Category: Arizona

Maricopa High Rams take 2 of 3 from Tucson teams

Trejo Moncel Naranjo ByrdThe Maricopa High School baseball and softball teams played teams from Tucson this week and the Rams emerged victorious in two of the three contests.

The varsity baseball team (6-4) hosted the Flowing Wells Caballeros (0-10) on Wednesday beating them 10-6.

Senior pitcher Dillon Moran won his first game in three appearances allowing only four hits and two earned runs while delivering seven strikeouts in five innings pitched. Fellow senior Michael Gunter relieved Moran in the sixth inning and recorded his second save in as many appearances.

The Rams jumped all over Flowing Wells with two runs in the first inning and three more in the second.

BaseballThey would go scoreless in the third, but come roaring back with four runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.

Michael Gunter paced all batters, going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Junior Nick Diaz also knocked in a 2-run home run and was hit by a pitch going 1-for-2. Senior Derik Johnson also finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.

The Rams rallied whenever a batter hit the base path and left zero men stranded on base throughout the game.

Next up for the varsity squad is traveling to Tucson to take on Catalina Foothills (11-2, 5-0 home) Tuesday and then across town to take on Salpointe Catholic (6-1).

The varsity softball squad (8-5) traveled to Tucson and split a pair between Flowing Wells and Catalina Foothills high schools.

Wednesday afternoon’s game at Flowing Wells saw Rams’ starting pitcher Victoria Andrade give up five runs in the first inning before settling down and pitching four scoreless innings.

FieldingThe Rams opened up with a single by senior Madi Byrd but Madi Moncel’s come-backer to the pitcher was turned into a double play and the girls were shut down and the bats went silent until the sixth inning.

They executed a double steal and scored a run before two straight flyouts ended the rally and the inning. They would go on to give up three more runs in the sixth and lose 9-1.

Thursday’s game at Catalina Foothills was a complete 180 from the Wednesday’s game and spelled a big win for the Lady Rams.

The girls dominated the Falcons scoring two runs in the first inning and chasing the pitcher in the fourth inning. Sophomore pitcher Amber Cramer went the distance and took the win although she looked a little shaky in the bottom of the seventh giving up two runs.

The Rams broke their two-game losing streak with the 5-2 victory and are back home on Wednesday to take on Horizon Honors (2-5-1) out of north Phoenix and travel back to Tucson on Thursday to play Salpointe Catholic (4-5).

MHS Baseball Split Pair on Road; Softball Suffers Home Loss

MHS Base

The varsity baseball team has spent a lot of time away from the home field of Maricopa High School and is faring quite well as the visiting team. The Rams (5-4) are 4-2 in true away games and 1-1 at neutral sites.

Coach Andrew Pollak’s squad traveled to Mesa High School to take on the Jackrabbits (4-6) and walked away with a 3-2 win for a second straight victory. Senior pitcher Tristan Hartley (2-1) hurled five shutout innings fanning six batters and allowing one hit.

Hartley was relieved by fellow senior Michael Gunter who was solid in the sixth inning but allowed Mesa to mount a comeback scoring twice on two hits and a walk. Hartley would earn the win and Gunter notched the save, his first of the season.

Hartley and Gunter also provided two of the Rams five hits on offense with Gunter delivering the Rams’ only extra base hit. Gunter also stole a base, his third of the season and scored a run, bringing his season total to five runs.

The Rams put their two-game win streak on the line when they traveled to Tempe to take on the Marcos de Niza Padres Monday night. Senior left-handed pitcher Dallas Speer (3-1) took the mound against Marcos and delivered eight strikeouts in 4.2 innings. However, his five walks, three hits and two runs surrendered earned him his first loss of the season.

Hartley relieved Speer and gave up four hits and three runs, all earned, in the final 1.1 innings as the Padres’ starting pitcher Craig Knoche went the distance with the complete game shutout.

Photo courtesy of Sam Dugan

Photo courtesy of Sam Dugan

The Rams hit Knoche well but were not able to transform those hits into runs. Senior Dillon Moran rebounded from a 0-for-3 performance against Mesa with perfect 3-for-3 batting. Five other players recorded hits in the game.

The varsity team will play at home Thursday for only its second game this season when it takes on Flowing Wells High School from Tucson. The Caballeros are winless in its first eight games this season.

Fresh off a six-game win streak, the varsity softball team was riding high. The Lady Rams had a nine-day break after winning the Krystin Diehl Tournament and hosted the Marcos de Niza Padres Monday night.

Rest vs. rust came into play and the Rams (7-4) gave up five runs in the fourth inning and fell to the Padres (7-7) by the count of 8-2. The softball team travels to Tucson this week to take on Flowing Wells High School Wednesday and Catalina Foothills High Thursday. The FWHS Caballeros (6-6) are 1-2 at home and the CFHS Falcons (5-8) are 3-4 at home.

Through 10 games this season, senior Madison Byrd leads the Rams with 19 hits including seven doubles and two triples. Byrd also leads with 19 runs and 14 RBIs.

