Sooners,Cowgirls on collision course

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – In three years at Texas A&M Samantha Show never came close to playing in the Women’s College World Series. So as she entered the 2019 WCWS with Oklahoma State, it would have been understandable if the Texas native was jittery.

However, Show was far from that. The right-handed hurler led OSU to a 2-1 win over Florida Thursday in their opening game of the WCWS at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Show was 2-for-3 from the plate with two homers. The rest of the Cowgirls were held hitless.

Show also picked up the complete-game victory after allowing six hits and one run.

“I’m super excited for her,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said. “But I’ll be honest, she doesn’t care. She wants this team and this program that gave her kind of the second chance. She was a star when she got here. Her first year at A&M, she was unreal. She was a bona fide star. She’s a bona fide All-American. She’s one of the best players in the country.”

After being shut down for the entire night, the UF began to show life in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophia Reynoso and Jordan Roberts came up with back to back singles to start the inning before Jade Caraway and Jordan Matthews both hit into fielder choices.

That set up Alex Voss with an opportunity to save the game. The senior came to the plate with two outs on the board and the tying run at third base.

But Show was just as strong on the mound as she was at the plate. She got Voss to ground out and end the game.

Along with only allowing two hits, Barnhill (34-13) struck out nine batters. But she knows she made a pair of mistakes a veteran pitcher can’t make.

“You don’t give her anything good to hit,” Barnhill said of Show. “I was trying to throw a screwball inside and I left it down the middle. She hit it them hard and far.”

To keep their season alive, Florida has to get by fellow SEC foe Alabama when they tangle at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Tide won the regular season series 3-0.

Oklahoma 3, Alabama 2

The Sooners and Tide were all knotted up at 2-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Jocelyn led off the inning for the Sooners with a walk. Two batters later Nicole Mendes laced a triple to the centerfield wall to plate a run and put Oklahoma up by a run.

Throughout her career Mendes has had a knack for coming up with big plays at the WCWS.

“I like to compete,” Mendes said. “And this is where the biggest teams come to compete. It just brings something out in me. I just get really excited and amped up.”

Giselle Juarez didn’t have her best stuff on the mound, but in the seventh inning she was good enough. She used her defense to close out the game and hand the Sooners the victory.

Juarez bounced back from a shaky start that included giving up a homer to pick up her 27th win of the season.

“Key I guess was just letting it go, just not letting it affect our game. Looking forward” Juarez said. “

“Moving onto the next pitch.”

The win sets up an All-Big 12 meeting between the two local teams at the WCWS. The top-ranked Sooners will take on Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The Sooners swept the season series 3-0.

“OSU is a great team,” Sydney Romero said. “I just think the cool part about it is you have two Oklahoma teams playing in the World Series. Just the fact that both of thee teams are from Oklahoma, I think it just says a lot of stuff.”

Arizona 3, Washington 1 (8)

Arizona and Washington had a pitching duel for the first five innings of their opening game. But then the Wildcats Jessie Harper decided to interject some offense into the game. The junior crushed a solo homer to give UA a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth.

However, that lead was short-lived. The Huskies Sami Reynolds blasted a homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game at 1-1.

The teams stayed scoreless until the top of the eighth inning when junior Dejah Mulipola sent a 2-run blast over the centerfield fence off Taran Alvelo. It turned out to be the game-winner with the Huskies unable to respond in the bottom of the inning.

“Facing Alvelo in my first couple at-bats, I knew she was throwing me out,” Mulipola said. “I was sitting on that. I think she understood I was sitting on that. She started coming in the next few at-bats. I was trying to breathe, see a pitch. I happened to see one. Actually, I didn’t think it was out. When I tell that to everyone, they don’t believe me. That’s why I was so excited running around first base when it did go over.”

Washington, who made it to the championship series last year, will have its season on the line when they take the field at 11 a.m. Saturday against Minnesota.

“We’re just glad we get to play again,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said. “It would be awful if that was our last game. We’re happy we get to play again.”

UCLA 7, Minnesota 2

It didn’t take the Bruins long to get on the board. Bubba Nickles crushed a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the first inning.

“I think it was really crucial to get our momentum going,” Nickles said. “I just wanted to come out for them the best I could, and have a quality at-bat, really. Wasn’t trying to hit a home run. It worked out to get us ahead.”

The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and looked on their way to an easy win. But the Gophers closed the gap to 3-2 in the sixth on a pair of RBIs from Natalie DenHartog and Allie Arneson.

However, UCLA responded in the bottom of the inning with four runs. That included a 3-run shot by Aaliyah Jordan to put the contest away.

“It felt good,” Jordan said. “I mean, I had a plan going up first at-bat, I didn’t get what I wanted. I think staying positive throughout these three at-bats, coming up the last at-bat get the pitch I wanted felt good.”

The Bruins will face Arizona Friday at 6 p.m.

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator

Arizona was built for the WCWS

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — No coach at the Women’s College World Series has as much experience as Mike Candrea. The cagey veteran is in his 34th season at Arizona and has compiled an impressive resume that includes eight national championships and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Yet, when his all-American catcher, Dejah Mulipola heard what Candrea had in store for the Wildcats when practice opened in the fall, even she had to take a step back.

‘My first thought was extremely scared,” Mulipola said. “I was terrified. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to die. I’ve never done training like this. I don’t think I’m physically fit, mentally fit.’”

What Candrea put in place that had his team petrified was called The Program. It involved a group of Navy Seals attending the Wildcats’ practice for three days to put them through drills and situations to build championship teams.

“The Program is not concerned about talent or winning individual games,” founder Eric Kapitulik stated on his website. “We care about competing for championships — and to compete for a championship, we must make a commitment as individuals and as a team to getting ‘that much better’ every single day. We do this by being good team leaders and good teammates and by preparing ourselves every day to fill either role.”

According to the Program, they believe leadership and team cohesion can only be developed through the experience of shared adversity. So the instructors put the Wildcats through situations that tested them physically and mentally.

“We did a water workout where we had to swim across the pool, swim back. We were treading water as we were taking off our wet sweaters and then putting them back on,” Mulipola said. “It kind of taught you to communicate with your team to survive or else you’re going to drown. So it was just communication. Learning to listen to commands as well as give them. Just working as a team, just working as one unit to accomplish a mission. I think that tied into season and softball and how we can incorporate that into our softball world.”

The fruits of those three days in the fall are now being seen with Arizona making the WCWS for the first time since 2010.

Mulipola hit a mammoth game-winning 2-run homer in the eighth inning Thursday to lead the Wildcats past Washington in Game 1 of the WCWS.

“The leaders that were leading in the program are leaders on the team now,” Mulipola said. “So Taylor (McQuillin), me, Jesse (Harper), people like that. Just learning to listen to whoever is trying to help you in a way, to help you to survive on the field, you understand it will get you somewhere. It’s for the benefit of you.”

According to Mulipola, it also took one other important decision by the team to get where they are now.

“Our team bought into what coach was selling for the first year ever,” Mulipola said. “Everyone was buying into their positions, their roles on the teams and I truly felt that throughout the season, which I think was very beneficial for us.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator

 

Wildcats up next for No. 1 Sooners

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN, Okla. — Back in early March, Northwestern traveled from Chicago to Norman. The Wildcats were part of a strong field the Sooners had assembled for their annual OU tournament.

That was the first time Northwestern had gotten a chance to be on the same field with the then-No. 3 ranked Sooners. Oklahoma was still in the early stages of its record-breaking 41 game win streak and was still trying to figure out what type of team they were going to become.

Despite that, the trip didn’t go well for the Wildcats. In two head-to-head matchups, Oklahoma decimated NU by a combined score of 15-0.

Yet, as No. 16 Northwestern (47-11) prepares to face No. 1 Oklahoma (52-3) again in the NCAA Super Regional, it looks back on those March encounters as learning experiences.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for us to have already played here,” NU’s Rachel Lewis said. “Five games I think we played, with this crowd. That’s a huge advantage coming in. And have already played them, I think it defiantly helps us.”

Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan said the experience of being able to play the best team in the country on its home-field helps erase any fear of the unknown.

