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Archive for July 2013

Serrato’s 11th-inning homer lifts Spokane

The Spokane Indians were one strike away from heading to the 12th inning on Wednesday when Barrett Serrato ended the long night. Serrato's second home run of the season, on a 2-2 count with two out in the 11th inning, also scored Janluis Castro and gave the Indians a 6-4 win over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes to open a five-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium. Spokane led 4-1 after two innings and the Volcanoes tied the game with a three-run fifth. The Volcanoes had three hits the Indians five after the fifth. Read story

Vandals add 3 to huge recruiting class

Come this fall, Don Verlin will never had this much youth. And, according to him, never this much talent. The Idaho men's basketball coach announced the signing of three more recruits today to go along with the six signees that have already been announced. The nine-playing incoming class includes four true freshmen, a sophomore, and four JC transfers. Meanwhile, Tyler Egbert will be a redshirt freshman this season. “We’re younger than we’ve ever been, but I also think in time it will be our most talented group,” Verlin said.

Only three returners who saw playing time last season — Stephen Madison, Connor Hill and Joe Kammerer — are back with the team. Madison and Hill are the only regulars returning. Point guards Denzel Douglas and Robert Harris have left the program.

Today's additions are 6-foot-10 Robert Asencio, a transfer from Des Moines Area Community College; 6-3 guard Patrick Ball of Franklin High in Seattle; and 6-6 small forward Jordan Scott of Lewis-Palmer High in Colorado Springs.

The full details on the new signees are below.

Spokane keeps attention on field

The Spokane Shock have a number of candidates for AFL individual awards — Erik Meyer, Adron Tennell, Beau Bell, James Ruffin, Paul Stephens, Terrance Sanders, Ryan Cave — but their attention seems to be squarely on the field with the playoffs approaching.

More on Spokane's focus in my weekly notebook.

Spokane entertains Chicago on Thursday night in the opening round. Here's a recap of Chicago's successful but turbulent season.

They just pop-in unannounced

A GRIP ON SPORTS

One of the most common questions we receive this time of year is where we get our ideas. You know, what triggers the daily outpouring of nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositional phrases. We would answer performance-enhancing drugs, but we ceded that territory to major league baseball, track and field and bicycle racing long ago. Read on.

Petrino addresses media before camp

The Idaho football teams kicks off the season at North Texas exactly one month from tomorrow. And it starts fall camp on Monday with a 3 p.m. practice. Before then, first-year coach Paul Petrino met with reporters today. We have the highlights after the link.

Thompson has a tough task

A GRIP ON SPORTS

You know who might have the toughest job in major league baseball these days? No, it's not Alex Rodriguez's PR guy, though that has to be right up there. It's Robby Thompson, the Mariners' interim manager. Read on.

A couple quick WSU links

COUGARS

Still a few days before fall camp (summer camp, preseason camp, whatever) commences in Lewiston, but we do have a few newsworthy items to send your way …

— Former WSU linebacker/defensive end Travis Long, who went undrafted after tearing his ACL late in the season, was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. The folks at CougCenter were rather pleased about this news.

— Passed this along on Twitter the other day, but if you missed it, Brock Motum announced on his Facebook page over the weekend that he has signed with Virtus Bologna, an Italian professional team. The Tacoma News Tribune caught up with Motum and wrote this story.

— Scout.com reported Sunday that Joe Turner, a 6-foot-2 cornerback from the College of San Mateo, gave a verbal commitment to play for the Cougars. Here's Turner's bio from Scout.

Here's a writeup from CougCenter about a 5-star running back's plans to visit Pullman, if you're into wishful thinking.

— Auburn hasn't started practicing yet, but WSU's week-one opponent is already thinking about the Air Raid.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

The best part of road trips? Coming home

A GRIP ON SPORTS

After 12 days on the road, I understand just a little how tough the major league baseball season can be on players. And how nice it must seem to them when they return home and get to sleep in their bed. Heaven. Read on.

Arizona wins West outright

The battle for the No. 1 seed in the National Conference was settled on the field as Arizona routed Iowa 84-45 in Des Moines on Saturday.

The Rattlers (15-3) secured the West Division title outright and the top seed. Spokane (14-4) will be the third seed and entertain No. 2 Chicago on Thursday at the Arena in the first round of the playoffs. No. 4 San Jose visits Arizona in the other half of the bracket.

The Arena Football League on its Website last week declared Arizona as the Division champion and top seed last week, but backtracked when Spokane questioned tiebreaking procedures that would have come into play only if Arizona had lost Saturday.

 Arizona's win allows the league to avoid making a ruling that would have left one franchise — Spokane or Arizona — infuriated. The Rattlers have home-field advantage throughout the National Conference playoffs, but Spokane could still host the conference title game if it defeats Chicago and San Jose upsets Arizona. 

The AFL is at it again

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Is there a professional sports league with worse management than the AFL? No. Read on.

Wrapping up media day

COUGARS

We're back in the state of Washington, which means media day is over and the next time we see Washington State's players will be the first day of camp on Aug. 2.

But before the day ends (OK, it actually ended about 30 minutes ago, but I'm still awake) we figured we'd pass along all of our coverage wrapping up the goings-on at Sony Pictures Studios.

— Here's our main story for the paper, focusing on the relative anonymity of WSU's presence at media day

— Here's a notebook leading with some of the new safety protocol in the Pac-12, as well as more talk about the new targeting rules.

