip's overall phrase that pays was "Chutch & Mutch."

Friday, May 11, 2007

FAIL to the Victors!

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Last year the Michigan Wolverines waltzed into Evanston and dominated the 'Cats in the Big Ten tournament final game, shutting them out 6-0. Michigan celebrated their victory at Sharon J. Drysdale Field as the 'Cats looked on from their dugout.

This season has been different. The Wildcats swiped the season series from the Blue and Maize by a count of three games to one, including today's 5-2 comeback win in Columbus. Watching the Wolverines packing their bags and heading home early put a smile on my face, especially because it was Northwestern that sent them packing. NU's hitters were so patient today, rarely swinging at pitches out of the zone. They picked up Eileen Canney after she struggled a bit, and scored five unanswered runs. Jessica Miller and Garland Cooper each contributed a big RBI double that helped bury UM. Now Northwestern needs to bear down and focus on OSU, who have scored 20 runs in their two tourney games thus far. They are playing very well right now, and they'll have the home crowd fired up for the title game. Tomorrow should be fun.

Today was a lovely day in Columbus. Ray, Kyle and I got up at the crack of dawn for calisthenics and a lengthy jog around the area. That was pretty rigorous. Then we enjoyed a delicious Bob Evans breakfast at about 2pm before heading over to the softball field to prepare for the broadcast. After the game we stopped by Damon's, a sports-themed restaurant with a number of huge screens showing various live sporting events. They even employ a video jockey of sorts--in tonight's case, an older gentleman--who announces which games are coming up, and on which screen. We overheard that they may have an opening on weekends, so Ray is preparing a demo tape and resume. Also dining at Damon's tonight..."CHUTCH," more commonly known as Wolverine head coach Carol Hutchins. As she enjoyed a few cold ones at the bar, Ray and Kyle had to work very hard to convince me not to saunter over and offer to buy her a drink. Who knows if I would have gone through with it anyway...she's a little intimidating.

Now it's time for more hours of intense broadcast prep. The Benson/Whitehead broadcast pairing may be the A- team, but I'd still recommend tuning in---especially for innings 1,2,6 & 7.

Finally, today's phrase that pays is "Catch and Carry."

NU to face OSU in Final

The Buckeyes pounded the Boilermakers 10-1 tonight, advancing to the Big Ten tournament final against Northwestern.

We'll be on the air tomorrow at 11:45 am CST with the WNUR Sports pre game; first pitch at noon.

'Cats Win 5-2

Coach Drohan threw a curveball to Wildcat fans prior to the game, announcing Eileen Canney would start for the second straight day. Drohan's move to keep freshman phenom Lauren Delaney on the bench raised some eyebrows, and it wasn't looking good at the start.

Canney gave up a run in a sloppy 2nd inning that included a horrendous throwing error by the pitcher on a routine ground ball. Canney fielded the ball, turned to first and threw the ball directly into the ground, way short of first base. Michigan added another run in the 3rd and NU was trailing 2-0 when they came up in the bottom of the 4th.

As I sat in the stands prematurely preparing for a trip home, the Northwestern bats woke up. The 'Cats mounted a rally as the Michigan fans and coaching staff groaned in reaction to several pitches that appeared to be over the plate were called balls. With the bases loaded, Wolverine starter Nikki Nemitz hit Erin Dyer to force in a run. She then forced in another run with a walk to Jessica Rigas and the game was tied.

In came Michigan ace Lorilyn Wilson from the bullpen to try to get the Wolverines out of the jam. She promptly gave up a 2-run double to Jessica Miller and the 'Cats grabbed the lead.

NU would add another run on an RBI double from Garland Cooper in the 4th.

Drohan showed further confidence in Canney by keeping her in the game despite early struggles. The senior repaid her by dominating the rest of the way. The last 3 innings were uneventful as NU closed out their hated rivals and cemented their spot in tomorrow's title game.

WNUR will have full coverage beginning at 11:45AM CT with the pregame show. Guy Benson and yours truly will be on the call as the 'Cats go for the championship against the winner of tonight's Purdue-OSU matchup.

Everything is falling into place...

No upsets thus far in the Tournament. In yesterday's second game, Ohio State trounced Penn State 10-2. Today, Michigan defeated Illinois 4-0, setting up a tremendous semifinal matchup with the Wildcats. Our coverage gets underway at 3:45 CT as Guy Benson and Ray Garcia get you set for what should be a gem. First pitch is at 4.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

One Down, Two to Go...

