WVU finds missing magic just in time

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — When WVU made its run to the 2016 Big 12 Championship game, they had one intangible no other team could match. No matter how big the deficit, they came up with clutch hits in the biggest moments.

That intangible had been absent for much of the Big 12 Championship. That is until the eighth inning of May 26’s matchup with No. 1-seed Texas Tech.

With its tournament lives on the line, WVU posted nine runs in the final three innings to beat the Red Raiders, 12-7, in 10 innings, at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ball Park.

“I think what we did last year is fresh in our minds,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “There is never a thought in the dugout that we’re out of any game. We overcame an eight run deficit last year in the championship game and that’s fresh in everybody’s mind because the whole team is back. So they know when we get down it’s just a matter of sticking with it.”

Trailing 6-4, WVU’s Darius Hill led off the top of the ninth inning with a double to left field. Two batters later, Jackson Cramer lined a shot into the right field gap to score Hill. The ball got past right fielder Ryan Long and rolled to the fence. Cramer kept running and scored on the
inside the park homer to tie the game.

“That was a first for me,” Cramer said. “I’ve never had an inside the park or anything. It happened pretty fast. All I have to say is I was pretty tired afterward. It was a pretty cool moment for me just because I tied it up in a way I had never done before. It’s cool to have that moment and share it with
these guys.”

The game was still knotted at 6-6 when WVU came to bat in the top of the 10th. They quickly put two runners on with no outs. Ryan Gray then singled to right to pick up the go ahead RBI.

With the bases loaded, Texas Tech pitcher Jon Henry Gonzalez walked Cole Austin to score another run. Cramer then snatched the heart from the Red Raiders with a 3-run double down the right baseline. His five RBIs on the night set a new WVU tournament record.

“Cramer just came up so big at the end of the game,” Mazey said. “He’s earned it, he deserves it. He’s worked at it.”

The Mountaineers held a 12-6 lead going into the bottom of the 10th inning. Texas Tech loaded the bases before Josh Jung singled to knock in a run off Bradon Zarbnisky.

But that would be all Zarbnisky would give up as he got Long to hit into a double play to end the game.

“This one is tough to put into words,” Mazey said. “This is the game where you find out what your team is made of. And for us to go out there and do what we did today against that type of competition, you can’t put into words how proud I am of this team.”

Zarbnisky (6-1) picked up the win after pitching the final four innings, allowing one run, four hits and striking out three batters.

“My object was to just go out there and throw strikes,” Zarbnisky said. “If they hit it, they hit it. If they don’t they don’t. Just see what happens and let my defense work.”

WVU pounded out 17 total hits to set a new program record in the Big 12 tournament. One of those came from freshman pitcher Isaiah Kearns, who came to bat in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter with his team trailing 6-3. Just two days after pitching a complete game victory, Kearns blasted a solo homer that hit the hotel outside the stadium. It was his second homer in
only 12 at bats this
season.

“That was definitely the biggest play of the game, in my opinion,” Cramer said. “For him to come off the bench and hit a home run like that, probably the farthest ball I have ever seen hit, especially in this ballpark, I didn’t know anyone could hit a ball out that far. That definitely gave us some life.”

WVU doesn’t have much time to celebrate the win. They will face off with Oklahoma State again at 10 a.m. May 27 in another win or go home scenario. If they defeat the Cowboys, the two teams will play each other again at 5 p.m. with the winner advancing to the championship finale.

“You want to play your best baseball at the end of the season. This three game stretch is the best we’ve played this whole year,” Mazey said. “That’s a testament to our team. I really like where we are at. If you play against the Mountaineers right now, you are going to have to pitch pretty well. For us to win this thing, we are going to need some superb pitching from here on out. But our guys are ready.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Pokes take down WVU

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — WVU knew Colin Simpson had game. The Oklahoma State catcher had terrorized the Mountaineers during their three game series this season.

So it wasn’t a total shock to WVU coach Randy Mazey when Simpson exploded against the Mountaineers on May 25 in the Big 12 Championship tournament. Simpson accounted for 5 RBIs, 3 runs scored and two homers to lead Oklahoma State to an 8-4 victory over WVU at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

“When we left Stillwater earlier this year, we gave their catcher the nickname Homer Simpson,” Mazey said. “And he lived up to the billing today. He is just real comfortable at the plate against us. The guy has killed us.”

The loss drops West Virginia into the losers bracket of the tournament. They will face top-seed Texas Tech at 4:15 p.m. Friday. The winner advances while the loser will be heading home.

