PUB WISDOM

Tiger Who?

Archive for April, 2008

Highlanders’ Schedule is Tougher than Yours

Sophomore maestro Joe Kelly clocked two saves as visiting UCR took last weekend’s series against No. 5 UC Irvine. The overall toughness of the Big West Conference no doubt helps UCR’s strength of schedule — allegedly the best in the land.

According to the preview of this weekend’s Big West conference weekend series between UC RIverside and Cal State Northridge — bitter rivals back in the D2 CCAA — the latest set of Strength of Schedule ratings at Boydsworld.com has UC Riverside’s schedule ranked as the toughest in all of Division I College Baseball. (I looked and couldn’t find it at www.boydsworld.com-PW)

From the UCR release: The Highlanders rank ahead of defending national champion Oregon State and current PAC-10 leader Stanford. UCR has played #5 UC Irvine three times, #8 Nebraska four times this season, #21 San Diego twice, #22 Cal State Fullerton and #25 Long Beach State three times. UCR plays #5 UC Irvine once more for a non-conference match-up on May 6th.

That said, they’re well under .500 this season overall, and have their hands full in a Big West conference race that looks to be an all-out dogfight. They currently are tied for 4th with No. 25 Long Beach State.

The Highlanders have retained their propensity to swing above their weight when they play the heavy programs. To wit, they’ve won weekend series against two top-ten teams — UC Irvine when they were No. 5, just last weekend, and Long Beach State, while they occupied the No. 9 slot earlier in the season. They don’t have the consistency of last year’s Big West-winning squad, but if they can turn some of the experience they’ve gained playing the toughest schedule in the land into a second-half surge and sneak into the rankings, they could well find a spot in a regional.

Ace sophomore stopper Joe Kelly is back in the bull pen for Doug Smith, and proved stone-cold in the 9th inning during Sunday’s rubber game win over UCI at Anteater Field — another bit of mo’ upon which the Highlanders can build.

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A Welcome Draw at Ibrox for Ragged Rangers

With his side decimated by injury and suspensions, Walter Smith’s Rangers bent but didn’t break Thursday, battling to a 0-0 draw on the home leg of the UEFA Cup Semis against a comparatively healthy Fiorentina side, occupiers of the fourth position in the Serie A table. Here’s the report.

Rangers now face with the proposition of advancing to a European final on away goals — never easy, but it seems to be the currency with which Rangers have traded during their 2008 European campaign. Just ask Sporting Lisbon.

Now it’s home to Glasgow for two days’ rest before an Old Firm clash for the ages on Sunday — with the SPL crown potentially hanging in the balance.

 

Battered and Banned Rangers Press On In Search of the Quad

Rangers Supporters Revel

So much has happened since my last post that I won’t even attempt to cover it. However, some highlights…

Not one but two away goals at Sporting Lisbon saw Rangers through to the UEFA Cup Semifinals as the Ibrox side continues its miraculous turnaround season, in which its still in the hunt for four trophies.  Stout defense and opportunistic counters coolly executed were the difference.

That was followed three days later by a HUGE Old Firm fixture at Parkhead. Whew… what a game. Celtic earned the win — aided by Rangers playing on two days rest. The victory was seemingly snatched away when the ever-canny Carlos Cuellar punched away a sure goal by Nakamura late in the second half. It would have been Naka’s second of the game, the first being one of the most incredible strikes I’ve seen this season. But Cuellar unabashedly punched it away and stoically took the red to preserve the draw. But surely the draw would only stand for a moment as the SPL’s leading goal-scorer this season, Scott McDonald, set up for the ensuing penalty kick.  

But Allan McGregor, who was positively limping around on an ankle he injured minutes prior, clutched up, smothering McDonald’s badly telegraphed spot-kick to grow his hero status this season even bigger.  It looked as if Cuellar’s gamble had paid off, bringing gleeful smirks to the Blue Noses. The SPL title, it seemed, would be sealed on this day…

It was not to be, however. A Venegoor of Hesselink header deep into injury time found the mark, giving Celtic a 2-1 win and all three points, extending the Parkhead side’s tenuous 2008 title hopes for another week.

It was Celtic’s first Old Firm win in five tries, but will likely do little to quell the pressure on Gordon Strachan, which is crazy considering Celtic won the SPL  and advanced to the round of 16 in Champions League twice during his tenure. Celtic are two points ahead at the moment, but Rangers have three games in hand. The final Old Firm game of the season on Sunday — again at Parkhead — will be even bigger than the last. 

But before that happens, the first leg of the UEFA Cup Semi-final at home against Fiorentina is also a huge match. And Rangers go in with a long list of key injuries and suspensions. They will have to dig deep to hold off the injury-free Viola on Thursday, only to face a well-rested Celtic three days later. Hold on to your fuggin’ kilts, folks…

In Search of… An Away Goal

The scrappy Rangers Football Club, easily one of Europe’s great turnaround stories this season, battled to a scoreless tie with Sporting in the UEFA Cup quarters on Friday. If they can win, or score an away goal in a draw, they’re through to the UEFA Cup semis. Already, this has been the club’s best performance in a European competition since 1972, but the semis would be dead brilliant.