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Archive for March, 2013

(Springfield) – In anticipation of potential winter weather on Thursday, the Missouri State football Bears will begin spring drills a day earlier than expected. Coach Terry Allen’s squad will conduct the first of 15 spring practice sessions Wednesday (March 20) at 3:30 p.m., at Plaster Field.

Allen and select players will be available prior to Wednesday’s practice for interviews with the media.

As part of their spring slate, the Bears will conduct three Saturday scrimmages: April 6, April 13, and the annual Maroon and White Game on April 20. The club’s complete spring schedule (below) is subject to change due to weather and other factors.

Beginning his eighth season at Missouri State, Allen expects 42 lettermen and 75 total squad members back from last year’s squad that won three of its last five contests to close out the season.

MSU 2013 SPRING FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Practice #1 (helmets)

3:30 p.m. Fri., March 22

Practice #2 (helmets)

3:10 p.m. Tue., March 26

Practice #3 (shells)

3:10 p.m. Wed., March 27

Practice #4 (partial scrimmage)

3:10 p.m. Tue., April 2

Practice #5

3:10 p.m. Wed., April 3

Practice #6

3:10 p.m. Fri., April 5

Practice #7

3:10 p.m. Sat., April 6

Scrimmage #1

9:30 a.m Tue., April 9

Practice #9

3:10 p.m Wed., April 10

Practice #10

3:10 p.m. Fri., April 12

Practice #11

3:10 p.m. Sat., April 13

Scrimmage #2

9:00 a.m. Tue., April 16

Practice #13

3:10 p.m. Thu., April 18

Practice #14 (helmets)

3:10 p.m. Sat., April 20

Maroon & White Game

TBA

(all events at Plaster Field; full pads unless noted; times/dates subject to change)

(Jupiter, FL) – The St. Louis Cardinals have given infielder Ronny Cedeno his outright release. The team also re-assigned non-roster left-handed pitcher Tyler Lyons to their minor league camp.

Today’s moves have reduced the number of players on the Major League spring roster to 38.

WBC Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Baseball

The Dominican Republic players celebrate after beating Puerto Rico in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The Dominican Republic won 3-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(San Francisco) (AP) – Samuel Deduno pleaded with Tony Pena to leave him in the game – the outing of his life, his country across his chest.

Pena stuck with the demonstrative Dominican Republic right-hander – with his island nation’s World Baseball Classic hopes hanging on that managerial move. Deduno made Pena change his mind, and he never changes his mind.

The pitcher did his part by striking out Angel Pagan, and four innings later it was finally time for a party four years in the making.

The Dominicans have their World Baseball Classic crown, at last. Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina understood the magnitude of this victory, and made sure to call right away to offer his congratulations after his countrymen beat Puerto Rico 3-0 on Tuesday night.

“We appreciate that from the president,” Jose Reyes said. “This win is all about the Dominican Republic. They were hungry waiting for this moment, and we did it.”

Cheers of “Dominicana! Dominicana!” rang out through the rain at AT&T Park all the way to the lively streets of Santo Domingo.

That embarrassing first-round exit at the hands of the Netherlands in 2009, forget about it now.

“I had enough of the shame of not having the trophy like this,” Pena said. “And, thank God this group of men was able to accomplish what we wanted, which is to put our country at the top in terms of baseball. This is the greatest gift we can give to our country.”

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double in the first inning that held up, and the Dominicans capped a dominant, unbeaten run through the WBC as the first winner not from Japan in the tournament’s short history.

“Tomorrow will be a national holiday,” said Moises Alou, the proud Dominican general manager. “It was a tremendous win.”

Robinson Cano earned MVP honors, Erick Aybar added an RBI double to back Deduno, who threw his arms into the air in delight after watching a run-saving defensive gem by center fielder Alejandro De Aza in a tough fifth.

The Dominican fans – fanaticos, indeed – didn’t let the Bay Area’s wet weather keep them from dancing in the stands, waving flags and tooting horns. Flags became makeshift ponchos.

