Saturday, May 31, 2008

Softball's Best of 2008

I haven't been to every ball field or seen every team play, but I think I can give you a good idea of the Best of Western Kentucky softball. photos by Lance Dennee

My picks for a Fantasy Team:

Samantha Gillum, third base, Graves County — This kid's got a heck of an arm and she'll use it, as exemplifed in the First Region tournament.

Jordan Gilland, second base, Marshall County — Not sure I've seen her make but one routine play. The rest of her outs have been fly-through-the-air, dive-in-the-dirt. She's a hitter, too.

Sam Butts, shortstop, Calloway County — Butts was responsible for at least eight defensive outs against Reidland in the First Region championship game. She's hot at the bat, and definitely deserving of the Austin Peay softball scholarship.

Lindsey Bridges, first base, Lyon County — Softball savvy, Bridges lives up to her cleanup batter status.

Karson Canup, right field, Reidland — Canup loves to play softball and it shows when she runs into the dugout with a huge smile on her face after a third out. Canup's two shoestring catches helped seal pitcher Cassee Layne's no-hitter in the First Region championship win. She's a clutch hitter, too.

Lauren Elder, centerfield, Graves County — All-around good player who helped keep the Eagles alive in the opening round of the First Region tournament against Reidland with big catches in the outfield.

Brittany Fox, left field, Calloway County — Fox can hit the ball as evidenced with a 2-for-3, 2 RBI performance against Ballard Memorial in the semifinal game.

Emily Montgomery, catcher, Heath — Still a young one, Montgomery goes well with Heath pitcher Kelleigh Jones and everytime I've seen her, she's a hitter. Honorable mention: Morgan Harrell, Reidland.

Cassee Layne, pitcher, Reidland — Layne has a pocket full of tricks and she can hit nearly any spot in the strikezone at will. She's fast, accurate, and has a "baffling" changeup, as more than one opposing coach has reported. Honorable mentions: Kelleigh Jones, Heath, and Alexis Rodgers, Ballard Memorial. Both pitchers are fast, and hit the ball well. Rodgers could be the best batter in the region.

Best warm-up music: Calloway County. The only school to play Old Crowe Medicine Show's song 'Wagon Wheel' as a peppy tune. Also, not even the radio stations play Taylor Swift's fun, alternate version of 'Picture to Burn'. Props to you, Lakers.

Best food: Heath. Grilled chicken and the occassional barbecue keeps Dusty from punching into McDonald's. Honorable mention goes to Ballard Memorial. The Bombers are the only school I've found to serve french fries. Way to go.

Quotable coach: Jennifer Burnham, Marshall County. She insists her best stuff be off record, but she doesn't lack for words.

Best uniforms: Calloway County. A nice blend of navy and red, without being too busy, shiny or plain.

Best 2008 surprise: Graves County. Going 8 innings with Reidland is an accomplishment. Beating Ballard Memorial for the Third District championship is admirable. And with only two seniors lost, look for the Eagles to be a competitor next season.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Third District tournament softball pitchers

Pictures from the Third District tournament I covered tonight.

Alexis Rodgers, Ballard Memorial

Samantha Mullins, Graves County

Jaclyn McCuiston, Mayfield

Carli Cummins, St. Mary

Friday, May 16, 2008

Run, Oscar! Run!

Oscar Pistorious was earlier denied the right to attempt to qualify for the Olympics.

The 21-year-old South African sprinter wasn't a druggie and had no record of steroid use. His apparent flaw was that he didn't have feet.

Pistorious, a double-amputee, runs with carbon fiber blades that connect to his knees. He has competed in the Paralympics and holds the 400-meter world record of 46.56 seconds. The International Association of Athletics Federations originally ruled that the blades would give him a competitive advantage against able-bodied athletes.

He appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that no proof of an advantage existed. A team at MIT proved that the Cheetah Flex Foot he wears do not give him an advantage.

Now, he has the opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. If he doesn't qualify this year, he has a chance of being selected as a member of the South African 1,600 meter relay team, or he can still work to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

I'm just shocked this was ever an issue. Pistorious' time of 46.56 in the 400 is just a second off the Olympic minimum standard, despite being without feet and fibulae.

Do his J-shaped legs give him an advantage? Absolutely not. The only way he would have an advantage is if they were strapped on to turbo boosters or jet engines.

So run, Oscar, run. Show the world what you can do.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A thousand words

For the third year in a row, the Reidland softball team won the All A Classic on Saturday in Jeffersontown, Ky.

Reidland pitcher Cassee Layne was horrified at the thought these photos could make it into the paper product of The Paducah Sun. I somewhat appeased her fear by telling her they would wind up on my blog, which is on the WORLD Wide Web.

In what I would like to call a freak accident, Layne stretched a ligament in her foot the day before leaving for the All A Classic state tournament (which Reidland won). She was still needed to pitch, so she decided to tread lightly and hold back Saturday. All 51 strikeouts worth (26 innings).

Reidland's road thus far...

In Jeffersontown —

Reidland has won its first two games — against Walton-Verona, 8-1, and against Model, 4-0.

Against Model, Reidland pitcher Cassee Layne struck out 16, taking her total to 24 for the day. Against WV, junior varsity pitcher Jasmine Matchen threw the last two innings of the game in only her second varsity outing. After working out the nerves, she retired four batters, issued two walks and allowed one run with one hit.

What was supposed to be a two-day tournament has now turned into a one-day marathon, with the championship game slated to begin at 9 p.m. The tournament was reorganized due to impending doom and rain on Sunday. Reidland plays next at 5:30 p.m. (All times Eastern).

Non-softball related....There is a Moe's a mere mile away from my hotel that I found after scouting the locations on the Internet. Moe's Southwest Grill is my all-time favorite fastfood joint — a healthy option and a unique spin on Subway, only TexMex. I've already eaten there once today, and a second time is a strong possibility unless I can find a Panera Bread Co.

If I ever become independently wealthy, you can bet one of the two franchises will be coming to Paducah. If you are independently wealthy and want to bring one or both of the franchises to Paducah, my daily proceeds will likely meet your profit quota.


Friday, May 2, 2008

A design mind

Designing is not my forté. I do it, however, to make myself marketable in a highly competitive job market.

At The Sun, when I am on "slot" (another name for the sports design desk), it usually means someone is on vacation. In this case, editor Steve Millizer took his week-long break, so I had to substitute Wednesday and Thursday for page designer Greg Stark's days off.

Wednesday nights for a designer are usually smooth sailing. Since Wednesday nights are historically reserved for church and religious times, high school athletics have largely taken the night off. We do get call-ins for some games, but the night is normally not too hectic.

Thursday night, I was ready, but it still wasn't enough. I had five pages to take care of, which is more than I usually have been asked to design. And then, as per the editor's request, I had to try and find photos to go with all of the stories.

If you are not a design person, or interested in the process, then you probably already stopped reading ages ago, and that's OK. You're not reading this.

But for those of you who have some design experience, you know the more items you need to include on a page means more time.

I had 12 photos, one logo and one graphic to place on the pages. This means tweaking sizes of the boxes and the photos, making sure the subject will appear as we want it to in the morning. Then we have to tweak the cutline, or caption, information. I have to change the fonts and resize the boxes. It's tedious, especially when all the boxes have to fit together in one rectangular page.

Then, for the local sports roundups, I had extra work to do. We had plenty of call-ins and lots of information to put together. Those little agate lines, the teeny, tiny lines for scores, don't just happen that way magically. Each box score must be formatted upon its arrival on my page. We do as much as we can to prepare for the boxes, but you always have to line things up once the scores come in. And for that part of the paper, you are most always up against deadline. Games end late, and we wait for the calls. And with our extra-early 10:30 p.m. deadline because of the new press, things get dicey.

While you are designing, you are taking these calls. Jon Futrell helps with the calls, but the designer inevitably has to answer some. And while you are designing, you must keep up with sending the pages down to the press room so they can take care of that operation. You write headlines and edit the stories. It's tough.

I spent the night glued to my chair, eyes never leaving the screen, to get things done on time. I had a bottle of Tums by my side, ready to battle the stress that was boiling up.

And then I made what I consider a very gross error: I spelled a guy's name wrong.

It was my fault, my story. The one I had written earlier that day.

I discovered the error this afternoon and about vomited. I thought an "i" was supposed to be a "y". It wasn't. I even put the name in the headline.

Reporters, editors and designers don't like mistakes. When we make mistakes, we look like idiots, and you the reader lose trust. That's why we edit things before they go into the paper and ask good questions.

I just didn't ask the right question.

So Friday afternoon, instead of furiously checking my photos to make sure tiny black lines bordered every one of them, or if I got in all the scores, I had to bemoan my mistake.

I feel awful. I apologize. I'll never spell his name wrong again.

I'll remember to always ask how you spell your name, even if it's the simple "Smith" or "Jones". Twice. Three times.

And I won't have to design for another six months!