“This is when you get tested,” Mazey said. “We talked about it all year long. You get in conference tournaments, playing a lot of games in a short period of time. It really tests your bullpen and your pitching staff.”

In order for WVU to make it back to the Big 12 Championship game, they can’t have another performance like they did against OSU.

The Cowboys jumped all over Mountaineers starting pitcher BJ Myers from the outset. Simpson belted a 2-run homer to centerfield in the top of the first to give OSU a 2-0 lead.

WVU started to get to Oklahoma State’s Tyler Buffett in the bottom of the second when they loaded the bases. Brandon White and Kyle Gray each had a chance to do some serious damage for WVU, but Buffett was able to snuff out the threat and Oklahoma State kept its 2-0 advantage.

Mazey pulled Myers to start of the third inning and brought in Sam Kessler. The was the shortest out of the season for Myers.

Kessler allowed one run to cross before getting out of the inning.

WVU played small ball to get on the scoreboard in the fourth. After Braden Zarbnisky reached first, he stole second base. Chase Illig advanced him to third before White brought him home with a ground out to the right side of the field.

After Oklahoma State pulled ahead 5-1, West Virginia got one of those runs back when Zarbnisky picked up an RBI in the bottom of the inning. His four hits on the night set a new team record at the Big 12 tourney.

“It’s just being confident,” Zarbnisky said. “Working on my hitting, keep on driving the ball. Don’t let the pitcher out think you”

The Cowboys began to put the game out of reach in the sixth. Simpson hit his second home run of the night to put OSU up 8-2.

The Mountaineers Darius Hill closed the gap with an RBI single. That was enough to send Buffett to the bench and relieved by Cole Hearrean. But Cole Austin knocked in run to close the deficit to 8-4 in the sixth.

However, that would be the last threat the Mountaineers would mount. Unable to take advantage of scoring opportunities throughout the night, they wasted a 13 hit performance, which is a record for WVU in the conference tourney.

“It wasn’t too frustrating at the beginning of the game,” Jackson Cramer said. “We thought we were going to have some balls falls and it would break open eventually. Definitely some frustration later in the game when we were hitting balls right at them. Their pitch did a good job, especially with runners on.

West Virginia went through four relievers against Oklahoma State. Which means a short bullpen against the Red Raiders.

“The bull pen list is going to be a short one. So we need big Alek (Manoah) to go out there and get us pretty deep into the game,” Mazey said. “These guys gave great effort tonight. It was mentally exhausting, physically exhausting. When that is the case you need to rehydrate, get some rest and get ready to go [May 26].”

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Mountaineers blast Bears in Big 12 opener

(Photo by WVU athletics)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Like most college kids, Isaiah Kearns doesn’t function well in the morning.

So when WVU’s 5:30 a.m. wake-up call came May 24, he was not a happy camper.

However, Kearns may have to put the theory that he is not a morning person to bed after his performance in WVU’s 11-1 run-rule victory over Baylor in the first game of the Big 12 Championships at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

“You’re getting ready to find out that Isaiah Kearns does not give you the impression that he’s a morning guy, but apparently he is, because that’s as good a pitching performance as the Mountaineers have had this entire season,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “To go out and do what he did today, and coming off a short week, it enabled us to get through the first game without using any of the bullpen and turn around our weekend starters. It’s just unbelievable what he did today and kudos to him.”

Kearns (5-0) allowed one run and three hits and struck out six in eight innings of work. He also didn’t give up any free bases as he ended the day with no walk.

“The game plan was to not let them hit the ball,” Kearns said. “Sometimes it happens. Fly ball outs are outs. We will take them. My mind set was to command the zone and throw strikes and get ahead in counts.”

WVU (33-22) will face No. 8 seed Oklahoma State (27-25) at 5 p.m. today in the winner’s bracket. The Cowboys shut out No. 1 Texas Tech, 3-0, to advance.

The Mountaineers and Cowboys have met three times this season with WVU winning two of them, on the road. However, all three games were close as WVU outscored OSU, 16-14.

The only advantage Mazey sees, though, is his team being able to sleep in.

“Believe it or not, that’s a huge incentive for these kids,” Mazey said. “To win the game, you get to sleep in the next day. You have a 6 a.m. breakfast for these kids, that’s pretty tough.”

WVU didn’t waste any time putting pressure on Baylor pitcher Nick Lewis. Kyle Gray and Ivan Gonzalez singled to start the bottom of the first.