It was fitting, too, perhaps, considering the World Series champion Giants clinched the NL pennant against the Cardinals in a downpour on this very field last fall.

Some 50,000 more supporters gathered to watch on televisions inside and outside of Estadio Quisqueya in the Dominican capital city.

“We want to enjoy every single moment, because we don’t know if this group will be together again. I doubt it,” Pena said.

After Fernando Rodney struck out Luis Figueroa to end it, the Dominicans rushed the mound – each player waving his own flag. Well, Rodney held up his lucky plantain that served him well for the second straight day. He won’t eat this platano, which he said “is going to be my second trophy.”

“This is my gold medal,” he said. “It will be my black diamond, because it’s changing color. I kept telling everybody to relax and not to worry about (the pressure).”

The Dominicans (8-0) won it in the city where countrymen Felipe, Jesus and the late Matty Alou made history in 1963 when they appeared in the same Giants outfield for several games. Moises Alou is the son of former San Francisco skipper, Felipe.

No matter their team, Caribbeans had so much to cheer in the championship of a tournament missing the star-studded American team yet again. The U.S. failed to reach the final for the third time in as many WBCs.

And Puerto Rico eliminated two-time reigning Classic champion Japan with a 3-1 victory Sunday night to make in all-Caribbean final.

This game gave new meaning to the idea of a Caribbean championship.

Deduno followed up a fine outing in a win against the Americans last Thursday with another strong performance that will send him back to the Minnesota Twins with some nice momentum.

Deduno struck out five in five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking three to finish with a 0.69 ERA for the tournament. And Rodney struck out two and finished for his seventh save as the bullpen closed out this special run with 25 2-3 scoreless innings. The relievers didn’t allow a run after the fourth inning of their first-round victory against Puerto Rico on March 10 in San Juan.

In the top of the fifth, the grounds crew scurried out to rake the mound after it became slippery in the rain and Deduno walked Alex Rios on five pitches to lead off the inning.

After Carlos Rivera flied out, De Aza ran down Andy Gonzalez’s long fly to the gap in left-center and made a reaching snag at the warning track with his back to the infield.

Deduno then walked Jesus Feliciano. That’s when Pena paid the pitcher a mound visit and stayed with him, and Deduno struck out Pagan swinging after falling behind 2-0. Deduno pumped his fists again as he charged off the mound and was surrounded by celebratory teammates.

The Dominicans became the first unbeaten WBC champion, beating Team Puerto Rico for the third time in this Classic.

And now they earn the distinction of world champion, too – the first time in WBC history.

Cano had a big hand in it.

The New York Yankees star finished his sensational Classic batting .469 (15 for 32) with two home runs, six RBIs, six runs scored and two doubles. His 15 hits are a WBC record. Cano also earned MVP honors in each of the first two rounds. Encarnacion finished with six WBC RBIs in the WBC.

“I’ll tell you one thing: Tonight we’re going to celebrate, tomorrow we’re going to celebrate, and Thursday we’re going to worry about spring training,” Cano said.

After drawing a pair of intentional walks a night earlier, Cano had another in the first inning against loser Giancarlo Alvarado.

The Puerto Rican right-hander surrendered Encarnacion’s double two pitches later, and was done after one shaky inning featuring 22 pitches and only 10 strikes.

Hiram Burgos relieved and struck out five in 4 2-3 innings.

“We didn’t have a lot of big names,” Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “The people who were here wanted to be here. They had a mission, and that was to give everything. I think that’s an example of what can be accomplished when you have interest and you really put your passion toward a cause.”

After Miguel Tejada started at third base and Hanley Ramirez played designated hitter a night earlier in a 4-1 semifinal win against the Netherlands, Ramirez returned to third and Aybar was back in the lineup at DH. Tejada replaced the Dodgers’ Ramirez at third in the sixth and made a diving catch in the bullpen area in which he landed hard on his left side and came up grimacing.

Ramirez was lifted because he jammed his thumb lunging for a groundball. Mosies Alou said Ramirez would be examined further.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was among those to attend the game – available on television to 440 million households worldwide in 200 countries and territories, and in 15 languages – that drew 35,703 fans on a cool, drizzly March night at AT&T Park.

MLB executive Tim Brosnan called the WBC an “unqualified, over-the-top success.”

He doesn’t have to tell the Dominicans.

“This will always be with us in our hearts,” Pena said.

(Los Angeles) (AP) – Gail Goodrich knew Miami would beat Boston the other night.

He knew even a 17-point deficit, the largest they had faced in six weeks, wouldn’t stop LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

“Once they got back in the game, there was no doubt in my mind they were going to win,” Goodrich said of the Heat’s 105-103 victory Monday. “They just are better than everybody else.”

So were the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Goodrich were a Big Three to rival what Miami has, the core of a team that racked up routs on the way to an NBA-record 33 straight victories. They rarely felt threatened, either by their opponent or the stress of the streak, making one of sports’ most remarkable achievements seem rather routine.

“We had one of those teams that comes along every once in a while,” West said. “The only bad thing about it is we were really too old to be able to sustain it. But it was easy. And when we lost, it was like, `I can’t believe we lost.’ It was like two-and-a-half months. It was a very special time.”

Miami has won 23 in a row heading into its game Wednesday at Cleveland. After that, it’s home for Detroit and Charlotte, then off to Orlando, a four-game stretch against the bottom four teams in the Eastern Conference. So after years when no team came close to threatening their record, the Lakers recognize this could be the end of their time at the top.

“I really didn’t think that that record, after really thinking about it, was going to be broken. Now, I’m starting to change my mind,” Goodrich said during a phone interview. “I think they have a good shot at it.”

Yet as good as the Heat have been, they can’t match the ruthlessness of the Lakers’ run.

It started after a loss – two of them, actually – early in the season. The Lakers fell 109-105 to Golden State on Halloween 1971, then franchise cornerstone Elgin Baylor retired because of a knee injury.

They returned with victories on three straight days from Nov. 5-7 – players complain now about playing on back-to-back nights – with two coming by single digits. From there, the games got progressively easier and the margins more lopsided.

The Lakers outscored opponents by an average of 123.3 to 107.3, according to STATS. They had one three-game stretch in which they scored 139, 132 and 138 points, part of a nine-game span in which their low total was 123 points.

“I think we might have only played two close games the whole time. The rest of them were just routs,” West said at a recent Golden State game.

Like golfers who suddenly feel they can make any putt from any distance, the Hall of Famers remember the game getting easier as the streak went on. They actually enjoyed the run instead of feeling any kind of burden to keep it going.

“You’re very, very confident. Your shot is going in, you just do things, you don’t even think about the streak. You don’t think about the entirety of it,” Goodrich said.

“Certainly we had a lot of confidence and that confidence grew among us that somehow, some way, we were going to find a way to win, and I think all great teams do that. We really didn’t think about the streak, at least I didn’t. I mean, we knew it wasn’t going to last forever, I mean that just doesn’t happen, but we were dominating.”

Chamberlain was more defender and rebounder at that late stage of his career, but West (25.8 points per game that season) and Goodrich (25.9) provided plenty of points. Defense wins championships, the cliche goes, but a potent offense can keep a winning streak going, and the Lakers knew they had it.

“We were capable of having runs, streaks, running off 12 or 15 points in a game,” Goodrich said. “Pretty much we were confident we were going to do that, but I think the confidence builds that you’re better than your opponent. That doesn’t mean you disrespect them, but you are better.”

The Heat have had it tougher. They trailed by 16 before rallying for a six-point victory over a Knicks team that had beaten them badly twice earlier in the season. They went two overtimes with Sacramento and needed a layup by James with 3.2 seconds left to beat Orlando. His jumper with 10.5 seconds remaining allowed them to escape Boston with the streak intact.