— On the blog, we had an updated WSU depth chart, along with a transcription of WSU's time on the podium and the results of the preseason media poll. And here's a post with the Pac-12 release about its new safety protocol.

— If you're interested in reading what all the other coaches and players had to say, here are the transcriptions from ASAP Sports.

— And here's a pretty all-inclusive roundup from Bryan Fischer of the Pac-12 Network

Shock rally to shut down Power, 61-43

A wild day and wild night in the Arena Football League.

Spokane sleep-walked through the first half, falling behind by nine points, before rallying for a 61-43 win over Pittsburgh on Friday night.

My unedited game story is below.

Earlier, I put together a story on the suddenly not-so-clear National Conference playoff picture. It can be found beneath the game story below.

Another AFL mess

It was thought that tonight's Spokane-Pittsburgh game had no bearing on the AFL playoff picture.

However, Shock majority owner Brady Nelson told me 30 minutes before kickoff he's been informed by the league office that the No. 1 seed in the National Conference is not settled, even though it has been reported that Arizona clinched the West Division and top seed on the AFL Website.

More below. 

Shock close regular season vs. Power

Spokane, riding a four-game winning streak, concludes the regular season against the Pittsburgh Power tonight at 7 at the Arena.

Here's my game preview.

Transcript of WSU at media day

COUGARS

Thanks to the folks at ASAP Sports, we have a full transcription of WSU's time at the podium today.

Q.  Good morning, Coach, you've been vocal in your criticism over the new targeting rule.  Can you give us the specifics on what exactly is chapping your hide?  And to follow that up, if you were in charge of creating a rule that limits or deters head trauma, what would be the criteria for you in establishing the rule and what would the penalty be? 

COACH LEACH:  “I'm not the only one against this rule, rules in order to be effective have to be enforceable and you've got to be able to see it.  If I get these guys across the room and I have them run full speed at each other and I ask you in a split second to tell me which one lowered their head first, I betcha you can't do it. 

“So I think that is a huge problem.  The other thing is, you know, in one of the plays that's getting criticized, is the Clowney hit.  That is why they have football and it's why football was invented and it's one of the greatest American games there is.  Everything that can be done to prevent head trauma and prevent student‑athletes, that needs to be done and it goes along with technology, along with teaching people to tackle properly, and things like that. 

“If somebody is running at you and you're going to button up to take the hit and then it becomes a guessing game of who loader their head first, which, you know, we're back to the Halo Rule where you can't sort it out and you can't discern it.  I think that's a gigantic issue.”

New Pac-12 safety initiative

As expected, the Pac-12 announced its new football contact policy at its media day this morning.

The full release is below, but the gist is this: teams are now allowed no more than two full-contact practices per week during the regular season, and if a team holds two-a-days during the preseason, only one practice per day can be full-contact. Also, in the spring, of the eight full-contact practices allowed, no more than two can occur in a given week.

Here's the release:

Updated WSU depth chart

COUGARS

Here's a look at WSU's updated depth chart, as printed in the media guide being distributed here today …

OFFENSE

QB — Connor Halliday / Austin Apodaca

RB — Teondray Caldwell / Marcus Mason

WRX — Dominique Williams / Kristoff Williams / Vince Mayle

WRY — Bobby Ratliff / Robert Lewis

LT — Gunnar Eklund / Eduardo Middleton

LG — Joe Dahl / John Fullington

C — Elliott Bosch / Zach Brevick

RG — Matt Goetz / John Fullington

RT — Rico Forbes / Jacob Seydel

WRH — Brett Bartolone / Rickey Galvin

WRZ — Gabe Marks / Isiah Myers / Vince Mayle

DEFENSE

DT — Xavier Cooper / Robert Barber

NT — Ioane Gauta / Toni Pole / Moritz Christ

DE — Matthew Bock OR Logan Mayes OR Destiny Vaeao / Lyman Faoliu

BUCK — Kache Palacio OR Ivan McLennan / Max Hersey

SAM — Cyrus Coen / Eric Oertel / Feddie Davey

MIKE — Darryl Monroe / Jared Byers / Chester Su'a

WILL — Justin Sagote / Tana Pritchard / Jeremiah Allison

FCB — Damante Horton / Rahmel Dockery / Alex Jackson

FS — Deone Bucannon / Paris Taylor / Mitchell Peterson

SS — Casey Locker / Taylor Taliulu / David Bucannon

BCB — Nolan Washington / Anthony Carpenter / Tracy Clark

SPECIALISTS

P — Mike Bowlin / Wes Concepcion

PK — Andrew Furney / Mike Bowlin OR Wes Concepcion

KO — Mike Bowlin OR Andrew Furney

LS — Alex Den Bleyker / Zach Brevick / Jerred Sonneborn

H — Mike Bowlin / Austin Apodaca OR Brett Bartolone

PR — Brett Bartolone OR Leon Brooks OR Rickey Galvin

KOR — Teondray Caldwell OR Rickey Galvin OR Kristoff Williams

Media Day open thread

COUGARS

This will serve as our open thread for the day, which begins at around 9 a.m. with an appearance from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. Expect an announcement at that time about the conference's new contact policy.

Mike Leach, Elliott Bosch and Deone Bucannon take the stage at 9:15 to answer questions from reporters, and we'll pass along news and notes from that session, as well as anything of interest from the representatives of the remaining teams. But keep in mind that we'll be in and out as we conduct one-on-one interviews elsewhere on the Sony Pictures Studio lot.

