PUB WISDOM

Tiger Who?

Archive for February, 2008

Walk-off Shot Worth the Wait

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It was cold, guv. Too cold for disappointment.

The UC Riverside baseball team’s season opener snuck into the Riverside Sports Complex in between winter storms, ushered along by a biting wind that sent the huddled supporters lining up for hot chocolate and blew the tarps off the bullpen mounds as endless clouds galloped north over the Box Spring Mountains.

Of course it wasn’t cold for the visiting Washington Huskies, in town for a four-game stint in sunny — ha! — So Cal. They’re used to such misery in Seattle. Heck, they were probably hot, suckas.

An early 2-0 UCR lead that had the hearty home crowd giddy was erased in the 5th (4th?) by a two-run UW homer, setting up a second half of the game that was played with trepidation — at least for me. Too close for comfort. Too easy for a good team to manufacture a run or blow it wide open. After enduring this bone-chilling duel, it would be a bitter loss.

In at least three of the subsequent innings, Highlander moundsmen put Huskies on base and got out the jam with clutch pitching. But it felt like a rising tide, with Rivi’s fortifications perilously tested to their limits.

Somehow we ended up in the bottom of the ninth at 2-2, after escaping yet another jam in the top of the inning. UCR quickly racked up two outs, and it looked as if we might be there a while. I shot a look over at the concession stand, thinking about rocking a third hot chocolate, but it was shut tight — the cold, curled steel door quietly mocking us frozen bums, the knackered and harried staff having slipped away when the mob wasn’t looking.

Then there was life. A two-out walk and a man on first. Ben Price stepped into the box, fresh off a humiliating inning-killing pickoff his last time up. But crank up the Bob Marley, mon, ’cause this is redemption song, y’nah?

It was evident soon after the ball left the bat that it was game over. Seriously. Deep and directly in the gap, the outfield had no chance and the base-on-balls easily scored from first. Boo-yaa. Welcome to the 2008 season.

The Huskies and Highlanders ultimately split the four game weekend stand, and UCR then dropped a game to No. 24 Pepperdine. The early read is that the Highlanders may be too young to repeat as Big West champions — the banner looks filthy up on the outfield wall, by the way — but we’ll just have to see what happens, won’t we? Pub Wisdom reckons a healthy pitching rotation down the stretch could be the bridge to lively late-season bats in the hands of cocky world-beaters. Make it so.

Aloha Means Goodbye

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Larry Cunningham: UCR’s new all-time leading scorer.

Welcome to Cali, Rainbow Warriors. Now take that WAC junk with you and go home — and consider your bracket busted. You better win the WAC tournament, because otherwise there’s no way you’ll be dancing come March with a loss to the lowly Highlanders on your rez.

Sometimes, playing the spoiler can help get you through the dark times. On a weekend that saw UC Riverside’s baseball team open up its 2008 campaign on Friday with a 2-out, walk-off double for a 3-2 win over visiting University of Washington (more on this soon — promise), the men’s basketball team also delivered on Saturday with a 79-62 ESPNU Bracketbuster win over visiting Hawaii. Alo-fuggin-ha.

Much credit is due to Larry Cunningham, whose 31-point performance propelled him past Howard Lee’s long-standing record to become UCR’s all-time leading scorer. Hat’s off, Larry. After some rough times, it seems as if there’s some measure of payoff coming your way this season — let’s channel that into a few wins at the Anaheim Convention Center and a magical March, huh? It was a team effort, however, as four Highlanders scored in double figures.

Sniff, sniff… what’s that? Michoacan? Nope. What your smelling is a bona fide win streak. Two in a row, baby, and against teams that are nuttin’ to sneeze at for Rivi. The game was closer than the score would lead you to believe, it seems (I wasn’t there — battling through the loser’s bracket to the doubles finals of a beer-pong tournament — more on this soon too), but UC Riverside once again jumped out to a commanding early lead. I like this early-lead trend, and I like this new Wooldridge math: ball movement + rebounding + tight D + patience on O + made free throws = competitiveness.

Read full coverage here.

Rangers Squeak Through

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Rangers knocked out host Greek side Panathinaikos by earning a 1-1 draw on a Nacho Novo goal in the 80th minute to advance to the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup. In ain’t the Champions League, but let’s see how Walter’s Rangers fare against the decidedly stouter competition in the final 16.

Read all about it on Eurosport here.

Newbury Park 1-0 San Clemente

Congratulations on a great season.

Highlanders Feed Eaters a Loss

The UC Riverside mens’  basketball team made another step in its Big West maturation Wednesday night by pummeling UC Irvine early, then staving off a fierce Eater rally late. The Highlanders made 11 of 13 free throws down the stretch  to seal the deal, 85-76, at the Student Rec Center.

Once UCR established its competitiveness with the likes of Long Beach State and Cal Poly, Pub Wisdom previously called out UCI as next in the crosshairs in the Highlanders’ journey north, both in the standings and in respect from conference opponents. Well, check that one off the list, as the Jim Wooldridge-led Highlanders gave our old friend Pat Douglass fits that no doubt stirred memories for him of the classic UCR-Cal State Bakersfield wars the two teams fought for dominance back in the Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association days. I love this excerpt from the Daily Pilot’s coverage:

Douglass, like his players, showed visible signs of frustration in the first half. He went to a zone, called numerous timeouts, and substituted liberally, trying to find a way to snap his team out of its funk.

The Highlanders remain tied with Long Beach State at second-bottom in the Big West but on pace to qualify for the conference tournament. UC Davis would stay home, excluded from the 8-team tournament, if the season ended today.

Tritons Stun Servite

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 Two goals — neither by Andy Martinez, shockingly — found the net within the first 15 minutes of play, setting up a 2-1 upset victory by San Clemente over host Servite, which spent the season in the top five in the county rankings. Scott Hadad and Steve Palacios contributed the goals. Better luck next time, Friars. John Salvino, if you’re out there — eat your heart out, baby!

Read all about it here.

Next up is either Newbury Park or St. Francis on Thursday at San Clemente High’s own Thalassa Stadium.

Martinez Hat Trick Lifts Tritons in Triple-Overtime Thriller

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Down 2-1 with the final minutes of regulation ticking away, the San Clemente Tritons appeared to be exiting the division 1 CIF-Southern Section soccer playoffs just as quickly as they’d entered.  But the Tritons increased the pressure they’d been applying to the Ayala High box all match and with approximately three minutes left before full time,  super striker Andy Martinez scored the second of his three goals to equalize the match.

San Clemente had the Bulldogs pinned back in their box for much of the game and struck first with Martinez’s first goal, midway through the first half. But the Bulldogs answered, then took the advantage 2-1 midway through the second half. But the Tritons late heroic instead landed them in alternating 10-minute golden goal overtimes.

Ayala came close to sealing the deal when a shot plastered the crossbar, but SC keeper Andrew Cuchessi assured me after the match that he had it covered.

Martinez completed the hat trick to end the third overtime period and help the Tritons advance to the second round of CIF off a tidy through ball from Oscar Palacios which he nailed near side. He’d almost ended it with a quick turnaround shot during the second period that just went wide.

Next up: Servite.

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Tritons Celebrate the Tiebreaker.