Preps Talk

Kaplan: Struggles continue for Mitchell in Birmingham

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Kaplan: Struggles continue for Mitchell in Birmingham

Coming off of five consecutive wins and two straight one-hitters, everyone in the Charlotte Knights organization was ready to label Terry Doyle the ace going into the second half of the season. But that will not be the case. Doyle requested his release from the Triple-A White Sox affiliate last week. He will be joining the Japanese powerhouse and defending champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
This may come as a surprise to some, but it makes perfect sense. Doyle found his groove in May and early June and this is the perfect opportunity for him to take his services elsewhere while his stock is high. Earlier this season, Sox scouts made it clear to Doyle that the chances of him ever seeing time at the major league level were slim to non-existent. He signed a three year deal with a guaranteed 500K salary for 2012, a team option for 2013 and a mutual option for 2014. The move to Japan will not only triple Doyles salary, it will give him some sort of stable plan for the future that few players find at the minor league level.
After serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Stanozolol, Andre Rienzo made his return on Saturday in Birmingham. Any time your name is linked to steroids, controversy will follow but Rienzo has atoned for his mistake and made it clear that he wants to move on and get back to what he does best: playing baseball.
The 23-year-old right-hander made his Double-A debut last week, and he looked rusty to say the least. His time away from the game was evident in his shaky approach and uncomfortable presence on the mound. He went 3.1 innings, and allowed one run on three hits. His main problem was locating his pitches as he walked five batters in his brief starting appearance. His uneasiness on the mound should not come as a surprise but it will be interesting to see if Rienzo bounces back in the second half of the season.
As another week passes the Jared Mitchell saga continues, as does his downward spiral. The wildly athletic outfielder had another week that he would soon like to forget. Over a five-game span, Mitchell only tallied two hits in 19 at bats (.105). He added six strikeouts to his season total that now sits at 83, one behind the league leader. His .310 OPS and .169 average against left-handers are starting to make me think maybe this kid just does not have the stuff to cut it at the major league level. Mitchell needs to find an answer, and it needs to be found fast. I know he is still young, but lets not forget the clock never stops ticking.
Winston-Salem clinched the Carolina League Southern Division first half championship, which guarantees them a spot in the playoffs in September. The Dash's 43-25-1 record is good enough for third best in all of High-A baseball. Their early success is largely due to the efforts of Trayce Thompson and Jake Petrika.
Although Thompson has struggled as of late, he is still finding ways to contribute when his team is most in need. Last week he was only 3-for-20 (.150) but also delivered two clutch home runs. Thompson needs to figure out a way to be more efficient at the plate and limit his strikeouts (nine last week). His clutch performances are helping his team win games but it will not be enough to move him through the system.
Petrika toed the rubber for one start last week and was awarded another no decision. He only went five innings, gave up four runs on eight hits and struck out five. He allowed a .381 average against which is much too high for a pitcher trying to go deep into a game. Petrika has been average with glimpses of brilliance this season, and if he can find a groove I think he can hold his own in Double-A when he is called up.
Rangel Ravelo is frustrated and you cant really blame the guy. In four games last week Ravelo was 2-for-15 (.133) with one RBI. What the stat sheet does not tell you is how he is spraying the ball all over the field. Ravelo did not strike out last week and has only fanned once in the last10 games. He is putting the ball in play but simply cannot find a hole in the defense. The only thing a professional can do in this situation is keep swinging the bat, and sooner or later the ball will start to find green grass.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.