Cubs

High School Lites preview

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High School Lites preview

Its hard to imagine but we are less than eight weeks away from IHSA championship time in Peoria. Could Hope Academy make some noise? Although they lost guard Jalen James to La Lumiere (IN) via transfer, they still have enough talent to make a deep playoff run. Plus, several other conferences boast pivotal games Friday night. Will Ridgewood dethrone Riverside-Brookfield this season in the Metro Suburban? Who will take control of the Catholic South? And who takes the battle of Grayslake? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

THURSDAY GAME

St. Charles North (7-12) @ 6 Elgin (16-1), 4:00pm

The Upstate Eight River conference is loaded with D-1 talent, and plenty of that will be on display Thursday night. Future Loyola Rambler Quinten Payne, a junior, leads St. Charles North. He opposes Elgins senior forward Kory Brown, whose stock is rising in college basketball circles. The sixth-ranked Maroons come into Thursdays game 5-1 in conference, the North Stars are 3-3. Keep an eye on Elgin standouts Arie Williams and Dennis Moore to complement Browns attack.

FRIDAY GAMES

1 Simeon (19-1) @ Harlan (12-6), 4:00pm

The top-ranked Wolverines have shown whos boss in Chicago, Public League playoffs notwithstanding. Simeon has already defeated two of the top challengers for city supremacy, Curie and Bogan. In Wednesdays triumph over the 7 Bengals, Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn both tallied 20 points. The newly-minted champs of Chicagos Red-South conference now face Harlan, who overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Brooks on Wednesday. Deonte Johnson has been their spark this year.

T.F. North (8-12) @ 16 Hillcrest (16-4), 6:30pm

Hillcrest is coming off another impressive win, as they took care of Crete-Monee 70-60 Tuesday night. The Hawks have three players who can be game changers at any point: Jovan Mooring, Jayon'e Troutman and Jalen Loving. T.F. North has a pair of talented junior guards: Ashanti Randolph and D.J. Deere. A win by Hillcrest moves them up to 9-0 in the South Suburban Blue. The Meteors (5-3) needs to keep pace in the jumbled midsection of the league.

T.F. South (11-7) @ Tinley Park (10-9), 7:00pm

The 11-7 Rebels are coming off their most exciting win of the season, a 56-55 triumph over Rich East, as Donald Hardaway hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. They will have momentum on their side as they go back into conference play to take on a Titans team that lost to crosstown rival Andrew Tuesday night. Tinley is 7-1 in the South Suburban Blue, while South is 5-3. Ironically, Tinley Park's senior guard Jon Calhoun already has two game-winning buzzer-beaters this year.

20 Hope Academy (17-2) @ St. Benedict (14-3), 7:00pm

What will the future hold for Hope Academyminus Jalen James? The talented guard -- and Illinois recruit -- transferred to La Lumiere (IN) earlier this month, but the Eagles havent missed a beat. Theyve won four straight in his absence, including Tuesdays double OT win over Lake Forest Academy. Alex Houston, Torrance Johnson and Tyrone Smith have played very well. As for the Bengals, they have one of the most talented freshman in the city, guard Marshawn Williams. Both teams come in undefeated in conference play.

Riverside-Brookfield (13-4) @ Ridgewood (12-5), 7:00pm

The 13-4 Bulldogs lost every starter from the 2010-11 team to graduation. And yet, they still find themselves in a first place tie in the Metro Suburban with Ridgewood going into Friday night. Thats due in large part to the efforts of their junior guard Damonta Henry. Ridgewood needs to contain him in order for a chance at winning, but the Rebels have a talented guard of their own in senior Andy Mazurczak. Fun fact: R-B has won 10 conference titles in a row.

Grayslake North (11-6) @ Grayslake Central (14-5), 7:00pm

The Fox Valley 'Fox' conference -- not to mention the town of Grayslake, of course -- figures to be up for grabs Friday. Both North and Central will have momentum, winning league games on Tuesday. The host Rams (6-0 in FVF) have size and can shoot the ball well. Look for center Casey Boyle and guard Jordan Taylor, both seniors, to cause damage. The Knights (4-1) are guided by junior guard A.J. Fish, along with seniors Zack Krupp and Mark Hall.