“This is a great venue,” Drohan said. “This is a great venue in college softball right now. And for us to have experienced the fans, the environment, I think it’s a real plus for us. We understand what to expect. It’s still going to be a challenge to manage that in the moment. Especially as the momentum of the game really takes over. But I think we’re more prepared than we were in March.”

Since losing to Oklahoma, the Wildcats have dropped a total of five games.

“I think we really (over the year) have developed as a team as far as playing together and knowing what each other’s role is on the team,” Lewis said. “We all kind of figured out where we fit and how to play together.”

While the Wildcats said they have changed the first matchup in Norman, the Sooners believe they have matured and transformed during the past three months as well.

But it was over the past week that the Sooners may have grown the most. After losing to Wisconsin in the regional round and having to come back to win a game to keep the season alive, everyone in the program said it has been a learning experience for them all.

“It’s something we kind of talked about,” OU senior Caleigh Clifton said. “We kind of needed that game. It sucks at the time. But I think it sets our mindset and takes us to another level. Now we talk about not taking anything for granted. Not just coasting. So I think that was important for us.”

In the Sooners final three games at the Regional Tournament, they scored a total of seven runs. Coach Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso does not expect to see that offensive performance again.

“We learned. What we need to do is learn,” Gasso said. “I think you’ll see a different attack mode. I think you’ll feel a little more energy. They absolutely know, not that we were lucky, but when you have your back against the wall and you know your season could be over, it’s uncomfortable. And they fought through that. They know this is the most important weekend of their season because it will either send you home or you go to the promised land.”

Gasso has not named who will get the start on the mound for the Sooners in Game 1 of the Super Regional, which tips off at 2 p.m. at Marita Hynes Field. While many believe it will be junior Giselle Juarez, she says any of their top three hurlers have the ability to take the ball in a big game.

“We all have each other’s backs,” Juarez said. “We can fight back-to-back. And I think when we fight with each other back-to-back, nobody can attack us from our weak side. I think that’s something we have talked about, working together. We have each other’s back if one of has to come in and take over. I think that’s something special about all of us.”

One of the tone-setters for senior Sydney Romero. The senior infielder was named one of three finalists for the 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on Thursday.

However, the California native said individual awards don’t mean too much to her. She is focused on winning for her teammates and enjoying the journey. That has rubbed off her team as well.

“This team loves to have fun,” Romero said. “We don’t go in with fear. I just think we go all out. It just makes it so much fun. And you have so much joy with each other. That’s just our main goal, to just have the best time we can.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter

Sooners win streak comes to an end

By Michael Kinney

With a chance to earn a spot in the Super Regionals, all No. 1 Oklahoma needed to do was knock out a scrappy Wisconsin squad. The same Badgers they had beaten in the Regional opener Friday.

However, UW had other plans. They came up with their second dramatic victory in less than 24 hours as they came back to win 2-1 Sunday afternoon.

The loss ends the Sooners win streak at 41 games. It also forces a winner take all game, which is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. at Marita Hynes Field.

The Sooners Sydney Romero began the afternoon with a solo homer over the left field fence. It gave OU a 1-0 advantage.

After two strong innings, Oklahoma’s Mariah Lopez allowed her first hit of the game to start the third inning. It was the first hit the Sooners had surrendered in the regional tournament after 14 straight innings of no-hit ball.

Despite that, Lopez was on her game and shutout Wisconsin over four innings before she was pulled in the fifth and replaced by reliever Shannon Saile.

Kaitlyn Menz was also on the mound dealing for the Badgers. After the homerun to start the game, she settled down and kept the Sooners off-balance through four innings.

But in the fifth the Sooners began to get things working. Falepolima Aviu and Caleigh Clifton reached base on with singles. Jocelyn Alo came to bat with two outs on the board.

After a meeting at the mound, UW coach Yvette Kelly kept Menz in the game. She was rewarded by Menz who got Alo to fly out to right field. OU’s lead stayed 1-0.

With just two innings left in the game, OU coach Patty Gasso brought Giselle Juarez off the bench to get the final six outs of the game.

With a runner on,  Juarez hit a UW batter. The Badgers then pulled off the double steal, which put the go-ahead run at second base.

Wisconsin’s Caroline Hedgecock laid down the perfect bunt, which scored Taylor Johnson and tied the game. That was the first hit and run Juarez had allowed in the regional tourney.

Wisconsin’s Jolie Fish then laid down a sacrifice bunt and another run scored to give the Badgers their first lead.

That would be all Menz needed as she shutout the Sooners the rest of the game.

Juarez (24-1) picked up her first loss of the season while Menz moved to 21-8.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copy Writer

Sooners ride Juarez into title game

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN, Okla. –When a team has won 40 straight games, a lot of things have to go right. Even for a squad as talented as No. 1 Oklahoma, not every facet of the game is going be on high-level day after day.

One of those days came around Saturday when the Sooners took on Wisconsin at the Norman Regional. For one of the few times since February, the Oklahoma offense was flat.

But, like she has all season, Giselle Juarez was there to lift her squad. The junior pitched a complete game no-hitter and struck out 16 batters to lead the Sooners to a 4-0 win over the Badgers at Marita Hynes Field.

“Giselle was phenomenal,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “She is one pitch away, another perfect game and doing that in the postseason is off the charts. I’m really proud of her and her focus. And knowing that our team was not in their normal zone is when they needed her the most and she was there for us.”

In two games at regionals, the Sooners have yet to give up a hit and have allowed only one baserunner. Juarez has done the bulk of that work with 10 innings of near perfect pitching under her belt.

“Today was just about trusting my pitches,” Juarez said.

Juarez has three no-hitters this season and four for her career.

But it’s the way she is pitching now has Gasso thinking of some of the former hurlers who have worn the Crimson and Cream uniform.

“It’s fun to watch,” Gasso said. “It reminds me of some of our past pitchers. But she is nails out there. She is nails. When our team isn’t feeling it, we feel it off of her.”

Even though Juarez is in her first year at Oklahoma since transferring from Arizona State in offseason, it hasn’t taken the Glendale, Az.  native to find her comfort level with the program.

“We’re getting spoiled here. In two games we’ve not given up a hit,” Gasso said. “And when you’re in regionals, that’s unheard of.  I think we just almost expect it, which isn’t fair.  But she lives in that world as well. But we’re seeing greatness right now.”

However, as impressive as Juarez was, the Badger’s Haley Hestekin was hanging right with her. After a first-inning defensive lapse, the sophomore limited the explosive Oklahoma lineup to just a few hits over the next three innings.

That came to an end in the top of the fifth inning when the Sooners Grace Green drove in a run to put OU up 2-0. That ended Hestekin’s day and Kaitlyn Menz entered the game in relief.

In the sixth, Juarez got a visit to the mound by pitching coach Jennifer Rocha and catcher Lynnsie Elam.  With a runner on first, the game-tying run was at the plate.

“I wasn’t really trying to think about that,” Juarez said. “I was just thinking about doing my job, letting my defense play. And just letting it happen. Letting what’s going to happen, happen, but still being competitive.”

After the meeting at the mound, Juarez struck out both Kayla Konwent and Taylor Johnson to close out the threat.

“It makes it easy for us. It’s really fun to play behind her,” Sydney Romero said. “She is a confident pitcher. She just brings momentum to the defense. It’s just fun to play behind her.”

In the top of the seventh, Oklahoma’s offense finally got the big shot they had been looking to get. With a runner on second, Caleigh Clifton clubbed a 2-run homer to put OU up 4-0.

“I think just up to the point, we were pressing a little too much,” Clifton said.

Despite the Sooners running their win streak to 41 straight, Gasso said the team was not in a celebratory mood afterward.

“It’s a win, but in the locker room, our team had a mentality almost like they lost,” Gasso said. “But good teams find was ways to win when things aren’t exactly the way they want them to be. And that’s what they did today.”

Oklahoma (51-2) will play Wisconsin again for the regional championship at 1 p.m. today. Gasso is expecting to the Sooners come back to the ballpark with a different mindset.