In Columbus that is.

With this win, the Wildcats are two wins away from winning the 2007 Big Ten Tournament and cementing a top 5 seed (in my opinion) in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. There are two things I would like to reiterate from today's broadcast:

1. Erin Dyer will be the key hitter in the NU lineup throughout the post-season.

2. Northwestern would be best served by playing both Michigan and Ohio State in the next two rounds.

As I said in the pre-game show, 4th inning, 6th inning and post-game show, Erin Dyer is in a pivotal spot in the Northwestern lineup. As the #5 hitter, she is the transition hitter between Logan, Williams, Cooper and Pauly at the top and Rigas, Miller, Kelly Dyer and Sengewald at the bottom. Despite her .227 average coming into the Michigan State game, she can have a huge impact on the post-season because of her ability to drive the ball the other way and make opposing pitchers work. The key thing to remember is that she will see a lot of pitches to hit because of expected success of the top four hitters.

Secondly, Coach Drohan prides herself on the tough non-conference schedule she sets up every year. By scheduling the likes of Arizona, UCLA and Texas in the non-conference, the Big Ten schedule seems much easier. In this year's Big Ten Tournament, a similar dynamic could happen. Northwestern will need to be at the top of their game if they want to make a second straight run at the WCWS. With that being said, they need tough competition going into the tournament and what better appetizer than with one of the nation's top programs in the Michigan Wolverines and the Big Ten regular season champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes. The level of intensity surrounding these potential matchups would be the best case scenario for the 'Cats as they prepare for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Before signing off, I would like to say the entire Ohio State Buckeyes media staff has been nothing but helpful thus far. This softens my position on the university as a whole but I still took great joy in watching them get worked at the BCS Title game and the NCAA Hoops Title Game.

Until next time, blog dismissed.

Thursday in Columbus

Hello, friends.

The most important thing that happened today was the Wildcats' 4-0 victory over MSU at Buckeye Field. As Kyle alluded to in his post, Eileen Canney was a pleasure to watch as she quickly dispensed of a baffled Spartan squad. The game was scoreless for the first 3 1/2 innings before sophomore catcher Erin Dyer went yard for 2 runs, and that proved to be all the 'Cats would need. A solid win. I must say that it was a less than solid turnout in terms of NU fans: I counted 14 in total. Granted, Columbus is a hike from Evanston (as we experienced yesterday), but I figured Northwestern might be able to draw at least one fan for each player on the roster. I guess I was wrong on that count.

Onward to the far less important details of our day in Columbus. Consider for a moment: What would an average group of college buddies do on a road trip? If the first thing that popped into your mind was a midday trip to the discount department store, Kohl''re right! Just after noon, Ray, Kyle and I gleefully skipped, arm-in-arm, into the Kohl's, and walked away with an assortment of socks, slacks, and shoes. This excursion was highlighted by a slightly awkward encounter between myself and a random middle-aged woman in a fitting room. The doors to the store's dressing rooms did not have locks on them, so this lady just waltzed right into my stall. Unfortunately for her, I was fully clothed.

After our decidedly un-masculine trip to Kohl's, we stopped by an classic WNUR Sports haunt: Applebees, where we sought to 'eat good in the neighborhood.' Ray and I both decided to continue with the wussie theme, ordering a soup/salad/sandwich combination, while Kyle opted for a turkey sandwich. When our beleaguered waiter delivered our plates, one meal was conspicuously missing--Kyle's sandwich. The waiter frantically explained that they had run out of turkey, and that they had just informed him of this, and that he was very very sorry...he ultimately made the following over-the-top, dramatic vow: "I'M GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!" (He then decisively comped Kyle's meal).

Later, after the softball game, we ventured to the aforementioned drive-thru liquor store and purchased a delicious two-pack of Miller Lite for the 21+ contingent of the road trip. In case you weren't aware, Miller Brewing is a proud sponsor of sports broadcasts on WNUR. They remind us to think when we drink, which is why I'm posting now rather than later on, after I've had my portion of the two-pack.

Dinner was next on the agenda, so we drove into downtown Columbus--the heart of Ohio's largest city. We settled on a chain Italian restaurant, Buca de Beppi (or something to that effect), and had our fill of delicious, previously-frozen cuisine. During the meal, the people at the table behind us had a long & loud discussion about the field of 2008 presidential candidates. The waiter even got involved. I battled every instinct in my being and stayed out of the fray. After waddling back to the Garciamobile, we headed back toward campus...and here we sit. Watching the Bulls blow a large lead with Ray complaining. I suppose it's his prerogative, though. You only turn 22 once.

