October 24, 2014

Vandy has a solid kick returner who is as exciting as Murphy, plus who can block Shane Ray? (Google Hangout)

Earlier this week, Vanderbilt’s first year head coach Derek Mason said he is playing close attention to Missouri defensive end Shane Ray.  At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, he was impressed with Ray’s ability to create havoc.

“Shane Ray is one of the top sack makers in the country. He’s unbelievable in terms of being able to come off the edge and creating havoc. They do it most of the time out of a four-man front so that matchup between him and Andrew Jelks will be a feature matchup this week in terms of what we look to do and how we have to stand up. Our guys have been challenged as to what Missouri is, they have been a better road team than home team, but this is a team that will be fired up to play us and we’ll be fired up to play them. We are looking forward to the matchup.”

The other interesting story is this game will feature two of the SEC’s top return players and both wear the number six.  Marcus Murphy and Vandy’s Darrius Sims.  Both average over 30 yards on kick returns and both have run two back for touchdowns.

Chris Lee of VandySports.com takes us through those two matchups as the Tigers face the Commodores on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Ryan Miller returns to St. Louis and makes 31 saves as Canucks top the Blues (AUDIO)

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller comes up with the puck in his glove hand  after a shot by the St. Louis Blues in the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on October 23, 2014.    UPI/BIll Greenblatt

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller comes up with the puck in his glove hand after a shot by the St. Louis Blues in the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on October 23, 2014. UPI/BIll Greenblatt

After spending 11 years in Buffalo, goaltender Ryan Miller came over to St. Louis in a trade mid-season last year and didn’t play against the Sabres when the Blues faced them later in the season.  This was Miller’s first start against a former team and he called it interesting.  A matchup he was looking forward to.

“I’ve never done that before. I’ve never had a chance to play against a former team like that,” said Miller.  “A lot of good guys on the [Blues]; it was one that I was actually really looking forward to, especially here in St. Louis. It was fun.”

Miller stopped 31 shots for his new team as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Blues 4-1.

Chris Higgins scored 41 seconds into the game to give Vancouver the early lead, and Kevin Shatterkirk tied it in the second on a powerplay goal.  The game was close and the Blues had a great opportunity to grab the lead early in the third, but Miller came up big.

He got the left pad out on a tough shot from the right circle from Blues center Jori Lehtera. That sent Nick Bonino going the other way on a 3 on 1 and he beat Blues goalie Jake Allen with a wrist shot from the left circle at 4:54 of the third period.

The Canucks scored three third-period goals on four shots. Linden Vey scored from the slot at 11:57 for a 3-1 Vancouver lead, and Jannik Hansen scored an empty-net goal to seal the game for the Canucks.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is not happy with the number of turnovers in the neutral zone.

“We’ve made a heck of a run here playing the right way; no odd-man rushes, no forced offense, don’t give the puck away and make hope-for plays offensively. We’ve had a shoot-first mentality that’s allowed us to be top-five in the League in scoring goals, but we don’t want to play the right way. We want to play a different game right now, so until we buy into that, we’re going to have some rough water we’re going to have to go through, and that’s what we’re in right now. We’re in rough water.”

High expectations for Mules as the defending national champs picked number one in MIAA poll

The Central Missouri Mules basketball team celebrates their MIAA championship.

The Central Missouri Mules basketball team celebrates their 2013-14 MIAA championship.

The defending national champion Mules basketball team was picked to finish first in the MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll released by the league office on Thursday morning. The Mules enter the season having won three straight MIAA regular season championships.

Central Missouri received 10 first place votes and totaled 151 points to claim the top spot in the poll while Fort Hays State garnered two first place nods and 145 points to come in second. Washburn received one first place vote and 137 points for third, Northwest Missouri had one top vote and 129 points to come in fourth and Missouri Southern rounded out the top five with 120 points.

The Mules were 30-5 a season ago winning the fourth national championship in program history, the first since 1984, and they captured a share of their third straight MIAA regular season crown. UCM returns eight letterwinners and two starters off of last year’s squad.
2014-15 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Central Missouri (10) – 151

2. Fort Hays State (2) – 145

3. Washburn (1) – 137

4. Northwest Missouri (1) – 129

5. Missouri Southern – 120

6. Central Oklahoma – 110

7. Nebraska-Kearney – 103

8. Emporia State – 82

9. Lindenwood – 79

10. Pittsburg State – 73

11. Missouri Western – 53

12. Northeastern State – 39

13. Southwest Baptist – 29

14. Lincoln – 15

Pinkel expresses concerns about the Mizzou offense and Mauk dodges media better than the pass rush (Google Hangout)

Listen to coach Pinkel’s brief and rather terse comments about the struggling offense.

