Bears

Kannapolis Sweeps Lakewood In Impressive Fashion

Kannapolis Sweeps Lakewood In Impressive Fashion

Sunday April 10, 2011
Posted: 6:50 p.m.
WHITE SOXKannapolis A
The Intimidators swept a doubleheader at Lakewood Sunday, taking a marathon before winning a sprint. Kannapolis won the opener, 2-0, in 16 innings before taking the conventional seven-inning nightcap, 4-1.

Michael Blankes one-out, two-run homer in the top of the 16th was the difference but only part of the story. Jacob Petricka, the clubs second-round pick in 2010 out of Indiana State, made his first South Atlantic League start and tossed six no-hit innings, striking out a career-high nine. Petricka appeared in nine games for Kannapolis last year but all were in relief.

Addison Reed allowed a two-out hit to Domingo Santana in the seventh but the Claws would manage only two more over the next eight innings before Blankes bomb decided it. Four relievers followed Reed with Steven Upchurch pitching the final 1 13 innings for the win. Blanke was one of three players to collect two hits.

Lakewood managed only four hits in the nightcap as Spencer Arroyo earned the win with a strong five-inning effort. Miguel Negron went the final two innings for the save.

The Intimidators scored three fifth-inning runs to snap a 1-1 tie. Brady Shoemakers two-run triple was the big blow after Jeremy Barnes throwing error from third base prolonged the inning and let in a run.
Charlotte AAA
The Knights swept a doubleheader from Norfolk on Sunday, taking both games by a 2-1 count behind a pair of spectacular pitching efforts. It marks the first time in franchise history that Charlotte has started the season at 4-0. The Knights are the only team in the Division to come out of opening weekend undefeated.

Freddy Dolsi earned the win in the opener, allowing only a first-inning a run on four hits. He went six innings before Brian Bruney came on to earn his second save of the season with a perfect seventh inning.

The Knights managed only four hits as well, but one of them was a Tyler Flowers two-run homer in the bottom of the first.

Pete Whisler got the nod in the nightcap and was no less effective, allowing two hits over five shutout innings. The Tides once again managed only four hits with the deciding blow being Alejandro De Azas solo homer in the third. He finished with two hits and two runs scored.
Winston-Salem A
Jared Mitchell cooled off but Jose Martinez remained hot, helping to lead Winston-Salem to a 4-2 victory over Kinston at Historic Grainger Stadium.

Mitchell, the Sox former top pick, had been blistering through the seasons first two games but went hitless in five at-bats, striking out four times on Sunday. Martinez, however, went 2-for-4, including a double, while driving in a run. He hit .615 in the season-opening series, which the Dash won. Ian Gac also contributed with a two-run homer that sparked a three-run sixth-inning. He is 2-for-12 this season with both hits being longballs.

Hecor Santiago started but didnt factor in the decision after allowing a run and striking out seven in four innings. Ryan Kussmaul picked up the win despite allowing a run over his two innings. Tyson Corley earned the save with two scoreless innings.
Birmingham AA
The Barons suffered their first loss of the season, dropping a 4-3 decision at Montgomery. Kyle Cofield suffered the loss. Brandon Short drove in a pair for Birmingham.
CUBSPeoria A
The Chiefs blasted a trio of homers, including a three-run shot by the red-hit Greg Rohan, to romp by Cedar Rapids Sunday afternoon at OBrien Field.

Rohan, who has hit safely in three games, had a pair of hits, including the homer, and is hitting .429. Hes served as a catalyst in the middle of the batting order. Rubi Silva and Richard Jones also went deep as the Chiefs used a five-run fifth inning to blast by the Kernels. A throwing error by Kernals third baseman Jesus Campos fueled the fifth inning after Silvas one-out homer. The homer was Silvas first of his career.

