Nationals

Div. II title game an escape for VSU QB Cochran

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Div. II title game an escape for VSU QB Cochran

Valdosta State quarterback Cayden Cochran and his family have had to be incredibly resilient heading into the Division II national championship game.

The Cochrans have lost two homes in the past 18 months.

Valdosta State will play Winston-Salem State in Saturday's Division II national championship game in Florence, Ala. The game will come only six days after Cochran's family home in Cashion, Okla., was destroyed by a fire. The loss is especially painful because the family's previous home was leveled by a tornado in May 2011.

Cochran said the family crisis is especially difficult when his mind is not on football.

``It's sort of difficult when things die down,'' Cochran said in a telephone interview. ``When I'm trying to go to sleep, it's tough to grasp. I'm calling my parents, calling my brothers, just to see where they're at, if they're all together, where they're staying that night.''

Sadly, this is not a new dilemma for the family. Sunday's fire destroyed the longtime family home where Cochran's father, Chris, lived as a child. Chris Cochran said his family was using the home on a temporary basis following last year's tornado.

Chris Cochran said he's looking for a temporary furnished home for his family as work continues on a new home. He said the new home should be ready in a few months.

While Cayden Cochran worries about his family, including three younger brothers, he's trying to keep his focus on the big game.

``He's hurting but he's come out and he looks like he's tried to put it in the back of his mind and tried to prepare just like he would every week,'' said Valdosta State coach David Dean.

``I'm really proud of him. He's a pretty tough and resilient kid. You feel for him but he doesn't want you to feel sorry for him. He's going to come out and give this football team everything he's got.''

Cashion was a walk-on at Oklahoma when the tornado struck his hometown on May 24, 2011.

``It was the tornado coming through that kind of made me step back and realize I needed to get out of Oklahoma, where I'm paying all this money to go to school,'' Cochran said. ``I needed to look for a scholarship to get some money to help with school, to continue to do what I love and help out my family.''

That search led Cochran to Valdosta State.

``It's kind of weird,'' said Chris Cochran. ``That happened and he was offered scholarship there soon after that. That took our mind off everything then.''

Chris Cochran said he planned to leave Wednesday for the long drive to Alabama.

``The game and the excitement and the opportunity is just keeping us focused toward that and keeping everything else off our mind,'' said the elder Cochran. ``We're just excited and happy for him.

``We're safe and nobody lost their life and we know things can be replaced. We're just excited to be a part of what's going on right now.''

Chris Cochran said there will be about 40 friends and family members from Cashion, which has a population of about 800, at the game.

That's no surprise to Cayden Cochran.

``The town we live in is a very small town and they're great people,'' he said. ``There are people calling my parents, saying `Hey, let the kids stay with us tonight.' I called my mom and she said parents picked up my little brothers in middle school to go shopping for winter clothes because it's pretty cold in Oklahoma right now.

``It's just that kind of stuff that makes you feel really good, with me being far away from home, that there's people like that in my hometown.''

Cochran said his parents deflect his questions about how they are coping with another crisis.

``Every time I ask about them, they tell me `Don't worry about us,''' Cayden said. ``They say `We're excited about coming to Florence and watching you play. That's all we've ever wanted, for you to succeed.' That's what they tell me, so they put me at ease a little bit with that, just knowing they're excited.

``I'm glad they have something to look forward to and be excited about because that home was such a big part of all of our lives. It's where my dad grew up and where I spent almost every day as a kid. So it's tough, but I think football, you see it time and time again, it's used as an outlet to put some emotion into something else.''

Valdosta State (11-2) will play for its third national championship. The Blazers won Division II titles in 2004 and 2007.

Cochran passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns while also running for two touchdowns in last week's 35-19 semifinal win at Minnesota State-Mankato.

The junior has passed for 2,601 yards with 25 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He has 336 yards rushing with nine touchdowns.

Chris Cochran said he expects his son to funnel his emotions into the game.

``I'm thinking he'll use it as motivation,'' said the elder Cochran. ``That's just the way he is. He thinks things happen for a reason and he's just happy we weren't there.

``I bet he has a great game. That's just what he does. He's always been that kind of kid. He's just a great leader and when other things are falling apart, people have always looked to him.''