Evanston (13-6) @ Waukegan (9-8), 7:30pm

The Bulldogs clawed their way back to the plus-side of .500 over the weekend, beating St. Vincent (WI) for their third straight victory. Theyre also creeping near the top of the Central Suburban South conference. Akeem Springs, Jordan Johnson, and Jerome Davis are a few of the difference-makers for Waukegan. Evanston also needs this game to stay in the upper half of the CSS. Seniors Josh Irving and Leonard Garron will try to keep the Dog Pound quiet Friday night.

Seton Academy (16-3) @ Brother Rice (11-7), 7:30pm

If the Crusaders have one thing on their side come Friday, it could be anger. Brother Rice got upset by St. Francis de Sales Tuesday night, but still could gain a share of the conference lead with a win against the Sting. Rice's leader is 6-7 junior Alex Majewski. The Sting, who escaped Marist with a 64-62 win on Tuesday, will have to limit Majewski if they want to stay undefeated in the Catholic South. Forward Russell Robinson and guard Jordan Foster are two of their main weapons.

Mount Carmel (5-12) @ St. Laurence (3-16), 7:30pm

Its been a tough season for these two tenants of the Catholic South, but a little history could be made for one of the teams: Mount Carmels head coach Mike Flaherty will be going for his 700th career win. Flaherty is crediting for recharging the Thornridge basketball program in the 80s. He coached the Falcons for 21 seasons. On this years Caravan squad, his leader is standout guard Alex Austin. Jim Schick is one of the go-to guys for the Vikings.

Pending Thursdays result

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Well take a look at the Whitney Young girls basketball team, who has won 100 consecutive home games. The Dolphins, CSNs Muscle Milk Team of the Week, features two D-1 standouts and a deep roster that could make another state title run. Well also visit a former Homewood-Flossmoor star in our Flashback segment, and youll get caught up on the top-ranked Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

Javy Baez leads Cubs to huge win with a little help from Pedro Strop

Javy Baez leads Cubs to huge win with a little help from Pedro Strop

For the second time this season, Pedro Strop has added another chapter to the legend of El Mago.

And for at least the second documented time over the last few years, Strop also helped give Javy Baez the motivation needed to lift the Cubs to victory.

On an 0-2 pitch from Mets reliever Seth Lugo in the eighth inning, Baez smacked a 3-run homer into the right-field bleachers, notching the Cubs shortstop another curtain call and sending the 39,077 fans at Wrigley Field into euphoric bliss.

"That was big. He was so frustrated," said Strop, who picked up his 9th save in the 5-3 victory. "When I was walking to the 'pen, he was so frustrated after that first strikeout [against Jacob deGrom]. He was like, 'He's not throwing fastballs, just sliders!' I was like, 'Bro, it's good that you know that. So go up with another plan. Do your thing. You're gonna win this ballgame.'"

Baez's 100th career homer accomplished exactly that and in doing so, changed the entire tone and tenor of the first weekend of summer on Chicago's North Side.

There's no way the Cubs wanted to go into a four-game set with the contending Atlanta Braves after having just dropped three of four to a hapless Mets team that is melting down inside the clubhouse. It also would've been the Cubs' ninth loss in their 13 games, but Baez's clutch blast helped them salvage a series split and maintain sole possession of first place entering a new week of baseball.

"That's the last thing you want to do is lose another one," said Cole Hamels, who gave the Cubs 7 strong innings, but did not factor in the decision. "... That's the momentum we need to take forth, especially with the series that's coming up."

It also continued one of the strangest/coolest statistical oddities of the 2019 MLB season, given that it came on an 0-2 count.

Baez now has more homers after falling behind in the count 0-2 this year than NINE other MLB teams and nearly half of his homers (9 of 19) have come after getting into the extreme pitcher's count:

What makes Baez so tough on 0-2 counts?

For starters, he's never afraid of striking out, possessing a fearless nature Joe Maddon and other Cubs players have admired for some time.

