Squirrtles make splash in opening week

The Spokane Squirrtles made a splash in their first week of play, winning seven of 10 games against Tom’s Terrific Team.

The Squirrtles were up 6-3 after Monday, but Tom’s Team pulled ahead to gain a 5-2 lead on the start of Wednesday. They led in runs (29), home runs (nine), stolen bases (three), average (2.69), strikeouts (41), ERA (3.02) and WHIP (1.24).

Manny Machado shined in the batter’s box with three home runs, four RBIs and five runs (.429 batting average). Robinson Cano (four home runs, seven RBIs and four runs) and Joc Pederson (one, five, five) were also big contributors on offense.

Brandon Finnegan led the team in strikeouts (nine) and only allowed two runs and walked one batter. Chris Bassitt, Julian Tehran (0-1) and Bartolo Colon (0-1) all had eight strikeouts each.

Right before the start of the season, the Squirrtles picked up outfielder Juan Largares after they dropped Steven Moya, who is now at the Triple A level. They also traded catcher Kyle Schwarber, who was put on the disabled list after suffering a torn ACL and LCL. They brought in Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Javier Baez has been sidelined with an injury while Kevin Gausman, who has been in rehab for a shoulder injury, is expected to make his return to the majors.

The Squirrtles (7-3), are in third place. They take on Fairbanks this week.

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Chars lose series to Badgers

The Cheney Chars struggled in their first week of play, going 3-6-1 against the Badgers. They were 4-4 after opening day. The Badgers jumped ahead to take a 5-3 lead on Tuesday. The Chars managed to pull ahead 6-4 on Thursday before the Badgers took back the lead.

The Chars led in home runs (14), RBIs (52) and strikeouts (54).

Matt Kemp led in offense with three home runs, 10 RBIs and four runs.  Anthony Rizzo also had a big week with two HRs, 10 RBIs and six runs as did Brock Holt (two, eight, four).

Jose Fernandez (0-1) had a standout week, throwing 13 strikeouts and walking one batter over 5 ⅔ innings. Raisel Iglesias (1-0) also had a good week after he threw 12 Ks and walked two batters.

The Chars (3-6-1), who are in eighth place, face Chases’ Cool Team.

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Noibats drop series to Red Devils

The Newport Noibats kicked off their fantasy season, winning only two of 10 games against the Yuma Red Devils this past week.

Down 8-0 after the first day of the week, the Noibats found some success on Tuesday after they led the Red Devils in the strikeout count 25-20. At the end of the week, the Noibats led in stolen bases (four) and ERA (3.99).

Carlos Gonzalez shined on offense with three home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored. Yan Gomes had one HR, four RBIs and two runs. Adrian Beltrie had one homer, three RBIs and two runs.

On the mound, Garrett Richards (0-2) led Newport in strikeouts with 13. James Richards (0-2) had eight Ks.

The Noibats (2-8), who are in 11th place, face the Silver Sluggers this week.

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UpUpDownDown with A.J. Styles and 2K16 rematch

For months fans have been asking Austin Creed to bring A.J. Styles on “UpUpDownDown” and he did. These are a couple of videos featuring Styles and Creed playing “EA Sports 2”

Part 1

Part 2

A bonus video featuring the 2K16 rematch between Tyler Breeze and Creed vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston.

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Angela Hill has found her groove in Invicta

When a fighter gets cut from the UFC roster, it’s easy to sit back and ponder the reasons they were released in the first place – and whether or not they deserved to be ousted from the promotion in the first place. But overall a mixed martial artist’s worth shouldn’t be about how long their UFC tenure was or their record prior to being released but what they do after they experience that career setback. More often than not, fighters who get cut by the UFC will go on and find success in other promotions and reach new milestones.

Angela “Overkill” Hill is such a fighter. Less than a year after she was released from the UFC – following back-to-back losses to Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres – Hill strung together two impressive wins in the Invicta cage and is set to challenge Livia Renata Souza for the strawweight title at Invicta FC 17.

Hill’s came into the UFC as one of the fighters in “The Ultimate Fighter 20” with a 2-0 record and an accomplished kickboxer. There were some doubts – mainly pundits who said “well that was kickboxing and this is MMA” argument.

Carla Esparza would eliminate Hill from the “TUF 20” tournament. She dropped a decision to Tecia Torres at UFC 188 in her octagon debut, then was submitted by Namajunas.

Hill signed with Invicta shortly after the UFC let her go. She finished Alida Gray, who came in with a loss to Jessica Aguilar, in her Invicta debut. “Overkill’s” next Invicta bout came sooner than some expected as she stepped in on short notice for Alexa Grasso to fight Stephanie Eggink in what many speculated would be a title eliminator bout between the Mexican prospect and the former XFC champion. While Eggink had more experience and a proficient grappling background, Hill knocked out Eggink and earned her first “Performance of the Night” bonus.

Which brings us to now. Some questioned as to why Hill was getting a championship bout over Grasso, who many speculated – included the writer of this long-winded column – the future of Invicta’s 115-pound division. Perhaps the Invicta brass felt Grasso, who’s had to withdraw from two scheduled bouts and didn’t feel confident she’d make it for Invicta FC 17. Perhaps the title shot is Hill’s reward for stepping into a big-fight situation.

Perhaps they feel Hill’s striking will match well with Souza, who’s not only got a nasty grappling background but also good hands herself. Whatever the reason(s), Invicta, who many compliment for putting on good, competitive bouts, felt this would be another barn burner.

And I think it will be.

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Crunch Time: Goodbye Diva, hello Superstars

Note: This is my Crunch Time column that was published in this week’s issue of the Cheney Free Press.

I know I’ve written this before but I just want to get it out of the way. Yes, I know professional wrestling — or sports entertainment as it’s known in some circles — is scripted. But rather than getting into the argument of “fake vs. real,” I wanted to touch on some of the recent developments in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) from this past week, specifically relating to their women’s division.

Hey, if ESPN can do live updates from WrestleMania last Sunday’s (April 3) and devote weekly segments to WWE’s “Raw” — not to mention Shaquille O’Neal’s appearance in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal — then maybe it’s not so bad to have professional wrestling pop up in the local sports column.

One of the matches at WrestleMania was a three-way bout — called a triple threat match — between Charlotte (real name Ashley Fliehr), Sasha Banks (Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado) and Becky Lynch (Rebecca Quin) for the newly established WWE Women’s Championship. This was promoted as one WrestleMania’s bigger matches and treated with the same respect as the main event bouts featuring the WWE’s male performers.

All three women made grand entrances on their way to the ring. They were given enough time to put on a great performance and tell a good story. To put it simple, these three women stole the show and were one of the few bright spots in what many considered a lackluster WrestleMania.

The event also marked the last time WWE would use the term “Diva” for how they referred to the women performers on their roster. While this may not seem like a big deal to some folks, if you’ve been watching wrestling — specifically the WWE — for as long as I have, it’s quite a shift the company is making, and a positive one at that.

For the last six years women on the WWE’s roster were presented as “Divas” instead of “wrestlers” or “superstars” and were essentially marketed for their looks over their in-ring abilities.

There was the Divas division — complete with a championship belt that was shaped like a butterfly and most “Divas” who did wrestle were as talented as the men, but their matches would only get 4-5 minutes — if they were lucky — and they weren’t able to put on the quality of performances like the men. At one time WWE had a “women’s championship” but their matches played second fiddle to the men.

The triple threat match between Charlotte, Banks and Lynch, which was on the upper half of the card, was 16 minutes and 5 seconds long. It is the longest match involving women — that includes championship bouts, battle royals and mixed-tag team matches — held at a WrestleMania in its 32 years.

But this movement wasn’t something that happened overnight. The change in how WWE portrayed women’s wrestling didn’t start with their main roster but with their developmental brand, NXT. To put it simple, if WWE is a major league baseball team than NXT is their AAA.

While the WWE’s Divas were wrestling short matches on the main roster, the women in NXT were given as much time as the men to put on quality matches and were billed on the same level as the men. In the last 18 months, NXT has featured a plethora of matches where the women shined, many of them featuring the three aforementioned athletes. A two-match series between Banks and Bayley (Pamela Rose Martinez) was the talk of the wrestling world this past summer. Their first match in August won numerous “Match of the Year” awards while their last match in October was a 30-minute Iron Man match.

Wrestling fans and women on WWE’s main shows were beginning to take notice and demanded change going as far as to ask the WWE to “give Divas a chance.”

During the summer, the WWE brought in Charlotte, Banks and Lynch as a part of their “Divas Revolution” storyline and the three were main players. After learning to adapt to WWE’s style, Charlotte became the Divas champion and worked with Lynch and Banks on the way to Wrestlemania.

There were a lot of things about Wrestlemania that people griped about, but I think promoting the women in the same light the men is a good sign for the future, not just in for women in WWE, but for women’s wrestling as a whole.

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Blackhawks tennis keep winning streak alive

SPTS - Cheney tennis Shogo Starr 2 - 03312016//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The Cheney High boys’ tennis team wrapped up their nonleague schedule with a 5-2 win over Greater Spokane League’s North Central, March 30 and a sweep of Northeast A League’s Deer Park, 5-0, March 31.

Against North Central, Ryan Axtell, No.1 singles, swept Austin Bair (6-0, 6-0) and Mason Van Stone, No. 2, shut out Jarrett Walker (6-0, 6-0).

Brandon Foster, No. 3, defeated Matt Ruff (6-0, 6-1) while Shogo Starr, No. 4, won his match against Jayden Gage (6-1, 6-1).

“Our singles lineup all looked strong,” head coach Jesse Erickson said. “Ryan and Mason are becoming more aggressive on returns. Brandon and Shogo are getting more comfortable, and playing strong at the net.”

Dirk Ray and Jack Zuelke, No. 3, won the only doubles match for Cheney after they defeated Ryan Hildahl and Nick Neimbigner (6-1, 6-1).

In the Deer Park match, Axtell, No. 1, kept his winning streak alive after he defeated Niamh Lakewolf (6-2, 6-4) and Starr, who moved up to No. 2, swept Trevor Murphy (6-0, 6-0).

As for doubles, Van Stone and Foster, teaming for the first time at the No. 1 spot, won a close match against Izaak Curry and Tyson Lim (3-6, 6-1, 6-3). Erickson said Van Stone and Foster had played doubles in the past but it had been with different partners. Adam Passey and Luke Hugenin, No. 2, won their match as well (6-1, 6-3).

“Deer Park’s No. 1 and No. 2 doubles were undefeated going into this match,” Erickson said. “All four of my guys looked strong and were communicating well.”

Ray and Zuelke, No. 3, shut out Dawson Dotts and Chad Vincent (6-0, 6-0).

According to Erickson, Cheney only played five games against Deer Park instead of the normal seven because NEA teams only play two singles games and three doubles.

“We were at their home court, so we played by their rules,” Erickson said.

Cheney, 6-0, will have a nice break until April 12 when they travel to East Valley to play the Knights in their first Great Northern League match. Erickson said illness and other school commitments have forced him to shift the doubles lineup in the past couple of weeks.

“Many guys from JV have stepped up and that’s been great,” Erickson said. “Hopefully we’ll be back at full strength after spring break.”

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