“I’d like to see a completely different team who is coming in confident, coming in with ownership, coming in as women. I felt we looked a little like girls today. They don’t like when I say that. But they know it. They’ll admit it. They hold themselves to a very high standard. They know they are better than and believe they are going to fix that tomorrow.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copy Writer

Genesis aims to redefine urban luxary

Michael Kinney

NEW YORK – Manfred Fitzgerald says the world is changing and car manufacturers need to adapt to those changes. The Executive Vice President and Global Head of the Genesis Brand was speaking to a large crowd of onlookers at the New York International Auto Show April 17th at the Javits Center.

Fitzgerald said all of this right before unveiling his companies new concept car, the Genesis Mint (Mint Concept), which he says fits perfectly in the growing modern city.

 “We live in an age in which cities around the globe are adapting to change,” Fitzgerald said. “When we started this project not even 12 months ago, our designers around the world were tasked with visualizing our interpretation of an urban vehicle with our design identity. Which is guided by athletic elegance. The Mint Concept introduces this all-electric luxury car for the city.”

The Mint Concept was designed by several Genesis design studios located around the world, led by Genesis Global Advanced Design in Germany, Genesis Design Team in the U.S., and the Namyang Design Center in South Korea.

“The Mint Concept disconnects the physical dimensions of the vehicle from its positioning as a premium product, calquing the city car of the past to today,” said Luc Donckerwolke, Executive Vice President and Chief Design Officer of Hyundai Motor Group. “The Mint Concept is a designer’s Occam’s razor that challenged us to visualize a scaled-down interpretation of our signature aesthetic.”

The Mint Concept is the first automobile Genesis has featured that is not classified as a sedan. The two-seater doesn’t fit the normal definition of a luxury car. But according to Fitzgerald, Genesis is changing that definition.

“The Mint concept disconnects the physical dimensions of the vehicle from its positioning as a luxury product,” Fitzgerald said. “It redefines the city car. For us luxury does not have size. In short, the Mint concept our interpretation of a car perfectly suited for this city. Inside and out, the Mint Concept proposes an expanded definition of the Genesis brand. Designed, adaptive for a two-door, two passenger city car.”

The design features include quad Lamps in front and backstretch to the corners, the Crest Grille and a G-Matrix pattern, leather interior and swivel seats. It also has no trunk in the rear. Instead, it features a storage compartment behind the seats. It can be accessed with its own set of smaller Lamborghini style doors.

“We were thinking if you’re going shopping around in town or going to the gym, etc., why do you have to go around the car to put your bags and things away?” Fitzgerald said. “Why don’t you have lateral access?”

Finished in Hunter Green matte paint, the Mint Concept stands out from the crowd with its three-box design to the corners with extremely short front and rear overhangs.

“Like a carefully furnished city dwelling constrained by space requirements, the Mint Concept takes advantage of every cubic inch of its interior,” Fitzgerald said. “The cozy space for two is made to feel expansive, through the use of lightweight textiles, cognac leather, and mullion-free windows.”

With its foray into the electric car division, Genesis is going all in. The Mint Concept will have a battery electric powertrain compatible with 350 volt fast chargers, which allows for 200 miles on a single charge.

The combination of its size and the all-electric format makes it the perfect car for cities that are only getting more cramped and congested.  

“We were toying around with this idea, actually, since I joined the company in 2016,” Fitzgerald said. “I always thought that there’s a white space on the map that nobody’s actually looking at right now. And looking at how luxurypopulation is growing, and how the tendencies are that people are moving more and more into big cities. Space will become an issue. Giving a good answer to that is what you see right here.”

However, as proud as Fitzgerald and the rest of Genesis seem to be of the Mint Concept, there is no guarantee it will ever go into production. As of right now, it is being used as a landmark for what the company can do and where it’s going.

“I do believe that the size of the product does not determine if it’s luxury or not,” Fitzgerald said. “As there are no products which are comparable to this, I do believe that we have a cutting edge on that one.”

 

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Creator

Questions still unanswered after early exit for the Thunder

Photo by Michael Kinney

By Michael Kinney

The one thing no NBA player, coach or general manager wants to be doing is conducting exit interviews while the season is still going on. Because that means other teams are still fighting for an NBA championship, while they are cleaning out their locker.

For the third straight season, the Oklahoma City Thunder (49-33) found themselves cleaning out their locker earlier than they hoped or expected after losing in five games to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

However, according to point guard Russell Westbrook, there is no common theme between the three playoff exits.

