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Let's Go Lions and Other Northeastern Teams in The Big Baseball Dance

I admit to a bias towards northeastern teams who play baseball in the direst of weather unlike the warm weather schools. But since baseball is a game of character as well as talent and technique, don't count out the northeastern teams when they hit their groove at tournament time.

For the second season in a row, Columbia earned a third seed in the Miami regional where they will face #2 East Carolina on Friday May 29 at 1p. ESPN3, available on your computers, will cover all regional games, and ESPNU will have look-ins at
most games.

Host Miami plays Florida International in the Fri night game. It is a double elimination tournament so it behooves teams to win the first game and go into a winner’s bracket.

Other assignments for northeastern teams are St. John’s taking on Oklahoma at the Sooners stadium in Norman, TCU taking on Sacred Heart, one of the few teams in the field with a losing record but does have Bobby Valentine as the school athletic director, and in the same regional, Stony Brook, which made the College World Series in 2012, plays always tough NC State.

It would be a major upset if any of these schools advanced to the super-regionals in the first weekend of June but in college baseball late May and early June are what dreams are made of. And three cheers to those who are still playing meaningful baseball at this time of year.

Meanwhile on the major league scene, Memorial Day has come and gone and there is little form taking shape in most of the races, especially in the American League where a once-dominant division could now be called the AL Least. My Orioles are still under .500 but before games of May 27th they were even in the All-Important-Loss-Column.

That is no longer true. The Orangemen of Baltimore are pretty punchless these days and just lost at home to surprising Houston 4-1 while the Yankees routed the Royals for the second day in a row after losing 10 of 11 games. It is going to be that kind of year, folks, so as the late Mets announcer Bob Murphy said wisely at the end of a close individual game, “Fasten your seat belts.”

As someone who loves it when people come through the farm system, I am heartened by rookie Oriole pitchers who recently made their MLB debuts: Mike Wright from East Carolina U – the same team Columbia will tangle with on Friday – has not allowed a run in his first two impressive starts.

And Oliver Drake has also given them a big boost in bullpen. A former 43rd round draft pick out of the U.S. Naval Academy, Oliver did not graduate from Annapolis because he wanted to pursue his baseball career immediately. He suffered through a shoulder operation and periods when he wasn’t even on the 40-man roster but now he has arrived and hopefully will stay.

When the Oriole bats will awake is now the big question and as the old saying goes, “That’s why they play the games.”

That’s all for now - Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Teny Ymota’s Mid-May Musings: The Wright Stuff Arrives in Baltimore

The first few weeks of the season have been painful and disconcerting for Orioles fans. Results of spring training exhibition games don’t usually indicate the season ahead – the Tigers had a worse Florida record than the lackluster O’s and they are in a dogfight with defending American League champion Kansas City at the top of the AL Central division.

Sadly, the O’s spotty play in games that didn’t matter has been reflected in the regular season. The O’s have not yet put together a good winning streak and languish near the bottom of the AL East three games under .500 after 35 games.

With a 127 games left, no need to panic yet with the suddenly slumping Yankees only five games over .500 in first place. But signs of mediocrity do abound in Birdland. They get on an offensive roll and the arms fail them. Currently, the pitching has been stellar but the bats are in slumber. And the stellar defense has broken down too many times.

Historically, Orioles fans have not put up for long with bad play. As if fans of any kind can do anything about it except whine and wring hands to the point of injury.
So far attendance has held fairly well, a good sign given the loss of five home games because of the recent urban riots.

An unadulterated bright day occurred yesterday (Sunday May 18) when rookie right-hander Mike Wright made his major league debut and hurled 7 1/3 sparkling shutout innings in the O’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. It salvaged the final game of a three-game home series that the Angels won with earlier 3-1 and 6-1 victories.

Wright is a third round draft choice in 2011 out of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, who has worked his way steadily up the minor league ladder. He was organizational Pitcher of Year in 2013, slumped badly at the beginning of 2014, but recovered by end of season and so far in 2015 he has combined quality stuff with growing maturity.

Wright was 3-0 at top Triple A-affiliate Norfolk, VA when called up for an emergency start because Chris Tillman, the team’s ostensible ace, had back stiffness and fellow starter Bud Norris has had a prolonged bout with bronchitis and ineffectiveness.

Garrett Richards was the Angels hard-luck loser on Sunday. He gave up the only run the O’s needed on a wild pitch in the fourth inning scoring Adam Jones from third.
Jones manufactured the only run Wright needed in the 4th inning with a swinging bunt down the third base line.

Jones then sped from first to third on Delmon Young’s single up the middle. Reigning AL MVP Mike Trout plays a very deep center field and though blessed with great speed and a good arm, Trout could not stop Jones from getting the extra base. Jones was thus positioned to score the run on Richards’ wild pitch.

The Birds’ vital insurance runs came in the 8th inning thanks to more hustle by Jimmy Paredes, the surprise member of the 2015 Birds, Baltimore’s only other .300 hitter right now along with Jones. Paredes beat out an infield hit to second and after an error raced home on Jones' two-run double.

No one knows for sure if Mike Wright stays up in Baltimore permanently. His mid- 90s fastball and command of off-speed pitches on Sunday certainly opened a lot of eyes in Baltimore. With supposed future ace Kevin Gausman now on DL and needing more innings at Norfolk, I for one want Wright to get another start or two to prove that yesterday was no fluke.

I give the Orioles credit for not over-reacting to the slow start to the season by making massive changes to the roster as Boston and Toronto have done. But time is growing short to see if the roster that came out of spring training is what will remain as the core and supporting cast for the rest of what is so far a disappointing 2015.

Meanwhile on the college front, it won’t be until Memorial Day Monday May 25 that the Columbia Lions, my other great rooting interest, find out what regional the NCAA will send them to. Stay tuned.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Yours in Baseball Forever, Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY, Your Man on The Aisle)
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