Stay tuned …

UPDATE, 9:45 a.m. — The WSU contingent is off the podium, and we have a few notes to pass along …

— Leach was asked about his comments the other day in regards to the new targeting rules for defensive players. He said that “one of the plays that's getting criticized is the (Jadeveon) Clowney hit. The Clowney hit is why they have football. That's why football was invented.”

To illustrate his point, Leach said that if two people lined up across the room and ran full-speed at each other, it's not likely that a human being could determine if one of them lowered their head immediately before contact. For that reason, he doesn't think it's effective to ask an official to try to make that decision on the fly.

— As he's said a few times before, Leach reiterated that if the season started today, Connor Halliday would start at quarterback. Makes sense, because he's listed atop the most updated depth chart.

— Leach said he just filed the first draft of the book he's authoring about Geronimo with WSU professor Buddy Levy. He added that the process of writing a book — deciding where to place certain sentences, etc. — is like marriage, except “there's no divorcing a book.”

“Books are funny things. They’re very satisfying ultimately, but then there’s a point where it gets kind of tedious and you get tired of the same stuff over and over.”

— Leach was asked whether he's cleared up the “zombie” and “empty corpse” problem he had last season. He said that if there remain any zombies on the team, it's his own fault because he's the head coach. But he also said he thought WSU had a strong offseason, referring to Bosch and Bucannon as “specimens.”

— Bucannon was asked about the new targeting rules, and gave a pretty basic answer about simply making the proper adjustments in order to be in accordance with the contact guidelines.

UPDATE, 9:25 a.m. — Scott reiterated during his time at the podium that the Pac-12 Network is no closer to a deal with DirecTV than it was one year ago, and he doesn't expect a deal to get done during this school year. He also urged Pac-12 fans to drop DirecTV if they want to view what he described as “must-see programming” with “unprecedented access.”

The commissioner also touched on a number of talking points in regards to the NCAA and its policies, saying he is pleased that president Mark Emmert has called a summit in January to discuss some possible changes. Among them: enforcement, governance and financing.

Oregon picked to win Pac-12

COUGARS

Here are the results of this year's preseason media poll. As expected, Oregon has been tabbed to win the conference title, with UCLA selected as the South division champion.

Washington State was picked to finish sixth in the North.

Here's the poll (first-place votes in parentheses):

NORTH

1. Oregon (14) — 139

2. Stanford (11) — 134

3. Oregon State — 91

4. Washington — 81

5. California — 45

6. Washington State — 32

SOUTH

1. UCLA (12) — 130

2. Arizona State (9) — 124

3. USC (4) — 113

4. Arizona — 73

5. Utah — 58

6. Colorado — 27

Times, and media days, have changed

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Not too long ago, Pac-12 football media days were sleepy little affairs that only interested the hardcore fans. Sort of like Pac-12 football. But that's all changed. Read on.

Pac-12 media day schedule

COUGARS

Here's the schedule for Pac-12 media day on Friday. As you can see, Washington State's contingent will lead things off.

You can watch it all live here.

9:00 a.m.   Welcome- Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner    
9:15 a.m.   Washington State - Coach Mike Leach, Elliott Bosch (OL), Deone Bucannon (DB)    
9:30 a.m.   California - Coach Sonny Dykes, Bryce Treggs (WR), Nick Forbes (LB)    
9:45 a.m.   Washington - Coach Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price (QB), Sean Parker (DB)    
10:00 a.m.   Oregon State - Coach Mike Riley, Brandin Cooks (WR), Rashaad Reynolds (DB)    
10:15 a.m.   Oregon - Coach Mark Helfrich, Marcus Mariota (QB), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB)    
10:30 a.m.   Stanford - Coach David Shaw, David Yankey (OL), Shayne Skov (LB)    
10:45 a.m.   Break    
11:00 a.m.   Lydia Murphy-Stephans, President, Pac-12 Networks    
11:05 a.m.   Colorado - Coach Mike MacIntyre, Paul Richardson (WR), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (DE)    
11:20 a.m.   Utah - Coach Kyle Whittingham, Jake Murphy (TE), Trevor Reilly (DE)    
11:35 a.m.   Arizona - Coach Rich Rodriguez, Terrence Miller (WR), Jake Fischer (LB)    
11:50 a.m.   USC - Coach Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee (WR), Hayes Pullard (LB)    
12:05 p.m.   Arizona State - Coach Todd Graham, Taylor Kelly (QB), Will Sutton (DT)    
12:20 p.m.   UCLA - Coach Jim Mora, Xavier Su’a-Filo (OL), Anthony Barr (LB)

Picking the Pac-12 before media day

COUGARS

Pac-12 media day begins Friday in Los Angeles, and we'll have our usual coverage once the festivites begin at Sony Studios.

Until then, here's the Pac-12 preseason ballot I filed last week …

Spokane’s Castro, two relievers control Canadians

The Spokane Indians managed just two runs and 14 hits during a three-game home series against the Vancouver Canadians this week, but they avoided disaster by winning Thursday's series finale 2-1 at Avista Stadium. Starter Kyle Castro and relievers Ryne Slack and Mike Zouzalik held Vancouver to five hits, including two infield singles. The victory allowed the Indians to avoid a 0-3 start to the second half of the Northwest League season. As it is, Spokane only trails Vancouver and Everett by one game in the North Division as it travels to Boise for a five-game series that begins Friday. Spokane has won four consecutive games against Boise and is 4-1 against the Hawks this season. Read story

Morrison expected to join GU staff

Former Gonzaga great Adam Morrison is taking classes at the school and expected to have a role with the basketball program.