“Teams are different. Personnel is different,” Westbrook said. “The guys, we play a lot of different combinations, reasons why we lost. We’ll look at it, reevaluate, get some time to go back to the drawing board and see how we can be better.”

Yet, that is not entirely true. While some pf the personnel is different, the core group of the Thunder has been intact. Especially the last two years with Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, Jeremi Grant and Terrance Ferguson. Dennis Schroder was added before this season.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, on what’s the next step, the next phase for this group going forward,” George said. “So you know, that’s something I think we’re all trying to work on internally, figure out like what can we do, because this is a team that can go far. We have pieces in place to have a long postseason reason. I am trying to figure out like what it is for this group.”

What makes this year’s early exit the most stunning of the three is the way the season began. At one point Oklahoma City was in third place in the West with a 38-20 record and was a couple of games away from possibly taking the No. 2 seed.

“For 70 percent of this past season, we were playing at an extremely high level, and I felt like we were playing some of the better basketball that we’ve seen in Oklahoma City, just with respect to the style of play goals we laid out, the defensive improvement that we tried to establish from last year to this year, pace of play, athleticism,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said. “I really felt like the players and the coaches were doing an excellent job of that, and they created an extremely high standard. We were on our way to having the third best record in the league against the top 10 teams in the league. We were playing a really balanced game.”

But then the All-Star break came and everything changed for the Thunder. From the moment the team returned from the week off, they looked completely different than before. Their defense took a nose dive, they were unable to close out games and they became three-point dependent.

But when Presti was asked if he could pinpoint exactly why the downturn took place, he was unable to shed any light on an 11-13 run to close out the regular season.

“That’s the crux of the question for me. Before we can even start thinking about like how do we solve for that. We don’t have the liberty of just making like a snap reaction or coming in with an emotional vantage point,” Presti said. “I don’t think you can discount the fact that we got our ass kicked in the Playoffs. There’s no getting around that. But I think anyone objective and anybody that is more than a momentary problem solver would probably take a step back and look at the whole thing. To try to answer your question, it’s to say, I don’t have that answer, and I would think that if I did, you shouldn’t listen to me because I would just be coming in here with an emotional perspective, which as a leader I can’t do that.”

Coach Billy Donovan also was unable to give any insight on what the true problem was for a team that has the second highest payroll in the league, but can’t get past teams they are favored to beat. That includes the Blazers, who Oklahoma City swept in the regular season.

“I always believe it takes what it takes for a team when you’re competing, and what I mean by that is you go through these disappointments and you go through these struggles, I think you find out more about what you’ve got to do to get better and to improve,” Donovan said. “You know, this is just not an excuse, but every team has got things they have to deal with during the course of the year. We obviously had to deal with two wing players that we were hoping to be a big part of our team this year that was not here, and we tried to do different things to overcome that.”

According to Presti, Donovan will be back for his fifth season with the Thunder. With most of the core unit of the team are signed to long term deals, there doesn’t seem to be much room for drastic changes heading into the 2019-20 campaign.

“The margins for error are small, in the Western Conference for sure, but to me that’s one of the things about competition that doesn’t bother me,” Presti said. “Like sometimes you lose. Competing doesn’t mean you only compete when the wind is at your back. So yeah, listen, we’re not entitled to anything. We don’t come into the year expecting to just automatically be served up opportunities to play in the Playoffs. You’ve got to earn those. But you’ve also got to perform when you get there, and we haven’t done that, so we’ve got to figure out what that is. We’ve never been shy about the fact that like we’ve got to go out and do the work, study it, and make the best decisions for the future of the franchise and the health of the franchise, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter and content creator

Murray taken No. 1 by the Cardinals

 

By Michael Kinney

A year ago, it didn’t seem like Kyler Murray’s life could get any better. After playing part-time for the Oklahoma baseball team, the Allen, Texas native was drafted in June by Oakland Athletics with the No. 9 overall pick. Murray’s future seemed to be set on the baseball diamond.

Fast-forward to Thursday night and Murray heard his name called once again. This time it was as the No. 1 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft, which was held in Nashville.

