OBSERVATIONS: Castillo Reds’ Opening Day starter, UD and Wright State put up stern fights in NIT losses

By HAL McCOY

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS while spending a long, long evening in The Man Cave La-Z-Boy watching basketball (Wright State), baseball (Cincinnati Reds) and basketball (University of Dayton), leaving the chair only for bathroom duties and refrigerator raids.

—In a somewhat surprising move, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell named Luis Castillo as the Opening Day starter. Castillo was up-and-down last season but has been mostly down during spring training.

Castillo will be followed by Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Anthony DeSclafani. Alex Wood will begin the season on the injured list with his back issues, so the fifth spot is undetermined. But with early off days, a fifth starter may not be necessary the first couple of times through the rotation.

The Reds finally won another game, but it was done in absurb manner with another one of baseball’s monkey-testing with the game.

With the score tied, 4-4, after eight innings, the teams used the experiment of starting the ninth inning with a runner on second base.

The Chlicago White Sox scored that ‘runner on second base’ in top of the ninth and took a one-run lead.

They put a Reds runner on second base to start the bottom of the ninth and he was thrown out at third base on a ground ball. But the Reds scored twice, tying the game when somebody named Stuart Fairchild was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and the game ended on a bases-loaded wild pitch, a 6-5 Reds victory.

The Reds came from 4-0 behin after Chicago’s Jose Abreu hit two home runs. Yasiel Puig hit a two-out two-run double to cut the lead to 4-2, Matt Kemp hit a two-out run-scoring single to make it 4-3 and Jose Peraza tied it with a single.

Joey Votto rolled a single through the left side for a hit and singled off the shortstop’s glove for another single, only his third and fourth hits this spring in 39 at bats with 12 strikeouts.

Before the Reds played the White Sox Tuesday night, Sonny Gray pitched in a minor league game in the afternoon and took some lumps against the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.

Bell told writers and broadcasters in Goodyear, Ariz. that Gray pitched because the club wanted him to throw some extra pitches.

—The Late Show, starring the University of Dayton and Colorado University in the NIT was worth losing sleep to watch.

The Flyers lost, 78-73, but it was a one-point game with 5 1/2 minutes left. At that point there had been 18 lead changes — back-and-forth, back-and-forth like a metronome.

The last lead change came with six minutes left and Dayton ahead, 63-62 on Ryan Mikesell’s three-pointer.

But Colorado’s Daylen Kountz slammed home a dunk for a 64-63 Colorado lead, sparking 9-2 Buffaloes breakaway for a 76-69 lead with 56 seconds left.

The last two points on that run were scored McKinley Wright IV, the point guard who originally committed to UD but opted out when coach Archie Miller left for Indiana.

The Flyers finished their season 21-12, but went down playing their best — sharp, crisp passing, share-the-ball offense and star-burst fast breaks in the breath-sapping high altitude of Boulder, Colo.

Freshman Obi Toppin, despite sitting out much of the second half with foul miseries, scored 21 points that included two three-pointers and three dunks. And he snagged six rebounds.

Senior Josh Cunningham finished his career on the downbeat, as he did in many games the second half of the season. He had only five points and two rebounds.

Jalen Crutcher had 14, Ryan Mikesell 13 and Jordan Davis 12.

Amazingly, the Flyers shot 58 per cent and lost — making 30 of 53 shots. And 13 of their 23 misses were on three-pointers, where they were 5 for 18.

Wright and D’Shawn Schwartz led Colorado with 19 each and Schwartz made five of eight three-pointers. Colorado star Tyler Bey only scored 14, but ruled the glass with 12 rebounds.

—Wright State Universityo was one-and-done in the NIT, but acquitted themselves well while playing Clemson on the Tigers’ home court against former WSU coach Brad Brownell.

They fell behind, 16-2, to start the game, then outscored Clemson 31-17 the rest of the first half to draw even, 33-33 at intermission.

From there it was hand-to-hand combat. The Raiders had a 47-41 lead with 13 1/2 minutes left in the game.

Clemson then went on a 14-3 run to take a 55-51 lead. The Raiders were down one, 70-69. with 1 1/2 minutes to go. Clemson’s Elijah Thomas hit two free throws with 1:24 left and WSU’s Loudon Love missed two free throws with 47 seconds left.

John Newman hit the second of two free throws with 17 seconds left, making it a two possession game, a four-point lead, and the Raiders couldn’t convert.

There were 10 lead changes and five ties during a highly competitive game ruined only by the babbling of ESPN color analyst Cory Alexander.

While Wright State was making its big comeback from the 16-2 deficit to tie it at 29-all, Alexander was on a long rant about his days at the University of Virginia, about how he didn’t like playing in the NIT, preferring the NCAA (well, of course) and how he had to start games because he was awful coming off the bench.

And he is awful behind the microphone, too. They went long spells without telling viewers who scored baskets as WSU came back from the dead.

Nevertheless, the Raiders, 14-point underdogs, played like the champions they were during the regular Horizon League season.

Five Raiders scored in double figures, led by Bill Wampler’s off-the-bench 17. Loudon Love had 14 and missed a double-double by one with game-high nine rebounds. Cole Gentry had 13, Mark Hughes 12 and Skyelar Potter 11.

The Raiders buried 10 of 25 threes while Clemson made 8 of 18. The Raiders had problems containing Clemson’s Marcquis Reed. He averages 19, but scored 24 on 9 of 19 shooting. Big man Elijah Thomas, despite foul trouble that earned him bench time, still scored 17. David Skara had 16 and Clyde Trapp added 12.

4 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: Castillo Reds’ Opening Day starter, UD and Wright State put up stern fights in NIT losses

  • March 20, 2019 at 6:24 am
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    I’m in my LazyBoy with a cat on my lap. It is 6:00AM. I applaud Hall of Fame efforts to report three overlapping games with such detail and accuracy from the comfort of your LazyBoy.

    Reply
  • March 20, 2019 at 8:44 am
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    I’ll be watching Castillo’s pitch count opening day. Hopefully it’s not approaching 30 throws before the 3rd inning.

    Sal Romano warming up in the bullpen.

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  • March 20, 2019 at 4:16 pm
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    Great comment about color analyst dropping the ball – figuratively. #1 – describe the action!! … Speaking of that – THANK YOU Hal – for EXPLAINING the “runner on 2nd base”! Marty just now (weds. afternoon) in the pre-game w/Bell, referred to that – but in the one rare time that I ever remember, he did NOT explain why players were looking at that guy on 2nd at the end of the game. They didn’t of course explain it either on the Reds site – last ditch I looked here – yaay. Been a weird spring – Puig, Kemp, Perazza have done their part. And a guy like Ervin would be a lock – except in the current crowded field.

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  • March 20, 2019 at 6:51 pm
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    Obi Toppin has played his last game for the Flyers!

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