New Castle News

Sports

April 1, 2014

Greg Huston: Neil Walk-off, bumbling Bucs and the Fab Five

NEW CASTLE — •I was “stuck” at the playground on Monday for the Pittsburgh Pirates home opener, so I missed Neil Walk-off’s homer to win it in the 10th, unfortunately. I kept checking my phone every 30 seconds to see what was happening, which was problematic for two reasons. One, I was perilously close to having used all of my cell phone data for the month, and two, both of my kids were running free like maniacs. When it finally came through that Walker had lifted the full count delivery over the fence, I yelled to all of the parents that the Pirates had won, and then instantly went on a mission to find out from which side of the plate Walker hit it. I finally found that Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who gave up the dinger, was a righty, meaning that Walker had won the game from the left side. I was happy, but was hoping that he had hit it from the right side, where he has struggled mightily the last two seasons. Since the lineup looks as if it will rely on pitching to win most games, any positive signs of life from Walker are a good thing, but it’d be nice if he’d heat up from both sides of the plate. Hopefully, for all of the Buccos and their fans, the first game was not an omen of the offensive production to come.

•The Cubs are not exactly murderer’s row, but Francisco Liriano got off to a great start and the bullpen did its job on the back end in game one.  I think we’re in for another year of low scoring, one-run games, so hopefully manager Clint Hurdle’s attention to the little things pays off, and lady luck stays on the Buccos’ side.

•I received a pretty good response to my note from last week’s column about the unfair advantage that private schools have when competing with public schools in Pennsylvania high school basketball, especially in the small school leagues. As a follow-up, many people who I talked to and heard from, advocated returning private schools back to their own league, which existed alongside the WPIAL and PIAA back in the 1970s. Not one person I spoke to felt that small public schools had any realistic shot of winning championships in the current environment, which really is a shame.

•I was a huge “Fab Five” fan back in the early 1990s, even wearing my black church socks and sagging my shorts out in the drive way when I’d play every day after school. So I still like to see Michigan do well, even if they aren’t my favorite team anymore. With that being said, it seemed as if Kentucky literally did not miss a shot at the end of the game with Michigan on Sunday. Michigan actually played pretty well, but Kentucky deserved to win that game. Even though they haven’t beat Florida yet this year in several tries, they might be hot enough, and big enough, to pull the upset if both teams reach the NCAA final on Monday.

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