The Florida Gators (52-15) know what it’s like to have their backs against the wall like they do this afternoon when they face Texas Tech (46-19) of the Big 12 Conference in a bracket 2 elimination game at the College World Series in Omaha. Win and the Gators keep on playing. Lose and they go home.
It’s not dissimilar to the situation they were in last week when Florida State’s Drew Carlton pitched the game of his life to win the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional. Carlton allowed only two singles and didn’t walk a batter as FSU took a 3-0 win and put the Gators in an unexpected hole. The euphoria of the big win was short lived for the Seminoles as the Gators bounced back from that game in a big way, taking the next game 5-0 as the UF bats hammered out 10 hits. UF finished off the Seminoles, 7-0, in game three, their second straight elimination game, as Peter Alonso hit a solo homer and JJ Schwarz belted a grand slam.
In both those games when the Gators had their backs to the wall, the hitting dialed up a notch to back superb pitching that held the Seminoles scoreless in 22-2/3 consecutive innings.
Now the Gators have to erase the memory of Sunday night’s 2-1 loss to Coastal Carolina, a game in which Andrew Beckwith scattered 7 hits and set down the last 10 batters in his outstanding complete game performance. UF will send Alex Faedo (13-2, 3.25 ERA) against Texas Tech’s Davis Martin (9-1, 2.73 ERA). Faedo was a third team All-America choice as a sophomore this season while Martin was a freshman All-America selection. Martin was knocked out of the box in the fifth inning by East Carolina at the Lubbock Super Regional last time he pitched, allowing 9 hits and 5 earned runs in 4-1/3 innings. When he’s got it going, he is a slider-sinker pitcher who gets a lot of groundouts.
Faedo will be pitching to a Texas Tech lineup that features three hitters with 10 or more homers – Eric Gutierrez (12 HR, 58 RBI, .327 BA), Tyler Neslony (10 HR, 58 RBI, .308 BA) and Stephen Smith (10 HR, 39 RBI, .312 BA). The Red Raiders are a dead fast ball hitting team but they’re prone to strikeouts which should work in Faedo’s favor. He’s struck out 124 in 97 innings and walked only 21.
Win and the Gators will face the loser of tonight’s Coastal Carolina-TCU game Thursday night. Lose and it’s a good season that ended in disappointment.
Monday night: Miami, which was the #3 national seed, was 2-and-through at Omaha, eliminated Monday night by UC-Santa Barbara, 5-3, Monday afternoon. In Monday night’s winner’s bracket game, Oklahoma State came up with its second straight shutout to knock off Arizona, 1-0.
LOUISIANA DA WON’T PROSECUTE BAMA’S ROBINSON AND JONES
When deputies in Monroe, Louisiana pulled over a vehicle whose two occupants were Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, an All-American, and backup safety Hootie Jones, they found a bag of marijuana on the floorboard and a handgun that turned out to be stolen under the seat. Robinson was charged with possession of marijuana and carrying an illegal firearm, both misdemeanors, and he was subsequently charged with possession of a stolen firearm, which is a felony. Jones was charged with a couple of misdemeanors. Monday, the district attorney for Louisiana’s 4th District, Jerry D. Jones, dropped the charges against the two, claiming insufficient evidence.
Further explaining himself, DA Jones, added, “I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I'm doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning."
Okay, I’ll believe that statement that he doesn’t want to send Robinson and Jones to jail before I will believe the part about insufficient evidence.
As for the part about not wanting to send the kids to jail, I have to admit I’m skeptical. Let’s say Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones were just a couple of kids from a Monroe or Ouachita Parish neighborhood that’s light years away from good times. Let’s say they’re just two kids just cruising the neighborhood when they’re pulled over and the bag of grass and the gun are discovered by deputies in a routine traffic stop. In that scenario do I think there’s suddenly insufficient evidence and a compassionate DA?
Actually, I find it a lot easier to believe that maybe the DA got a few phone calls from “concerned” citizens who explained how it might look bad for Monroe and all of Ouachita Parish if a kid who’s got a chance to be an NFL millionaire in about a year does jail time for something as trivial as a bag of weed and a gun that maybe he bought in good faith from someone who said it was owned by a little old lady who only took it to the shooting range once a year to make sure it was clean and still functioning.
I find it a lot easier to believe that maybe one of those “concerned citizens” reminding the DA that he’s got a re-election campaign coming up in a couple of years and it’s never too early for a few checks to start trickling in for the sole purpose of making sure a good DA who helps the community every chance he gets stays in office. Stuff like that happens in politics.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban, who said he won’t comment until the wheels of justice ground to a halt, will presumably make a statement about the two wayward boys on his football team. I expect that his statement will contain the obligatory “I hope these fine youngsters have learned a hard lesson about how one bad decision can taint your life forever” statement with further comment about how relieved he is that justice has prevailed. As Saban speaks, his unconscious mind is doing a tumbling run that ends with a back flip and a quarter twist because he just got his starting left tackle (Robinson) back, which means he won’t have to start a true freshman on the blind side to protect a QB that’s greener than a south Florida bell pepper.
Now, I’m not one to believe that every kid who makes a mistake should do hard time. The jails and prisons are overrun with kids who really shouldn’t be there for a mistake in which no one was hurt, but I do think it’s fair to question whether Jerry D. Jones would have shown this much compassion and care about two kids who barely made it through high school and have a tough time holding down a job.
BEST 10 RUNNING BACKS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016
We might look back on the recruiting class of 2014 as one of the 2-3 greatest years in history for producing running backs. If you’ll check out my top 10 list for 2016, they all have one thing in common – they’re all juniors.
