Strawberries And Cream

Greetings from The Booth!

As we get ready to celebrate the long 4th Of July weekend, the awards and accolades continue to pour in for the Shenandoah University baseball team. Earlier this week the Virginia State Sports Information Directors Association handed out it’s all-state honors, and at the top of the list was Head Hornet Kevin Anderson, who was named VaSID Coach Of The Year. It’s his 4th such award, with 3 coming at SU, and his 9th overall Coach Of The Year accolade. Several of his players were also named by the organization.  Kyle Lisa, Henry Delavergne, and Calvin Pastel are first-team honorees, while Pearce Bucher and Frankie Ritter were second-team picks. Congratulations, guys!

I don’t often write about tennis, but this week the Wimbledon fortnight has begun across the pond, and the early shocker is the first-round loss by Serena Williams to 115th ranked Harmony Tan of France in a 3-set thriller. I didn’t realize this, but Serena is 40, which is Methuselah in tennis years. The ageless Williams has been so good for so long that it’s easy to forget that she is at the tail end of her career. She has been the Tom Brady of tennis. Serena was noncommittal when asked if the aforementioned loss was her final match, but my gut tells me that she doesn’t want to go out like this.

Thinking of Wimbledon takes me back to the mid-70s through the early 80s when I was really into tennis. Summer nights would find me either at Lambert Park or Oatsdale Park in Martinsburg with my Wilson T-2000 and a fresh can of balls from Coaches Supply, ready for a set or two. It was nothing to stay on the courts until 10 pm and beyond. I also bought the tennis mags and followed the fortunes of my favorites like Borg, Connors, and Evert.

What made tennis great in those days were the rivalries, and the rivalries were great because of the contrast in styles. There is nothing today that compares to the icy coolness of Bjorn Borg going against the fiery Jimmy Connors or the volatile John McEnroe. How about Chris Evert versus Martina Navratilova? Give me a comparable contemporary feud–I’ll bet you can’t (OK, I’ll give you Djokovic-Nadal). And tennis had some great villains. Ilie Nastase comes to mind, along with Connors and McEnroe. It was a great time to be a tennis fan.

And I would always wake up in time for “Breakfast At Wimbledon” on NBC. No one could call a match like Dick Enberg (“Oh my!”) and Bud Collins.  The matches would start early in the morning and continue into the afternoon on Wimbledon weekends, and there was little that could pull me away from the TV.

Eventually, my interest in tennis would wane, along with American prominence in the sport. But the two weeks of Wimbledon always has me scrambling to find a can of balls and that Wilson T-2000…

Enjoy the Fortnight, and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!

RW

 

 

Sports Dogs Podcast: Wrapping Up SU Baseball w/ Kevin Anderson

In our latest SDPC, we put a bow on the Shenandoah University baseball season with Head Coach Kevin Anderson. We chat about the recent NCAA Regional tournament, the perennial success of the program, and the newly-renovated Bridgeforth Field.

Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast: Wrapping Up SU Baseball w/ Kevin Anderson
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Closing The Deal II

Greetings from The Booth!

I’m writing this week’s VFB a day removed from yet another school shooting, this one in Uvalde, Texas. Our hearts break for everyone in that community, especially the parents of the children whose lives were senselessly and prematurely taken away yesterday, and for the surviving students whose innocence was stolen forever. In light of that unspeakable loss, sports doesn’t seem that important. But life goes on somehow, and we will try to put sports in it’s proper perspective as we write this week’s blog…

Putting a bow on the Shenandoah University baseball season, there is nothing like that empty feeling in the gut when a season ends before it should have. I’m sure the host Hornets had every expectation of winning the NCAA D-3 Winchester Region this past weekend and advancing to the Super Regional round. But after a tough Saturday afternoon loss to Catholic, SU was forced to play again Saturday evening just to get to the championship round on Sunday. Down 8-2, the Hornets found a way to beat St. Joseph in a gutsy comeback win. Speaking of gutsy, Jacob Bell gave the Hornets 7-plus innings in Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Cardinals that earned him a standing “O” from the sun baked crowd at Bridgeforth.  Then, in a winner-take-all second game, SU jumped out to a 6-0 lead, then simply ran out of gas in a 13-10 loss which ended their season. That final game wrapped up a stretch of 4 games in 24 hours for Shenandoah, and as Head Coach Kevin Anderson told me after the Sunday win, “we’re running on fumes.”