Murray became the first player to ever be selected in the first round by the two professional leagues. But make no mistake about, Murray has chosen football as his career path.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” Murray said. “All the hard work. Everyone that has been in my corner and pushed me to be here, I can’t thank them enough. I have to thank God. This is surreal.”

Murray also became the second Oklahoma quarterback in two years to be taken No. 1 overall. Baker Mayfield was chosen by the Cleveland Browns in 2018. The two Heisman trophy winners face off in Week 15 of this season.

“I’m just so proud of Kyler and the way he’s handled this entire process,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “He’s gone through something that no one has ever gone through with the amount of scrutiny in different sports, the hype that he’s had since he was such a young kid. To see him get to this moment as the No. 1 pick, that’s been his dream. To see him live this part of it out is awesome.”

Oklahoma has now produced 45 first-round NFL draft picks in its history, and is now tied with Auburn, Notre Dame and USC with five No. 1 overall selections. They include defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon (1976), running back Billy Sims (1980), quarterback Sam Bradford (2010) and Mayfield.

At just 5-foot-10, Murray also made history by being first quarterback under 6-foot to be drafted in the first round. But his height seems to not have been a concern for the Cardinals.

Murray’s new coach is also an old acquaintance. Kliff Kingsbury, who was the coach at Texas Tech before being fired earlier this year, has known Murray since he was 15 years old. Despite the Cardinals using a first-round pick on quarterback Jeff Rosen in 2018, when Kingsbury took the job, it became an almost automatic that they were going to take Murray.

“He’s a dynamic talent, a unique talent that I don’t know if anyone has seen,” Kingsbury said.

However, General Manager Steve Keim did have to be convinced, slightly.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I was reluctant,” Keim said. “I did not want to watch the tape, I did not want to fall in love with the player. I watched more and more, saw the things he can do. As I continued to get to know the person, as we did all our homework, our due diligence, the more and more I became convinced this was the right guy for us.”

Joining Murray in the first round was wide receiver Marquise Brown. The speedy receiver was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 25 pick.

Brown gave an emotional interview after being drafted in which he talked about everything he has had to overcome.

“Marquise’s story is well-documented,” Riley said. “What are the chances a guy who had to walk to work and fight his way just to get to junior college ends up being the first receiver taken? I’m thrilled for him and his opportunity. He’s going to bring a lot to the Baltimore Ravens. Their fans will love his explosiveness, which we really came to appreciate the last couple of years at Oklahoma.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Jaguar I-Pace hits the trifecta in NYC

By Michael Kinney

NEW YORK – The first time Ian Callum strolled onto the stage, he was a happy man. The director of Design for Jaguar Land Rover was accepting the award for 2019 World Car Design of the Year at the New York International Auto Show April 17. Under normal circumstances, it would have been the highlight of the entire event for Callum and the car manufacturer’s team.

But this wasn’t a normal moment. The Design of the Year award ended up being the appetizer to a record-breaking day. Callum found himself on stage twice more to accept the award for 2019 World Green Car of the Year and the coveted 2019 World Car of the Year.

All of the honors were for the Jaguar I-PACE, the company’s first ever electric automobile.

“Designing Jaguar cars is probably the best job in the world, and I can honestly say that no other project I’ve worked on has been as rewarding as I-PACE,” Callum said. “Electric vehicles offer designers unprecedented freedom to rethink the proportions, the profile and the packaging, and it’s an opportunity that my team has exploited in full. Winning the 2019 World Car Design of the Year award, as well as World Car of the Year and World Green Car, is true recognition for their achievements.”

This is the first time in the World Car Awards’ 15-year history that one-car has pulled off the trifecta of winning three of the five awards handed out. It is also only the second time one company hauled in three awards.

It was an accomplishment not lost on Callum.

“In my 40 years in this business, this is my Oscar moment,” Callum said. “I am going to just soak it up.”

Callum and Jaguar Land Rover are used to taking home hardware from the World Car Awards. This marked the third consecutive year and fifth overall World Car Design of the Year award for the company.

But the fact that they were able to nearly sweep the award ceremony with their first ever foray into electric cars makes this year standout, according to Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Prof. Dr. Ralf Speth.

