Cubs

Suffocating defense gives St. Rita shutout win

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Suffocating defense gives St. Rita shutout win

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
Posted: 11:50 p.m.
By Pat DiSabato
YourSeason.com

St. Ritas defense was its best offense Friday night.Ryan Leonard and Max Kurucar each returned interceptions for touchdowns to guide No. 4 St. Rita to a 19-0 win over Providence in a Catholic League Blue battle on Chicagos South Side.St. Rita totaled five interceptions on the night, but Leonards and Kurucars were the show-stoppers.Our defense has been doing it all year long, St. Rita coach Todd Kuska said. Were not there yet offensively, but were getting better.Kurucars pick-six covered 68 yards and extended the Mustangs lead to 12-0 at 8:40 of the third quarter.Leonards return put the finishing touches on the victory. The 5-foot-11 senior stepped in front of quarterback Jake Godfreys pass deep in Celtics territory and scampered 22 yards for the score. Connor Gilroys point-after kick made it 19-0 with just 4:48 left to play.Leonards first pick, in the opening quarter, set up John Kellys 42-yard field goal that gave St. Rita (4-1, 2-0) a 3-0 lead at 4:32. Kellys 25-yard field goal on the Mustangs first series of the second half upped the margin to 6-0 at 9:46 of the third quarter.Our special teams did really well, too, Kuska said. Our kicking game was outstanding.Charles Elmore had the other interception for St. Rita.For Providence (3-2, 0-2), Godfrey finished 6 of 15 for 109 yards in substituting for the injured Chris Salazar. The Celtics ground game totaled 89 yards on the night.Those numbers, however, were superior to St. Ritas output, particularly on the ground. The Mustangs had just 31 yards on 19 carries. St. Rita was without starting running back Mike Zunica and guard Kevin Pergande, both of whom are injured.St. Rita quarterback Scott Thomas was 7 of 16 for 52 yards and was picked off twice, both times by Troy Sheppard.The Celtics defensive front line of Mike Hryn, Nick Cemeno, Vincent Ambrose and Jack Klyczek contributed mightily to the Mustangs offensive woes. But St. Ritas defense was even better, led by its opportunistic secondary and stalwarts Will McNamara, Patrick OConnor and Ricky Valadez.We made some correctable mistakes on offense, Kuska said. Im confident that were going to start progressing on offense. We didnt capitalize on some opportunities. But, hey, anytime you can get a W its a good game. Providence is a good football team, and it was a physical game. We just want to keep getting better.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion. 

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.