A glorious match up of Big Ten softball rivals awaits us tomorrow--and I'm pleased to report that I shall make my triumphant return to the airwaves, having not called a pitch of softball in more than two years. I'm looking forward to it. NU/Michigan is always a battle, and tomorrow should be no exception. Until next time, Go 'Cats.

Today's phrase that pays is: "I'm going to do something about that!" or "The Scarlet and Red!"

'Cats Win 4-0

2 hours and 9 minutes after the first pitch of the 2007 Big Ten Softball Tournament, we are already back in our room preparing for a night on the town. Guy Benson, Ray Garcia and myself have Eileen Canney to thank.

The star senior baffled Spartan hitters all afternoon, pitching a complete game 3 hitter with 12 strikeouts. MSU couldn't lay off Canney's nasty riseball and Eileen even threw in a couple wicked screwballs for good measure. Canney has now officially silenced any critics who were saying she is not the same dominant pitcher she was last season.

Sophomore Erin Dyer was the offensive star of the game. Spartan starter Lesley Noel was going toe to toe with Canney through the first 3 innings, but the 'Cats broke through in the 4th with Dyer's 2-run blast over the right centerfield fence. NU added two insurance runs in the 5th thanks to some shoddy defense from Michigan State. Two Spartan errors led to 2 unearned runs for Northwestern.

The 'Cats will be back in action tomorrow afternoon in the semifinals. They will face the winner of tomorrow's Michigan-Illinois matchup, which gets underway at 11 CT. If Michigan gets by the Illini, it should be quite a semifinal matchup as the Wolverines are NU's biggest rival and both teams are ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Our semifinal coverage gets underway at 3:45 CT with the pregame show. Ray Garcia and Guy Benson will be on the call as NU tries to advance to the BTT Final for the second consecutive year.

Now it's time to celebrate an NU win and Mr. Garcia's 22nd birthday. More posts coming from the rest of the crew later tonight...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

NU-MSU Preview

My colleagues may use this blog to get a cheap laugh. They use it to poke fun at my dashing red hair, my melodic singing voice, my cat-like reflexes and many of my other incredible qualities. Me? I brush off these comments and bring you the content. Now onto the matchups....

Big Ten Tournament Opening Round
#2 NU (43-10, 15-3 Big Ten) vs. #7 MSU (33-25, 7-9 Big Ten)
First Pitch: 4pm

C: Erin Dyer vs. Kara Weigle

Dyer may be the 'Cats hottest hitter heading into the BTT. Fresh off 3 home runs in a doubleheader sweep of #14 Depaul, the sophomore is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week. Still, as far as body of work, the sophomore in green and white gets the edge. Weigle sports a .356 average and leads the spartans in RBIs (48) total bases (113).

Edge: MSU

1b: Garland Cooper vs. Dayna Feenstra

No information necessary. A more appropriate matchup would be Cooper vs. Albert Pujols or Cooper vs. Ted Williams. Cooper has 14 more HRs, 43 more RBIs and slugs at a clip .359 higher than Feenstra's.

Edge: NU

2b: Nicole Pauly vs. Gina Mondo

Pauly has been perhaps the 'Cats biggest surprise this season. The freshman burst onto the scene in the high pressure spot of hitting behind Williams and Cooper in the lineup. All she did was respond with a .310 average and 11 doubles. She's even a perfect 8 for 8 on the basepaths. Mondo is one of the lightest hitters in the Spartan lineup.

Edge: NU

3b: Darcy Sengewald vs. Caitlin Mahoney

Sengewald is not in the lineup for her offense. Although she has shown the propensity for the clutch hit, the junior is the anchor in the NU infield and saves several runs per season with her glove. Mahoney leads Michigan St. in homeruns (12) and is second in RBIs (47).


SS: Tammy Williams vs. Meghan Darhower

Much like the 1b matchup, this one isn't even close. A glance at Williams' numbers boggles the mind (.438 average, 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 43 RBIs, .747 slg, 14 stolen bases). The sophomore who wasn't even supposed to be a Wildcat is on pace to be one of the finest hitters ever to don the purple and white. Darhower can't hold a candle to Tammy.