Head coach Mark Few told cbssports.com that Morrison will be a “student assistant. It’ll be great,” Few said. “The players really respect him.”

GU officials confirmed Morrison is enrolled in summer school. His specific duties with the basketball staff will be determined at a later date, officials said.

Morrison’s 28.1 points per game led the nation in scoring in 2006. He was selected to the All-American team and won or shared several player of the year awards. Morrison bypassed his senior season and was drafted third overall by Charlotte.

Morrison played four seasons in the NBA, two with Charlotte and two with the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged a career-high 11.8 points as a rookie in 2006-07. After playing professionally overseas, Morrison signed with the Portland Trail Blazers but was waived prior to the 2012-13 season.

—Also, cbssports.com reported that the Gonzaga-Memphis game in Memphis will be part of ESPN's GameDay broadcast.

 

Fall camp approaching for Idaho football

Conferences across the country have been holding media days the last week or two. For Idaho, an independent this season, that means things have been quieter than usual. Paul Petrino took part in the Sun Belt media event (even though UI won't join the league until next year), and Idaho will hold its own media day on Aug. 23 at the Kibbie Dome. Here are other key dates to know over the next month for the Vandals:

  • Aug. 4: Players report for fall camp
  • Aug. 5: First practice of fall (3 p.m.)
  • Aug. 23: Media day (5 p.m., Litehouse Center; mock game at 2 p.m.)
  • Aug. 31: Season opener at North Texas (4 p.m. PST)

We'll keep you updated here and on Twitter at @SR_JoshWright.

Keeping things in perspective

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The Mariners' win streak came to a screeching halt yesterday but that wasn't the biggest news out of Safeco Field. No, not even close. Read on.

Indians endure second consecutive shutout

True Spokane Indians fans may remember that their team lost its first two (eventually three) games of the Northwest League baseball season. Spokane is also 0-2 to start the second half of the season, but this beginning is a bit more concerning. The Indians began their 2013 campaign with back-to-back 6-4 losses to Everett, which ultimately won the first-half title. Spokane has started the second half with consecutive 2-0 losses to Vancouver. The Canadians have allowed just eight hits in the 18 innings and just one Indians base runner has reached third base. Read story

Mike Leach calls new rules ‘ridiculous’

COUGARS

As noted here last night, Pac-12 coaches are in Bristol this week for an ESPN media tour before the conference media day in Los Angeles on Friday.

One of the stops for WSU coach Mike Leach was ESPN's First Take, where he was asked about the new targeting rules that could lead to ejections for hits that were previously deemed legal.

The hit that comes to mind, of course, is South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney's massive takedown of Michigan running back Vincent Smith during last season's Outback Bowl.

Folks are upset because some higher-ups in the football officiating community have said that Clowney's hit likely would lead to an ejection if it occurred in 2013.

Count Leach among those protesting the new rules. 

“I'm getting tired of everyone apologizing for playing football,” Leach said, also calling the ejection rule “ridiculous.”

And:

I'm sure this will be discussed at more length on Friday. It should also be interesting to hear senior safety Deone Bucannon's take on the matter.

Also, if you're interested in Leach's portion of a live chat conducted by ESPN, go ahead and click this link.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

WSU taking part of fall camp to Lewiston

COUGARS

Washington State will spend the first portion of its preseason training camp in nearby Lewiston, a source close to the program confirmed Wednesday. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News was the first to report the move.

Exact dates haven't been established yet for WSU's trip to Lewiston, though an official announcement is expected after coach Mike Leach returns from media-day obligations on the east coast and in Los Angeles this week.

Construction at Martin Stadium is likely the primary factor in moving practices from Pullman. Only half of Rogers Field is available for use, and WSU split its team between Rogers and Martin Stadium during spring practices.

That's not quite as feasible during camp with more newcomers on hand, a time when coaches would likely prefer to keep the whole team within one, visible range.

Camp opens Aug. 2. A full schedule will likely be available next week.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

It must be fun to watch the M’s right now

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Just when the Mariners begin to be fun to watch, we are in no position to watch them. Read on.

Indians kick off second half with shutout loss

Wipe the slate clean, the second half of the Northwest League baseball season has arrived. The Spokane Indians and Vancouver Canadians are in the same boat, trying to join North Division first-half champion Everett in the postseason. To do so, Spokane, Vancouver (or Tri-City) would either have to win the second-half crown or have the best overall record for the season if Everett also takes the second-half title. The challenge began Tuesday at Avista Stadium, and Vancouver took the first small step with a 2-0 win over Spokane. The Canadians are 5-2 against the Indians this season. The teams will also meet Wednesday and Thursday. Read story

Mike Leach joins Pac-12 coaches on ESPN ‘car wash’

COUGARS

The official, for-real Pac-12 Media Day, in all of its capitalized glory, doesn't commence until Friday in Los Angeles (or Culver City, if you're into specificity).

We'll be in attendance and will pass along the usual fare, but also wanted to point your attention in the direction of ESPN's so-called “car wash” of Pac-12 coaches on Wednesday.

Essentially, the conference's football coaches are all in Bristol on Wednesday and Thursday for a fairly expansive tour of ESPN's many outlets.