But Hamels also provided some great perspective on why Baez might be so good in a count when pitchers typically dominate:

"I think that's kinda the difficult part with him — sometimes it can always be 0-2 with him," Hamels said. "Even if you haven't thrown a pitch yet, you treat it like 0-2. If that's just the nature of what pitchers do to him — if it's considered almost always an 0-2 count — he's gonna get really good at it because that's just the way he survives and the way he lives and plays the game. 

"With him though, being a teammate, you just know that he's never out of it. He's trying to hit a homer every at-bat, every pitch. That obviously can make a pitcher think a little bit longer and maybe try to be too perfect and therefore that's why they make mistakes."

The win puts a nice bow on what was otherwise a sloppy weekend for the Cubs, who often looked flat at the plate and made uncharacteristic mistakes on the basepaths and in the field. 

Prior to that homer from Baez, the Cubs had only managed to push across 1 earned run in 13 innings against a Mets bullpen that entered the weekend with a 5.39 ERA and more blown saves than any other team in baseball.

It's the second time in just over a week where the Cubs managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but the last time (Anthony Rizzo's homer off Kenley Jansen last Saturday in L.A.) apparently wasn't enough to spark the team to get back to their winning ways. 

Was this Baez blast enough to wake the team from their midseason slumber and be this year's seminal moment that we all look back on in September? 

ICYMI: 35th anniversary of The Sandberg Game, Bulls' offseason begins with productive draft night, Zack Collins homers for his first MLB hit with White Sox

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: 35th anniversary of The Sandberg Game, Bulls' offseason begins with productive draft night, Zack Collins homers for his first MLB hit with White Sox

The Bulls and the Blackhawks made top 10 draft selections that they hope will have a long-term impact on their respective franchises. The Bulls nabbed speedy North Carolina guard Coby White with the 7th overall pick, while the Blackhawks got center Kirby Dach at No.3 overall in the NHL draft. The Cubs and White Sox both had intriguing weekends, while Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of one of the biggest moments in Cubs history. 

Cubs

Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of "The Sandberg Game". This is the game that many recognize as the moment Ryne Sandberg became a household name. The infamous June 23, 1984 game between the Cubs and the Cardinals took place on NBC’s “Game of the Week.” The game also played a huge part in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry becoming perhaps the best that the MLB has to offer.


The 2019 Cubs are waiting on closer Craig Kimbrel t reach game-ready status. In the meantime they have activated veteran Tony Barnette off of the Sunday 60-day injured list. Between their newfound six-man rotation and their now, crowded bullpen, the Cubs are hoping they possess enough depth to gain some ground in the race for the NL Central crown. 
 

Bulls

The Bulls, by all accounts, had a very successful 2019 NBA Draft night. They got their PG of the future in North Carolina guard Coby White and selected a rim-protecting big man in Arkans center Daniel Gafford with their second round selection. The Bulls front office is confident in White’s versatility paying off big time and he certainly will help Chicago get out in transition more often. White stole the show on draft night, having quite the candid reaction to finding out the North Carolina teammate Cam Johnson got selected by the Phoenix Suns at No. 11 overall.

The next step for Bulls fans will be seeing the Bulls draft picks (along with some undrafted free agents and fringe NBAers) play in NBA Summer League action. Bulls fans will be pleased to hear that the Bulls summer league schedule does have them facing off against 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson on July 8, 8:30 p.m

 

White Sox


It’s been a whirlwind of a week for White Sox youngster Zack Collins. After getting a walk in his first taste of MLB action, Collins turned heads with a home run in the second game of his MLB career. Collins gave White Sox fans a preview of what to expect down the line. Collins is going to hit for power and hopefully draw his fair share of walks along the way. He certainly showed off that potential on Friday night.

 

Blackhawks


The Blackhawks chose center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The Blackhawks had many options at the No. 3 pick, but they went with Dach with the hope that the 6-foot-4, 197-lb center has the type of game that will shine through in high-pressure moments. It’s a good omen for the Blackhawks that the last time the draft was in Vancouver, they selected franchise center Jonathan Toews (back in 2006). Here’s to hoping that Dach can one day have the same type of impact as “The Captain”. But now all the attention has shifted to Sunday, when the negotiating window for NHL free agents opened up. And the Blackhawks are expected to be one of the more active teams throughout this process as they prepare for July 1.