Edge: NU

Outfield: Dyer/Logan/Miller vs. T. Nicosia/N. Nicosia/Mercado

Twin sisters Traci Nicosia and Nikki Nicosia are 1st and 2nd on the team in average (.362 and .358, respectively). Traci has more power (15 doubles vs. 2), but Nikki wreaks havoc on the basepaths (21 stolen bases in 25 attempts). Logan often goes unnoticed on the star-studded Wildcat squad. The senior slaps her way onto the basepaths and sets the table for the big boppers behind her. Still, Kelly Dyer and Jessica Miller are two of the weakest hitters in the NU starting lineup. MSU has the depth and wins the matchup.

Edge: MSU

Pitching: Canney/Delaney vs. Turner/Hair/Noel

This is the difference maker in the matchup. NU's staff ERA is more than a point and a half lower than MSU's (1.74 vs. 3.39). Canney worked through her early season inconsistencies and seems to be peaking at the right time. Delaney has pitched like a seasoned veteran since she first stepped into the circle this Spring. The Spartans are 9th in the Big 10 in pitching. Lesley Noel makes the majority of the starts (10 of the 16 conference games) but is only mediocre.

Edge: NU

Overall: NU wins 4-3

Prediction: NU should have little trouble with the Spartans. This could be a trap game as most are looking forward to a potential semifinal matchup with Michigan, but Coach Drohan will have the 'Cats focused on the task at hand.

Final Score: NU wins 8-2.

"A MAN's Journey"

Earlier this afternoon, some talented & intrepid WNUR Sports broadcasters (and a current Sports Director) began an epic journey into the belly of the beast: Columbus, Ohio. We begin our coverage of the Big Ten softball tournament tomorrow afternoon.

Today's drive was relatively tranquil, with the exception of an unnecessarily hostile discussion about the merits of making up Big Ten softball games canceled due to bad weather. The current Big Ten policy (no make-ups) is the sole reason that we're here in Buckeyeland, rather than sleeping in our own fluffy beds back in Evanston. I could write a compelling case for changing this preposterous policy, but I've already won that argument once today--and being right does get exhausting after awhile.

The emotional anguish of a 7-hour drive was somewhat mitigated by a terrific iPod "road trip" playlist featuring an excellent blend of Billy Joel, classic rock, Big Ten fight songs, WNUR highlights, and some more Billy Joel. Ray's Mariachi music didn't go over quite as well.

We also managed to resist the urge to stop and tour the exclusive condominiums of "Williamsburg by the Lake" in podunk, Indiana. The complex's tiny/polluted-looking/man- made lake and its beautiful Interstate-side location made this community a tempting option for post-graduation residency. (Kyle could commute to NU).

Upon arriving at our generic-brand hotel, we almost immediately changed rooms for the reasons outlined by Ray in his previous post. Speaking of Ray, Feliz Cumpleanos, amigo! The big 2-2! We also noticed the *drive thru* liquor store across the street. We may investigate this unique place of business tomorrow after the game, but purely out of journalistic curiosity.

For dinner, we enjoyed a feast at the "Buckeye Grill," or something to that effect. (Incidentally, it seems to us like every business in this town has some connection to the awful Buckeyes. It's sickening.) Anyway, our waiter seemed to be hellbent on not allowing any glass of Pepsi to ever get even half empty, but overall he was attentive and helpful. After the meal, Ray and I taught young Kyle how to include a tip on a check paid on a charge card. This may benefit our colleague if/when he enters the dating fray.

Well, we wait with baited breath for this Big Ten tournament to get underway tomorrow. The broadcast should be a good one, despite my absence, so tune in! Also, be sure to read more about our exploits tomorrow evening, when we update this hallowed blog.

Finally, today's 'phrase that pays' is: "Get a grip."

Good Evening from Columbus

The crew for the 2007 Softball Big Ten Tournament, Guy Benson, Kyle Whitehead and yours truly, has arrived in the mediocre state of Ohio. It was a long and sometimes contentious seven hour drive from Evanston but our friendship overcame all and we are now resting comfortably in the University Plaza Hotel. We have been here for roughly four hours and are already in our second room. This stems from our first room having an air conditioner that was "slowly dying" and making a noise reminding me of a Chili's dinner. And in 80 degree weather, this could cause a problem for two strapping young men and Kyle.

We are preparing for what should be an easy quarterfinal win for the Wildcats as they take on 7th seeded Michigan State tomorrow evening at 5pm ET/4pm CT. You can hear all the action on WNUR Sports 89.3 FM and online at Continue to check in with the WNUR Sports blog for continuous updates on our travels throughout the greater Columbus area. Until next time, take of yourself...and no one else.