Mike Leach, along with five other coaches, is scheduled to go through said car wash on Wednesday. The other half will buzz through on Thursday before heading back to the west coast.

Here's Leach's itinerary (and a link to the whole thing), which you will miss if for some reason you prefer to sleep until noon on Wednesdays:

10:00 a.m. ET/7:00 a.m. PT – SportsCenter Tonight radio show

10:15 a.m. ET/7:15 a.m. PT – GameDay Radio

10:30 a.m. ET/7:30 a.m. PT – ESPN.com Chat

11:20 a.m. ET/8:20 a.m. PT – First Take

12:40 p.m. ET/9:40 a.m. PT – Highly Questionable

1:20 p.m. ET/10:20 a.m. PT – SportsCenter

2:20 p.m. ET/11:20 a.m. PT – College Football Live

2:40 p.m. ET/11:40 a.m. PT - ESPN social media shoot

(As this story notes, Leach's segment with Skip Bayless on First Take likely qualifies as the day's primary entertainment.)

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

Really, it’s all about character

A GRIP ON SPORTS

When an arbitrator overturned Ryan Braun's PED suspension last year, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, and former National League MVP, talked about vindication. Now we know how he felt. Read on.

Sometimes we guess wrong

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Who would have thought Phil Mickelson could pull it off yesterday? Certainly not me. Read on.

There must be priorities

A GRIP ON SPORTS

To be honest, I would rather have my feet up, a donut and cup of coffee nearby, the TV on the British Open. The last part of that sentence is happening, but that's it. Instead, my fingers are flying over the computer keyboard as I try to finish a jam-packed Sunday post. Then I can get to concentrating on the Open. Read on.

Gonzaga seems to be the place to be

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The wind is blowing in Scotland today. That's not surprising. And either is Gonzaga's basketball team being in the national news. But one aspect of it is. Read on.

Hops stop Indians for second time

The Hillsboro Hops, a first-year franchise, are 8-25 against the rest of the Northwest League but 2-0 against the Spokane Indians. Spokane has outhit Hillsboro 17-14 during the first two games of the five-game series while being outscored 12-5, including Friday night's 7-2 setback. Four Indians pitchers combined to hold Hillsboro to five hits, but the Hops scored six runs in the second inning with the help of three walks, a wild pitch and a hit batter. All of this came after Spokane doubled twice in its second without scoring. It was reminiscent of Thursday's game, when the Indians loaded the bases with no out in the first inning but didn't score. Spokane has scored two runs of less in seven of its last nine games. The Indians are 10-7 against teams from the South Division after starting the season 9-2. Spokane has also dropped five of its last six road games. Read story

Defense sparks Shock to easy win

Spokane's defense made Rohan Davey's Friday night miserable.

The Shock forced seven turnovers, scored on a fumble recovery, interception return and safety as Spokane hammered the Talons 77-30 at the Arena.

Davey tossed five interceptions and fumbled three times, losing two. I didn't keep an exact count, but I'd guess he was hit by a defender 20 times, maybe 25.

Spokane can clinch the third seed in the National Conference with a win next week over woeful Pittsburgh or one San Jose loss on Saturday night or next week.

My unedited game story is below.

Wiltjer talks about transferring to GU

Kyle Wiltjer took his time making a decision on whether to remain at Kentucky or transfer to Gonzaga. After a month of contemplating, the 6-foot-10 forward decided to join GU's program.

He will sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules and then have two years of eligibility. Here's a link to my article that will run in Saturday's S-R and another that recaps Wiltjer's Kentucky years in the Lexington newspaper.

Wiltjer was in the middle of packing and getting his car repaired, but took time to discuss his decision with me in a phone call earlier this afternoon.

“Gonzaga recruited me the first time around (as a senior at Jesuit High in Portland), and they were definitely one of my top schools,” he said. “The reason I started with them in this process is because they were close the first time.”

He spoke highly of both programs and how hard it was deciding to leave Kentucky. He came across as a down-to-earth kid, facing issues that every college student encounters. He said his family thought about having his car shipped back to the West Coast but it was too expensive. So, he'll be making a long drive west in a few days.

Wiltjer will transfer to GU

Kyle Wiltjer, a former McDonald's All-American who played two years at Kentucky, has decided to transfer to Gonzaga, sources told The Spokesman-Review.

Wiltjer will be an important addition at Gonzaga, adding to a thin frontcourt that will lose senior Sam Dower after the 2013-14 season. Wiltjer will sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules and then have two seasons of eligibility. 

Brian Michaelson, promoted to assistant coach after Ray Giacoletti's departure to Drake, was the point man in recruiting Wiltjer. Both are products of Jesuit High in Portland.

Wiltjer averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds while earning SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors last season, but hasn't been able to earn consistent minutes in a Kentucky program loaded with highly rated recruits.

More later.  

A long-time connection

A GRIP ON SPORTS

I was a little disappointed to see Mark O'Meara shoot a 78 today in the British Open's second round. After all, his 67 on Thursday had me a bit nostalgic. Read on.

Hops’ big seventh inning sinks Spokane

The first meeting between the Spokane Indians and Hillsboro Hops went in the Hops' winning column, but Spokane definitely had its chances. The Indians rapped out 12 hits, tying their best effort in the last 10 games, but couldn't get the big hit when they had runners in scoring position during the first three innings. The tone was set in the first inning, when Spokane loaded the bases with nobody out and didn't score. The defeat also ended Spokane's slim hopes of earning a first-half postseason berth in the North Division. Luckily for the Indians, they can make the playoffs with a good second-half run. The second half begins Tuesday at Avista Stadium against two-time defending Northwest League champion Vancouver. The Canadians are 4-2 against Spokane this year and still have a slight shot at catching Everett for the North's first-half title. Read story

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The British Open is underway. But I think there is a problem with my TV set in the hotel and no matter how much I adjust it, it isn't working. The grass doesn't look green. Read on.

Indians come through in eighth inning

Until the eighth inning Wednesday, it looked as if the game between the Spokane Indians and Tri-City Dust Devils would be decided by three throws from the outfield, all three of which worked to T-C's benefit. But the Indians came up with three hits and two runs in the eighth to edge the Dust Devils 2-1 as Spokane's home schedule reached its halfway point. The Indians are 11-8 at home and won't  play at Avista Stadium again until the Northwest League's second half begins Tuesday. Read story

Zags draw Dayton for Maui opener

Gonzaga will open the Maui Invitational against Dayton.

Brackets for the November tournament were released Wednesday. The Zags and Flyers collide at 9 p.m. Pacific (the time is listed incorrectly in the release) on Nov. 25th on ESPN2. Baylor faces Chaminade in the other half of the bracket. In other first-round games, Cal meets Arkansas and Syracuse faces Minnesota.

In opening games prior to those eight teams traveling to Maui, Gonzaga will entertain Oakland University (Rochester, Minn.) on Nov. 17 at the MAC.

GU beat Cincinnati in overtime in the 2009 Maui title game..

The perfect scenario plays out

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Even before the first pitch, you had a feeling Mariano Rivera would have a role in the outcome of Tuesday's All-Star Game. After all, it was the final All-Star Game for the greatest relief pitcher of all time (for once, that type of hyperbole is matched by the record) and the game was in New York, the city he has called home his entire baseball career. Lo and behold, the pregame feeling turned into reality. Read on.

Indians pitchers allow just 2 hits in victory

Spokane Indians pitchers David Ledbetter (3-0),  Abel De Los Santos, Ryne Slack and Mike Zouzalik (third save) combined on a two-hitter Tuesday night to end the Tri-City Dust Devils' four-game winning streak  with a 2-1 decision at Avista Stadium. The quartet combined to strike out 11 as the Indians boosted their league-leading total to 294. Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett, ejected during Monday's game, returned to his old spot sitting on a chair next to Spokane's dugout. Umpires Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle McCrady made Spokane remove the chairs on Monday, and Hulett was ejected when the umpiring crew further upset him in the third inning by telling Janluis Castro that he couldn't warm up near the bullpen in preparation to replace injured Evan Van Hoosier. But everything was back to order Tuesday when the Indians contacted the Northwest League and found out that they could make the on-field chairs legal by inserting a provision in the ground rules that the chairs would be placed inside a chalked-off box. Read story

Hey, look: an Auburn kickoff time

COUGARS

Those making the trip to Auburn, Ala., for Washington State's football opener can finalize their tailgating plans.

WSU and Auburn will kick off at 4 p.m. PT, or 6 p.m. CT., and the game will air on ESPNU. The SEC made its early-season TV schedule announcement earlier today.

So, that's back-to-back games that will end in the dark to start the season. WSU travels to USC in Week 2 for a 7:30 p.m. game. The only other known game times are 7:30p.m. on Oct. 31 against Arizona State, and 12:30 p.m. at Washington on Nov. 29.

Also, as Vince noted this morning, WSU's basketball team learned that its Thanksgiving Day opponent will be Butler in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

Dreams come in all shapes

A GRIP ON SPORTS

In less than 24 hours, we will be fulfilling a long-time dream. One, we're sure, isn't shared by many of our readers. Read on.

Dust Devils post first win over Spokane

The Tri-City Dust Devils have pulled off a quick turnaround since playing the Spokane Indians in Pasco on July 1-3. Spokane swept that series with scores of 3-1, 6-4 and 11-0 as the last-place Dust Devils fell to 6-14 overall and nine games behind Everett in the Northwest League's North Division. In the days since, including Monday's 4-1 win over the Indians, Tri-City is 9-2 and has  pulled within five games of Everett and one game of third-place Spokane (16-15). Everett (20-11) and Vancouver (19-12) are likely going to battle it out for the North's first-half title because the halfway point is seven games away, but Spokane and T-C want to build momentum for the second half. Read story

A world without rules

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The Tour de France in going on. Baseball's home run derby is tonight. Track and field is in the news. What do these three things have in common? Read on.

Ledbetter twins at home with Rangers

Spokane Indians pitcher David Ledbetter and his identical twin Ryan were both drafted the Texas Rangers last month. David starts for  the Indians and is expected to pitch Tuesday at home against Tri-City. Ryan is a reliever with the Rangers' team in the Arizona Rookie League. Read story

Indians ends three-game losing skid

The Spokane Indians ended a three-game losing streak Sunday night with an 8-4 win at Salem-Keizer. The Volcanoes won the five-game Northwest League series 3-2. Spokane returns home Monday for the first of three games against the Tri-City Dust Devils before taking to the road again. Read story

Another no-hitter? Is it a big deal?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Why is a no-hitter considered such a big deal in baseball? Just because a pitcher, and the defense behind him, was able to keep the other team without a hit doesn't mean he pitched all that well. Or even won the game, for that matter. Read on.