When the sting of defeat wears off, the Hornets will look back on a 37-win season, an ODAC Tournament championship, a national ranking, and a championship appearance in the NCAA Regionals. You would take that in a heartbeat every time and not even take the field. Congratulations to Kevin, his players and coaching staff for another great season! The dynasty continues…

This past weekend, golf’s second major, the PGA Championship was held at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Justin Thomas came from 7 shots down to win his second Wanamaker Trophy by beating Will Zalatoris in a 3-hole playoff.  That is a great accomplishment, but he needed help. Leading by 1 shot and needing a par on the 18th hole, tournament leader Mito Pereira took one of the worst swings you’ll ever see from a professional and put his drive into a creek. He eventually bogeyed the 18th and missed out not only on the championship, but the playoff.  Not quite Jean Van Develde material, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

SIDEBAR: Can we now put the Tiger Woods buzz to rest? What he did at the Masters was Alex Smith-like and no one can fault him for fading on the weekend. At the PGA, more of the same, as colder weather charged in Friday like a steer (one of 2 things that come from Oklahoma) and certainly affected Tiger’s injured leg. But until he’s actually in contention on a weekend, can we just back off on the almost excessive Tiger Woods coverage? Yes, he moves the needle and gets ratings, but I’m sure there are many talented players on Tour who must feel that they get no love whatsoever. OK, that’s my rant.

Players respond differently to pressure, and Pereira succumbed to it, while JT, who has “been there before,” thrived on it. Pereira hopefully will learn from the experience, and next time will be able to close the deal. Thomas is already a closer.

Until next visit from The Booth, God bless Uvalde, Texas…and GO HORNETS!

RW

 

Dead Skunk

Greetings From The Booth!

The Hornets are still playing baseball! Congrats to Kevin Anderson’s 34-10-1 squad, who rolled through the ODAC tournament this past weekend and captured their 4th league title, and now will make their 12th appearance in the NCAA Division-3 baseball tournament. On top of that, SU will host the opening round Regional tournament this coming Friday through Sunday at the newly-renovated Bridgeforth Field at Jim Barnett Park in Winchester. The other 3 teams are Stevens Tech, Catholic (DC) University, and St. Joseph. The Hornets will open Friday against St. Joe at 11am, kicking off what should be a great weekend of baseball. I urge everyone to come out and fill the stands and cheer on the Hornets!

I’ve been asked to do the public address announcing for some of the games this weekend, and look forward to returning to my announcing roots, so to speak. I am the long-time PA announcer for Shenandoah basketball (as well as the play-by-play voice for Hornet football), and that is my comfort zone. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done public address duties from a baseball press box, so let’s take a trip back to the mid-70’s.

As a 14-15 year old playing in the Martinsburg (WV) Senior Little League, my love for baseball extended beyond the diamond up to the press box at Pikeside Field. I also had a love for radio announcing, and always dreamed of being a baseball play-by-play broadcaster. I used to simulate games into a tape recorder, using TV “white noise” as the crowd. The next best thing to doing PBP was PA announcing, and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to handle those duties on nights that I wasn’t playing. I was in heaven, putting my own style and spin on the announcements, starting lineups, etc.

But the thing that got the most comments and attention was my “5th inning stretch” song (games were only 7 innings, so there was no 7th inning stretch). In the booth at Pikeside was a record player, wired in to the PA system. This was used for the National Anthem, and songs between innings, usually pop hits of the day. I somehow stumbled upon the song “Dead Skunk” by Loudon Wainwright III, a fun, nonsensical tune about, you guessed it, roadkill. I decided to play it between innings one evening, and I could see everyone looking up into the booth with either an amused or puzzled expression. I played it again the next game, and the ritual picked up steam, finally becoming the 5th inning stretch song of the Martinsburg Senior Little League (at least when I was doing PA). The song became our version of the Baltimore Orioles’ “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.”

I’m not sure you’ll hear Dead Skunk this weekend at Bridgeforth Field, as someone else will be handling the music, but when I make my way up to the booth on Saturday, I’ll be looking for that record player…

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNET BASEBALL!!!

RW

Sports Dogs Podcast: State Of The Hornets

In our latest SDPC, we check in with Shenandoah University’s Scott Musa with our monthly “State Of The Hornets” update. We put a bow on Men and Women’s Lacrosse, look ahead to the ODAC Baseball Tournament in High Point, NC, wish good luck to some SU Track & Field athletes who continue their seasons, and talk about the first big off-season “win” for new hoop coach Nick Doyle. GO HORNETS!

RW

Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast: State Of The Hornets
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700!

Greetings from The Booth!

As of this post, my NCAA bracket is still alive, but barely. Only one of my teams remains and that team would be Duke.  Almost no one I know believes my conspiracy theory that the NCAA set up the Blue Devils so that Coach K could win the whole shebang as he rides off into retirement. But here they are, 2 wins from the championship. Three of the number-one seeds have fallen by the wayside, with only Kansas remaining as a top-seed. The road gets a little tougher now for Duke, as they must face rival North Carolina in one National semifinal this coming Saturday. It was the Tar Heels that ruined Coach K’s final game at Cameron, so the Blue Devils will have a chance to turn the tables , and I think they will, and then complete the job Monday night.

