Month: March 2015

Sweet Sixteen Preview

Halfway through March Madness, the 2015 NCAA tournament might as well be re-branded March Meekness. Lacking the usual panache and suspense from previous years, the bracket-busters and buzzer-beaters are fewer in number.

Undefeated Kentucky, the clear-cut favorite to win the tournament has cruised to the Sweet Sixteen. Joining the Wildcats are perennial powers Duke, Louisville, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan State, UCLA and Gonzaga. Wichita State, Notre Dame, NC State, Wisconsin, Xavier, Utah, West Virginia and Oklahoma are the remaining hopefuls for the national title. UCLA is the lowest remaining seed, a No.11 seed matched up this weekend in the South region against second-seeded Gonzaga.

A pair of sevens could be wildcards to spoil the party for Kentucky and other favorites. The Wichita State Shockers and the Michigan State Spartans have been overlooked and relatively ignored all season, and have made some noise already. Michigan State upset second-seeded Virginia for the second-consecutive tournament, while Wichita State took care of in-state rival Kansas to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Coaches Tom Izzo and Greg Marshall are considered excellent strategists and always have the Spartans and Shockers prepared to play every opponent.

Another wrinkle to watch is the potential Elite Eight matchup between Kentucky and Wichita State. Last year, Kentucky ruined Wichita State’s undefeated season on their way to a national title, so the revenge factor looms in the background. Of course, the Wildcats and Shockers must find a way to defeat West Virginia and Notre Dame respectively before this matchup could occur.

Despite the lack of usual excitement, the tournament remains as popular as ever. The American Gaming Association estimated that 40 million Americans will fill out 70 million brackets and bet over 2 billion dollars in wagers. The 70 million brackets completed would outnumber the 66 million ballots that voted for President Barack Obama.

The Sweet Sixteen tips off Thursday, March 26 at 7:17 ET when Notre Dame tips off against Wichita State in the Midwest  followed a half-hour later when Wisconsin faces North Carolina in the West bracket.

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Mariners win Annual Charity Game versus Padres

The Seahawks’ bitter loss hung in the cold winter air across the Northwest, stinging cheeks and rubbing throats raw. The Seahawks’ loss was the cold winter air, the frost on the windshields, the stinging sleet falling from the grey skies. But following winter is spring, and attached to spring is training. Spring Training is here and Mariners baseball returns to ease the sting for Seattleites.

After the mandated winter layoff, the Mariners and San Diego Padres treated their fans to extra innings in their return. The game was the annual charity game between the two teams prior to the official games of spring training.

The home team Mariners prevailed in the bottom of the 10th inning 4-3 on a walk-off single by Patrick Kivlehan. It was the second single of the day for Kivlehan, who entered the game as a defensive replacement at third base in the sixth inning for the Mariners.

D.J. Peterson, the M’s first-round pick in 2013, opened the scoring with a two-out homerun to deep left-center field off of Jason Lane. The score remained 1-0 in favor of the Mariners until the bottom of the 6th inning, when Ji-Man Choi scored when Mike Dowd grounded out to shortstop. Choi was hit by a pitch leading off the inning and moved to third when Kivlehan hit his first single of the game.

The Padres got on the board in the top of the 7th inning when Justin Upton, one of the Padres’ flashiest offseason acquisitions, hit a massive homerun to centerfield off of Forrest Snow. Upton, along with Wil Meyers and Matt Kemp, look to improve a Padres’ offensive attack that was the worst in the National League last year.

San Diego tied the score at 2 in the top of the 8th inning when Tommy Medica singled to center, scoring Cody Spangenberg. Spangenberg walked to lead off the inning and stole second base. After Rafael Perez struck out former Mariner Abraham Almonte, Spangenberg followed with his game-tying hit. But in the bottom of the 8th, the M’s retook the lead when Mike Dowd had his second RBI of the game with a two-out single to center, driving in Ian Miller. Miller singled earlier in the inning and stole second base to move into scoring position.

Dominic Leone came on in the 9th to nail down the win for the Mariners but was unable to hang on to the lead. Leone walked pinch-hitter Brett Wallace with one out, and Wallace was replaced by pinch-runner Rico Noel. Noel promptly stole second base and moved to third on a groundout to first baseman Choi. Leone then coaxed Taylor Lindsey to hit a groundball to shortstop Tyler Smith, but Smith threw wildly for an error and Noel scored the tying run. Extra innings were forced when Kivlehan threw out Trea Taylor at home plate, who tried to score from second base after entering the game as a pinch-runner for Lindsey. Spangenberg had hit a groundball to Smith, who threw to first base before Kivelhan relayed the throw to nail Taylor for the third out of the inning.

The M’s winning rally started in the bottom of the 10th when Tyler Marlette led off the inning with a single to left field. After a pop-out, Kivlehan hit a linedrive single to right field that was misplayed by rightfielder Rymer Liriano, which allowed Marlette to score from first base.

Ji-Man Choi broke his fibula in the bottom of the 9th inning for the Mariners when he was chasing a pop fly. He was replaced at first base by Kivlehan and Peterson moved to third base after starting the game at designated hitter.

The first official spring training game between the two teams occurs Thursday at 12:05 p.m. The Mariners will start left-handed pitcher Roenis Elias, while the Padres counter with righty Andrew Cashner.