The toughest obstacle for the Heat – already one of the most scrutinized teams in sports from the moment James and Bosh joined Wade in 2010 – may be the attention they’ll face. The streak has made the reigning champs larger than life, even drawing attention away from college basketball’s postseason during what’s usually a quiet time in the NBA schedule.

The Lakers, even with Chamberlain’s outsized personality, didn’t face nearly the level of media interest. The then-record of 20 in a row had been set by Milwaukee less than a year earlier, the Knicks had won 18 in a row a couple of years before that, and there just wasn’t the fascination with a feat that didn’t seem as extraordinary at the time.

West, a consultant now with the Warriors, was watching a national news program recently and saw a segment about the Heat’s streak. But asked how much the Lakers heard or thought about theirs, he said: “Honestly, not much.”

“I think athletes have the ability to focus in on what’s ahead of them,” he said. “Today it’s much different than it was before because you have so much more media around today. And then toward the end there when we really got in the 20s, there wasn’t a lot of interests.”

The streak finally ended on Jan. 9, 1972. The offense that had been humming for so long managed only 17 points in the second quarter, and the defending champion Bucks beat them 120-104 behind 39 points from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

That started a stretch of four losses in six games before the Lakers regrouped and won eight in a row en route to a 69-13 record and their first championship in Los Angeles. They’d had great individual talent for years, but knew that season they had something more.

“We had veteran guys on our team. Veteran players like that, you don’t have to come in the locker room and say a word,” West said. “It was, `Let’s see who we’re playing tonight. Don’t change anything you’re doing and go play.’”

(Jupiter, FL) (AP) – St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal returned to the Cardinals’ spring training complex for the first time since undergoing ligament replacement surgery by Dr. James Andrews last week, saying Tuesday the operation went well and he is ready for rehabilitation.

Furcal says Andrews is “happy we did this,” and confident the All-Star will be ready for next year. Furcal originally injured the elbow late last season. He had hoped off-season rehabilitation would prevent the need for surgery. Furcal was never able to throw at 100 percent in camp, and after a few weeks opted for surgery.

Andrews performed the surgery in his Pensacola office. Furcal plans to rehab from the surgery in South Florida.

The Cardinals also released veteran middle infielder Ronny Cedeno, a move the 30-year-old didn’t see coming.

“It’s a surprise,” Cedeno said. “It’s the first time it happened to me.”

The Cardinals signed Cedeno, most recently with the New York Mets, to a one-year contract in the offseason in part as insurance in case Furcal couldn’t recover. But the emergence of Matt Carpenter as a second baseman, along with solid play from shortstop Pete Kozma and utilityman Daniel Descalso, made Cedeno expendable.

Following an extremely slow start Cedeno had raised his average to .290 over the past couple weeks and said he was starting to feel good at the plate. His two errors and nine strikeouts in 31 at-bats didn’t do much to help his cause, though.

“I think as we are trying to put it all together it wasn’t fair to drag him on, and we gave him an opportunity to catch on with someone else,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “It became apparent what direction we are going to go so we tried to do, one, what was best for our club and, two, what’s right for our guy.”

Cedeno didn’t know what his next move would be.

“I have to call my agent to figure it out, what spot is going to be good for me,” Cedeno said.

milleson(Springfield) – Missouri State University has announced that Nyla Milleson’s contract has been cancelled, and she will not return as head women’s basketball coach. The announcement was made by Director of Athletics Kyle Moats during an afternoon news conference at JQH Arena.

Moats said the University would move promptly to hire a new coach.

“We evaluate all of our coaches at the conclusion of each season and monitor several criteria during the year,” said Moats. “Based on my overview of these factors, I consulted with President (Clif) Smart over the weekend, and gave him my recommendation to make a change in the leadership of the Lady Bears program.”