Now…I finally get to congratulate Shenandoah University baseball coach Kevin Anderson on his 700th victory this past weekend. As I always say, you can look up the stats, but the amazing number for me is that the 700 wins came in just 23 seasons, 19 of those at SU. If you get out your calculator and do the math, that’s 30.4 wins per season! Coach Anderson’s winning percentage is .703 at Shenandoah, where he has compiled 553 of those victories. Hornet baseball is a dynasty, and I think a sometimes underappreciated one in the area.

It would be easy to say that great programs, once they are established, simply reload year after year. It’s not that easy, especially at the D-3 level, where athletic scholarships cannot be offered. With SU football and basketball, the sell is a bit easier, because of the top-notch facilities we have. I’ve travelled to a lot of schools in my almost 40 years of doing sports play-by-play, and there is no finer venue in D-3 than Shentel Stadium. And the Wilkins Center is the arena we’ve dreamed of for a long time.  Those facilities are a big part of the recruiting package.

With baseball, the premier athletic program at Shenandoah, not so much. Until recently, the Hornets dealt with a less than perfect situation, playing at off-campus Bridgeforth Field, which was run by the City of Winchester. Now, with the out-of-the-box partnership between SU and the city, the newly renovated Bridgeforth feels more like the Hornet’s home, and the upgraded digs will also be enjoyed by area high school sports teams. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially Coach Anderson, who now has his own top-notch facility to show off to potential recruits.

I urge you to get to a Shenandoah baseball game this Spring and see one of the top programs in the nation, and one of the best coaches in the land. Here’s to the next 700, Kevin!

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!  RW

Bracket Reset

Greetings from The Booth!

The best laid plans of mice and men. I had planned to write this week’s VFB about Shenandoah University baseball coach Kevin Anderson, in anticipation of a Tuesday win over W&L, which would have given him 700 career victories. As of this writing, he’s still at 699, thanks to the Generals’ 5-2 triumph over the Hornets. So, we’ll just stick that one in the back pocket and save it for next week, hoping for a win or two this weekend.

Instead, let’s do an NCAA bracket reset. Surely by now, yours looks like a crumbled piece of origami or is in ashes at the bottom of your firepit. In my office pool (for entertainment purposes only), I was a respectable 27-5 after round one, and I still have 12 teams alive in the Sweet Sixteen. On the surface that is pretty good, good enough for a pretty good lead over my co-workers going into this weekend. But, a closer look shows that only 2 of my Final Four teams are still alive.

Let’s have a show of hands. Who saw 15-seed, St. Peters, a Jesuit school in Jersey City with an enrollment of 3-thousand, taking down mighty Kentucky in the first round, then advancing to the Sweet Sixteen with a win over Murray State? Maybe Tony Soprano or Henry Hill, but that’s it. That’s the list. The Peacocks could be this year’s George Mason.

Michigan and Miami, while not as big a surprise as St. Peters, beat much higher seeds to get to the round of 16. I told my friend and Sports Dog Coach C that I liked Miami’s athleticism and I always feel like Michigan always plays well in the NCAA Tournament, no matter what kind of regular season they have. If they get to the Dance, they will be a tough out. All that being said, I didn’t see the Canes taking out Auburn, who was one of my Final Four teams.

And, you can never count out North Carolina. For all the talk about this being a “down year” in the ACC, the Tar Heels seem to be peaking at the right time. After ruining Coach K’s big night at Cameron Indoor, UNC fell to surprising Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament, but then beat Marquette easily in the first round of the NCAA before taking down number-one seed Baylor in an overtime dogfight. Carolina will now have to beat a UCLA team that doesn’t have Alcindor or Walton or Wooden, but like UNC, has plenty of tradition.

So let’s do our reset. I see Gonzaga advancing with a win over Arkansas. I think Carolina moves to the Elite Eight by eliminating UCLA in a classic matchup. This weekend, the dream finally ends for St. Peters, who will lose to a very physical Purdue team. Arizona will get past Houston, but it won’t be easy. The Michigan magic will end against Villanova, while  Big-12 battle tested Iowa State beats Miami in an 11 versus 10 showdown. I have nothing but disdain for Bill Self and Kansas and will be rooting for Providence, but I think the 1-seed Jayhawks get to the next round.

And then there’s Duke versus Texas Tech. The saving grace of my bracket is that I picked the Blue Devils to win the whole thing. I truly feel like the NCAA would love to see Coach K ride into the sunset on a white steed with a farewell Championship.

Folks, I’m riding that horse until it bucks me.

Until the next visit…enjoy the hoop this weekend…and GO HORNETS!

RW

 

 

A Summer Tradition Returns

SU field oversight
SU field oversight
Winchester Printers
https://winchesterprinters.com

Greetings From The Booth!

With the Spring sports season completed at Shenandoah University, all is quiet in the Booth, except for some housecleaning. This week, Baseball’s Colby Martin was named All-America by D3baseball.com, the 13th student-athlete in Hornet history to be so honored. Martin, who hit .482