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No, nothing overshadows a no-hitter

Fans and players celebrate as Hisashi Iwakuma throws the fifth no-hitter in Mariners’ history. (Associated Press)
Fans and players celebrate as Hisashi Iwakuma throws the fifth no-hitter in Mariners’ history. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It is Thursday, right? After what happened earlier this week I wanted to double-check. It’s a big day in a lot of places, but very little, if anything, can top the size of the Wednesday in Seattle. Read on.

••••••••••

• Of course I missed most of it, “it” being Hisashi Iwakuma’s no-hitter against the Orioles. I was either in route or in Lewiston, where I spent the afternoon perspiring profusely. While watching a bunch of football players sweat even more. Yes, I spent the day watching Washington State practice, joining the newly svelte Jacob Thorpe in carrying the S-R banner during a 105-degree day. But it was a dry heat. Unlike the heat poor Keith Harrington had to endure when he screwed up a screen play midway during practice. Harrington’s face mask had to be wet considering how close running back coach Jim Mastro (pictured) got to it as he expressively pointed out Harrington’s mistake, one I gathered the redshirt freshman had made more than once before. I gathered that because Mastro said it, repeatedly. Along with other words I can’t write here. In other words, a typical exchange at a college football practice. (If you think I’m wrong, well, sorry, I’m not. Heck, some 40 years ago I was on the Harrington side of one of those exchanges when I forgot to cover third on a bunt play during my freshman year. For the second time. My coach, Tom Spence, used the same sort of words Mastro used while describing my mistake. Then I ran for the rest of practice. I never, not even 20 years later playing old-man baseball, ever forgot to cover third again.) Yet WSU’s practices under Mike Leach are never typical. Leach isn’t wired that way. I’ve been privileged to watch five major college coaches run practice up close and Leach does things quite a bit differently than the other four. Yes, I know Leach can get loud but for the most part his involvement is understated. And the tenor of the practice reflects that. It seems more businesslike. Let’s get our work done, let’s focus and let’s get better. Efficient is another word I would use. But also emotional, especially on the defensive side – where it has to be. Players spent a lot of time yesterday encouraging teammates on that side of the ball, more than I’ve ever been used to seeing. I don’t know if this is a result of a conscious effort by new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch or not, but it’s there. One play explained what I mean. The 2s were facing the 2s in team work and a freshman linebacker was on the field (I won’t rat out who he was because, well, he’s just learning). A call was made by the coaches which meant the aforementioned linebacker was supposed to switch sides. He didn’t. The safeties began to repeat the call over and over. Still he didn’t move. Until if finally hit him and he raced from the right to the left side of the defense. One of the safeties wasn’t pleased and was letting him know it. But from the sidelines, where the 1s were watching and encouraging, came a voice. I couldn’t see who said it, but I heard it. “Leave the freshman alone. He’ll get it.” It’s another way of helping a teammate get better, isn’t it? Covering their backside as they learn. By the way, the freshman linebacker had a hand in the tackle.

• When I finally got back to Spokane – the drive to Lewiston took more than three hours thanks to construction – the replay of the M’s game was on TV. I walked through the door, saw it was the fourth inning and said “oh, you’re watching the replay.” The two people watching the game didn’t know they were watching a replay. They had, like me, been busy during the day. But told it wasn’t live, they prepared to switch the channel. I cautioned them not to do that. It was worth watching. Of course they had to find out why, then settled in to watch the fifth no-hitter in Mariner history. Iwakuma was sharp, sure, but I’ve seen him sharper. The M’s made some nice plays behind him, sure, but I’ve seen Kyle Seager and Austin Jackson make better ones. And yet Iwakuma threw a no-hitter against a good-to-decent team. Which just speaks to the vagaries of baseball. Just like the fact the last three American League no-hitters have been thrown by M’s pitchers: Iwakuma yesterday, Felix’s perfect game in 2012 and the six-pitcher no-no earlier that season. All different. All special.

•••

• WSU: I’m not going to lie to you. It was too hot for me yesterday. I melted and had to call it quits before practice was officially over. I needed to get out of the heat and into the air-conditioned car before I collapsed. No one needed that. Thank goodness Jacob is in midseason shape. He was able to finish up no problem. His report for today is just as complete as if he had been sitting in the shade on an 85-degree day. He’s got a story in today’s paper, a practice summary which centers round WSU’s appeal trying to get transfer receiver Kyrin Priestly eligible immediately and a transcript of the life chat Jacob held yesterday. He also has video interviews of Leach and Mastro, Kyle Sweet, Robert Lewis (pictured scoring against USC last season) and Peyton Bender. Finally, Jacob has links and more in his morning post today. ... Leach is one of four Pac-12 coaches entering his fourth season and the only one of the four with a losing record after three years. ... Who is No. 1?

• EWU: The Eagles opened preseason practice yesterday and Beau Baldwin had to answer a question about a player who wasn’t there: Vernon Adams. Jim Allen has video of Baldwin’s answer to whether or not Adams could return if he fails his math class again today (Adams is scheduled for a 12:30 test and should find out the results soon after he’s done). The answer was no with some explanation afterward. Jim also has video of Baldwin talking about practice beginning, a story about the first day and a piece on Adams’ future. ... The Adams saga is also covered from an Oregon perspective. Obviously, it’s a big day for the former Eastern Washington quarterback, who shared some thoughts yesterday on what’s going on.

• Shock: The Shock face Arizona on Saturday in Phoenix. Jim Meehan has an advance of the first-round AFL playoff game, with an eye on how the team’s veterans look at the game. ... If the Shock win, they would probably play San Jose. But the game would be in Stockton, due to the circus already in possession of San Jose’s arena for next week.

• Preps: Our local briefs lead with a prep golfer in the finals of the Northwest Junior Girls’ Amateur Championships.

• Indians: Salem-Keiser mashed the ball a bit last night and defeated Spokane 6-1 last night at Avista Stadium. Chris Derrick has the game story and blog post.

• Seahawks: The Hawks are in double digits in preseason practices and still no Kam Chancellor. It looks as if he’s dug in his heels. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to practice. ... The offense is getting its fair share of attention this camp, what with the unsettled offensive line situation and the addition of Jimmy Graham. ... You want to know why Richard Sherman is so good? This is why.

• Mariners: My first thought when someone told me Iwakuma threw a no-hitter yesterday? Did the M’s win? Really, that was it. They did, 3-0, scoring all their runs early. ... There were a handful of big plays behind Iwakuma. ... The M’s won without Nelson Cruz, who took the day off to let his neck get better. ... No-hitters are rare enough they attract journalists like a flame attracts a moth.

• Sounders: The Sounders knew they needed more players if they are to compete for the MLS title. So they have hired some. They introduced a new defender yesterday – what happens to captain Brad Evans? – and their new attacking midfielder spoke for the first time. ... Kansas City scored late and put away the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Real Salt Lake 3-1 last night.

•••

• Back on the radio for three hours today between 3 and 6 p.m. I’ll join Dennis Patchin and Rick Lukens on 700 ESPN. Listen here if you have the time. Until then ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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