Shea Langeliers then hit a pop up to center field that allowed Gray to score from third. That was the first of an avalanche of runs to come.

Kyle Davis, Braden Zarbnisky and Jimmy Galusky each knocked in a run on three consecutive hits off Lewis. Then Gray came back to the plate with the bases loaded. He sent a line drive down the right field line and into the corner for a three-run triple.

When the first inning finally ended, the Mountaineers had plated seven runs on six hits. It was the type of offensive explosion WVU hoped for to jump start the Big 12 tourney.

“I think it was not only big for the rest of the game, but I think for the rest of the tournament,” Galusky said. “It kind of got us started off on the right foot. It will kind of help us down the road, give us some confidence going into tomorrow.”

WVU was back at it in the third, when Galusky drove in another run, with a single to center field. But instead of that being the start of another big inning, the Mountaineers ran themselves out of the inning by getting caught twice trying to steal second base.

Kearns continued to sail through the Bears’ lineup with ease. Through five innings he had allowed two hits and zero runs. He wasn’t playing like a freshman making his first postseason start.

“I think at the end of the year, freshman, seniors, I think it’s all completely irrelevant,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. “They’ve gone through the year. I tell freshmen, ‘You get a couple of weeks to be a freshman, then after that you’re baseball players.’ I think he did a really good job.”

Kearns didn’t allow a run until the seventh inning. That was the only blemish on his stat line for the day.

The Mountaineers put the game away in the bottom of the eighth with a walk-off RBI single by Cole Austin.

Going back to last season, this was the fourth straight game the team posted nine runs in Big 12 tournament action.

Galusky led the offensive charge as he went
3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Gray was
2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. WVU pounded out 14 hits.

“We prepare for every game,” Galusky said. “Going into every game we’re ready. Maybe this one we were a little more prepared.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

This is not your father’s King Arthur

By Michael Kinney

There are very few stories that have been told in as many different ways than the story of King Arthur. With his sword Excalibur, his knights of the round table and his wizard Merlin, the tale has been been pulled apart and put back together a thousand different ways.

That includes the horribly done First Knight (1995) with Richard Gere and Sean Connery. It was the first time I realized you can be too old to play certain characters.

Then came King Arthur in 2004 with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley. Once again, forgettable.

But that was the last major film made about the King Arthur legend. It was a sign that there were no more unique ways to tell the story.

Then Guy Ritchie burst through the door and screams challenged accepted with “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”

Staring CHarlie Hunnam in the title role, Arthur is forced to live on the streets as a young boy. He grows up poor and unaware of his lineage.

But one day, Arthur is forced to come to terms with who he is, where he came from, the power he holds and what he has to do because of his uncle, played diabolically by Jude Law.

This is not Ritchie’s first time to take an old character and give it an updated, new century feel. He did the same with Sherlock Holmes. Starring Morton Downy Jr. and Law, he turned the stiff unemotional British detective into a wise cracking, flawed hero.

With King Arthur, he did much of the same transformation. Ritchie made Arthur the coolest dude on the block. From the clothes Arthur wears (Harold sports some of the smoothest jackets) to the very way he walks is pure 2000s. But Harold pulls it off well.

The movie is not without its flaws. Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey is a witch who guides Arthur into becoming the King. Her acting leaves a lot to be desired and the dialect she chooses to use in the film makes her sound like a German robot who just learned to speak.

Also, much of the original King Arthur plot was stripped away. Certain major characters are either taken out all together or just thrown into the film in minor roles.

In other words, this is not your grandfather’s King Arthur.

Ritchie basically turned The Legend of the Sword into a super hero origins movie. Something that you normally see with the X-Men or any of the Marvel comic book characters.

Those are the biggest and best movies coming out today, so it would make sense that Ritchie and his co-writers would follow in the same super hero vein.

Yet, it works for the most part. Hunnam looks like he is ready to take his cult following from the small screen and become the next big action hero. Law is exceptional and the rest of the cast does their job (except Bergès-Frisbey).

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” won’t win any best acting or writing awards. But as far as pure entertainment, it’s well seeing.

Oklahoma athletes shine at state meet

By Michael Kinney

YUKON– It has almost become old hat for Connor Roddy. Showing up to the state track and field championships and bringing home the gold. It’s a process the Duncan junior had done twice before.

So when Roddy faced off with the rest of the 5A discus throwing field Saturday, he was also chasing after some of the throwers to ever come through the state.

Roddy claimed his third consecutive state championship in the discus throw with a toss of 171-feet-11.

“It feels really great,” Roddy said. “It’s the third year in a row that I’ve got. It’s an honor to come out here and compete with the best people in state. I love it.”

Yet, despite all of his success, Roddy said there is one record he still needs to obtain before he closes out his career.

“I am going for the Duncan School record, which belongs to my brother,” Roddy said of his goal for next year. “He got 195 for discus. So that is my goal for next year.”

Roddy was one of several athletes over the weekend who either broke a record or added to what was also an impressive resume at the 5A/6A State Track and Field Championships.

That includes Yukon High Jumper Vernon Turner. He came into the meet looking to break the all-time high school record, which sits at 7-7.

After breaking the Oklahoma State meet record of 7-4, Turner asked to have the bar set at 7-7.25. It’s a height he has come close to getting over several times in the regular season, but came up short.

The state meet would be no different. Turner clipped the bar on all three attempts.

Despite that, Turner still easily won his third straight state championship

“It’s a blessing for sure,” Turner said. “To come out here three years in a row and get back to back to back state championships… I don’t even think that has been done in high jump here. That was a record too I guess. It feels good for sure.”

Turner will be competing at Oklahoma University next season. But before then, he says he has at least one more attempt to break the national record when he heads out to New Mexico for a meet. He may also attend Tuesday’s Meet of Champions to go for the record there as well.

However, Turner’s and Roddy’s three title do not compare to Charles Paige High runner Cheyenne Walden. With her victories in the 3200 and 1600, the senior ends her career with nine state championships. That includes four straight in the 3200 for the Oklahoma State commit, who has not lost in the two mile run since her freshman season. That is 24 straight races.

Walden also broke the 1600 meter run state record by three seconds when she posted a 4:57.07.

While Walden’s long distance running career is coming to an end, Lawton MacArthur’s Daniel Nickell Jr. is hoping he is just starting a great one. He won the 5A boys mile run with a time of 4:29.16.

“It feels good,” Nickell Jr. said. “it was really unexpected. I was praying to God the whole race and it worked out. I was just expecting to medal today. It turned out 10 times better than I thought it would.”

Nickell Jr. is only a sophomore and wants to transform this title into much more success down the road for him and his Highlanders.

“Truthfully, I hope it sets me up pretty good,” Nickell Jr. said. “I hope I am breaking some records my senior year and winning some more the rest of my high school career.”

Some of the most impressive performances of the weekend on the girls side were Moore’s Tianna Holmes winning the 6A girls 400 meter dash, Choctaw’s Bailey Golden winning the 6A high jump and long jump, Keely Mclaughlin setting meet record in the shot put ad Bixby’s Brandee Presley holding off stiff competition to win the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

For the boys the outstanding performances were Westmoore’s Anthony Riley setting a state meet record in the long jump at 24.05, all of the Tulsa Union relay teams, Jesse Porter of Putnam City West taking the 6A 100 meter dash, the Moore throws taking first and second in the discus and shot put and OU commit Brock Appiah taking the 200 meter dash.

In class 5A, Del City ran away with the girls championship with 110 points. That was 35 more than second place Ardmore. Carl Albert upset the DC boys to win the 5A boys crown 92-87.

In 6A, as expected, the Edmond Memorial girls dominated with 134 total points. Moore came in second with 66.

On the boys side, the 6A race went down to the wire between Union and Memorial. The Redskins held a six point advantage heading into the 4×400 meter relay. But they made sure the extra points weren’t needed as they finished off the meet by winning the relay in a time of 3:18.09. The Bulldogs came in third.

“It means everything,” Union coach Janna Patterson said. “This group has been nothing but awesome. They are great kids and worked every single day. Could not have asked for a better state meet. Everything they have worked for this entire season came down to (mile relay) and they proved that they were champions.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

The Lion King still going strong

By Michael Kinney

In the 1994 film version of “The Lion King,” the most memorable scene is the death of Mufassa. As the young cub/son Simba cries over his father believing he caused his death, it had many movie goers to shedding a tear.

When I went to see the Broadway musical of “The Lion King” Thursday at the Oklahoma City Civic Center, I saw that director Julie Taymor tried to bring out the same emotions when the death scene played out on stage. And I knew it worked when I heard a group of women in the 60s, sitting behind me, sniffling.

The ultimate goal for Taymor each night is to take that same emotion and heart that viewers loved in the movie and bring it to the stage each night.

“When I looked at the film… I said to myself, what is working in tis film for me? What is the most daunting challenge,” Taymor said. “That’s what I like to do– the sheer fact it’d very hard to do is a great challenge to me.”

In 1997 the musical The Lion King burst onto the scene. It quickly became of the most popular and best received shows on Broadway.

The Lion King has now entered its 20th year and it shows no signs of slowing down. Presented by OKC Broadway, it has now made its way to the Oklahoma and is playing in front of packed houses. It is scheduled to play at the Oklahoma City Civic Center through May 28.

The show lasts more than 2 ½ hours with one 15 minute intermission. With 49 cast members and 134 people who work on the show daily, it is one of the biggest touring shows to come to Oklahoma City for this length of time.

With its large cast, extravagant use of colors and large scale puppets, the Lion King has a little bit for everyone. It is especially significant for those who grew up on the 1994 movie version.

However, because of its length, the Lion King does drag along at some points with the story. But what makes the show stand out, is even when there is a lull in the story line, the music, the puppetry, costumes and set designs are more than enough to keep audience members involved in the show.

“When the human spirit visibly animates an object, we experience a special, almost life giving connection,” said Lion King director Julie Taymor. “We become engaged by both the method of storytelling as well as the story itself.”

Special props go to actors who played Young Simba. The role alternates between Devin Graves and Jordan Williams.

Gerald Ramsey, who played Mufassa, was also extraordinary.

For those who know nothing about the Lion King story, it is easy to follow even on a Broadway stage. And for those who know the movie all to well, the musical expands on a story that is molded for young and old alike.

For tickets, got to OKCBROADWAY.com.

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Racing to state & prom

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN – Wyatt Duvall was in a hurry. The sprinter from Westmoore High had an important date to get to Saturday night. His prom.

But before Duvall could get dressed up and pick up his date, he had some work to do first at the 6A-5A track and field regional at Norman High.

Coming into the event, Duvall was one of the top ranked runners in the state. He showed why by taking home the gold in the 100 (10.87) and 200 (22.05) meter dashes. He also ran the anchor legs for Westmoore’s 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams.

“As a team, we wanted to go get a regional championship,” Duvall said of his goals coming into the meet. “Winning the 100 and 200 for sure, get a championship in that. Just excited to get out here.”

Duvall brought home three golds and one silver before hurrying off to the prom. However, the Jaguars were unable to snag the 6A team title away from Edmond Memorial. The Bulldogs eclipsed 200 points, which was more than a 100 more than Westmoore.

But Duvall likes how regionals has set him and his team up to make a run at Edmond in the state meet May 12-13 at Yukon High.

“We started out kind of slow,” Duvall said. “But got a lot better. I feel like our faith in Jesus Christ was strengthened. I feel like that has a lot to with our success. We definitely got a good team put together.”

Edmond Memorial laid claim to the 6A girls championship. Led by Morganne Mukes, Emma Pitts, Alysheia Joseph and their dominance in the relays, they routed the rest of the field.

In class 5A, the Eagles of Del City who won the boys championship. They owned the sprints, hurdles and relays as the regional with ease.

Assistant track coach Amber Baine had a feeling Eisenhower was going to do something special in the 5A girls competition. She came into the meet knowing the EHS girls track and field team had a chance to walk away with the tourney title if every thing fell their way.

Baine’s intuition was right. The Lady Eagles scored 167 points Saturdayto win the 5A regional title. They held off Del City by two points in order to bring the championship home.

“Coming into today we wanted to see as many Eisenhower girls qualify for state as possible,” Baine said. “Also run good times, be happy with ourselves and hopefully score enough points to win regionals.”

Del City was the overwhelming favorite to not only win the regional, but to also win the state meet next week. But the depth of Eisenhower in a small field of competitors was too much for DCH to handle.

Under head coach Mike Burris, the Lady Eagles broke a title drought that has lasted more than decade. It was the first time they had brought home regional hardware since 2006.

“This is just amazing,” Eisenhower’s Ashley Pletcher said. “This is just an amazing experience.”

While Del City won more individual events, Eisenhower came away with its own share of honors.

Mariah Leonard won the 400 meter dash with a time of 59.26. Brooke Boss overwhelmed the field in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 47.05.

Ashley Pletcher took home the gold in the long jump for the Lady Eagles with a leap of 16-03. She had to fend off her teammates Shania Smith and Gina Rogers in the finals as they finished first, second and third.

“I always try to outdo myself from the last track meet,” Pletcher said. “But this time it was about beating my own teammates because they kind of got up their quicker than I did. It always makes me work hard. Because I know if they can do it, I can do it.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer at Eyeamtruth.com