Five-run sixth inning filled with some drama as Royals come roaring back to even World Series

Billy Butler connects for an RBI single in the sixth giving the Royals the lead (photo/MLB)

Billy Butler connects for an RBI single in the sixth giving the Royals the lead (photo/MLB)

On my preview of Game 2 of the World Series, heard across our Missourinet radio network on Wednesday afternoon, I stated the key for the Royals to win game two was for pitcher Yordano Ventura to be able to get into the sixth inning keeping it a one run game in either direction.

Royals manager Ned Yost needed to be able to get this game to his dominant bullpen if they wanted hopes of tying this series up.  The rookie pitcher did exactly that.  He pitched into the sixth, ran into trouble, but got bailed out by Kelvin Herrera who was hitting 100+ mph on the radar gun.

The bats came alive to chase Jake Peavy and beat up on a rusty San Francisco bullpen for five runs in the sixth, pushing the Royals to a 7-2 victory.  The Series moves to San Francisco on Friday tied up at 1-1.

The game had an eerie feeling to it when Gregor Blanco led off the game hitting a 3-2 pitch from Ventura into the right field bullpen to give the Giants another first inning lead.  However, Ventura showed great poise and retired the next three in order.

The Royals’ hitters were in a bit of a dilemma.  They needed to show a little more patience at the plate than what they did in game one, but the scouting report on Jake Peavy is to attack him early.  After Peavy gave up a lead off single to Alcides Escobar, his second baseman Joe Panik made a great play on a throw from Buster Posey to nab Escobar at second trying to steal.  With two outs, Lorenzo Cain doubled and Peavy made the mistake of walking Eric Hosmer.  That brought up Billy Butler who had 13-career hits against Peavy coming into the game and Butler laced a single into left center tying the game at 1-1 after the first.

A two-out double by Escobar in the second gave the Royals the lead after Omar Infante’s one out double.

The Giants have had success so far in this series getting the leadoff batter home when they reach base.  Pablo Sandoval doubled and scored on Brandon Belt’s double tying the game a 2-2 in the fourth.  The Royals caught a break when a fly ball to Nori Aoki in right field warranted a hard throw back into the infield as Belt acted as if he would tag up.  The throw in from Aoki was off the mark.  As the ball got away on the infield, Belt started for third, but tried to turn back.  Ventura got the loose ball and fired to second picking Belt off ending the threat.

The Giants put the leadoff hitter on again in the fifth and then in sixth on a single by Buster Posey.  A one out infield single from Hunter Pence put two men on and prompted Yost to go to Herrera.  Throwing as hard as 101 mph, Herrera coaxed a fly out and force out to end the threat.

Now the Royals were ready for Peavy who had settled down after the first two innings to retire ten straight.  Interesting fact about Peavy in the postseason.  In his seven previous starts, Peavy has never been able to finish the sixth inning.  We’re talking about a previous Cy Young winner and three time All-Star.

With a pitch count of only 54, it looked like Peavy was in shape to get through seven or possibly eight, but the Royals responded.  Lorenzo Cain singled and Eric Hosmer walked and just like that Peavy’s night was done, making it an eighth straight playoff non-quality start.

The Giants needed four pitchers to get through the inning after Jean Machi gave up a single to left for Butler’s second RBI of the game.  Javier Lopez faced Alex Gordon and Hunter Strickland came on and gave up an RBI double to Salvador Perez following a wild pitch, scoring two more runs.  Strickland then gave up a two run homer to Infante and the benches briefly cleared after a misunderstanding at home plate between Strickland and Perez.

Frustration was clearly boiling over for a San Francisco bullpen that had been just as effective as Kansas City’s in the postseason.  The Giants ‘pen entered Game Two having gone 10.2 innings without allowing a run.

“We showed them that we have fight in us, and I think they knew that already,” said Butler. We stepped up big there as a team, and that gave us some confidence.”

With a 7-2 lead, Herrera, after sitting for a half-hour struggled early in the seventh, but finished it off.  Then Wade Davis and Greg Holland got in some work and closed it out.

Those three relievers combined for 3.2 innings, one hit, two walks and six strikeouts.   Prior to the start of the World Series, the Royals bullpen went 16 innings against Baltimore and allowed just two runs.

The advantage leans heavily towards the Royals bullpen, but National League ballpark rules come into play.  The factors to watch in San Francisco is how Yost will handle the pitcher batting and double switches in late-inning situations.