Indians suffer second shutout of season

Until the past three days, the Spokane Indians had played well on the road and extremely well against Northwest League South Division team. That has changed with three consecutive losses against Salem-Keizer at Volcanoes Stadium, including Saturday's 6-0 setback. Spokane has been outscored 21-3 in the last three games to see its road record go from 6-4 to 6-7 and its record against the South drop from 9-2 to 9-5. Spokane's bats had been hot since a 10-9 win over Everett on June 30, just five days after the Indians' other shutout of the season (4-0 against Vancouver). The Volcanoes lead the five-game series 3-1 heading in to Sunday's finale. Spokane will begin a three-game home series against the Tri-City Dust Devils on Monday. Read story

Spokane sweeps Florida trip

Spokane capped its lengthy road trip to Florida with an easy 62-40 win over Jacksonville on Saturday, one week after handling Tampa Bay 63-49.

Ex-Shock quarterback Kyle Rowley had a rough night against Spokane's defense. He was intercepted three times and fumbled once.

The Shock improved to 12-4 and stayed even with San Jose, which routed Pittsburgh 78-20, in the chase for the third seed in the National Conference. Spokane holds the tiebreaker with a 2-0 record against the SaberCats.

Game recap below.

Indians drop second straight to Volcanoes

The Spokane Indians had been on a roll through Wednesday, when they opened a five-game Northwest League series at Salem-Keizer with a 4-3 win. That victory gave Spokane nine wins in 10 games. Salem-Keizer, however, showed why it's leading the South Division with two straight easy wins, including Friday's 6-2 decision. Volcanoes pitchers held the Indians to one hit through seven innings. Indians starter Alex Gonzalez, a first-round draft selection still trying to find his groove, was hurt by the Volcanoes' four-run second inning. The series continues Saturday and Sunday before the Indians head home Monday for the first of three games against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Read story

On the road for a while

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Sometimes when you leave home, you can forget to take everything you need. And sometimes you take too much. Read on.

Indians pitchers liberal with walks in defeat

The Spokane Indians had their three-game winning streak snapped Thursday night with a 9-1 loss at Salem-Keizer. The Indians issued 13 walks, including five during the Volcanoes' six-run fourth inning. Spokane starter Kelvin Vasquez (0-2) issued seven walks in three innings. The middle game of the five-game series is Friday night. Spokane's next home game is Monday against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Read story

It’s not that long now

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Let's get going today. It's time. Time to get started. Get into it. … Sorry, I've got nothing. It's the middle of July and I'm about tapped out. Read on.

Radio days and birthdays

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's sort of tough to get into the writing mode this morning. But I have a pretty good reason. Read on.

Well that’s interesting

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's nearly impossible to predict what will kick off a lively back-and-forth between readers. I've quit trying to figure it out. And I know I should just shy away and let the conversation continue without me. But sometimes I can't. Read on.

Indians complete 4-1 series win over Eugene

The Spokane Indians have won two consecutive Northwest League series, capping their latest success with a 2-1 squeaker over Eugene on Monday night at Avista Stadium. The Indians, coming off a three-game sweep of Tri-City, won four of five against the Emeralds. It was the second 4-1 series win of the season for Spokane over a team from the South Division, as the Indians dominated Boise in mid-June. The Indians have had more trouble in their North Division, not counting Tri-City, as Everett is 5-1 against Spokane and Vancouver is 4-2. Spokane is four games behind Everett and three in back of Vancouver with 13 games left in the first half of the season. Read story

A pretty strong debut

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Say you are a Boston Celtic fan living in, I don't know, Dorchester, Mass. You don't watch much college basketball because, after all, the Celtics are everything (though the Bruins and Pats are OK too). So Sunday you wander down to the end of the block to Jimmy's pub on Bowdoin St., where they have NBA TV. You want to see the Celtics' summer league team in Orlando. And this Kelly Olynyk kid. You like his first name OK, but his hair, jeez. Why doesn't Danny Ainge make him cut it? Red would have. Anyhow, this is your first chance to watch the 7-footer from Gonzawga (is that how you pronounce it?) play. An hour later, you stagger from the establishment, headed home with a smile on your lips and dreams of the future even though that (bad word excised here) Tommy Bush – an Episcopalian, so what does he know? – kept pointing out Olynyk's defensive shortcomings. Who cares? Larry had trouble guarding guys at times too, and that worked out OK. One summer game in and you've decided. Ainge is a freakin' genius. We'll win another title by 2016. Book it. Read on.

Cougars get commitment from kicker

COUGARS

With Washington State set to lose both of its scholarship kickers after the 2013 season — Andrew Furney and Mike Bowlin are both seniors — it stands to reason that coach Mike Leach might want to offer a kicker a spot in his 2014 recruiting class.

And as recruiting maven Braulio Perez reported yesterday, Tristan Vizcaino, a kicker from La Verne, Calif., has given a verbal commitment to sign with WSU. That's now eight known commitments in WSU's 2014 class, according to Scout.com.

Vizcaino is listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. Here are some highlights of him kicking, as well as some additional analysis from CougCenter.