“Our past successes have led to high expectations,” said Smart. “The challenge for Missouri State is to continue to live up to those expectations. Sometimes, that means we have to make difficult, but necessary, decisions. Such is the case today.”

Milleson will receive a $140,000 buyout for the remaining two years of her contract.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Casey Hunt will oversee day-to-day duties of the program until a new head coach has been named.

“I want to say from a personal and professional standpoint, that I greatly appreciate Nyla’s dedication and hard work during her tenure as head coach at Missouri State,” Moats added. “She is a class individual who has always respected the history and tradition of Lady Bears Basketball. On behalf of all of us, I wish Nyla and her family the best in the future.”

Milleson coached the Lady Bears to a 105-87 record in six seasons, including three WNIT appearances and the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship. Missouri State finished 14-17 this season with a 6-12 record in MVC play.

“I’m grateful to have had this opportunity, and I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes and staff through the years,” said Milleson. “I wish the program and those associated with it continued success in the future.”

Video of today’s news conference is available on MissouriStateBears.com.

(Mountain View) – High school Lady Eagles soccer “kicks off” this week with games home on Tuesday against Branson and Thursday against St. James. Game times are 4:30 PM at the Liberty Football Field.

The girls travel to Springfield Saturday to complete in the Greenwood Classic Tournament also.

(Mountain View) – Here’s your Lady Eagles update:

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carp(Jupiter, FL) (AP) – Chris Carpenter realizes his baseball career may be over.

The 37-year-old right-hander made a surprise appearance at the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring-training camp Monday and said he’s still dealing with numbing and tingling sensations in his pitching hand, arm and shoulder.

“I’m not going to have surgery anymore,” Carpenter said. “We’ll see what happens. I don’t see it. With the things that are going on in times of every day life, I just don’t see it getting better to be honest with you.”

Asked if he wanted to continue pitching, Carpenter said, “I do. I just don’t think I can.”

The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner is 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA in 15 big league seasons.

He underwent neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery last July to eliminate a nerve issue that he’s pitched with in his right shoulder since 2008. He returned to make three starts in September and three in the playoffs and planned on a healthful start to 2013.

But as Carpenter ramped up his bullpen sessions in St. Louis the week before spring training, the weakness and numbness that he had dealt with for years returned. He informed the Cardinals that he was unable to continue pitching.

“It’s just weird,” Carpenter said. “Some days all of a sudden I was driving in the car, and I don’t know if I’m in a certain spot or things happen, but there’s definitely weaknesses. Just walking on the beach in Puerto Rico, my shoulder would get tired and start aching and be sore and things that you don’t normally deal with.”

Carpenter’s contract calls for a $12.5 million salary this year, of which $2 million is deferred without interest and is to be paid in $200,000 installments each July 1 from 2017-26.

“I’ll never officially retire,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work hard and try to stay in shape and move on in the direction of what these doctors have to say to make sure nothing serious is going in there that will affect the rest of life. That’s the thing that we’re going to make sure is happening, and that is that my arm and my shoulder are going to be OK to do normal stuff throughout the rest of my life and not have any affects, five six ten years down the road.”

Carpenter returned to camp at the urging of his wife and kids, who all just finished a week long spring break trip to Puerto Rico.

“I was in there working out and the game’s on ESPN against the Yankees,” Carpenter said. “I start thinking about wanting to try it and see what can happen, but I know the ultimate result won’t be good.”

Carpenter plans to stay for about a week and attend the Cardinals’ home opener on April 8. He spoke with manager Mike Matheny and several teammates Monday as his kids joined a pickup baseball game outside.

“I love seeing him,” Matheny said. “I’ve been pounding on him since we first heard the news to get down here and just enjoy it. I’d love to get him in uniform, but that’s a push right now. But just seeing him down here and having him here is a good thing.”

Carpenter plans to visit with team doctors in the next few weeks when he returns to St. Louis. But his focus remains on eliminating the pain from his everyday life.

“I’ve been coming to spring training since I was 18 years old and this was the first year I wasn’t able to play,” Carpenter said. “It was definitely tough but it’s good to see these guys.”

(Knoxville) (AP) – Frustrated Southeastern Conference coaches think their league is treated more like a mid-major rather than a BCS conference.

The coaches said Monday the perception all year has been that the SEC was having a down year. The NCAA tournament selection committee apparently felt it was reality.

Florida, Missouri and Mississippi earned the SEC’s only three NCAA berths, the fewest of any of the six major conferences. The SEC also ranked below the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West, which earned five bids each.

The SEC also sent only three teams to the tournament in 2009. Before then, the SEC hadn’t received as few as three bids since 1990.

One of the “things that hurt us was the impression the league’s down,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Everyone seems to say it. That’s why I tell the coaches we’ve got to brag about each other. We’ve got to set that straight.”

The three berths continue the SEC’s downward trend.

The SEC sent at least five teams to the tournament every year from 1997-2008, but it’s received as many as five NCAA invitations just once (2011) in the five years since.

Kentucky, the defending national champion, tied for second place in the SEC with Alabama and Mississippi. Kentucky and Alabama still ended up in the NIT. Mississippi only got a No. 12 seed in the NCAA field after winning the SEC tournament.

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin predicted two weeks ago that the SEC would earn six bids.

Martin said the SEC’s three bids were an “embarrassment” after the brackets were revealed, and he didn’t back down from those comments Monday. He said Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama are “NCAA tournament teams” that landed in the NIT.

“It’s almost like a mid-major mentality in this league, when you’ve got your second-place team that doesn’t get in the NCAA tournament,” Martin said. “This is a BCS league. It’s one of the best leagues in America. That shouldn’t happen.”

The SEC’s non-conference performance indicates it actually wasn’t one of the best leagues in the nation this season.

SEC schools went a combined 15-33 against the other five major conferences and had losing records against each of them: 3-6 against the Atlantic Coast Conference, 2-5 against the Big 12, 4-13 against the Big East, 2-4 against the Big Ten, 4-5 against the Pac-12.

Some of the reasons for the SEC’s struggles were obvious.

More players were taken in the NBA draft from SEC schools than any other conference last year. Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon, one of only two returning all-SEC players from last season, missed the entire year with a knee injury. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel was challenging for SEC player of the year honors before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last month. LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina had new coaches.

“When you have coaching changes, when you have player turnover, when you have departures of really good players, it’s going to take some time,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “The unfortunate part with all those transitions going on is you really pay the price in November. … What happens is your league gets labeled in November and December.”

Donovan believes the league got better as the season wore on, but it couldn’t prove that because its members were facing one another instead of playing teams from other conferences.

But it’s tough for SEC teams to schedule non-conference foes later in the year, particularly now that it has adopted an 18-game league schedule. If SEC teams don’t schedule quality non-conference foes later in the season, they must deliver better results against better teams early in the year.

Five of the SEC’s 14 teams ranked lower than 230th in non-conference strength of schedule. Not only did the SEC schedule weak teams, it occasionally lost to them. Mississippi State fell to Alabama A&M, a Southwestern Athletic Conference team that finished 11-20. Vanderbilt lost to Marist, a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference program that went 10-21.

The importance of non-conference performance was apparent from the fact that Missouri earned a bid despite getting the No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament. Missouri beat NCAA tournament participants Illinois and VCU at neutral sites early in the season.

“What happens with mid-major teams is they schedule aggressively because they know the best-case scenario to get into the NCAA tournament is you’ve got to go play teams,” Martin said. “So maybe we need to schedule like mid-major teams.”

SEC coaches realize they must do something to stop the conference’s declining total of NCAA bids. Their futures could depend on it.

“At the rate we’re going, if we don’t get it corrected, in some way, shape or form, you’re looking at three different new (coaches) every year” in the conference,” Martin said. “Something has to give.”