1. Leonard Fournette, LSU, JR (300-1,953 rushing, 22 TDs; 19-253 receiving, 1 TD)
2. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, JR (337-2,019 rushing, 8 TDs; 45-645 receiving, 5 TDs; 15-130 punt returns, 1 TD; 37-1,070 kickoff returns, 1 TD; 2-3 passing, 39 yards, 2 TDs)
3. Dalvin Cook, FSU, JR (229-1,691 rushing, 19 TDs; 24-244 receiving, 1 TD)
4. Royce Freeman, Oregon, JR (283-1,836 rushing, 17 TDs; 26-348 receiving, 2 TDs)
5. Wayne Gallman, Clemson, JR (283-1,527 rushing, 13 TDs; 21-213 receiving, 1 TD)
6. Samaje Perrine, Oklahoma, JR (226-1,349 rushing, 16 TDs; 15-107 receiving, 1 TD)
7. Elijah Hood, North Carolina, JR (219-1,463 rushing, 17 TD; 13-71 receiving)
8. Shock Linwood, Baylor, JR (196-1,329 rushing, 10 TDs; 9-71 receiving, 1 TD) 9. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, JR (277-1,288 rushing, 12 TDs; 22-190 receiving, 2 TDs)
* 10. Nick Chubb, Georgia, JR (92-747 rushing, 7 TDs; 4-32 receiving, 1 TD)
* Chubb only played 6 games in 2015 because of injury
Just missed: Marlan Mack, South Florida; James Tillman, Temple; Kareem Hunt, Toledo; Jeremy McNichols, Boise State; Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette
IT’S SETTLED: THE ’96 BULLS WERE THE BEST
Best NBA team ever? Well, the Golden State Warriors can no longer make that claim. A good team that had a remarkable regular season that ended with the best record in NBA history (73-9)? Yep, they can say that, but to lay claim to best team ever, the Warriors would have had to win the NBA title and they blew that when they let the Cleveland Cadavers come back from a 3-1 deficit in the championship finals. The Warriors are like the 2007 New England Patriots, who were 18-0 in the regular season, but couldn’t seal the deal at the Super Bowl to lay claim to best team in NFL history.
So the title of best team ever still belongs to those 1996 Chicago Bulls, who went 72-10 in the regular season and then went 15-3 in the playoffs to claim the first of three straight NBA titles (1996-98) they would win during the second Michael Jordan era. In that second run of NBA titles (Bulls also won three straight from 1992-94), the Bulls went a combined 203-43, easily the best 3-year run in the history of professional basketball.
LEBRON JAMES IS CURRENTLY THE BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET
When his NBA career comes to an end, we can successfully argue where LeBron James belongs among the greatest to ever play the professional game, but there can be no doubt that at this moment he is the best player on the planet and second place just isn’t close. Proof comes in the form of games 5-7 in the championship finals. When the Cleveland Cadavers needed greatness, LeBron responded by coming up one assist shy of averaging a triple-double over that critical 3-game period. In game 5 he had 41 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists. In game 6 he had 41 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists, and in game 7 he had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. That’s a cumulative total of 109 points, 35 rebounds and 29 assists, an average of 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game.
Stephen Curry had a great season and there is no questioning he ranks among the greatest pure shooters the game has ever seen, but he isn’t the best player on the planet. Not by a long shot. There is only one greatest at the moment and that’s LeBron.
4 GUYS WHO AREN’T IN BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BUT SHOULD BE
1. Tim Raines, OF: I know people who still swear he’s the best high school running back they ever saw when he suited up for Sanford Seminole. His career numbers were .294 batting average. 179 homers, 980 RBI, 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases. Raines probably should have retired after the 1998 season with the Yankees rather than try to hang on for 4 more years. His numbers compare favorably to those of Lou Brock, who is in the Hall.
2. Fred McGriff, 1B: He hit 493 homers, drove in 1,550 runs and hit .284 for his career, plus he had a .303 batting average with 10 homers and 37 RBI in post season play. He hit 30 or more homers 9 times and drove in 100 or more runs 7 times. You wouldn’t call him spectacular but his numbers compare favorably to Hall member Willie Stargell.
3. Alan Trammell, SS: He was the 1984 World Series MVP, won 4 Gold Gloves at shortstop, hit .285 for his career with 185 homers, 1003 RBI and 2,365 hits. His overall numbers are equal or greater in many cases than Barry Larkin, who made the Hall.
4. Gary Sheffield, SS/3B/OF: Sheffield has been eligible for two years and really hasn’t mustered much Hall of Fame support. His last outstanding year was 2005 when he hit 34 homers and drove in 123 for the Yankees, but the next 4 years produced declining numbers. For the career he had 509 homers, 1,676 RBI, a .292 batting average and 2.689 hits. Sheffield’s numbers are better than those of Hall of Fame members Billy Williams and Andre Dawson.
A third Title IX lawsuit was filed against Baylor University on Monday. The suit claims the school was either indifferent or ignored claims of sexual assault.
The Philadelphia 76ers are trying to trade their first round draft pick from last year, Jahlil Okafor or another former first rounder Nerlens Noel. The juicy rumor is the Sixers will send Okafor to the Los Angeles Lakers for the #2 pick in the draft and then with the #1 and #2 picks Thursday night take Ben Simmons (LSU) and Brandon Ingram (Duke).
QUESTION OF THE DAY
In your opinion, is the DA in Louisiana simply a compassionate do-gooder or do you think he succumbed to pressure from some “concerned citizens” when he refused to prosecute Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Umprhey’s McGee will be one of the top acts for this year’s Suwannee Halloween weekend in Live Oak. I found this recent performance by the band in Chillicothe, Illinois for today’s music.