White Sox

One final objective for Northwestern seniors: a bowl victory

967893.png

One final objective for Northwestern seniors: a bowl victory

The most accomplished senior class in Northwestern football history has one last objective.

The group of 16 fourth and fifth-year players are determined to close as the Wildcats first bowl winner since 1949 when they battle Mississippi State on Jan. 1.

It would be great to end the season with an exclamation point, said senior defensive lineman Quentin Williams. Thats all were really focused on right now ... its been a good ride so far, but youve got to finish it off.

The Wildcats (9-3) meet the Bulldogs (8-4) for the first time when they clash at 11 a.m. Central in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Northwestern has 39 victories in the last five years, three more than last years seniors -- the next closest comparable class. More importantly, this group has qualified for five straight bowl games in that span, unprecedented in school history.

The foundation of success that theyve created is unmatched and unparalleled in our program, said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, also part of a school first as a member of NUs 1996 Rose Bowl team. To see what theyve done on and off the field is incredibly motivating for the rest and underclassmen.

Still, bowl victories have been elusive since Northwestern began reaching post-season play with some regularity starting in 1996. The Wildcats have lost nine straight since a 20-14 triumph over Cal in the 1949 Rose Bowl.

So a victory in Jacksonville 11 days from now would obviously be a huge exclamation point for their careers, Fitzgerald said.

But the benefits would also extend to the schools reputation and help in recruiting as Northwestern continues to build a consistent winning program.

The nine wins in 2012 is Northwesterns most since 2008 and includes victories over teams from four different BCS conferences. A 10th win Jan. 1 would make this Wildcat edition the winningest since 1995s Big Ten champs.

I think weve raised the levels of expectations for Northwestern football to the point where we are expecting to go to a bowl game each year, expecting to go to a New Years Day bowl each year, said offensive lineman Pat Ward.

Ward, a Providence Catholic alum, wrapped up an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering this month. He spent two years at right tackle, then moved to left tackle in 2012 and earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors from coaches and the media.

Hes also a first-team Capital One Academic All-American for the second straight year.

Were moving the program toward elite status, Ward said. Thats where we believe we can be, we should be and we will be. I think were real close. We could have been there this year and with the guys that we bring back next year we could be there real soon.

Williams, meanwhile, is a redshirt senior and four-time selection to Northwesterns 10-player leadership council.

Northwesterns football culture and academics were the attractions for the Pittsburgh native, whose older brother, Nate, played linebacker at Northwestern from 2007-10.

Its been great experience and be withe a program thats on the upswing, but weve got to keep pushing, Williams said. I love that I came here, I have no regrets. I could have gone to Pitt, or a number of schools. I went to high school basically on the Duquesne campus. It was nice to get away and experience something new.

Williams played in all 12 games to date this season and had 23 solo tackles among his 35, eighth best on the Wildcats. He also had 3.5 sacks.

Fitzgerald and the Cats wrapped up the Evanston phase of training with more game plan focus on Thursday before breaking for the Christmas holiday. Theyll return to campus last next Tuesday and depart for Jacksonsville, Fla. early the next day.

(Thursday) was finishing up the game plan, going over a few things we wanted to make sure we exposed the guys to before we went away for break, Fitzgerald said. Weve tweaked some things as we went along. Well go through our typical game week when we get down there (to Jacksonville).

Along with game preparation, recent days spent training at home should also produce benefits for up the road for younger and redshirt players who got in significant time.

We got a lot of work done, a lot of reps, Fitzgerald said. All those guys (got) 300 plus reps of good work.

A bowl victory would give Fitzgerald his 50th win, making him the winningest in Northwestern history. The seventh-year Cats coach is currently tied with Lynn Walfords 49 wins from 1936-45.

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

rodon2624.jpg
USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.