Monday, August 13, 2018

Sports Corner Podcast: Mark Tennis

by John Hull,

Mark Tennis has for more than 35 years been covering prep sports throughout the state of California. On Aug. 7, he released his new book "High School Football in California" which recounts the many great players and coaches that have started their careers in the Golden State. On Monday, Mark joined the Sports Corner Podcast to talk about the book, a preview of the coming prep football season and some of the issues facing football in the State.'s Mark Tennis new book, now
available through

Friday, August 10, 2018

Notebook: Great to be back home to, uh, 100 degrees & smoke

by John Hull,

Yes, I missed my home, Elk Grove, but loved my few days in Wisconsin with family this past week, as we married off a nephew in Milwaukee, and then headed north to the old family resort just outside of Eagle River.

If you are a fisherman, you know what clear, clean water and biting fish mean to an outdoor experience. The quiet of the Northwoods is incredible and a hot day there is 80 degrees. Best place to vacation, if you ask me.
A foggy sunrise over South Twin Lake in Wisconsin

So, we're back and writing just one week away from the start of the high school football season. If you didn't know, CIF didn't want their State Football Championship games running into Christmas vacation any longer, so the 11-week regular season (ten games maximum, with a bye week) kicks off Aug. 17.

The big game regionally will be defending Division I champion Folsom playing at perennial power De LaSalle. Other interesting openers will be Elk Grove at Inderkum, Sheldon at Monterey Trail, Placer at Pleasant Grove and Franklin at McNair in Evan Boylan's coaching debut with the Wildcats.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Post No. 1000 - 14 years of sports blogging

by John Hull

Hard to believe I've been doing the Sports Corner for 14 years now, but that's what my archives tell me. What else it told me is that this is post No. 1000. Couldn't be a better occasion in the history of this sports blog but to announce that I am bringing on alongside me on these pages a long-time colleague and friend, Bill Poindexter. 
Bill Poindexter, now joining the Sports Corner

His resume goes quite deep in writing here in the area: A former sportswriter at the Sacramento Bee, assistant sports editor at the Stockton Record and from 2005-2008 was the sports editor of the Modesto Bee. In 2010, Poindexter moved over to the sports editor's job at the Roseville Press-Tribune and stayed there for three years.

He graduated from East Union H.S. and has been a part of the local sports scene his whole life. For 25 years, Poindexter has been coaching baseball on the youth through the high school levels. He calls himself, "a baseball lover from conception" on his Twitter page.

He'll be offering unique insights and stories on these pages. Follow Poindexter on Twitter @CoachBill44. 

Armstead injured, again

Each of his two seasons in the NFL former Pleasant Grove Eagle and Oregon Duck Arik Armstead has finished out the year on the injured reserve list. He's not exactly starting the San Francisco 49er training camp very well, either. The Athletic's Matt Barrows writes today that Armstead will be held out of drills for an indefinite time because of a hamstring pull. 

In six games in 2017, Armstead had eight tackles and one-and-a-half sacks.

His P.G. teammate, Cole Hikutini, a Niner tight end in his second season, will be held out of action for a couple days with a groin pull.  
Cole Hikutini

"I think he's going to be week-to-week," San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan said today.

Because of that the 49ers today signed Wes Saxton to be the team's fifth tight end, according to Barrows. 

Hikutini came off the 49er practice squad last season, saw action in four games, caught two balls for 15 yards.

Westbrooks may face NFL discipline 

Ethan Westbrooks
In Los Angeles, the Rams' defensive end Ethan Westbrooks (Franklin H.S.) may be awaiting discipline from the league for a gun possession charge dating back to last September. He was initially pulled over for speeding Friday night, and the officer found a handgun inside the vehicle that was loaded with 13 rounds of ammunition. Records later revealed that the handgun was reported stolen in 2009, according to records from the California Highway Patrol. The Rams player was booked in Kern County Jail in Bakersfield and later posted bail. 

In April, a judge placed him on three years probation and now he awaits what the NFL may do under the league's player conduct policy.

Last year he played in all 17 games for the Rams and had 23 tackles and four assists.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Notebook: MLB Trade deadline nears

By John Hull,

I regularly follow Major League Baseball's "At-Bat" app and I've been watching intently for any familiar names that may prop up on the app notifications, especially since the trading deadline is less than 24 hours away. Locals like the Astros' J.D. Davis, the Mariners' David Freitas and the Reds' David Hernandez are all possible trade material as each one of their clubs position themselves for the remaining 55 to 60 games this season.

Davis may be needed badly in the Houston lineup now that Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are both on the injured list. He's been starting the past few games at third base while Astro All-Star Alex Bregman has shifted over to shortstop in Correa's spot. Though he was leading most of Triple-A baseball in several offensive categories this year in Fresno, Davis has struggled a bit while in Houston. Going into tonight's game at Seattle he's batting .190 with a homer and five RBIs.

