White Sox

CSN launches new online Mascot Madness bracket tournament to determine Illinois' top high school sports team nickname

CSN launches new online Mascot Madness bracket tournament to determine Illinois' top high school sports team nickname

Official #MascotMadness brackets to be unveiled on Friday, February 5 at 11:00 PM CT on “High School Lites,” airing exclusively on Comcast SportsNet & CSNChicago.com

Fans urged to vote for their favorite Illinois high school sports nicknames in a 64-team bracket beginning Monday, February 8 at CSNChicago.com/MascotMadness

Chicago, IL (February 4, 2016) -- Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the television and online home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championships, has announced the launch of a brand new online tournament entitled “Mascot Madness,” which will enable fans to determine the state’s top high school sports team nickname.

Resembling the popular 64-team bracket format, the official 2016 “Mascot Madness” brackets will be announced on the network’s popular weekly Illinois preps sports highlights program, High School Lites, on Friday, February 5 at 11:00 PM CT (also streaming live on CSNChicago.com).

Beginning Monday, February 8 at 12 NOON CT, fans can begin casting their first round vote by visiting the network’s dedicated “Mascot Madness” page -- CSNChicago.com/MascotMadness -- with the poll closing on Thursday, February 11 at 4:00 PM.  The “Mascot Madness” web page will utilize Twitter and Facebook for tabulating votes.  For the remaining five weeks, as the brackets shrink to 32, 16, 8, 4 and 2, fans are once again urged to start voting on Mondays starting at 12 NOON with the weekly polls closing at 4:00 PM every Thursday.  Viewers can check out the weekly results every Friday night on High School Lites or by simply visiting CSNChicago.com/MascotMadness.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There will not be any “seeds” associated with teams in the “Mascot Madness” tournament.  In the early rounds, match-ups in each of the four regions (Skyline, Highway, Heartland, and Prairie) are strictly based on similar school enrollment numbers.

The champion of Comcast SportsNet’s “Mascot Madness” tournament will be officially announced during the network’s live on-air/online coverage of the 2016 IHSA Class 4A Boys State Basketball Championship game, airing on Saturday, March 19 beginning at 8:00 PM CT.

From a social media standpoint, fans are encouraged to offer up their support and comments for their favorite school team nickname by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #MascotMadness. In addition, fans are urged to visit the network’s official preps Twitter handle (@CSNPreps) for daily updates and the latest information on not only the #MascotMadness tournament, but also for the very latest IHSA news, scores, and more 24/7. 

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule: