Every day that passes we are one day closer to spring. My favorite February words could be heard a few days ago, pitchers and catchers report! Report as in to Spring Training either in the Grapefruit League in Florida or the Cactus League in Arizona depending on what major league club you're playing for. I hope my good friends Mr. Buck Byham and his wife can make their annual trip to Florida and Spring Training.
The Byhams are more like family to me. I've known them since I was five. Mrs. Byham was my kindergarten teacher. Mr. Byham was like Vin Scully to me growing up. I have told the story before; I thought I made it to the Big Time when Mr. Byham first spoke my name on his afternoon sports round up on WMPT.
Say a little prayer for Mr. Byham, the old left hander isn’t getting around very well these days and that trip to Florida is calling his name. The Byhams have been married 62 years.
District hoops play is proceeding on at a fever pitch. The favorites look solid. The 3A bracket is intriguing. Shamokin and Milton advanced to the Heartland Conference final with Milton winning. Just prior to that Lewisburg defeated the Black Panthers to end the regular season. The Green Dragons didn't make the Heartland Tournament as Milton and Shamokin tied for the big school title.
Something has got to give in District play, throw in Coach Tag’s Bulldogs and you have a bracket worth watching.
Sock is making quick work of the AA tournament and Neumann looks like no one can play with them in single-A. I still like Coach Taylor's Cherry and White to come out of the District 2–4 pairings.
Locally Lycoming has been solid all season. Coach Guy Rancourt’s team is fun to watch. They sure get up and down the court. All goes well they will be playing in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. Even with a loss in their conference tournament they should receive an at large bid.
March Madness is just around the corner. Conference tournaments provide some great reality TV as the smaller colleges and bubble teams are trying to secure an automatic bid for the Big Dance along with a conference tournament crown.
I think the National Title is up for grabs this season. Yes, I know about Kentucky. I'm not sold on the Southeastern Conference; I believe it was down this season. I cannot imagine the Wildcats going undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
I like Gonzaga to finally get it done. Wichita State has been there and is very talented and of course Virginia, Duke and the ACC teams are tough and battle tested. There are 50 teams that can win the championship. No doubt Kentucky is a step or two ahead of most. They have not lost at press time; however, that gorilla of an undefeated season appears to be getting heavier and heavier.
One last team to never count out is Michigan State and Coach Tom Izzo. His teams just have that knack for peaking in the NCAA tournament, very similar to Louisville when Coach Denny Crumb was there during the late 70s and 80s.
Local high school baseball teams have been conditioning, hitting in the batting cages and throwing inside. Practice officially begins March 2. It sure looks like they're going to be continuing their inside prep work. Pennsylvania baseball is tough on all from the Little League levels to the college squads. It's at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Local college teams including Penn College, have headed south for scrimmages, games and the ability to get some practice in on field. Incidentally, Bucknell opened their 2015 campaign at Wake Forest and competing in a four-game round robin series. The weather however did not cooperate and each team got two games in. Bucknell did manage to upset Wake Forest 17-16 in a real pitchers dual.
Williamsport High School, for as long as I can remember, heads to South Carolina for a week. This year the Loyalsock Lancers will be heading to a warmer climate for their first time. They have been invited to play in the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in Cary, North Carolina. A 16-team tournament bringing together some of the top high school teams in the country. The Lancers invite came on the heels of back-to-back State Titles. They return the core group of players from the past two seasons.
Coach Jeremy Eck’s club opens with a team from Arizona. The Lancers are the first team to be invited to the prestigious event from Pennsylvania. I'll have more on this as we get closer to tournament time.
I'm looking forward to some great basketball and wrestling action to finish out the local high school seasons. All will soon be filling out their March Madness brackets. This can mean only one thing; spring is right around the corner.
Let's hope some early spring weather gets our local baseball and softball teams outside on the diamonds. It would be a blessing if the Millionaires and Lancers could get some work in before heading south.
Avoid cabin fever and get out and take in our local prep teams and athletes. Whether it’s wrestling or basketball the event may be just what the doctor ordered. Don't forget about stopping for a good meal and some conversation. Win or lose it makes for great time spent with family and friends.