White Sox

Simeon's dynasty continues with third straight 4A title

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Simeon's dynasty continues with third straight 4A title

PEORIA, Ill. Simeon and Proviso East staged one of the all-time great state championship games Saturday at Carver Arena.

Pirates junior Sterling Brown drained a three with four seconds to play, but Proviso East was forced to watch the final seconds tick off the clock as the ball rolled under the basket. There were no timeouts left and time had run out. Simeon had a 50-48 victory and a third consecutive Class 4A state championship.

The win gave Simeon a sixth state championship, the most in state history. It also gave Simeon coach Robert Smith his fifth title, the most by one coach in state history, breaking the record held by East St. Louis coach Bennie Lewis since 1989.

For three quarters, all of that history-making seemed to be in severe doubt, as the Pirates matched Simeons every move. The game was tied at the half and Proviso East led by five after three quarters. There was a sense that Simeons dynasty was coming to end.

Then Steve Taylor found a way to drain an awkward hook shot from under the basket. It was a shot hes made several times this season, even if it looks lucky. It gave Simeon (33-1) a 43-41 lead and the Pirates immediately seemed to tighten up.

After that shot I think my team just fed off my emotions, Taylor said. We had the lead back and Proviso East got nervous.

Simeon junior Jabari Parkers dunk with 12 seconds to play seemed to put the exclamation point on the win, but the officials called a technical for hanging on the rim.

It didnt faze me, Parker said. They had to do something to keep the game alive. They didnt want to see us win again.

Brown hit both free throws after the technical and then drained the three, but then time ran out.

I told Sterling that we needed a three, Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. He had no problems with the shot. I told him we needed a delay too. I should have told him to throw the ball up in the stands afterwards.

Brown scored 25 points for the Pirates (32-1), shooting 10 for 18 from the field.

Sterling Brown was an amazing player, Parker said.

But it seems that may have been Smiths plan all along.

Sterling was outstanding, he really was, Smith said. Keith Carter didnt have a good game tonight, did he? We wanted to shut him down. He makes them go.

Carter scored eight points on 4-for-12 shooting. The Proviso East point guard had three turnovers and no assists.

Taylor scored 12 and grabbed 15 rebounds for Simeon. Parker finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Jaleni Neely added 10 points and Jaylon Tate scored eight off the bench.

In a curious incident after the win, all of Simeons players removed their shoes and placed them in a line next to the podium set up on center court. IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman picked up the shoes and removed them.

They said they wanted to leave their mark on the court, Smith said.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

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USA TODAY

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”