Jeff Antigua 1-0 earned the win in relief of Cam Greathouse, who allowed four runs in 4 13 innings. Antigua allowed two runs on three hits in 2 23 innings. The first road game of the season will be played on Monday at Burlington at 6:30 p.m. Graham Hicks will start for Peoria while Jacob Brown starts for the Bees.
Iowa AAA
Tony Campanas four-hit effort paced Iowa on Sunday afternoon as they bested Round Rock at the Dell Diamond, 8-6, to take three of the four games in the opening series. The I-Cubs collected at least 15 hits for the third time in the series.

Campana scored twice and drove in a run and is hitting .467. He was at the heart of almost every Iowa rally, closing out the scoring with a run-scoring double in the eighth. Lou Montanez had three hits and drove in four runs and is batting .500.

Justin Berg earned the victory in relief. Right-hander Ramon Ortiz was added to the roster and will start Monday at Albuquerque. The 37-year-old Ortiz made 16 appearances (eight starts) with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and also made stops with triple-A Buffalo in the New York Mets system and triple-A Durham in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He was 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA in 28 games (14 starts) between the stops.
Tennessee AA
Brett Jacksons seventh-inning grand slam powered Tennessee to an 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon at Chattanooga.

The Smokies had trailed 5-2 heading into the seventh before Jackson, who finished with two hits and two runs scored, gave them a lead they would not relinquish. Tennessee tacked on runs in the eighth and ninth innings to end any doubt as to the games outcome. DJ LeMahieu added three hits.

Trey McNutt started and pitched 2 23 hitless innings for the Smokies but left after facing only 10 batters. Despite giving up three runs in his only inning, Ryan Buchter earned the victory.
Daytona A
The Cubs rallied from a five-run, first-inning deficit to defeat Brevard County, 11-7, at Space Coast Stadium and remain undefeated in the Florida State League action.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

The Bears are embracing an underdog mentality as playoff push continues

The Bears are embracing an underdog mentality as playoff push continues

After the final horn sounded on the Bears' signature win of the season so far — a 31-24 trouncing of the Cowboys that wasn't as close as the final score — and all the patented 'Club Dub' celebrations had concluded, a subdued, resolute and focused locker room remained.

These aren't the 2018 Bears — no matter how decisive and dynamic Mitch Trubisky was tonight; no matter the fits the team's depleted front seven gave one of the most talented offensive lines in the league; no matter the balanced plan of attack deployed by Matt Nagy, or that they're now one game closer to an improbable run to the playoffs.

Three weeks ago, this team had been all but dismissed by the greater Chicago faithful. And perhaps that was fair. In year two of the Nagy-Trubisky coach-quarterback pairing, the team was on pace to regress in just about every category you could conjure — most importantly wins. Now, they're 7-6, above .500, and only 1.5 games behind the Vikings for the No. 6 seed in the NFC (with a matchup against them looming in Week 17). 

Tonight, the process may have been even more encouraging than the result, especially looking forward to a challenging three-game close to the season.

"When you win, your confidence goes up. Players, they play different in regard to when you're winning," Matt Nagy said postgame. "You play looser. You don't press as much. I think right now the identity between the defense, the offense, it doesn't feel like one of those deals where if we don't hold them to under 14 points, we don't have a chance to win."

Trubisky was as sharp as he's ever been in one of the bigger games of his career, tossing for 244 yards and amassing four total touchdowns — three through the air, one on the ground. And talk about loose: He also put together his most impressive rushing performance in over a calendar year, breaking out for 63 yards on 10 attempts, including a late-game 23-yard touchdown (to put the Bears ahead 31-14) that ignited Soldier Field around him.

His resurgence has come in lockstep with the Bears' season turning. Perhaps that's no coincidence.

"I think it says we're resilient, stick together, believe in each other even when nobody else believes in us," Trubisky said. "That's a special group in that locker room. We want to keep this feeling going, focusing on the little things, focusing hard, sticking together, doing our jobs."

Allen Robinson said that the team's confidence has "never wavered." Charles Leno said the offense is firing on all cylinders. The defense, missing four starters, didn't miss a beat until the Cowboys tacked on some garbage-time fluff late in the game.