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Managers in Nationals-Orioles series embrace shared history as they face off for the first time

Managers in Nationals-Orioles series embrace shared history as they face off for the first time

Brandon Hyde and Davey Martinez have spent countless days on the same fields, but Tuesday night was the first time they found themselves managing against one another.

Before heading to the nation’s capital to manage the Washington Nationals, Martinez coached under Joe Maddon with the Chicago Cubs from 2015-17. Brandon Hyde was also in Chicago during those years, coaching first base and then succeeding Martinez as Maddon’s bench coach prior to his hire in Baltimore last offseason.

While both figures are competitive enough to not need any added motivation against the opposing team, it’s still a fun moment for the two longtime friends to appreciate.

“Oh, he’s awesome,” Martinez told reporters in the visitor’s dugout before Tuesday’s game when asked about his relationship with Hyde. “I know him and his family very well, almost like family of mine. When we got in town we had dinner together, so it was kind of fun.”

Martinez went on to emphasize he knows Hyde will be playing to win, too.

“Obviously we both know he’s very competitive,” Martinez continued. “He knows that we want to win and he wants to win, so put everything aside. We’re going to compete.”

Despite the difference in records and team expectations in 2019, Hyde was pretty clear about his desire to take down his former colleague.

“Obviously me and Dave are very close friends and I wish him all the success in the world,” Hyde echoed during his own pregame availability. “But obviously I hope we beat them these next couple games.”

Martinez is not the only National to have a relationship with Hyde.

“Davey’s over there, Henry Blanco’s very close friend of mine, Joe Dillon the hitting coach I played with in high school, so I have some close relationships on that staff,” Hyde said.

Martinez knows the Nats can’t let their guard down against weaker opponents, Orioles included. As he put it, the Nationals “gotta come out and play baseball like we always do.”

And yet, even though each manager is putting his best foot forward to try to win the game, same as every other night of the season, it’s hard to ignore the unique relationship between the two.

For most, it’s just another night of baseball. But as Brandon Hyde put it most simply, “this will be a little bit different managing against Davey on the other side.”

Orioles-Nationals has yet to fully develop into a true rivalry, but perhaps a few more games that feel just “a little bit different” will help one blossom going forward.

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Max Scherzer feeling 'a lot better' but next start date is still up in the air

Max Scherzer feeling 'a lot better' but next start date is still up in the air

BALTIMORE -- Some pitching clarity was acquired Tuesday.

Erick Fedde will make a spot start Wednesday in the second, and final, game between the Orioles and Nationals. That bumps Stephen Strasburg to Thursday. Max Scherzer's next start remains a question.

The Nationals decided Strasburg would pitch Thursday once they put Scherzer (mid-back strain) on the 10-day injured list July 13. Moving Strasburg a day allows Washington to dispatch its best arms against first-place Atlanta during a four-game series instead of burning one against Baltimore, the worst team in the major leagues.

Scherzer threw Tuesday in the outfield and "said he felt a lot better," according to Davey Martinez. Next is a check Wednesday morning, then further work. Martinez wants Scherzer to throw a bullpen session before making a start. That could happen Thursday in Atlanta. If Scherzer throws a bullpen session then, he could pitch as early as Saturday, when he is first eligible to come off the injured list. 

Scherzer could also pitch Sunday in Atlanta. The Nationals can easily manipulate the situation once they have Scherzer throw a bullpen session. Patrick Corbin will pitch Friday -- receiving an extra day of rest himself -- then Anibal Sanchez would be on turn Saturday after an extra day of rest. 

If Scherzer is ready to go this weekend, the Nationals could have lucked into a position where they pitch all four of their best pitchers on extra rest against first-place Atlanta.

"It's hard to tell with Max," Martinez said. "Max always feels he's ready to pitch. I just want to see him progress."

One of the issues last weekend in Philadelphia was Scherzer's back problem did not improve from Friday to Saturday, prompting the team to eventually decide an injured list stint was best.

In the interim, Austin Voth, who pitched Tuesday, and Fedde receive cameo appearances. Martinez said in Philadelphia the fifth starter spot is "open" between Voth, Fedde and, more distantly, Joe Ross. 

"[Tuesday] I'm just worried about Austin Voth going out there and competing and keeping us in the ballgame," Martinez said. "Worry about [Wednesday on Wednesday]. Both of those guys are part of our future right now. We hope that they both pitch well."

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