Indians ride high with six-run eighth

The Spokane Indians left 13 runners runners on base through the first seven innings of Sunday afternoon's Northwest League baseball game against Eugene. Although they left two more stranded in the eighth, for a total of 15, it didn't matter in the end. Starting with Brandon Garcia's one-out double, seven consecutive Indians reached base and six scored during an 8-4 comeback win over the Emeralds at Avista Stadium. Spokane leads the five-game series 3-1 heading into Monday night's finale. The Indians get their first day off on Tuesday, then they play 10 of their next 13 games on the road, starting Wednesday at South Division-leading Salem-Keizer. Read story

Anything could happen

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The telly is on, as I watch the most important English sporting event since, well, since the last soccer match. Andy Murray is carrying 77 years of history on his back, trying to become the first British man since Fred Perry to win England's tennis championship, Wimbledon. Those are tough shoes to fill. Read on.

Indians nearly overcome inconsistent play

The Spokane Indians were one swing away from extending their winning streak to seven games on Saturday night, but too many early-game blunders came back to haunt them. Spokane's four-run ninth inning wasn't enough in a 9-8 Northwest League loss to the Eugene Emeralds. Despite a rocky night for their pitchers and baserunners, the Indians had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning before their last-gasp attempt fell shy. Spokane leads the five-game series 2-1 headed into Sunday afternoon's game. Read story

Shock rally past Storm, 63-49

It looked like a repeat of the first meeting for a while, but Spokane found its stride late in the first half and rallied for a 63-49 road win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Erik Meyer tossed seven touchdown passes, five to Brandon Thompkins, as Spokane avenged a 70-62 loss to the Storm in April.

Game recap below.

Shock back to work in Tampa Bay

Spokane returns to the field tonight against Tampa Bay in a rematch of an April game that was won by the Storm, 70-62, in Spokane.

Here's my game preview and another from Florida. The big question: Will Storm quarterback Adrian McPherson play? He missed Tampa Bay's last game two weeks ago with a knee injury. The Shock expect McPherson to be in the lineup tonight.

Is Lakers’ greatness only a memory?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

OK, I admit it. There was a time when there wasn't a bigger Laker fan on this planet. But we all grow out of our youthful indiscretions, don't we? Read on.

Extra-inning victory puts Indians’ streak at six

All of a sudden, the Spokane Indians can seriously think about coming out on top in the North Division during the first half of the Northwest League season. A six-game winning streak can do that for a team during short-season Class A play. Spokane defeated Eugene 4-3 in 12 innings Friday night to fashion its longest winning streak in three years. When the streak began, the Indians were in last place in the North, eight games behind Everett. Spokane (12-10) now trails Everett by three games. Read story

It just might be a long weekend

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Just wondering. How many of you have a four-day holiday weekend? Read on.

Indians’ bats wake up in late innings

If you left Thursday night's Northwest League game between the Spokane Indians and visiting Eugene Emeralds in the fifth inning (perhaps you're afraid of postgame fireworks), you got the wrong idea of how the evening would unfold. Through five innings, Eugene led Spokane 3-0 and had outhit the Indians 8-2. The rest of the way, Spokane outscored  the Emeralds 10-0 with an 8-1 advantage in hits. The big inning was the seventh, when Spokane sent 12 runners to the plate and scored six runs for an 8-3 lead. The outcome of the first game of the five-game series evened Spokane's home record at 6-6 and put the Indians (11-10) above .500 for the first time this season. Spokane has won five consecutive games for the first time in two years and improved its record against South Division teams to 5-1. Spokane has scored in double figures in three of the five games during the streak. Read story

On ode to America’s pastime

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Today is America's birthday. And like with every birthday, a card is called for, no matter how tacky it may be. Remember when you were a kid and buying a card seemed like the hardest task in the world? But it was expected, so you made something with a crayon and notebook paper, just to see the look on mom's face? We do, so in an ode to those days, we went a different route today. We decided to go with a video. And, if you're wondering, it didn't cost a thing. Read on.

Indians catcher Greene shows artistic flair

Spokane Indians catcher Marcus Greene mixes baseball talent with a natural artistic ability instilled by his grandmother. Read story

Edwards catches on with Shock

Nicholas Edwards is the newest member of the Spokane Shock but he's already well known inside the organization.

Edwards, who was a standout receiver at Eastern Washington, officially signed with Spokane earlier this week. He was a Shock intern last summer.

It'll be interesting to see where the 6-foot-3 Edwards fits within a talented group of receivers. The guess is he'll find his way on the field, perhaps if/when the Shock clinch a playoff spot to see if he can have an impact come playoff time.

Here's my article on Edwards and other Shock notes.

Morales has a lot of value for M’s

A GRIP ON SPORTS

There is only one more day until fireworks explode on the scene. Though the M's had their own little celebration last night in Texas, with Kendrys Morales supplying the biggest blasts. Read on.

It’s not only the weather that’s hot

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Today seems like a perfect day to talk about hot seats. After all, if you are outside and sit down, you are on one. But does the term really apply to anyone in the Mariners front office? Read on.

WSU hoops picks up 2015 commitment

COUGARS

Washington State's basketball team is planning for the future, as Scout.com reported Monday that Tramaine Isabell, a 6-foot-1 point-guard prospect from Tacoma, has given a verbal commitment to join WSU's 2015 recruiting class.

Isabell will be a senior at Lakeside High School this year, but plans to play for a prep school the following season before joining the Cougars.

Here's Isabell's bio over at Scout.com. Below are some highlights.

Isabell is, of course, WSU's first known commitment for the class of 2015.

It’s like a blow dryer out there

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It just might hit 100 today around here, which doesn't happen all that often. And you know what heat does, don't you? It dries things out. Read on.

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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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