A crucial, yet challenging, stretch looms. First, the Bears travel to Lambeau Field to face the Packers for the second time this season. Then, back home for Kansas City — though mortal, still one of the more potent offensive attacks in football. And finally, to Minnesota for a potential postseason play-in game. The Bears probably need all three of those games to be wins, save for late-season collapses from the Rams and Vikings (not impossible), to pull off a playoff berth. As it stands currently, they project as underdogs in both those road contests, and possibly even against the Chiefs (though a win in Green Bay would go a long way, there). 

As far as Nagy is concerned... Good. 

"I'm okay with that. For our guys, it's different," Nagy said of assuming the underdog role for the stretch run. "Last year, there was a different type of mentality because we didn't know, there were no expectations. This year, a lot of expectations. So now here we are at 7-6. Who knows really what we're going to be at. We know we have some really good teams coming up. Our guys, as you can see, they're just focused on winning each week. That's what they're doing."

The Bears still face long playoff odds, but they're clicking at just the right time

The Bears still face long playoff odds, but they're clicking at just the right time

If you wanted to throw water on the Bears’ playoff chances, the hardest part would be deciding what well to draw it from. The data overwhelmingly agrees: the Bears, even after a reassuring 31-24 win over Dallas, are longshots to make the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor gives them a 5% chance. The Cowboys, with their 6-7 record and three-game losing streak, have a 59% chance. 

“If we don't win, none of those percentages matter,” Matt Nagy said after the game. “The percentages part, [I don’t know]. I know we’ve got to win.” 

And not only that, but the Bears will have to win while playing the hardest remaining schedule of any team in football. Next Sunday they go to Green Bay, where they haven’t won since 2015. Then all that stands between them and a potential play-in Week 17 game in Minnesota is Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s brutal, but it doesn’t seem as impossible as it did this time yesterday. 

“I think we said that a few weeks back,” Allen Robinson said. “We’ve been saying one game at a time, and I think for us, we’re definitely on the verge of going up right now. So we just want to keep it that way. We’ve been saying it now for the past few weeks. We just want to keep stringing good practices together, good weeks together, and some good runs together.” 

Games like Thursday night’s show you what the Matt Nagy Bears are capable of when things click. It starts with Nagy, who’s finally come around on running the offense that works, even if it is the diluted version. Against Dallas the Bears ran the ball 34 times and threw 31 passes; they’re now 7-2 when running 20 times or more. 

“It’s being able to create chemistry with my O-line,” David Montgomery said. “Those guys have been doing good. I credit them with the little bit of success I’ve had towards the end of the season.”

The passing game has been opened up, ironically enough, with the emergence of three different undrafted tight ends. Ben Braunecker, Jesper Horsted, and JP Holtz have become legitimate cogs in the offense, which is again a testament to how critical the position is to Nagy and the Bears’ success.

“That's nice to have that,” Nagy said, grinning. “It definitely helps out.” 

“I mean, there were a few things we had in this game plan that were going to give more opportunities. He happened to be that guy on some of the plays. Those guys have stepped up. They've helped us out in that role. You can see when you have that tight end, that presence there, it helps out.”

Holtz joked after the game about being caught off guard by how much open field was in front of him on his 30-yard screen play. It was a well drawn-up and executed play – a good example of a more rigorous attention to detail that Bears coaches and players were finally happy with. 

“Guys are stepping up,” Anthony Miller said. “We’ve got some guys hurt, but we don’t miss a beat. Everybody knows what’s at stake. Everybody knows that we have to win. It’s like every game we’re playing with our backs against the wall. So, every game is a must-win, and we’ve got to get (the Green Bay Packers) in Lambeau next week.”

The injuries are a real concern. Getting Akiem Hicks is taking a step forward but losing Roquan Smith is taking two back. Playoff talk is probably still premature, but like Nagy said, all the Bears can do is win the games in front of them. They’ll play a second straight week of meaningful December football, which is two more than anybody would have guessed before Thanksgiving. 

“We are clicking on all cylinders, with all three phases,” Charles Leno added.  “Even four phases, thanks to the fans out there in Chicago that are always bringing it. 

“It was a really good performance by everybody.”