Rams softball dominates at home; baseball falls in Gilbert

SB Tourney Champs

Maricopa High School softball hosted and won the Krystin Diehl Softball Tournament over the weekend with teams from across the state in attendance.

The Rams (5-3) invited Page High School, Camelback High from Phoenix and Florence High School in Pool A. Carl Hayden High from Phoenix, Higley High, Holbrook High and La Joya Community from Avondale were in the opposing pool.

The tournament honors former Maricopa High softball player and sophomore class president who was killed in an auto accident in 2006.

The first game of the tournament on Thursday night saw junior Isabel McCloskey hit the Rams first home run of the season as Maricopa went on to run-rule Camelback High School.

The ladies hosted a doubleheader on Friday and handily defeated Page High in the early game 14-3. The late game against Florence High was highlighted by Madison Byrd’s grand slam home run as the Rams went on to another run-rule victory.

The three double-digit victories enabled the Rams to a berth in the Championship Game on Saturday night vs. La Joya Community High School. The Rams and Fighting Lobos met previously in the Sun Blast Tournament in Anthem, with the Rams pulling out an 8-1 victory.

The Fighting Lobos were looking to avenge the earlier loss, but the Lady Rams jumped all over La Joya starting pitcher Alyssa Villareal with six runs in the first inning. La Joya would battle back, scoring three runs in the third inning, but Maricopa’s five-run sixth inning spelled the end of the game when the Fighting Lobos were blanked in the bottom of the sixth.

The mercy rule was called after six innings.

photo courtesy of Karyn Sather Speer

photo courtesy of Karyn Sather Speer

The varsity baseball squad (4-3) traveled to Gilbert Saturday for the 4th annual Game on Germann baseball tournament at Campo Verde High School. The host Coyotes invited Maricopa High School along with 10 other teams.

Junior Nick Diaz knocked a two-run home run in the opener against Tucson High on Thursday night, but that was the only scoring Maricopa would see as senior pitcher Tristan Hartley would give up five hits, five walks and seven runs through five innings. Noah Anderson pitched two scoreless innings to end the game, but the Rams offense couldn’t catch up.

Saturday’s game against Campo Verde didn’t fare much better as the Cougars scored early and often off of starting pitcher Dillon Moran (0-2). By the time Moran was pulled in favor of Michael Gunter, Moran had given up six hits and eight runs, four earned. The Ram bats were once again silent as Cougars pitcher Eric Lamberson went the distance, giving up three hits, two to Friday’s pitcher, Hartley.

Monday night’s game against Agua Fria High School from Phoenix saw the Rams return to their winning ways, defeating the Owls 11-2. The next game will be 4 p.m. Wednesday vs. Mesa High School with the championship game on Thursday

Pac-12 Tournament: Matchups, TV Coverage, Predictions and More

NJ BallThe regular season is over. The games have been played, the arguments have been made, and as much as Arizona wants to take their ball and go home, the Ducks, Golden Bears and Cardinal need the Pac-12 tournament to solidify their NCAA tournament fate.

The final day of regular season play saw several close games and was highlighted by a few upsets that could make or break teams’ seasons.

The Pac-12 tournament begins March 12 in Las Vegas, Nev., and here is a comprehensive list of seedings, matchups and everything else you need to know about the tourney.

No. 8 Seed Utah vs. No. 9 Seed Washington

 

  • Russ Isabella-USA Today Sports

    Russ Isabella-USA Today Sports

    Date: March 12, 2014

  • Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

The opener for the the Pac-12 tournament will feature teams struggling for an identity in the conference. Utah (20-10, 9-9 Pac-12) has been a dominant force at home, going 18-2 with wins over three of the top five seeds in the conference, but has only won twice away from Huntsman Center.

Washington (17-14, 9-9 Pac-12) has lost six of its last 10 games, but things may be looking up for the Huskies as they have won three of the past four including humiliating their in-state rival, Washington State, 72-49.

The teams split the series in the 2013-14 season with the home team winning each game. The Huskies lead the all-time series 8-7.

Prediction: Utah

No. 5 Seed Colorado vs. No. 12 Seed USC

 

  • Mark J. Terrill-Associated Press

    Mark J. Terrill-Associated Press

    Date: March 12, 2014

  • Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

The glorious 5-12 seed matchup.

This game has perennially been a blowout with the lowest-ranked team in the conference looking for some sort of redemption. First-year coach Andy Enfield went from recruiting walk-on players with fliers posted at Florida Gulf Coast University to a full stable of scholarship players.

The Trojans (11-20, 2-16 Pac-12) have had a tough year, to say the least. The highlight of their season reaches all the way back to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the Bahamas when it beat Xavier 84-78.

The Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8 Pac-12), on the other hand, were nationally ranked as high as No. 15 until point guard Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a torn ACL. The Buffs lost a heartbreaker to Cal in overtime to finish their season with losses in three of their final four games.

Colorado swept the 2013-14 season series by an average of 15 points and should have no problem advancing to the quarterfinals to face California.

Prediction: Colorado

 

No. 7 Seed Oregon vs. No. 10 Seed Oregon State

 

  • Scott Olmos-USA Today Sports

    Scott Olmos-USA Today Sports

    Date: March 12, 2014

  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

The Ducks are back!

Oregon (22-8, 10-8 Pac-12) has won seven straight and has all but guaranteed an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament after Saturday’s 64-57 win over the No. 3-ranked Arizona Wildcats. During the streak, the Ducks have beaten the top three conference seeds by an average of six points.

Oregon State (16-14, 8-10 Pac-12), on the other hand, is rebounding from an epic overtime victory over Arizona State. The Beavers have lost six of their last 10 games but also claim victories over two of the top three conference seeds.

The teams split the 2013-14 season with the home team winning each game. No teams in NCAA history have played more basketball games than Oregon and Oregon State. Wednesday’s meeting will be the 342nd time that the teams will meet, with Oregon State leading the series 186-155.

Prediction: Oregon

 

No. 6 Seed Stanford vs. No. 11 Seed Washington State

 

  • Bob Stanton-USA Today Sports

    Bob Stanton-USA Today Sports

    Date: March 12, 2014

  • Time: 11:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

Stanford was a lock for the NCAA tournament after beating then-No. 23 UCLA on Feb. 22. The Cardinal (19-11, 10-8 Pac-12) followed up that defining win with three straight losses. It was swept on the road in Arizona and lost a close game at home to Colorado. On senior day in Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal survived a scare with a one-point victory over Utah.

The Cardinal need a great, not good, showing in the tournament to assure their spot in the NCAA tournament.

Washington State (10-20, 3-15 Pac-12) shocked the world with a regular-season ending 18-point victory over UCLA. Prior to Saturday’s shocker, the Cougars had lost eight straight and 12 of their past 13 games.

Stanford won both games between the teams this year by an average of 22.5 points.

Prediction: Stanford

 

No. 1 Seed Arizona vs. Utah/Washington Winner

 

  • Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

    Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

    Date: March 13, 2014

  • Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

Arizona (28-3, 15-3 Pac-12) is the regular-season conference champion for the 13th time since joining the conference in 1978. Although Saturday’s loss at Oregon was disappointing, Coach Miller and his crew will shed it like a dirty shirt.

Following the loss to Arizona State on February 14, the Wildcats went on to win five straight by an average of 15.4 points. Arizona finished its second undefeated home stand in Miller’s tenure as head coach and looks to add tournament champion to its 2014 resume.

Arizona was 3-0 against Washington and Utah this season, defeating the Huskies by nine at home and being one of only two teams to beat Utah in Salt Lake City. The Utes took the ‘Cats to overtime before losing 67-63.

There is no bigger David and Goliath setup than if Utah were to get to face the Wildcats again but this time walk away with the win. The Runnin’ Utes will need to get past Washington first and will once again put up a valiant fight.

Prediction: Arizona

 

No. 4 Seed Cal vs. Colorado/USC Winner

 

  • Kelly L. Cox-USA Today Sports

    Kelly L. Cox-USA Today Sports

    Date: March 13, 2014

  • Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

The California Golden Bears are an anomaly. Last year’s dragonslayer looked to repeat the 2013-14 season in the same role with early season wins over ranked teams in Oregon and Arizona. The Bears were a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament before losing losing three of their past five games.

Fate smiled on the California squad with a one-point overtime victory over Colorado, handing them the No. 4 seed and the first-round bye.

Colorado will be looking to avenge Saturday’s loss as the loser of this game will most likely be headed to the NIT, snubbed by the NCAA tournament.

Prediction: California

 

No. 2 Seed UCLA vs. Oregon/Oregon State Winner

 

  • Stephen Brashear-Associated Press

    Stephen Brashear-Associated Press

    Date: March 13, 2014

  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

UCLA was embarrassed at home on Saturday, or at least they should have been. The Bruins (23-8, 12-6 Pac-12) put forth an abysmal performance against a Washington State team that has struggled to score 60 points per game in 2014. The Bruins enter the tournament losing three of their past five games, including a double-overtime loss at home to Oregon.

As the No. 2 seed in the conference with 23 overall and 12 conference wins, the Bruins will most likely receive a NCAA bid regardless of how they fare in Las Vegas.

The Bruins are ripe for an upset, but if it is Oregon that the Bruins will be playing in the quarterfinals on Thursday, I don’t see UCLA losing again to the Ducks.

Prediction: UCLA

 

No. 3 Seed Arizona State vs. Stanford/Washington State Winner

 

  • Matt York-Associated Press

    Matt York-Associated Press

    Date: March 13, 2014

  • Time: 11:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • TV Coverage: Fox Sports 1

 

Behold the mystery that is Arizona State.

The Sun Devils (21-10, 10-8 Pac-12) have lost four of their past six games and are still considered at least a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. Coach Sendek’s squad has lost its last five games on the road and six of its past seven, needing overtime to defeat Cal on January 29. The Sun Devils, however, finished the year 16-1 at home with victories over No. 2 Arizona, Oregon, Colorado and Cal.

The Daily BPI for Arizona State took a hit after the Oregon State overtime loss on Saturday, dropping the Devils below Utah at No. 35. Its RPI dropped even farther to No. 46, one spot behind Stanford.

If Stanford advances to the quarterfinals, as predicted, the Devils will have a fight on their hands. The two met in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament last year with Arizona State escaping with a one-point overtime victory.

The teams split the 2013-14 series with the home team winning each game.

Prediction: Arizona State

Semifinals, Finals and Champion

RHJ UCLA

 

Semifinal One

 

  • Date: March 14, 2014
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • TV CoveragePac-12 Networks
  • Online StreamPac-12.com
  • Prediction: Arizona vs. California
  • Projected Winner: Arizona

Arizona decimated California at home on February 26 as a “thank you” for handing the Wildcats their first loss and dethroning them from their nine-week stay atop the NCAA rankings. The ‘Cats will add insult to injury by knocking the Golden Bears out of the conference tournament and most likely ending their NCAA tournament hopes.

Semifinal Two

 

  • Date: March 14, 2014
  • Time: 11:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • TV Coverage: Fox Sports 1
  • Online StreamPac-12.com
  • Prediction: UCLA vs. Arizona State
  • Projected Winner: UCLA

It’s like déjà vu all over again for the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 tournament. If Arizona State advances to the semifinals against UCLA on Friday as predicted, they will face the same two teams in 2014 that they faced to start the 2013 tourney. As the No. 9 seed, the Sun Devils led No. 1 seed UCLA by as many as 15 points before falling apart down the stretch.

I think the Bruins will end the Sun Devils’ conference title hopes for a second consecutive season.

Conference Final

 

  • Ashley injuryDate: March 15, 2014
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET
  • Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena
  • TV Coverage: Fox Sports 1
  • Online StreamPac-12.com
  • Prediction: Arizona vs. UCLA
  • Projected Winner: Arizona

 

The Wildcats defeated the Bruins 79-75 in Los Angeles on January 9. With the newly-added conference teams, the two only played the one time this season. Arizona’s Brandon Ashley played 29 minutes in that game but didn’t wow with his numbers that evening, so his absence shouldn’t make a difference in this matchup.

Inaugural Hi Corbett Classic to Feature College World Series Finalists

hi-corbett-classic

TUCSON, Ariz.  —  The 2012 College World Series Champion, Arizona Wildcats and the 2013 College World Series runner-up Mississippi State Bulldogs will highlight the Hi Corbett Classic this weekend in southern Arizona.

The No. 15 College Baseball Central Bulldogs travel to Tucson after  sweeping the Diamond Classic in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi St. (11-4) defeated Michigan State and Eastern Illinois two times each and completed the 15-game opening home stretch with a 3-0 win over South Alabama an Wednesday. >>>Read More on College Baseball Central 

Maricopa High Rams Baseball, Softball Seasons Underway

MHS BaseballThe crack of the bat, the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the perfectly lined chalked baselines, everything that makes springtime in Arizona the best time of the year is upon us – baseball and softball season.

The 17 members of the Maricopa High School varsity baseball team along with the 18 members of the varsity softball team have waited for this week since returning from the holiday break.

The baseball team started playing Wednesday in the four-day Tomas Pinon Tournament in Casa Grande where they will take on Marana High School, Arizona Charter Academy and host team Casa Grande Union High School in consecutive days.

New head coach Andrew Pollak said he looks to get the Rams back into contention after a 12-13-1 overall and 9-9 in its league 2013 season. Pollak is a former catcher at Arizona State University and brother of NFL lineman, Mike Pollak.

The team includes 12 seniors this season along with three juniors. Two sophomores, Nate Ford and Tyler Rapp also made the cut. Ford along with junior Joel Silva were both promoted from the junior varsity this season and will split time behind the plate. Rapp, not only played for the varsity squad as a freshman, but also was second on the team in at-bats with 71. He also made six pitching appearances garnering two wins.

Rams LogoSenior pitchers Dillon Moran and Dallas Speer will return for their final season on the mound for the Rams along with Tristan Hartley and Michael Gunter. Leading hitter Sean Dugan graduated last year but seniors Michael Gunter, Michael Ashe, Dillon Moran and Bernardo Juarez swing big bats as well.

The Rams varsity softball team traveled a bit farther than their male counterparts when they started play Thursday in the Sun Blast Tournament at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, a far-reaching Phoenix suburb to the north.

The ladies face Gila Ridge from Yuma today, then a doubleheader against La Joya Community from Avondale and Xavier College Preparatory from Phoenix on Saturday.

Head coach Chris Ansley returns for his fourth season and is looking to improve on the 15-12 record from last year. Making up the varsity squad this year are seven seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and a freshman in Kayla Martinez.

Leading the Rams this season are junior infielder Isabel McCloskey who finished the 2013 season with batting average of .471 in 19 games. McCloskey also knocked out four homeruns as well as 19 RBIs and two doubles in her 39 at-bats. Senior Chelsea Trejo, who played in 26 of 27 games last year also carried a big bat, hitting .327 with 18 hits including three doubles and a home run.

Additional returning seniors this season are Madison Moncel, Madison Byrd, Rosie Naranjo and Sydnee Akers.

Moncel and Byrd started 26 and 25 games respectively last season. Moncel had a solid season hitting .373 with 19 hits and 18 RBI in 51 at-bats. Byrd is the only returning player that hit both a triple and a home run for the Rams last year while registering 14 hits

Yasmin Santa Cruz winds up to deliver the pitch.  Tena Dugan photo

Yasmin Santa Cruz winds up to deliver the pitch.
Tena Dugan photo

and 15 RBI. Naranjo played in 21 games last year with a respectable .297 batting average. Akers’ experience will also be an asset in the dugout.

Senior newcomers Kaylee Darnall and Chelsea Jones will provide maturity and leadership.

On the mound for the Rams will be returning junior, Victoria Andrade (5-3). Andrade started nine game and maintained a solid 1.95 ERA over 13 appearances. Andrade threw five complete games including one shutout. Her strikeout-to-walk ratio was also admirable at 45:14.

Joining Andrade on the mound this year will be sophomores Yasmin Santa Cruz and Amber Cramer.

World Golf Championships Quarterfinals has Big Names Absent

RickieAmerican golfer Rickie Fowler wasn’t the only player to find himself in a “sticky” situation on Friday. Several PGA veterans and top-seeded golfers found the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. to be difficult in the Sweet 16 matchups.

Of the top 12 seeded players beginning play on Wednesday, only two remain—No. 2 seed Jason Day and No. 3 seed Jordan Spieth.

A third round of upset-laden matches were par for the course on Friday as we bid adieu to two No. 2 seeds, a No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed—all to higher seeded players. Of the remaining eight golfers, three were considered underdogs receiving a seeding of eight or higher.

 

Rickie Fowler Is Unstoppable

 

One of the more stylishly flamboyant golfers on the PGA Tour, who never fails to bring it with his fashion sense hasn’t brought it when it comes to his golfing.

Fowler’s last and only PGA tour victory was the Wells Fargo Championship in May 2012. His highest finish in a major was tied for fifth in the Open Championship in 2011. Fowler recently finished tied for 10th in last year’s U.S. Open.

So, forgive the powers that be who seeded Fowler at No. 14.

Fowler has shown that he is for real in Marana. He has taken down three of the top 25 golfers in the world, according to Official World Golf Rankings, coming in at No. 56, down three spots from last week.

No.2 seed Sergio Garcia, who was leading 2-up on the front nine, conceded a putt on the seventh hole, in essence, handing the entire match to Fowler. The American would go on to win on the final hole with a birdie while Garcia parred.

After going down three skins through eight holes, Fowler knew what he had to do but would his actions speak louder than words down the stretch?

I would say so.

Fowler birdied holes nine and 10 to bring the deficit back to one and he kept it close with five straight halving holes through 15, including a birdie on 11 as well as a bogey on 14. Fowler finally tied it up with a birdie on the short 16th hole and won it all with a closing birdie on 18.

Fowler’s Saturday opponent will be crowd favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk.

8 Is Great in This State

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ernie Els Out of the Trap
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Two No. 8 seeds, both from South Africa and both intricately intertwined with the other, could meet in the semifinals on Sunday. Both golfers defeated a lower-seeded player on Friday, hot on the heels of knocking out their bracket’s top-seed golfer on Thursday.

Louis Oosthuizen made quick work of No. 5 seed Webb Simpson 5 and 4. Simpson birdied on the fifth hole to take a 1-up lead, but it was his last birdie and last lead of the tournament. Ooosthuizen would win the next three holes and six of the next eight, eventually taking the victory after the 14th hole.

Ernie Els’ journey would take a little longer than 14 holes, but he was surely happy to win on Friday in regulation after needing playoff holes in his previous two matches.

No. 4 seed Jason Dufner took an early 2-up lead after three holes but his bogeys on the fifth and sixth holes brought the golfers back to even. Els would take a 2-up lead of his own after 12 holes before returning to even after 17. Els’ clutch birdie putt on 18 secured a victory—in regulation for the South African veteran.

Oosthuizen will face No. 2 seed Jason Day for the Bobby Jones championship, while Els will take on No. 3 seed Jordan Spieth for supremacy in the Gary Player bracket.

Hometown (Sort Of) Hero Making Good Back in Tucson

Jim Furyk with Heroes' Welcome Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Jim Furyk with Heroes’ Welcome
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The 43-year-old from West Chester, Penn., now makes his residence in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., but he lived in Tucson from 1988 to 1992 attending the University of Arizona. Furyk was a two-time All-American at Arizona and led the Wildcats to the lone NCAA title in 1992.

Chants of “U of A” could be heard across the course by lubricated Tucsonans showing their pride and at the same time, their age.

Furyk struggled mightily to begin Friday’s match, dropping two of the first three to Harris English. Furyk found himself 3-down after six holes but would eventually right the ship, knocking in birdies at seven and 12. Coupled with English’s bogey on 10, the golfers were all square moving to the 13th hole.

A back-and-forth lead change on holes 14 through 16 provided great entertainment for the crowd but when Furyk matched birdies on 17, the crowd went wild. He would maintain the 1-up advantage through 18 to claim victory.

A daunting task for Furyk lies ahead in taking on Rickie Fowler for the Ben Hogan championship on Saturday.

Graeme McDowell Shows His Staying Power

 

No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell and No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan were not the last golfers to tee off on Friday, but they were the last to finish. A marathon 21-hole match was sealed on McDowell’s birdie on the third playoff hole.

Mahan won the first two holes but McDowell evened things back up after five holes were completed, and it was a dogfight from there for the next five holes before Mahan birdied 11 to take the 1-up lead. A rollercoaster ride was in store for Mahan hitting a double-bogey on 14 followed by consecutive birdies.

McDowell needed to take the final two holes to send it to a playoff and Mahan helped with a bogey on 17, but the glory was all McDowell’s when he birdied 18. The golfers halved the first two playoff holes before McDowell sank the birdie on the third hole, claiming the victory.

Facing McDowell in the Sam Snead championship bracket will be No. 7 seed Victor Dubuisson.

The Frenchman Defeats the Good ‘Ol Boy

Watson and Dubuisson Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Watson and Dubuisson
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

George Lester Watson, Jr., otherwise known as “Bubba,” the good ‘ol boy from the “Redneck Riviera” couldn’t catch a break on Friday in Marana.

Victor Dubuisson took an early 2-up lead after as many holes and never looked back. Watson did his best to keep it close, winning five skins, but Dubuisson never relinquished the lead and won 1-up after 18.

When it seemed that Dubuisson was ready to finish off Watson after taking a 3-up lead after 14, Watson responded with birdies on 15 and 17. Watson needed the skin on 18 to bring the golfers even but ended up with a par giving Dubuisson the only wire-to-wire victory of the day.

The Sam Snead bracket will set the Frenchman, Dubuisson against Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

3 Top Seeds Fall on Day 2 of World Golf Championship

Rory 2

It was another gorgeous southern Arizona day at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain with temperatures nearing the 80-degree mark without going over. The atmosphere in the hospitality tents was raucous but nowhere near that of the “other” PGA golf tournament held in Scottsdale annually on Super Bowl weekend.

The beautiful weather must have convinced the top-seeded players that they would rather be enjoying the lavish confines of the neighboring Ritz-Carlton resort as opposed to playing on its course. The three remaining No. 1 seeds were shown the door Thursday, leaving three No. 2 seeds and two No. 3 seeds as the highest-seeded players heading into Friday’s final eight matches.

No. 8 Seed Louis Oosthuizen Defeats No.1 Seed Henrik Stenson

 

South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 35th ranked golfer in the world according to Official World Golf Ranking, has been having a great time in the southern Arizona desert.

He defeated No. 9 seed Nick Watney 1-up on Wednesday and was rewarded with the task of facing No. 1 seed Henrik Stenson, Sweden’s top golfer and the No. 3 golfer in the world—ahead of Phil Mickelson.

Oosthuizen showed no signs of awe or astonishment and took a quick 3-up advantage after the first four holes. Stenson would birdie six and pull back to within one stroke but the two went on a five-hole par streak leaving Oosthuizen up two after the 11th hole.

Stenson went on to bogey 12 and both golfers birdied 13 then bogeyed 14 to keep Oosthuizen 3-up. Oosthuizen’s birdie on 15 coupled with Stenson’s par ended the day for Stenson.

Oosthuizen will face No. 5 seed Webb Simpson on Friday at 1:43 p.m. ET.

No. 8 Seed Ernie Els Defeats No. 1 Seed Justin Rose

Els

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ernie Els, another South African golfer, who actually financially supported fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen through his foundation, advanced a step farther on Thursday.

“The Big Easy” has won four major championships; twice at the U.S. Open and twice at the Open Championship, as recently as 2012. Els has had an extremely successful 20-year career dating back to his 1994 PGA Rookie of the Year nod.

Els is one spot above Oosthuizen in the World Golf Rankings at No. 34 and is making his presence known in Marana after convincing victories over Stephen Gallacher and a 20-hole triumph over No. 1 seed Justin Rose.

Els looked like he was going to pull away early after going 2-up through four holes but bogeys on five and seven brought them back to all square, where they stayed over the next four holes. Rose took a 1-up lead when Els bogeyed 12 but a birdie on 15 evened the score again.

The back-and-forth continued over the next two holes and the golfers were all square after the regulation 18 holes.

A birdie on the second playoff hole secured the upset for Els and he will face No. 4 seed Jason Dufner on Friday at 2:07 p.m. ET.

No. 9 Seed Harris English Defeats No. 1 Seed Rory McIlroy

 

The 24-year-old Valdosta, Ga., native won two PGA Tour events in 2013, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November and the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, besting Phil Mickelson.

English is ranked No. 39 in the Official World Golf Rankings and defeated PGA veteran Lee Westwood on Wednesday 5 and 3 before knocking off tournament favorite McIlroy 1-up on Thursday.

English had a two-stroke lead twice on Thursday after holes 11 and 13, but McIlroy proved why he was the favorite winning holes 14 through 16. English’s par on 17 brought the golfers back to even and McIlroy apparently folded under the pressure with a double-bogey on the first playoff hole.

English will face local favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk in the first group on Friday, teeing off at 12:55 p.m. ET.

No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 6 Seed Jimmy Walker

Allen Henry-USA Today Sports

Allen Henry-USA Today Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Rickie Fowler wasn’t expected to play well this weekend, he was supposed to take an early exit against Match play expert Ian Poulter. Yet, here he is, with two straight victories heading into the Sweet 16.

Fowler needed all 18 holes to dispatch of Walker but dispatch of him, he did.

The golfers see-sawed through the first six holes and no clear leader was apparent until Walker took the 1-up lead on the ninth hole. The score stayed the same for the next four holes until Fowler birdied on 14 to square it up.

Cue the see-saw again.

Walker went 1-up after 15 and Fowler took the next two skins to take a 1-up lead into the final hole where both golfers parred and Fowler emerged victorious.

Friday brings another match that Fowler is “supposed to” lose—facing the No. 2 seed, eighth-ranked player in the world, Sergio Garcia. The pair will tee off at 1:07 p.m. ET.

Remaining Sweet 16 Matchups

 

There were other matches on Thursday where the lower seed won but not by any large margin to be considered an upset. The highest seed still remaining in the Sweet 16 is No. 14 seed George Coetzee who defeated No. 11 seed Patrick Reed 1-up after 21 holes.

Coetzee upset Steve Stricker on Wednesday, and he will once again have his work cut out for him on Friday when he faces No. 2 seed Jason Day at 1:55 p.m. ET.

A battle of USWG top 15 golfers face off in the final pairing of the day when No. 2 seed, Matt Kuchar (No. 10 USWG) takes on No. 3 seed Jordan Speith (No. 13 USWG) at 2:19 p.m. ET.

Another balanced pairing to watch at 1:19 p.m. ET is No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell taking on No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan. Both are respected veterans on the PGA Tour that have been the model of consistency in Marana over the past two days.

Directly following Mahan and McDowell at 1:31 p.m. ET is everyone’s favorite Bubba—Watson will be looking to limit upstart Victor Dubuisson.

World Golf Championships Match Play Sees Several 1st-Day Upsets

Rory

The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play began in Marana, Ariz., Wednesday morning to gray, overcast skies.

The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, 30 miles northwest of downtown Tucson, is a fickle course, not because of tricky pin placements or desert landscape—but because of the weather. The field was welcomed to overcast skies that burned off as the morning wore on en route to a beautiful 80-degree day.

A stark contrast to the 30-degree temperatures and snow—yes, snow—in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains in 2013.

Even with the near-perfect conditions and temperatures, the event saw some of the tournament’s top names go down on the first day and many more double-digit seeds advance.

 

No. 16 Seed Richard Sterne Defeats No. 1 Seed Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson, the 37-year-old Iowa native, entered the World Golf Championship as a top seed, but in the end, he just had a bad day. Johnson took an early 1-up lead after a birdie on the second hole, but he would never increase it.

Three birdies in four holes by Richard Sterne built a sizable lead from which Johnson could not recover. Johnson gained a point back on 10, but Sterne came roaring back to once again birdie on three of the next four holes.

Sterne won 5 and 4 after 14 holes and will face Hunter Mahan on Thursday.

 

No. 15 Seed Peter Hanson Defeats No. 2 Seed Dustin Johnson

Peter Hanson Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Peter Hanson
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s a good thing that they don’t call it “Keeping up with the Johnsons,” as two top-seeded golfers with the surname Johnson lost on Wednesday.

Coastal Carolina alumnus and the No. 8 golfer in the world, according to Official World Golf Ranking, Dustin Johnson, lost 4 and 3 to Peter Hanson.

Hanson birdied and took the advantage on the first hole, gaining a 2-up lead when Johnson double-bogeyed on seven. Johnson would win the 11th hole when Hanson bogeyed but then hit the skids himself with back-to-back bogeys on 13 and 14.

The match was called after 15 holes when both golfers parred the hole.

 

No. 14 Seed George Coetzee Defeats No. 3 Seed Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker has dealt with a lot in the past week.

The 50-year-old brother of the world’s No. 12 player successfully underwent liver transplant surgery last weekend, and Stricker decided to play in the tournament. He was a No. 3 seed and would most likely win the first two rounds.

So much for that line of thinking.

Stricker fell into an early hole, bogeying the first two holes and four on the front nine. When the pressure was on, Stricker responded, winning back-to-back holes on 13 and 14 before ultimately losing 3 and 1 after 17 holes.

George Coetzee will face another upset winner in 11th seed Patrick Reed on Thursday.

 

No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 3 Seed Ian Poulter

Rickie Fowler Matt York/Associated Press

Rickie Fowler
Matt York/Associated Press

Rickie Fowler, the 25-year-old from Murrieta, Calif., has been struggling as of late. He recently dropped three spots in the Official World Golf Ranking from 53 to 56 and was paired against OWGR’s 15th-ranked Ian Poulter, a daunting task for any golfer, much less a recently struggling one.

The pair was all-square through the first three holes prior to Fowler nabbing birdies on holes four, six and seven, taking a three-point advantage. Poulter struck back on the back nine, earning the skin on 11 and 14. The pair ended the match as they began it, with three straight matching pars. After 17 holes, Fowler was named the victor, 2 and 1.

Fowler faces No. 6 seed Jimmie Walker on Thursday.

 

No. 12 Seed Matteo Manassero Defeats No. 5 Seed Luke Donald

The youngest player to win a European Tour event struck early and often on Wednesday, defeating No. 5 seed Luke Donald 5 and 4.

The 20-year old phenom from Negrar, Italy broke Bobby Cole’s 1967 record as being the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters Tournament in 2010 at 16 years, 11 months and 2 days. He would turn pro a month later, competing in the BMW Italian Open and won his first title five months later in October, 2010.

It wasn’t so much that Donald had a rough day in Marana, but Manassero had a great one. Manassero birdied four of the first 10 holes while Donald bogeyed on nine and double-bogeyed on the third hole.

After four consecutive all-square holes from 11 to 14, Manassero was declared the winner and will face 4 seed Jason Dufner on Thursday.

 

No. 11 Seed Jonas Blixt Defeats No. 6 Seed Keegan Bradley

Jonas Blixt Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jonas Blixt
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Rookie of the Year, started his career like a man on fire. He won in his major debut—the PGA Championship, no less. Since then, the 27-year-old New England golfer has only one PGA Tour win, the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Conversely, Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt’s best finish in a major is fourth in the 2013 PGA Championship to go along with two tour wins, the 2012 Frys.com Open and the 2013 Greenbrier Classic.

In one of the closer matches of the day, with four lead changes, Blixt bettered Bradley down the stretch, taking a 3-up advantage after 15 holes. Blixt pulled to all square after nailing a birdie on 11, and Bradley bogeyed the next two holes, giving a three-point swing in as many holes.

Bradley birdied on 16 to pull back within two, but when both golfers parred on hole 17, Blixt was declared the winner, 2 and 1.

Blixt will face everybody’s favorite Bubba—Bubba Watson—on Thursday.

Washington & Arizona State Highlight Latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll

Husky Softball

The Washington Huskies (10-0) and Arizona State Sun Devils (11-0) put forth dominant performances in the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz. over the weekend and were rewarded for their hard work. Washington garnered an additional first-place vote although they remained at No. 3 and Arizona State moved up a spot to No. 4 in the latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll released on Tuesday. Four additional Pac-12 teams swept conference tournaments over the weekend and moved up in the rankings as well.

The Pac-12 now holds four of the top 10 spots and six of the top 14.

The No. 3 Huskies put on an offensive clinic at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe over the weekend, outscoring opponents 52-2 in four games. Washington (10-0) capped the weekend with a 3-1 victory over defending national champion Oklahoma on Sunday. Husky pitcher Bryana Walker (6-0) struck out a career-high 14 batters and notched her fourth complete game of the young 2014 season.

Dallas Escobedo

Dallas Escobedo

The No. 4 Sun Devils also swept their Littlewood Classic opponents, including a resounding defeat of the No. 18 Sooners. Arizona State pitcher Dallas Escobedo (4-0) came within one hit of throwing a no-hitter against OU before relinquishing a hit in the top of the seventh. Escobedo finished the game with 12 strikeouts.

Oregon jumped four spots to No. 6 and looked to be fully recovered from the season-opening loss to Cal Poly. Since then, the Ducks have won nine straight, including the past five in the Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. The Ducks run-ruled its opponent in three games but needed extra innings to overcome UNLV 3-1 in a marathon 10-inning matchup.

The No. 8 Bruins entered the top 10 this week, also gaining four spots. UCLA hosted the Cathy Winsberg Memorial Tournament over the weekend and outscored its four opponents 30-3 in six games.

Keeping with the current trend, Stanford swept its tournament and jumped four spots in the polls to No. 13. The Nike Invitational held at Stanford saw the Cardinal defeat Cal Poly and Bradley twice over the weekend while the Pacific Tigers came up just short of the upset on Sunday, scoring four runs in the top of the seventh before losing 11-9.

Arizona Softball

Arizona Softball

 

The No. 14 Arizona Wildcats were the biggest movers in this week’s poll. The ‘Cats jumped 10 spots after their big weekend in which they surrendered only one run over six games in the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson. The big bats for Arizona registered 39 runs this past weekend, including 14 home runs. In nine games the Wildcats have a blistering 0.41 ERA and have pitched seven shutouts while only allowing three hits.