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

 

Sports Dogs Podcast: Talkin’ PGA With Nick

In the latest edition of the Sports Dogs Podcast, the R-dog is joined by Nick Ciattei of Mid Atlantic Golf Getaways, as they break down golf’s second major, The PGA Championship from Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some Tiger talk, an overview of the monster course, and of course, our predictions for the weekend. Enjoy!

Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast: Talkin' PGA With Nick
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Tiger Is Back!

Greetings from The Booth!

It was great to see lots of Shenandoah University fans, athletes, coaches, and dignitaries this past Saturday in Winchester, braving a brisk 40-degree morning to be a part of the ribbon cutting of the renovated baseball and softball fields at Jim Barnett Park. The ceremony was culmination of creative thinking from SU and the City to give the Hornet softball and baseball programs a home field they can call their own, and also provide local teams like the Winchester Royals upgraded facilities they can be proud of. Speakers included emotional Hornet baseball coach Kevin Anderson, and Shenandoah President Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, who called the project a “win-win.” It was a great morning, one that I’m sure many thought would never come because of the challenges posed by COVID.

Well, it’s Masters Week, with golf’s first “major” set for this weekend at beautiful Augusta National. I’ll admit that for me, this was going to be a boring Masters. Many of the game’s top players are not on top of their game right now. New names we don’t really know have been winning golf tournaments in 2022. A name we do know, Phil Mickelson, has fallen from grace because of his controversial comments about the Saudis, and has self-isolated. He will not be a part of the 2022 Masters. I felt no “buzz” heading into this week.

Then came the appearance of Tiger Woods at Augusta. His early-week practice round drew large crowds, and there was much anticipation that he would give it a go on Thursday morning. Tiger confirmed the rumors on Tuesday, and the Masters was given the storyline it needed.

Tiger Woods believes he can win another green jacket this week, and said as much. He wouldn’t play otherwise. His competitive fires still burn. The issue this week, aside from making the cut (which would be an amazing story in it’s own right) is one of endurance. Tiger hasn’t played competitive golf since late 2020, three months before the car crash that almost took his leg, and could very well have taken his life. It remains to be seen if Woods can walk 4 consecutive days around a hilly Augusta National.

There’s also the fact that the top golfers in the world are also vying for one of golf’s top prizes. To beat the Masters field when you have your “A” game is tough enough, let alone when you are returning after 14 months. Win or lose, Tiger just playing at the 2022 Masters is the sport’s version of the Alex Smith story. Winning would be almost incomprehensible, and would certainly trump his win at Augusta in 2019.

But don’t count him out. Tiger Woods has a flair for the moment. He is well aware that another green jacket would give him six, which would tie him with the great Jack Nicklaus, a man Tiger still thinks he can catch in the race for all-time majors (18). Tiger is also well aware that winning the Masters would be arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history.

Reason enough to hope Tiger is prowling the back nine at Augusta National late Sunday afternoon.

Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the golf, and GO HORNETS!

RW

 

Sports Dogs Podcast: Talkin’ Masters With Nick Ciattei

It’s Masters Week! As has become tradition, we break down golf’s “majors” with Nick Ciattei of Mid Atlantic Golf Getaways. Who will win the fabled green jacket on Sunday? Can Tiger shock the sports world? We’ve got those topics and more covered as the top golfers get set to tee it up at Augusta National.

 

Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast: Talkin' Masters With Nick Ciattei
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