Cubs

Hawks use big second half to stay unbeaten

542010.jpg

Hawks use big second half to stay unbeaten

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 11:48 p.m.

By Matt Harness
YourSeason.com

Dave Inserra entered Fridays game 50-0 in the CSL South. The Maine South coach went into halftime down 10 points to New Trier, and his Hawks looked listless. Whatever Inserra and his coaching staff said at the break should be sold as an inspirational video. No. 1 Maine South scored 26 unanswered points in the second half to earn a 40-24 victory over the Trevians in Northfield.They told us to pick our heads up, senior linebacker Luke Lenti said of the halftime talk. We werent playing Maine South football.The Hawks (5-0 overall, 1-0 CSL South) stopped the Trevians (3-2, 0-1) on three downs to start the second half and followed with a score on Matt Alvitis six-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Frankos. Maine Souths defense forced two more three-and-outs in a row, the second highlighted by a blocked punt, and recovered a fumble on another possession. Alviti responded by throwing three more touchdown passes all to different receivers to put the game out of reach.This was not expected, Lenti said of having to come from behind to beat the Trevians.New Trier was the last team to beat Maine South in conference play with its win in 2000, the final season for coach Phil Hopkins, who won the programs first two state championships.The Trevians appeared poised for the upset Friday, scoring on their first possession and leading by 10 twice in the first half. Daniel Olaniyan ran for 143 yards, which included a 73-yard touchdown run, in the first half. The junior was limited to 22 yards in the final two quarters.Quarterback Jack Nykaza scored two of the team touchdown in the first half, while Grant Amick kicked a 27-yard field goal. We werent ready to play at the start, Lenti said. We definitely had to change our attitude.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

hahn-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: