Bravehearts Turn it Around for Victory after Slow Start

Despite a slow start, the Bravehearts took down the Westfield Starfires 7-4 on Friday night June 28.  They were led Angelo Baez’s 5-inning, 10 strikeout start and Riley Livingston’s 4 for 4 night.

Though it was hot, it was a good night for baseball, and the stadium was packed.  The Bravehearts were wearing special jerseys for Ghostbusters Night.   A couple of those jerseys were auctioned off during the game.  Bernie Carbo, an ex-Red Sox player on the 1975 American League champions, was in attendance.  I got the chance to interview him:

After the game there were fireworks for the nearly sold out stadium.  A good show to get everyone excited for the upcoming holiday.

Before the game, I caught up with leadoff hitter Mariano Ricciardi and assistant coach Adam Chase:

Krish Vyas, the team’s honorary captain, was in attendance.  He went on the field and in the clubhouse before the game, and spent the game with me and other Bravehearts media members in the press box.  Check out my interview with Krish about what he does for the team and how his role with Bravehearts all got started:

The Bravehearts started off slow.  They did load the bases twice during the first 3 innings, but they weren’t able to score a run in these innings.  The Starfires ended up striking first in the top of the 4th.  Star outfielder Thomas Joyce led off the inning with a single, and he advanced on a long single into the left field corner by Danny Crossen.  C Tommy Quinn hit a deep double that scored both runners to make it 2-0 Westfield.

But Worcester’s bats had been heating up, and it showed as the game progressed.  In the bottom of the 4th, Riley Livingston (who had already singled once), hit a solo shot into left center, making it a 1 run game.  The Bravehearts continued to rally their way back in the bottom of the 5th.  John Thrasher hit what looked to be a single into center field but he was able to stretch it to a double.  That allowed him to score on Mack Cheli’s RBI single and tie the game.  Tyler Becker followed with a deep shot into center for a double, putting both him and Cheli in scoring position.  Paul Coumoulos’ single drove them both in.  It was now 4-2 Bravehearts, and there was only one out.  The Bravehearts loaded the bases again with two outs thanks to another hit by Livingston and a walk by Nick Martin, but their bases loaded struggles continued as Ricciardi struck out to end the inning.

With Angelo Baez out of the game in the 6th, Thomas Joyce hit a moonshot, all the way to the Papa Gino’s sign in right.  But the Bravehearts still held the lead after this, and extended it when 3B Ben McNeill hit a 2-run dinger of his own into deep center.  But this wasn’t it for home runs.  Devin Kellogg hit one for Westfield in the 8th to make it 6-4 Worcester.

The Bravehearts extended their lead in the bottom of the inning with a pair of singles followed by an RBI ground out.  Bryce Hellgeth earned another save to seal the victory in the 9th.

I caught up with Ben McNeill, one of the game’s best hitters, after the game:

Riding a 3 game win streak, the Bravehearts are now above .500 with a record of 13-12.  This week, they travel to the North Shore on Monday and Nashua on Wednesday for a twin bill.  Will their win streak continue?

2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions: Who Becomes Title Favorite?

Free agency is just one day away, and this year brings us one of the most impactful free agency seasons in NBA history. Without the decisions of stars on the open market, it’s hard to tell who will win it all.

But generally, whoever dominates free agency and signs some of these elite players will have the opportunity to become a title contender. Which teams will dominate? Keep reading to find out what I think.

Graphics Key

  • Star = All Star Rights (A player I feel will be able to decide where they go)
  • (R) = Restricted Free Agent
  • (PO) = Player Option
  • (TO) = Team Option
  • No Parentheses = Unrestricted Free Agent

PG

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At this point, we should all just assume Kyrie Irving is leaving Boston. He has publicly noted that he doesn’t like it here, and plenty of teams would want a star like Kyrie, so it’s ultimately going to be Irving’s choice as to where he goes. I think it’s down to Brooklyn and the Lakers, but I cannot see Irving teaming up with LeBron James again.

With Irving leaving, the Celtics are frontrunners to sign Kemba Walker. This is a move I have been a fan of for a while now, and I see no problems with it. D’Angelo Russell has also been rumored to sign with Boston as well as the Lakers, but I think he’ll go to Indiana instead. The Lakers are prioritizing DLo’s return, but I just cannot see it happening after how he left the first time. Instead, LA will fill their need for a point guard with the duo of Eric Bledsoe and Elfrid Payton.  Meanwhile, I think veteran Ricky Rubio will be added in Denver for backcourt depth.

SG

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I don’t see too much movement happening in the shooting guard market. There’s no reason for Danny Green to leave Toronto and no reason for Lance Stephenson to leave LA. I think Butler will stay in Philly. Although he may be a shooting guard if he signs elsewhere, he fit well as a small forward in Philly last year, so I expect the same this year. With that being said, I see J.J. Redick returning to Philly as well to play shooting guard.

Klay Thompson is expected to stick with the Warriors, I could see him leaving for a rising team like Brooklyn if Kevin Durant leaves. Once he returns from his injury, Thompson and Kyrie Irving will make for another great backcourt duo. I have Matthews starting across from Rubio in Denver as he leaves Indiana to make room for Victor Oladipo.

SF

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly bought a house in Toronto, and after the amazing run last season, I think the Raptors, Leonard included, will stick together for this season. However, Leonard beat Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, so I think Durant will move on from Golden State, recovering from his achilles tear and putting together a playoff run with a new team. Brooklyn makes sense for him, but I don’t see them signing more than two max players, and the Nets won’t need a small forward if they re-sign DeMarre Carroll.

I think Durant will shock everyone when by signing in Portland. It is a perfect fit though. They need front court help, and with the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum already doing great things, the Blazers could be one front court star away from a title.

The Pistons have a similar need for a small forward. Chandler is no superstar, but he can make a difference for Detroit. The Clippers are also in on star small forwards like Kawhi and KD, but I think they’ll probably have to settle for someone like Harrison Barnes. The Kings should be alright without Barnes or Bojan Bogdanovic, so I have Bogdanovic returning to Indiana to team up with Russell and Oladipo rather than joining his brother Bogdan in Sacramento.

PF

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There aren’t many star power forwards on the open market. But there are a handful of capable players available. Millsap is far from a superstar, but with Michael Porter Jr. returning from injury, it’s time for Denver to move on, and he could be a good asset in Philly. Porzingis is a solid PF, so I think he will receive interest from other teams as a restricted free agent, and I don’t see the Knicks being ready to move on for good. Mirotic, another strong European player will also head to New York to join Kyrie Irving and others in Brooklyn.

Al Horford has been rumored to sign with the Mavericks or Clippers, where he would play PF. But I can’t see either team overpaying Horford. I feel Horford will eventually settle for less money to contend for a title with the Celtics. The Clippers will move on and instead sign Julius Randle, a different kind of player who can play a mix of SF and PF.  As for Markieff Morris, he has regressed, but he’s still a capable player who can share time with John Collins at PF for the Hawks.

C

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Cousins is not the same after his injury, but I still see him resigning with the Warriors and contributing even if KD and Klay Thompson leave. I have Noel and Brook Lopez returning to their 2018 teams as well, Noel on a player option and Brook as a UFA. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan will join Thompson, Irving, and company in Brooklyn. Robin Lopez will also head back to New York in a return to the Knicks. As Horford stays with Boston, I have the Clippers turning to Nikola Vucevic to complete their starting lineup.

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That’s all for my 2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions. As you may have noticed, the graphics I used for my predictions have a currently blank column labeled “2019 Real Team”. I will be updating that column daily on Instagram (@bostonsportsmania) and Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). In addition, I’ll be posting more NBA content as we get closer to the regular season, so stay tuned.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC North Edition

Welcome to Part 6 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Last week, I reviewed the home division of my New England Patriots, the AFC East.  Though the Pats should win the division, the Jets outdid them in the draft.  But in my eyes, an AFC North team was the overall draft winner.  Which team is it?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns

Overall Grade: A

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

I feel the Browns won this year’s draft. Not only did they snag two major steals at positions of need in Greedy Williams and Mack Wilson, they also filled most of the rest of their biggest needs. In addition to Williams, a CB and Wilson, an ILB, the Browns drafted a tackle, a safety, an outside linebacker. Some of their other picks were slight reaches, but they filled most of their needs, so I really like this draft class.

Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Ravens started off this draft historically strong. They grabbed their two WRs of the future (hopefully Lamar Jackson is able to throw to them). They also drafted a much needed edge rusher in Jaylon Ferguson, who happens to be a great fit. The later rounds didn’t go as well. They did make some decent picks later on. I understand the selections of RB Justice Hill and DT Daylon Mack. But the Ravens didn’t need another guard or corner, and the Ravens been fine with Robert Griffin III as Jackson’s sole backup. Overall, this is a pretty good draft class, but it was a bit top heavy, and they didn’t prioritize their biggest needs in the later rounds.

cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Bengals made a couple great selections. They found their potential QB-LT duo of the future. The Bengals also filled all of their biggest needs. But they reached on a lot of their picks. I’m not going to make a big deal about their choice to put aside smaller needs in favor of prospects they liked. But Drew Sample, for example could’ve been found in the 4th or 5th. He isn’t 2nd round material. I do give them credit for the promptness on filling their needs though, so I didn’t mind this draft class too much.

pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

My favorite pick by far from this draft class was the selection of RB Benny Snell Jr.  Snell can be the primary backup for James Conner with Le’Veon Bell leaving for good. But other than that, the Steelers didn’t have an amazing draft. They didn’t fill too many needs, and the needs they did fill were filled by reaching. I didn’t mind the Devin Bush pick, as he may not be a good fit, but he can play inside linebacker as they need. Plus, Isaiah Buggs was a steal even though Pittsburgh doesn’t need a DT.  But the fact that they didn’t draft a tackle to replace Marcus Gilbert will significantly bog them down.

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my AFC South Draft Grades next.  As a whole, the AFC South did not have a great draft.  But two teams tied for the worst overall grade.  Who were they?  Find out soon.

Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to Part 5 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Today, I’ll be kicking off my AFC draft reviews with the AFC East. The New England Patriots (my team) have dominated this division for years. But did they dominate the draft? What other AFC East teams thrived? Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

 

Jets-Logo New York Jets

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Jets may have reached for a couple players and they did struggle to fill all of their needs with six picks. But for the amount of picks they had, this was a pretty solid daft. I would’ve rather the Jets take Josh Allen over Quinnen Williams, as Allen is the better fit even though Williams is the better player.  They did make up for it later though, as they drafted Jachai Polite and Blake Cashman. I also really liked the selection of Chuma Edoga, an underrated player at a position of need for the Jets. The Jets opted to wait on a tight end and a corner, and when they finally drafted them, it was a reach. They also failed to fill needs at center and receiver. But the Jets did the best they could and finished with a strong draft class.

New_England_Patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

I wrote a more in-depth Patriots draft review in a separate article.  Check it out!

Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Bills made some very confusing picks, but they also drafted some quality players in between.  They did fill all their biggest needs early, as they didn’t really have many.  They earned a steal by drafting T Cody Ford in the 2nd.  They also drafted a strong TE, Dawson Knox and an OLB, Vosean Joseph in later rounds to fill their other two needs.  They did draft another TE later, but this pick was an unnecessary reach alongside some others.  I also don’t get why they took DT Ed Oliver at #9 when they didn’t need a DT and good o-linemen were available.  It was good that the Bills took a young RB, but the backfield is way to crowded for it, and Round 3 was early for Singletary.  Otherwise, I didn’t mind this draft too much.

Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

Most of these picks were understandable, but the Dolphins had better options.  It wasn’t easy for Miami in this draft, as they had a lot of needs to fill as they rebuild and they didn’t have many picks to do so.  The rebuilding will need to continue over the next couple years.  Most of these picks filled needs, so that helps Miami’s case.  But a couple of them were reaches, especially the selection of Auburn RB Chandler Cox.  In addition, the Dolphins didn’t really make a point to priorities their biggest of needs.  But overall, I didn’t mind this draft class, but this is only the beginning of a long rebuild for the Fins.

That’s all for this portion of my Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my reviews of the rest of the AFC.  I’ll be reviewing the AFC North yet, where I feel 1 team highlighted this year’s draft.  Which team is it?  Find out in my next post.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC West Edition

Welcome to Part 4 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Today, I’ll be wrapping up the NFC draft reviews with the NFC West.  Which NFC West teams will benefit from this draft the most?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

az-cards Arizona Cardinals

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

What I love about this draft is that every pick was made for a good reason.  New head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows Kyler Murray is capable of leading the Cards, so there was no problem with trading Josh Rosen in favor of more security.  Murphy and Thompson add secondary depth at a great value.  The team also filled needs, drafting a trio of receivers, a tackle, a center, and a couple d-linemen.

The team could’ve found a way to fill a few more holes, such as linebacker.  But there was not a single pick in this draft class that I had a real problem with, and Arizona really made their biggest needs a priority.

sf-49ers San Francisco 49ers

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

Much like Chicago, this draft class is top heavy.  The 2nd overall selection of Nick Bosa was one of my favorite picks in this draft.  He’s a great fit and could eventually lead this rebuilding defense back to glory.  I didn’t mind the Deebo Samuel pick, but D.K. Metcalf would’ve been the smarter choice.  Kaden Smith was a steal in Round 6, so I’m not going to complain there either.

But some of these other picks confused me.  Despite the steal of Smith, the rest of San Francisco’s later round picks were major reaches.  They did need a punter, but taking one in Round 4 is unheard of.  They didn’t need to draft WR Jalen Hurd either.  Deebo Samuel will provide them enough at receiver and Hurd was drafted way too early.   The strong picks early on definitely boost this draft class, but the Niners could’ve added a few more quality players and filled a couple more needs.

los-angeles-rams-symbol Los Angeles Rams

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

It’s hard to start a draft strong without a first round pick, but the Rams definitely could’ve done better.  They could’ve waited on the safety and running back till later rounds.  There was no need for a corner in Round 3, especially someone who I didn’t have being drafted.  The team did rebound in the later rounds, snagging a strong tackle in David Edwards and a replacement for Ndamukong Suh in Greg Gaines.

There were some needs that weren’t filled as early as they should’ve been or were completely ignored.  The Rams interior o-line still needs serious help.  But there were some strong selections in the later rounds that will definitely highlight this draft class.

seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

There weren’t too many straight up confusing picks in this draft, but there weren’t many eye popping picks either.  The team made a lot of reaches in the early rounds, and that definitely brings their grade down significantly.  But the Seahawks did, to an extent, redeem themselves.  They received a blatant steal when they drafted WR D.K. Metcalf at the end of the 2nd round.  They continued to add to their depleted receiving corps throughout this draft, as Doug Baldwin will no longer be on the team.

But while they hyperfocused on finding Russell Wilson some guys to throw to, they threw aside some of their other needs.  The team is still in desperate need of secondary depth despite drafting a safety.  It wouldn’t have hurt to take a new TE either.  But the team did manage to fill a good number of holes despite their reaches, so you have to give them some credit for that.


 

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Next time, I’ll shift my attention to the AFC, starting with New England’s division, the AFC East.  Did the Pats outwit their division rivals again this year?  Stay tuned to find out what I think.

 

MIAA Tennis Finals: My Cousins Help Weston win D3 Boys & Girls

Due to bad weather taking place throughout most of the week, all of the MIAA’s Tennis Finals were moved to today.  The girls played at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, and the boys played about a mile away at Shrewsbury High School.

12 teams across 3 divisions played in the finals, but only two schools had both a boys team and a girls team in the finals.  Those schools?  Algonquin, my high school, and Weston, my cousins’ high school.

Algonquin, a division 1 school, lost both finals.  The boys team lost to Brookline 5 matches to 0.  The girls team, led by freshman Olivia Almy among others, came into these finals undefeated but fell to Acton-Boxborough 4-1.

Weston, on the other hand, is in Division 3.  They became the only high school in the state where both the boys team and the girls team won their respective divisions.  Both my cousins played on these teams.

My cousin, freshman Lola Philipkosky and the Weston girls played first, taking on Lee High School, who traveled all the way from the Berkshires.  In high school team tennis, 3 singles matches and 2 doubles matches are played.  Twins Kayla and Jayme Leschly won Weston two of the singles matches before the 2nd set of Lola’s doubles match even began.  Lola and her partner Livvy Lathrop had won the first set 6-2.  Starting the 2nd set, Lola and Livvy knew if they could win their match over Lee freshmen Caroline Maloney and Rachel Wendling, Weston would clinch the MIAA Championship.

Livvy and Lola worked well together and won several short points with powerful deep returns.  Their return game helped them break service games in both sets.  The senior-freshman 1st doubles pair also served very well and held most of their service games which helped them win both sets 6-2, 6-2 and clinch the championship for Weston.

Lola Philipkosky serving

I spoke with Lola and Livvy shortly after their match:

Lee won the final singles match and the final doubles match, but it didn’t matter after Lola and Livvy had won to give Weston the 3 wins they needed to be crowned MIAA champions.

Shortly before the Weston girls were given their MIAA trophy, my cousin, sophomore Michael Philipkosky, and the Weston boys took on Hopedale in the MIAA finals for the second straight year.  Last year, Michael did not get the opportunity to play in the finals.  This year, however, he worked his way up and ended up playing 3rd singles for Weston in the state finals.  All 5 matches were dominated by Weston, not losing a set.  Michael’s match was the 2nd to finish.  Michael watched the final three finish soon after and went to celebrate with his teammates.  Check out some highlights of their celebration as well as my interview with him after he received his medal:

It was a big day for the Weston Wildcats, as both teams and both my cousins became MIAA tennis champions.

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Dogs Bring Luck, Bravehearts Rally Past Blues

Last night with several dogs and their owners in the stands for the first of two Bark in the Park games, the Bravehearts were down 2-0 after 2 innings.  Though it took a few innings for Worcester to get going as warm-ups were shortened by downpours before game time, the team was able to rally their way to the lead in the 4th inning and hold that lead through the rest of the game.  Despite being held to just 4 hits, they ended up taking down the Bristol Blues 6-3, with Bryce Hellgeth earning the save for Worcester and Shawn Babineau earning the win.

Going into this game, the Bravehearts had lost 2 games in a row despite the return of star hitter Mack Cheli and shortstop Ben McNeill.  But in this game, everyone was settled in for the summer and contributed as the team was helped by having a full roster.  Just an hour before the game, it did not look good as it was pouring.  But the tarp was taken off the field soon before the original 6:35 PM start time and the grounds crew did an excellent job getting the field ready.

Even with the rain, a decent number of fans still showed up with their dogs for Bark in the Park night.  You can bring your dogs again on July 22nd for another Bark in the Park game.  I caught up with one dog owner and season ticket holder, Michael, who ran on the field with his dog after the 6th inning along with many kids.

I also interviewed C Jack Gardner, who caught the Bravehearts first ever team no-hitter on Opening Night this year .  Riley Livingston would catch tonight for Shawn Babineau (aka “Babs”) in this game, but Gardner was in the lineup as the DH.

You can also check out my pregame discussion with Bravehearts broadcaster Donny Porcaro:

It didn’t look good for Worcester early on.  The big hitting Blues lineup didn’t do much in the 1st inning, but in the second, the Blues had 1st and 2nd after a base hit to deep left followed by a bunt single.  Jordan Laske drove in both runs with a huge double.  However, Babineau got out of the inning with two consecutive outs.

In the 2nd, Cheli became the first Braveheart to get a hit in the game, and a Tyler Becker walk made it 1st and 2nd.  But the Bravehearts ended the inning on a double play that stranded both runners.  The team didn’t have another hit until the 4th inning, when the team made their comeback.

Blues starter Arjun Thakar was having trouble finding the plate, as he gave up 4 consecutive walks to make it 2-1 Bristol.  This was followed by another double play, but another run scored to tie the game.  A balk scored the go-ahead run while P.J. Barry, the next hitter, was up at bat.  After this, Barry crushed a home run into left field to extend the lead and knock Thakar out of the game after just 3 2/3 innings.  But Worcester wasn’t done.  Livingston walked during the next at bat, and though he was caught stealing with Nick Martin up, Martin returned to lead off the next inning with a home run of his own and give Worcester the 3-run lead.

Babineau left the game after 6 innings due to pitch count, and in the 7th, the Bravehearts did give up 1 more run.  Brandon Miller walked and stole 2nd against Worcester’s relief pitcher Chris Macca.  Though Macca struck out a second batter after the walk, Kyle Maves drove Miller in with a single to make it 5-3 Worcester.  Nolan Cloutier continued the rally attempt with a single of his own to make it 1st and 2nd.  Jordan Laske walked for the 2nd time that night.  He had not failed to reach base yet, and it was bases loaded with 2 outs for Danny Roth.  But Macca struck Roth out to get out of the jam to hold onto the lead.

The Bravehearts gave their bullpen some additional run support in the bottom of the inning.  Livingston walked again, and Mariano Ricciardi got on base for the first time of the night with a walk of his own.  There were runners on 1st and 2nd for Jakob Sessa, but also two outs.  Sessa has been a performing very well for Worcester this season.  Going into this game, he was batting .350.  But he was hitless in this game until he smoked an RBI single to extend Worcester’s lead back to 3 runs.  Angelo Baez and Hellgeth pitched the final two innings for Worcester and helped secure the 6-3 Bravehearts victory, with Baez maintaining a 0.00 ERA on the season through 5 appearances.

I caught up with P.J. Barry on his home run after the game:

Stay tuned for more of my Worcester Bravehearts coverage with this Sunday’s afternoon game against the North Shore Navigators at 4PM.  For the remainder of the week, the Bravehearts will be on the road for 4 games: two in Bristol, one against North Shore, and one in Pittsfield.

 

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC South Edition

Mandatory Minicamp has just concluded, and school is over for me.  So today, I’ll be resuming my NFL Draft Report Card series with the NFC South.  Teams in the NFC South either thrived in this draft or struggled mightily.  Which teams do I think benefitted the most?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

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NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

Overall, this was a pretty solid draft for Carolina.  They found a high upside WR in Round 7 to replace Devin Funchess.  They filled their needs at tackle and edge early.  They even took a QB in case Cam Newton fails to stay healthy.  Will Grier is a big upgrade for Carolina at backup QB as opposed to Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen.

The Panthers did have a lot of needs going in, and with just 7 picks, it was hard to fill them all.  But they could’ve traded down at some point, and they could’ve taken a corner to play across from Donte Jackson as opposed to RB Jordan Scarlett.  Christian McCaffrey is a long term solution for Carolina at RB1, and they are set if he gets hurt thanks to Cameron Artis-Payne.  It’s somewhat smart to add depth there in case multiple injuries occur, but they needed a corner more, and McCaffrey has not been terribly injury prone.  Despite a couple mistakes in the later rounds, this was a pretty good draft, and it would’ve been hard for Carolina to do much better.

nosaints New Orleans Saints

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

It was hard for the Saints to succeed with only 5 picks, 4 of which were on Day 3.  But unlike Philadelphia, who was also limited to 5 picks, the Saints found a way to fill a few needs early on and make the most of their draft situation.  They drafted Erik McCoy in Round 2 to fill their biggest need as he replaces the retired Max Unger at center.  They also snagged a top safety, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with their 2nd pick.  They could have looked for a receiver later on, and some of their later picks were reaches, but the Saints got off to a strong start and should be able to look back and admire this draft class in a few years.

tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis:

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Analysis:

The Buccaneers had some really strong picks, and some questionable ones.  The team will have flexibility on defense after drafting LB Devin White in Round 1 and edge rusher Anthony Nelson in the 4th.  But beyond that, the Bucs struggled in this draft.  They didn’t really fill many of their needs.  I would think they would draft a running back after the Year 1 struggles of Ronald Jones II, but maybe they need to give RoJo more of a chance before giving up on him, something other teams neglected to do for their rookie and second year busts.

The team also could’ve used more depth at WR beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but they chose not to draft anyone until Round 6, when they reached for Scott Miller of Bowling Green.  They did sign Breshad Perriman, but I don’t know if that will be enough.  Expect to see a lot of 2 TE schemes with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on the roster.    The team also reached for a kicker once again.  This team didn’t have that many huge needs, so I would’ve thought they would fill more of those as opposed to drafting three unnecessary defensive backs and reaching for some other players.

atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Falcons really needed some depth at linebacker with Vic Beasley playing defensive end, but they didn’t end up drafting one.  Who will be lining up on either side of Deion Jones come Week 1?  I can’t name anyone definitively right now.  They did get o-line help, but both o-linemen they drafted in Round 1 may have been found available in Round 2, or at least someone almost as good as them.  The team did draft some secondary depth and a couple RBs to backup for Devonta Freeman, but those picks were also reaches.  All of their picks were either a reach or an unnecessary pick.  I would’ve expected a couple spot on selections.


 

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  In my next post, I’ll be reviewing the NFC West’s draft classes.  Which NFC West teams stood out the most in this year’s draft?  Stay tuned for my next post to find out.

Dunkin’ Sends me to Cup Finals

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Back in April, I predicted the Bruins to go on a Stanley Cup run after gathering momentum in the final months of the regular season.  It’s amazing that now the Bruins are just 1 win away from winning the Cup.

I had really enjoyed watching the first first four games from home.  Playoff hockey, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals, is a different brand of hockey and watching your favorite team play is even more special.  Tickets to a game in the finals are so hard to get and I never expected the chance to watch a game at the TD Garden.  I had never even been to a playoff game for any professional sport.  I was in complete shock when I found out I would be going to Game 5 with my whole family thanks to Dunkin’ Boston.

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Even though the Bruins lost in a tight game with questionable calls, it was an amazing experience.  When I got home from school on game day, a package from Dunkin’ was waiting for me.  Inside?  Four tickets to the game along with a large assortment of Dunkin’ merchandise.

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Dunkin’ sent us in style in a Boston Chauffer SUV driven by Mark (pictured above).  Mark gave us a warm welcome, was very friendly, and even talked hockey with me and my family before the game.

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We arrived at TD Garden around 6:30, so we had time to grab a a quick burger and fries from Tasty Burger and then head to Fan Fest.  I had the perfect dessert treat, a bag full of free Dunkin’ Munchkins.  We also took pictures with some passionately dressed fans and in front of the NESN and NHL Network pregame shows as they were broadcasting.  I even had the chance to shoot a puck on a mini rink set up in the middle of Fan Fest.

Before the game began, I also took a picture in front of the famous Bobby Orr statue.  While I was there, I ran into Joe McDonald, who I met in the Bruins press box back in 2015.  I also caught up with Blades on the way to our seats.

Blades

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After Fan Fest and getting our rally towels, we found our seats and the game began.  I’m especially thankful for the great seats from Dunkin’ in the Loge section behind the net in the Bruins offensive zone for the first and third periods.  Our view from the seats were perfect to see the action up close.

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The Bruins had control of the game in Period 1, but Blues goalie Jordan Binnington didn’t let up a single goal despite a Bruins power play.  This kept the game scoreless by the end of the period.

Despite going scoreless, I saw many great Bruins scoring opportunities and was thrilled to be at the Garden to cheer the B’s on along with the rest of the very loud and energetic crowd.  It felt surreal being at a Bruins game in June.  The exciting night continued when I visited the 98.5 the Sports Hub suite during intermission.  Adam Moscatel, a 98.5 employee, escorted us up to the 9th floor where the suite was, and I had the chance to catch up with Dan Alperin and Rob “Hardy” Poole of 98.5.

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But when I returned to my seat about a minute after intermission had ended, the score was 1-0 Blues.  St. Louis had gotten off to a quick start in the 2nd period, and I had just missed the Ryan O’Reilly goal that put St. Louis on the board first.

The rest of the period was dominated by St. Louis.  Even on a Boston power play, the Bruins failed to score, or even keep it in their offensive zone for more than a few seconds.  The Blues did not score any more goals thanks to strong goaltending by Tuukka Rask, but the Bruins no longer had momentum in their favor after this period.

During the 2nd intermission, my dad and I left our seats to buy some food, but on our way there, we ran into well-known sports reporter Sean McDonough and took pictures with him:

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Sean McDonough is the son of former Boston Globe writer Will McDonough, who the Sports Museum has named their Sports Writing Contest after.  I have received an honorable mention in that contest for two years in a row.  This year, I wrote about how I got into sports in the first place.  Last year, I won an honorable mention for my essay on the true meaning of Boston Strong based on my experience at the first Red Sox home game after the Boston Marathon bombings.  It was really cool to meet Will’s son Sean, who has also worked as a Boston sports reporter for many years.

We didn’t want to miss the 3rd period so we hurried back to our seats after grabbing a drink.  Early in the period, the Bruins were on a power play.  This time, they did keep control of the puck for the majority of the 2 minutes, but they once again failed to score their first goal.

With about 13 minutes left, Bruins right wing David Pastrnak shot in what looked to be a goal.  The play was reviewed, but in the end, it was not ruled a goal.  The call on the ice was no goal and even though the big screen replays looked to show the puck across the goal line, it was ruled no goal after the officials reviewed it.

The call that really angered the fans came when St. Louis scored their 2nd goal.  Before the Blues scored, their center, Tyler Bozak, blatantly tripped Noel Acciari just a few feet away from a referee on the ice.  However, with Acciari lying on the ice seemingly in pain from being upended from a leg whip from behind, no penalty was called.  Play continued and about 10 seconds later David Perron scored, as a quick pass intended for a wide open Bozak (with the B’s essentially down a man), bounced off the inside of Rask’s pads and in for a goal.  Fans all around the stadium began throwing their towels and water bottles in disgust over the non-call.  Game play was delayed several minutes as they swept up the ice to pick up all the thrown items as items were being thrown faster than the ice could be cleared.  The game eventually resumed, but with the Blues up 2-0 and with less than 10 minutes to go, a Bruins comeback seemed unlikely.  One could make an argument it should’ve still been 1-0 with the Bruins on a power play with hopes of tying the game.  Unbiased hockey fans would agree that the Blues 2nd goal should have never counted as the play should have been whistled dead for a tripping call.  Instead, they were down 2-0.

The Bruins did score one goal before the game ended, scored by Jake DeBrusk.  But the team ran out of time to tie the game and force overtime as Binnington shut them down with his best game of the series.  The Bruins ultimately came up short losing game 5 by a score of 2-1.

Even though they lost, the experience is one I will never forget as I had such an incredible time!

I’d like to thank Amy Righter & Dunkin’ Boston, Mark of Boston Chauffer, and the entire staff at 98.5 the Sports Hub for making my Stanley Cup experience very unique and incredibly memorable.

Fortunately the Bruins won Game 6, taking down the Blues 5-1 to force a Game 7.  The one remaining game to decide the Cup winner will be played in Boston with a crowd likely even more pumped up than the crowd from game 5.

The Blues are far from an easy opponent which is probably why this series has gone 7 games.  In fact, they might be the toughest opponent Boston has faced in for the entire 2019 playoffs.  Anything can happen and I think this game will be a close one.  But as they did against Toronto during this playoff run, the B’s can come back to win a series they trailed 3-2 after 5 games.

What do you think?  Will the Blues get revenge for the 1970 loss to the Bruins led by Bobby Orr to win their first ever Stanley Cup or will the Bruins hoist the Cup once again and parade around Boston this week for the 3rd Boston pro sports Championship in 12 months?

I can’t wait to watch and find out.  Go Bruins!