A GRIP ON SPORTS
Yes, baseball season has started. Yes, pretty much each day for the next six months you'll be able to pick up your morning paper and peruse the box scores. And yes, your rotisserie team is going to bite it. But even though we're going to spend some considerable resources on major league baseball over the next 180 or so days, today we want to spend a few hundred words on Abe Lodwick. Read on.
• If you haven't been paying attention to Washington State basketball the past few years, you may have just said, “who?” Heck, up until not too long ago, even some folks who have been paying attention might have asked the same question. But college is pretty often a five-year proposition these days and Abe Lodwick has been making the most of his fifth year. Especially the latter part of his fifth year. But before we get into the numbers Lodwick has posted the last three games, we want to take you back to the fall of 2007 (yep, a fix). Lodwick had entered Washington State as a tweener, a bit too thin to play the four spot in the Pac-10 and a bit too slow to play the three. But then coach Tony Bennett and his staff had seen something in the freshman from Bend, Ore., and after just a few practices, it was obvious what it was. He wore No. 5, the best number in sports. No, that wasn't it. The lefty could shoot. Heck, in much of the 2006-07 season, Lodwick was the best outside shooter in the building – during practice. And, as a redshirt, that's the only time he got to show what he could do. But it was also obvious that Lodwick was going to have to get stronger, because he was going to have to play the four spot, the power forward position. If he could pack on some muscle, Lodwick had the potential to create mismatches with the other fours in the Pac-10. His ability to shoot the 3-point shot would draw those bigger players from the rim and open the post area for the Cougars' five man. That, at least, was the theory. But that theory never really held up. Mainly because the smooth-shooting Lodwick of his redshirt year never really showed up in games. Not his freshman year, not his sophomore year and not his junior year. Through it all, though, no one worked harder at practice, no one was a better citizen, no one was more attuned to being an exemplary college athlete than Abe Lodwick. Success had to come, eventually, didn't it? If there was any order, any karma, any guiding force, a guy like Abe had to triumph at some point, didn't he?
• Yet, when his senior year started, there was Lodwick on the bench. He didn't even have a chance to show if he had improved. He had fractured a bone in his foot just before the start of the season and was sidelined until mid-December, missing the first 10 games of his final season. No one took it harder than Abe himself. The clock was ticking on his basketball career, he wasn't playing and he was ticked. When he finally returned to the court against overmatched Western Oregon, Lodwick made sure he took one shot in his 14 minutes. A 3-point shot. And he made it. The dam broke. The 3-pointers began to fall, just like they did that first year on campus. Two against Oregon in the Pac-12 opener. Four against California. A six-game stretch where he canned 14 of 28. And, to top it off, the postseason. Lodwick has hit 17 of his 27 3-point attempts since the Pac-12 regular season has ended. In that stretch, he's also set a career-high for points scored – twice – and pulled down a career-best 12 rebounds in the CBI game at Oregon State. And, as usual, he probably leads the team in floor burns. No matter what happens tonight in Pittsburgh and on Friday night if the game is needed, for anyone who has followed Cougar basketball the past five years, there is no greater revelation and no greater joy than watching Abe Lodwick finish his basketball career with a special stretch. It's as if the clichés about nice guys and their finish has been inverted. And that is why, year after year, we come back to college sports.
• Washington State: Now back to the news. Christian Caple has all that, from an advance of tonight's game to blog posts and a story from spring football on receiver Andrei Lintz. He also has everything you need to read about the Pac-12 in this morning's post. And, oh ya, he has another profile of an assistant coach. This one might the most interesting yet. It's on defensive line coach Joe Salave'a. … Former Cougar Klay Thompson has been playing pretty well since moving into the Warriors' starting lineup. … A former WSU football assistant finds another job.
• Gonzaga: Senior post Kayla Standish was named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American yesterday.
• Idaho: Where should UI go, conference-wise? This columnist has an idea and it's a back-to-the-past one.
• Chiefs: Despite losing one of their better players to a broken jaw suffered in Vancouver, the Chiefs got a 3-2 win in their return home Tuesday night. They now trail the best-of-seven WHL playoff series 2-1. Jessica Brown has all the info in her story. … Both Tri-City and Portland are up 3-0 in their series after road wins last night.
• Preps: Post Falls' Marcus Colbert was named Idaho's top boys' basketball player yesterday. … High school baseball returned for one day at least, with Gonzaga Prep sweeping Shadle Park. Mike Vlahovich has this story.
• Shock: Eric Meyer vows he will be back this year at quarterback. But right now, the illegal hit he suffered in the opener still resonates. Jim Meehan has the story.
• Mariners: M's win. M's win. M's win. Only 80 more and they have a .500 record. Stayed up long enough – actually, I went to bed, couldn't sleep (anticipation and all that) and got up to watch – to see the first pitch, Ichiro's first two hits (he had four; check the box score here) and Felix's first four strikeouts. Now Felix was sharp, despite pitching in a dome that's more akin to Tropicana than Safeco, but he still didn't get the win after eight strong innings. That's because the M's offense – other than a Dustin Ackley bullet to a woman in the right-centerfield bleachers – didn't show up until extra innings. Still, they got a 3-1 season-opening victory, with Tom Wilhelmsen, a guy who's easy to root for, picking up the W. … It's funny, before the game the stories written before the game for today's newspapers were either about the season ahead or the absurdity of playing in Japan or the trip to the earthquake and tsunami zone. With the time difference, the game wasn't part of that coverage. … OK, I know the Dodgers aren't a local team, but they are to me. And who isn't interested in Magic Johnson putting together a group that comes up with $2 billion to buy the team?
• That's it for this morning. Sometime today there's a nap in my future. But I will be awake this afternoon to listen to the Patchin, Lukens and Osso show on 700 ESPN, even though, sadly, I won't be a part of it today. Sad because former major league pitcher turned best-selling author Jim Bouton is scheduled to be on. If there is anyone outside of my immediate family that had more affect on me becoming a writer, it was Jim Bouton. I must have read “Ball Four” 20 times before I turned 21, which may explain why one of my favorite cusswords is a Joe Schultz interchangeable combination of a couple of words. You can listen to the show here. Until later …