As a lover of most peripheral sports you know I am geeked with the beginning of the NCAA Baseball Tournament, especially with my Beavers trying to return to Omaha for the first time since 2007 when they won the 2nd of their back to back national championships. While the NCAA Basketball tournament continues to take criticism for the watered down nature of its drama in recent years, the baseball tournament and College World Series seems to be getting more popular by the year, and thank goodness for that. There is still a sense of amatuerism and innocence with college baseball that has long sense left football and basketball, while still being a very familiar and comfortable product for the casual sports fan. We all grew up with baseball, and we will eventually see a few of these guys in the Major Leagues in a couple of years. And since they took some of the "ping" out of the aluminum bats we don't see home run derby like we did in the late 90's. How can you not love this tournament. Now that Oregon is back in the baseball playing business and comeptitive it makes it all the better for Northwest sports fans.
Now if you're new to the College World Series it has its own legends too, do yourself a favor and look up names like Darren Driefort of Wichita State, Warren Morris of LSU or even Mel Turpin and Joey Wong from Oregon State. Guys like Jack McDowell, Robin Venrura and Barry Bonds have all roamed the Omaha grass and with games played in sunlight unlike most of the MLB playoffs these days, it will take you back to your grade school days sneaking radios into class trying to listen to World Series games without being noticed by your teacher. If you really dare to dream think about the Ducks and Beavers on opposite sides of the bracket meeting in Omaha in an all Oregon CWS final in a best of three series with each team looking for revenge after each spoiled a conference title chase in the last two seasons.
It's been a while, but one thing my new early riser shift affords me is the chance to get out to all of our local teams pracitices on a more a regular basis, so braving rain, sleet and snow I ventured up to Jeld-Wen field this morning to catch up with Captain Jack Jewsbury and discuss how all he is adjusting to all of the new faces on the team this year, and how it will translate to a playoff appearance.
Head coach John Spencer also stopped by afterward with an update on the status of Kris Boyd and Franck Songo'o and how the late winter weather may affect who plays tomorrow night against Chivas USA. Really appreciate Spencer's approach to preseason games saying all he wants to accomplish is a win. He wants his team to prepare like they will play come March 12th when the season opens against Philadelphia Union.
Spencer hopes Steve Purdy will back for Sunday's match against Swedish club team AIK. The bit of training we did see today was spent working with his forwards on finishing plays at the top of the box. Boyd has a cannon of a right foot, and if Nagbe and Perlazza can hold balls long enough to tee him up, Timbers fans should see more offensive production from the effort fans have come to expect.
While eveyone is watching the NCAA Tournament, I am still keeping one eye on the Winterhawks as they finish up the regular season, still needing wins to clinch the US Division crown and possibly the top seed in the Western Conference. I had a chance to catch up with Center Brendan Leipsic with his thoughts on the opportunity ahead of them, and the mindset of the team that is expected to compete for a Memorial Cup this season.
If you want to see them this weekend make sure you go to www.winterhawks.com for ticket information.
We all know I enjoy all of the fringe sports here at the FAN, but I am convinced the best gig in all of sports broadcasting is the Australian Open. First of all, all the broadcasts in the middle of the night over here in the States so the most discerning of eyes may not be watching. Second, you're in Australia in summertime instead of Bristol during the dead of winter. Third, they must be partying a ton. Look closely at their set...I mean where else would see shot glasses being used as paperweights. One other thought here, can we stop trying to glam up Pam Shriver. As good a tennis commentator as they have at ESPN, but please. And the Vegimite sandwich stuff is getting old too.
Having mostly recovered from football season, it's time to start sharing with you all once again. And as I reconnect with those things off the overbeaten path of most sports fans, I find myself looking for a way to get inserted into the college basketball season. I think I have found it. The first truly must see game of the season...#4 San Diego State @ #9 BYU. This has everything you want in a late January match up...well, almost: two top ten teams, a marquee talent, and seeding potential in the tournament all riding on it. So what if happens to be in the Mountain West? I know the Big East has already had a handful of these types of matchups, but they are going to put 8 or 9 teams in the tournament and most of them will be 4 seeds or higher. Wednesday night's tilt will have lasting consequences for both teams that will linger into March. Can either of these teams impress the selection committee enough to be in line for a 1 seed? Is Jimmer Fredette the next "Great White Hope"? What channel is the game on? Oops, there is the almost I was referring to. I will be one of the fortunate ones to the see this on CBS College Sports Network, albeit not in HD, but hopefully you can find a friend or favorite watering hole to take this one in. I'm looking forward to actually enjoying a game that hasn't been overhyped and overshadowed by frivolous banter and rhetoric. Just and honestly intriguing contest with multiple storylines where the next mornings headlines have yet to be written.
The Portland Timbers begin their playoff quest with a series dripping in irony. They face their rivals to the north, the Vancouver Whitecaps, whom they lost to in last year's semifinals. In addition both of these franchises will jump to MLS status next season. Tomorrow night is leg 1 of the home and home aggregate series in Vancouver at 7:30. Sunday is leg 2 at Merlo Field on the UP campus at 6pm. I had a chance to catch up with defender Steve Purdy for a preview. You can see tomorrow night's game at 7:30 on FSN.
The season is three games old for your Portland Winterhawks, and despite having a few of their top players still with NHL training camps the Hawks are off to a 2-1 start scoring 11 goals in their two wins. I had a chance to catch up with Head Coach and General Manager Mike Johnston for his perspective on what this year means to the organization, and what is expectations are with all the talent he has accumulated over the last few years.
Listen in to Primetime this afternoon for your chance to win a 4 pack of tickets to see the Winterhawks take on the Thunderbirds this Saturday in the Rose Garden.
Back for a 9th season of High School Football on The FAN, and it just gets bigger and bigger. Even though school hasn't started the kids will strap on the pads for real tonight. Our coverage begins at 6:45pm with our Bi-Mart Game of the Week pregame show. I will be with you all night every Friday night from our 1080 The FAN studios with scores, analysis and interviews, as well as sending you to biggest games for live updates from our stable of reporters. Then at 7pm tonight our Bi-Mart Game of the Week featuring Southridge at Glencoe. Travis Demers and Dusty Harrah along with the newest member of our team, former Oregon Ducks Defensive Back, Aaron Gipson on the call.
As always we will be monitoring the key games of the night with our field reporters:
Devin Higgins will have the latest on the preseason #1 team Jesuit hosting Canby at 7:30pm as the Cougars begin Mike Vaught era as he follows in the footsteps in Mike Doty who retired after 18 years running the double wing at Canby.
Josh Alexander will be with our Friday Night Bites crew at Liberty High School tonight as the Hillsboro Spartans open up the season as a 6A team for the first time against their old 5A rival.
Also adding to our coverage this season, Oregonpreps.com reporters Dirk Knudsen and Jordan Johnson will be provided live game updates and the latest recruiting news on the top players in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
We aren't forgetting about our friends in Clark County as Bryan Levesque is back from GSHLFootball.com with all the scores, news and analysis from 2A, 3A and 4A Greater St. Helens League action. Every Friday night Bryan will join me at 10:30pm for our Southwest Washington Report with scores and highlights from around the GSHL.
Key Games from week 1:
#5 Canby @ #1 Jesuit 7:30pm- Cronin Field
The Crusaders don't rebuild...they reload. With Jordan Talley back to lead an otherwise inexperienced offense, Jesuit finds themselves once again the early favorite to win yet another state title. Can junior Eric Williams handle the reins as quarterback? Jesuit has won before with inexperienced signal callers before. The key to their success, as always, is the offensive line. If they are as organized as we have seen from previous years Williams will have plenty of time to make the right decision with the ball. As for the Cougars they begin the Mike Vaught era, after he has been assistant to Mike Doty for the last 18 years. No team runs the Wing-T like Canby in this state. Their success will depend upon their front seven's ability to get Talley and others on the ground at first contact and avoid the big play.
#2 Lake Oswego @ #10 Central Catholic, 7pm-Hillsboro Stadium
A bit of a grudge match here as the Lakers will use a two quarterback system with one of them being Central Catholic transfer Austin Kent who moved to L.O. for his senior year. Forget the Jack Lomax days and think Billy Anderson if you want a preview of what the Laker offense will look like this year. Tyson Coleman is healthy and headed to Oregon so expect a big year from him running the ball. Central Catholic is all about defensive end Brennan Scarlett who shut the Lakers down last season in the Rams 20-12 win. Expect another low scoring game.
#3 West Salem @ #4 Sheldon, 7pm-Sheldon High School
The defending 6A champion Irish lost a ton of production with the graduations of Jordan Johnson, Curtis White, John Campbell and Cameron Abeene. The question is how quickly Sheldon can reload under Marty Johnson's wide open read option attack. Meanwhile the Titans got to the semifinals last year, and feature the top QB in the state in Brett Smith. This should be a pinball game with the first one to 50 squeaking out a win.
Make sure to join me at 6:45 tonight for complete coverage of the opening week of High School Football on 1080 The FAN.
Talking to the newest Trailblazers Wesley Matthews this morning for a few minutes, my first thought was how quickly he will become a fan favorite. This well spoken, humble kid with a big smile and bigger contract has no fears about the situation he enters with this team. Easily dismissing concern about his 5 year 34 million dollar contract without avoiding the question asked about whether or not he's overpaid. For someone who has earned every minute of playing time he's gotten in his 92 game career it's hard to imagine the fortune earned from that determination will alter his approach to the game. Embracing defense will quickly win him the respect of head coach Nate McMillan who has begging for more talent on that end of the floor. While you can definitely tell he has an edge about him, it comes across more enthusiastically than say Jerryd Bayless. The pressure is now all on Nate McMillan to figure out a rotation with an unbalanced roster and several question marks of health.
It's your chance to see a top EPL side up close and personal as the Timbers host Manchester City tomorrow night at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus at 7pm. I had a chance to catch up with Defender Ross Smith this afternoon for a preview.