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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Rick Monday Flashback and Lester Returns

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Rick Monday Flashback and Lester Returns

Luke Stuckmeyer catches up with former Cub Rick Monday on the anniversary of his infamous flag-saving episode at Dodger Stadium in 1976 (2:15).

Rick takes us through the entire incident, and gives some insight into why he felt compelled to act on that day 43 years ago.

Then, we'll hear from Joe Maddon on what to expect from Jon Lester's 1st start since April 8th (10:40) before Luke is joined by David Kaplan to discuss Lester's return to the rotation after over two weeks on the injured list (11:30).

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Is Jason Heyward fulfilling his 'destiny' with Cubs right now?

Is Jason Heyward fulfilling his 'destiny' with Cubs right now?

Wednesday night, Jason Heyward showed off the type of opposite-field power the Cubs touted when they signed him to that big free agent deal before the 2016 season.

Heyward's 3-run shot off Scott Alexander in the sixth inning Wednesday helped stake the Cubs to a 7-6 victory. It was also reminiscent of a blast he hit off Jake Arrieta and the Cubs in the 2015 National League Division Series while he was still with the St. Louis Cardinals — taking a pitch off the plate outside and sending it into the left-center bleachers with ease:

Here's the 2015 shot.

There were so many encouraging things for the Cubs on the one Heyward swing Wednesday night: a homer off a lefty, to the opposite field, it gave his team a lead a late-game lead and it was just another example of the veteran's hot start:

For perspective, Heyward has as many homers in the first month of the season as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined.

Heyward is now on pace to hit 37 homers and drive in 103 runs in 2019 after totaling just 26 homers and 165 RBI in his first three years in a Cubs uniform.

Regardless of whether he's going to keep that power pace up or not, this is a brand new Heyward on an offensive run we've never seen from him before in Chicago.

"It's just been great," said Cole Hamels, who faced Heyward a lot when the two both called the NL East home. "Being able to see it in the offseason and the leadership type of role that he takes and the respect that he has in the clubhouse during spring training, this is what he's been destined to do.

"He's in his comfort zone. I remember playing against him in Atlanta and these were the types of games he could put in. He could do everything from the outfield — he's got a strong arm — and he's got ridiculous power. We were always very aware of that whenever we faced him, so it's nice to be a part of it and for him to be able to show this."

The homer is Heyward's only hit of the series, but it still ran his season batting line to .333/.450/.587 (1.037 OPS). He's also displaying an incredible awareness of the strike zone, walking 14 times against only 9 strikeouts to begin the campaign. 

Even with something of a resurgence last year, Heyward still had only a 93 OPS+, which essentially means he was 7 percent below league average as an offensive player.

This year, his OPS+ was 164 before the game-winning home run, and his teammates are loving the show.

"They're definitely fully supporting Jason," Joe Maddon said. "Jason does so much supporting of others, even when he's not going well. Whatever you put out there, comes back to you. It's coming back to him right now.

"He's that kind of guy. He's always there for everybody else, so now everybody's there for him."

Heyward doesn't like talking about himself and he refuses to get complacent or revel in the good times too much, even after this hot start following three years of offensive struggle. 

"A lot of work to be done," he said. "Get ready for every day. We got work to do — we got a tough division, we play great competition. Myself personally, just be ready to do whatever I can on a daily basis, whether that's coming through on the field, off the field, whatever it is.

"But it's awesome to be able to contribute for these guys because I know how hard everyone works and what we go through on a daily basis."

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