“For I-PACE to be awarded 2019 World Car of the Year, World Car Design of the Year and World Green Car gives our first all-electric vehicle the ultimate recognition it deserves,” Speth said. “We started with an ideal, to move towards our Destination Zero vision; zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion. I-PACE is our first step to achieving this, and it was conceived when EVs were little more than a niche choice. So we started from a clean sheet of paper to create a new benchmark -the world’s best premium electric vehicle, and a true Jaguar driver’s car.”

The I-PACE was chosen from an initial entry list of 40 vehicles in the World Car of the Year award category. The list was whittled down to three finalists on March 5th. Along with the I-Pace, the other finalists included the Audi e-tron and the Volvo S60/V60.

“I am going to run out of words, really. Speechless for once,” Callum said. “On behalf of everyone at Jaguar, thank you very much indeed. This is astonishing. Hat trick, amazing. I’ll be honest with you, when we set up this car, it was set up with a team with absolute determination to create something that was real authentic. A different Jaguar with passion. That’s what Jaguar is. A company with passion. I said to my team when we created this car, let’s build the best car in the world. That’s what I said to them. Hey, looks like we’ve done it.”

The World Car Awards were handed out on during the industry portion of the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The show runs through April 28.

The Jaguar I-Pace will be on display, along with several other automobiles from the Jaguar Land Rover family, throughout the entire NYIAS.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Sooners win 8th straight conference title

 

By Michael Kinney

The Yukon Review

Oklahoma has owned the MPSF conference. Heading into Saturday, the top-ranked Sooners had won seven straight conference championships and most had been in a rout.

This year, OU found something a little different as they hosted the MPSF meet. They found a fight on their hands with No. 2 Stanford and for the first time in a while, the Sooners had to dig deep to pull out the win.

The Sooners held off Stanford 420.500-418.550 to win their 18th MPSF crown and extend their winning streak to 116. Cal (394.700) and Air Force took (382.200) third and fourth.

“I think what means more than anything to us was that this was the closest conference we’ve had in our four years here,” OU senior Levin Anderson said. “I think arguably we are one of the more dominant teams we’ve had in the four years we’ve been here. But to end on a high note like that at conference, in the fieldhouse, in front of all the fans that came out, I can not be happier.”

Oklahoma coach Mark Williams, who has been around for the bulk of the conference titles, knows just how tough the competition was Saturday night at McCasland.

“They aren’t getting any easier to continue this streak and continue our record of conference championships,” Williams said. “Even though we had the home court, you still have to come out and perform. I thought the guys were a little bit tight in the beginning. Once we got going, gymnastics is still gymnastics. We rallied and I’m very proud of the effort these guys have made to do what they did today. That was a hard-fought battle.”

On the day, three Sooners won individual conference titles. That includes Yukon native Gage Dyer. The sophomore claimed his first title after posting a 14.650 on the floor exercise. The next closest score belonged to Stanford’s Bailey Perez at 14.500.

Senior Yul Moldauer finished his home career by winning conference titles on pommel horse (14.250), still rings (15.250) and parallel bars (15.150). He also claimed the all-around championship.

Yet, Moldauer’s biggest moment came on the high bar. He was inserted into the rotation after teammate Matt Wenske was injured on the parallel bars.

But Moldauer, who is a member of the U.S. National Team, showed why he is one of the best on the world. On what is maybe his worst event, he scored a 14.200.

Anderson also had his moment to shine in his final meet when he performed a near perfect vault that brought an eruption from the fans and helped settle the Sooners down.

“That was awesome,” Anderson said. “Especially being in the Field House and it being the last time I will compete in here. It was really special to get that reaction from the crowd, especially since I know we needed a big score on vault. That was going to be the event that was going to kind of pull us away. When I saw Tanner hit, that’s what I like to call Sooner magic. I was like ‘Oh, we just got it started, now all I’ve got to do is keep it going’. When I hit the table, I could tell off the direction of the table that if I just stayed in, I’d be good. It turned out the way that it did and I couldn’t be happier about it.”

Oklahoma will now prepare for the NCAA Championships, which they have won the past four years. They will be held April 19-20 in Chicago.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider