Monthly Archives: March 2010

BASEBALL: Toppers push past Kentucky, win battle of Bluegrass rivals

Western shortstop Matt Payton attempts to tag out Kentucky's Neiko Johnson during the first inning of their game at Kentucky Wednesday night. The Toppers won the game 6-3. CHRIS FRYER/HERALD

LEXINGTON — It took longer than expected for Western’s bats to get going against Kentucky, but the Toppers were able to take advantage of the Wildcat relievers Wednesday night and take a victory.

Western (21-5, 6-0 Sun Belt Conference) scored five runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to pull ahead of Kentucky, running away to a 6-3 win.

“Everybody wants to beat UK,” sophomore outfielder Jared Andreoli said. “It’s just another stepping stone for us.”

With the win, the Toppers have won nine straight road games as well as eight straight games overall in addition to improving to 12-2 away from Denes Field this season.

“It’s always big to win a road game, especially against a team in the state like UK,” Head Coach Chris Finwood said.

Senior shortstop Matt Payton belted a two-run double in the sixth inning to give the Western the lead for good. He added an RBI single in the seventh inning.

“His first two at-bats, he crushed two balls and he got nothing to show of it,” Finwood said. “The next two he got the two clutch hits.”

Senior first baseman Jake Wells had a game-high four hits and two runs.

Junior Brian Edelen pitched three innings, giving up just one run. Six pitchers finished the game, with freshman Taylor Haydel picking up his first career win. Sophomore Rye Davis pitched two inning to get his fifth save of the year.

The pitching staff struck out 11 and only gave up two walks.

“Our guys did a good job of throwing strikes and not giving up many walks,” Finwood said.

Junior catcher Matt Rice was hitless in his four at-bats and has now only gotten one hit in his last three games.

Western is now 3-2 against the Southeastern Conference this season. Kentucky will travel for a rematch against Western on April 20 at the Bowling Green Ballpark.

-Mike Stunson

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Basketball recruiting page, map online

The Herald’s new basketball recruiting map is online as of today.

The Toppers head into the regular signing period (April 14 through May 19) with a host of prospects waiting to make a move, and as such, the map will stay updated as new offers, commitments and signed letters of intent are reported.

Jonathan Lintner

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VIDEO: Taggart, Bowen, Sanford talk after Tuesday’s football practice

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Tuesday football practice notes: Jakes injures ankle; Pelesasa shines

Just got back from Western’s fifth spring football practice, where the big news of the day was a sprained ankle suffered by freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes.

Jakes injured the ankle playing pickup basketball, which left Head Coach Willie Taggart displeased to say the least.

“He was playing basketball, which is unacceptable,” Taggart said. “He’s a quarterback on this football team that’s learning a new offense. The time that was spent over there playing basketball he could have spent learning offense. I was very disappointed in him because he’s letting the whole team down.”

Taggart didn’t give any timetable for Jakes’ return, saying that he’s “not even concerned with that.”

“I’m concerned with the guys that are going to be out there to help us win ball games,” Taggart said. “We’ve got two other guys competing at that position – guys that want it.”

With Jakes on crutches on the sidelines, it was junior college transfer Matt Pelesasa who stole the show.

With fellow quarterbacks Tyler Bruce and Courtney Dalcourt out for class and a knee injury, respectively, quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford estimated that Pelesasa took about 70 reps under center Tuesday.

“Not only did he go out and play well and seize the opportunity, but he also got to share with the team and imparted some great wisdom on those guys,” Sanford said. “You can tell that he’s a winner. He’s been a winning quarterback at every level he’s played, and people are going to start gravitating toward him and his attitude.”

With Pelesasa leading the way, the Toppers’ offensive unit got the better of the defense Tuesday – a change of pace from the last several practices, where the defense had shined brightest.

Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was in the faces of several players and said after practice that the unit’s effort was not up to par with last week.

“It felt like our guys took a step back defensively with their emotion and their execution,” Bowen said. “They’ve got to understand that every day is important, and I don’t know that we brought our best effort today.”

Taggart said that the amount of injuries thus far has been low, but among those that are currently sidelined are senior offensive linemen Mychal Patterson and Derrick Elder along with sophomore defensive lineman Rammell Lewis.

Dalcourt has been sitting out after tweaking his knee and re-aggravating last year’s ACL injury in an individual drill, according to Taggart.

Associate Athletic Director for Communications Todd Stewart said Tuesday that Saturday’s entire scrimmage will be open to the public. Media will also get their first chance to speak to players as one offensive and one defensive player will be available after.

Saturday’s scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 9:10 a.m.

-Zach Greenwell

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Tuesday’s Herald sports section

BASEBALL: Toppers not rebuilding, rather reloading

BASKETBALL: Slaughter ready for next step

FOOTBALL: Western focusing on little things

SOFTBALL: Lady Toppers fall in Sun Belt standings

SHAMROCK SHOOTOUT: Evansville team falls in Shootout final

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Slaughter ready for next step

A.J. Slaughter plans to graduate with a degree in sociology this May, but if things go according to plan, the senior guard won’t have to use it just yet.

Slaughter told the Herald last week that he’s planning to play professional basketball next season after going through the NBA Draft camp process, acquiring an agent and deliberating with family.

“Coming in as a freshman, I never thought I’d even see this opportunity I’m about to explore,” he said.

Slaughter, who averaged a team-high 17.5 points per game last season and was named to the Sun Belt All-Conference First Team, said he was headed home last weekend for three face-to-face interviews with potential agents.

The next step after that, Slaughter said, is the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Va., which runs April 7-10. If all goes well, Slaughter hopes to be invited to the NBA Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago, famous for seeing its attendees taken in the draft.

Last year, 52 players participated in the combine. The NBA Draft is made up of 60 picks over two rounds.

“It’s just a waiting game,” Slaughter said. “I’d love to get drafted, but guys that don’t get drafted still have a chance to make the NBA. I’m just shooting for the best that I can.”

While Slaughter waits on his trip to Portsmouth, he continues to work with Western’s strength staff three times a week, run through the Toppers’ individual drills and play one-on-one with his former teammates.

Slaughter said the goal is to improve his ball handling while maintaining his shooting touch and lockdown defense — all the while assured that a 6-3, 180-pound prospect will be asked to play point guard rather than shooting guard in the NBA.

If there’s anything working against Slaughter, Head Coach Ken McDonald said it’s that he’d be an undersized shooting guard but fits just right at the point, where Slaughter began playing at the tail end of his senior season.

McDonald compared Slaughter to Eric Murdoch, a former Providence teammate of his and a nine-year NBA player, as a combo guard with a tendency to make clutch decisions.

“He’s just got a knack for scoring and getting by you,” McDonald said.

Looking past appear- ance, Athletics Director Wood Selig said he sees shades of Chris Marcus — a former Topper and two-time All-American — in the way Slaughter can take over a game and carry his team.

“He’s just passionate about the game and has such a great work ethic,” Selig said. “I think he has an NBA build — an NBA body. He might have to add a little bit of weight, but I think he’s got the endurance and stamina to play at that level.”

If the NBA stars don’t align, Slaughter said he’d talk over what’s next with his family, whether it be the NBA’s Development League or a career overseas.

But after four years at Western, Slaughter said he doesn’t anticipate he’ll be a hard sell for any team interested.

“I’m a good kid on and off the court,” he said. “After the success I’ve had for four years, being in school for four years, you learn so much and grow as a person.”

Jonathan Lintner

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TRACK: WKU officially kicks off outdoor season

Last weekend marked the first full-team competition of the outdoor season for Western as the athletes were split between the Alabama Relays and Stanford Invitational.

While most of the action took place in Alabama, junior distance runner Eimear O’Brien finished the 5K at Stanford with a personal best time, taking third place.

Junior Vasity Chemweno, a distance runner, headlined the weekend’s results with a first-place finish in the 1,500-meter race.

Though she did not win an individual event, senior Samantha Smith was part of the team that brought home a win in the shuttle hurdle relay race. She placed in other events, including the 4×100-meter relay and 100-meter hurdles.

Senior sprinter Gavin Smellie was the highest-placing male athlete of the weekend, as he took runner-up in the 100-meter dash.

The teams will split again next weekend, with athletes competing in the Florida Relays April 2-3 and the APSU Governers Invitational on April 3.

-M. Blake Harrison

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