With a talent log-jam in Houston, Davis may be better off in the long run elsewhere, but he's been a good fill-in this year and proved the same at the end of last season when the Astros made their run to the World Series.

Hernandez on Sunday posted on Twitter he hoped teammate Matt Harvey would NOT be making his last start in a Reds uniform that afternoon. Though his team sits at the bottom of the National League Central Division, Cincinnati is really playing some good baseball right now and Hernandez is in the middle of a very good bullpen. 
The Reds' David Hernandez

And, he's having his best year statistically in the bigs. Hernandez is 4-0 in 34 games for Cincinnati with a 1.79 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 40.1 innings. His WHIP is a very impressive 0.99.

Seattle has recently been very active in the trade market acquiring RHP Sam Tuivailala from St. Louis and LHP Zach Duke from Minnesota to help make a run at the playoffs. They are doing quite well in second place in the American League West behind Houston, yet battling with the A's for that spot in their division. Freitas has been making the run between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma all year. Since July 22 he's been with the Rainiers and has done quite well at the plate and behind the plate in 2018. He's batting .351 in Triple-A and just .192 in his 29 games with the Mariners.

Freitas is no newcomer to trades, having been shipped by the Nationals to the A's, and a couple years later, from the A's to the Orioles. He may be stick with the Mariners' organization because he may be insurance. Regular catcher Mike Zunino has been on the DL twice this season which caused the Mariners to ship in Freitas from Tacoma.

Another former Elk Grove H.S. player that is awaiting at the MLB doorstep in Rowdy Tellez. In 85 games this season with Buffalo, the Triple-A affiliate of Toronto, Tellez is batting .262 with 10 homers. Toronto has been shopping some of its players, since at 48-56 and well behind Boston and New York in the American League East, the Blue Jays may be looking for more prospects. That may give Tellez a chance to come up to the big club before the end of this season.

On Monday, Toronto sent RHP Roberto Osuna to Houston for pitchers Ken Giles, David Paulino and Hector Perez.

Madrigal yet to K?

Someone tweeted a couple days ago quite an amazing stat - that the Chicago White Sox' top draft choice in June, Elk Grove H.S.'s Nick Madrigal, has yet to strike out in his first 53 plate appearances as a pro.

My reply: "He may not strike out this year unless he runs across a near-sighted ump."

Alexander grabs Top Fuel win at Sonoma

California native Blake Alexander brought home the second Top Fuel victory of his career in front of a sellout crowd at the 31stannual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective categories at the 15th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Alexander powered to the winner’s circle with a run of 4.004-seconds at 287.41 mph in his Pronto Auto Service Center dragster to take down the winningest driver in Top Fuel history, Tony Schumacher, in the finals. Despite having competed at only six events on the season, Alexander now has three final round appearances as he is now one of four Top Fuel competitors with multiple wins on the year.

“We may be a part-time team but we come out to the track trying to win every race, and so far this year we have had a lot of success with that,” Alexander said. “My life has changed this year with how well we have been running, and the opportunity that Bob [Vandergriff] has given me to drive his racecar has been paramount in my career to take me to higher levels.”

Alexander took down Mike Salinas, three-time world champion Antron Brown and Scott Palmer as he continues to make a bid to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship.

Schumacher’s third runner-up finish of the season helped vault him into second in the point standings as he continues to close the gap on points leader Steve Torrence.

Schumacher was also one of four Top Fuel competitors to join Torrence by clinching a position in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, as he, Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett fill out the first half of the 10 available Top Fuel spots in NHRA’s six-race postseason championship clash.

Robert Hight took first place Sunday in the Funny Car division at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma
Nationals at Sonoma Raceway (photo by Randy Jones)

Photo by Mike Finnegan

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Millican, Force, Anderson top Sonoma Nationals qualifying

Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) locked in No. 1 qualifying positions  in their respective categories at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday.

In other racing, Matt Smith raced to his first career NHRA Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle win during the Toyota NHRA Nationals at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday. Smith earned a $25,000 payday in the all-star bonus race featuring eight top riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.

Making his fourth appearance in the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, Smith had his best career showing on his Victory Magnum, defeating LE Tonglet and Andrew Hines to meet up with Eddie Krawiec in the finals. Smith was quicker off the starting line, scoring the holeshot victory with a pass of 6.793 at 196.93 mph.

“This is huge for our team,” Smith said. “We’ve got a great bike and we’ve got a bike that can win this championship. I saw my win light come on and, man, I was excited. This is big for me.” 

Courtney Force was the top qualifier Saturday in the Funny Car
division at Sonoma Raceway. The finals of the Toyota NHRA Sonoma
Nationals are Sunday.