Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I never said I wouldn't pander

Here's a tidbit for you San Luis Obispo High football folks.

In the background of the Tigers' CIF-Southern Section Division II semifinal boys tennis loss to Diamond Bar, the San Luis Obispo football team was beginning its second week of spring workouts.

It was hard not to keep my eyes on the court with some of the competitive play going on, so I only heard the football team counting out jumping jacks or something like that. So no scouting report.

But football conversation did wander over to the tennis courts eventually, and a few details leaked out. In the race to replace departed senior Conner Reese, a school record-holder in multiple passing categories, there is a good, old-fashioned quarterback controversey.

Sources close to the team say it's neck and neck between incoming senior Jake Miller, who backed up Reese last season and racked up 67 tackles and three interceptions from his safety spot, and junior David Schultz, who battted .378 in 74 at-bats on the baseball team this spring.

Neither has too much of a size advantage. According to MaxPreps.com, Schultz is 6 feet, 1 inch and 170 pounds. Miller, who played half of last season after a blow to the throat left him with a vocal chord injury, measured 6-1, 173 in the fall.

Miller completed two of three passes behind Reese for 15 yards and a touchdown, a 10-yard strike to fullback Mac Sutcliffe in a 43-10 blowout of San Marcos. Schultz, who played junior varsity football in the fall, kept his arm in shape this spring by going 2-1 on the mound for the Tigers. His 3.98 ERA was third on the team.

Whichever quarterback wins the job, he'll have huge shoes to fill and high expectations. The Tigers return the best group of All-County players next season and no doubt look to compete for the PAC 7 title again.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pick your playoff run

Two fantastic runs to the quarterfinals. But what if there could be only one?

The Arroyo Grande boys basketball team went from wild card to CIF-Southern Section Division II title contender with three straight upsets before falling in the quarters this past winter.

And Tuesday, the Eagles boys volleyball team gained entry into the round of eight for the first time in school history by beating Santa Ynez in convincing fashion after a first-round romp and a PAC 7 championship regular season.

Which one is more special? Which will be more memorable? Normally, those questions might not be very relevant, but two of the team's key players in the runs for each team are two in the same.

Seniors Daniel Wrage and James Tringham came up big in both sports. Which one would they choose?

Wrage honestly ranked the basketball run as his best memory. The team won on some of his own late-game heroics. And the underdog story of a fifth-place team that squeaked into the playoffs with an at-large bid was dangerously close to becoming an instant legend.

Without picking a preference, Tringham felt special being a part of Arroyo Grande boys volleyball's deepest playoff run to date. The Eagles beat San Luis Obispo in six of the eight games between the two teams. Now everything they do is setting a new program standard.

"We had a good year, we won league and now we're in the playoffs," Tringham said. "I don't want to say this is expected, but this is fun."

I was ready to give my own judgement and tell everyone which playoff run is more important to the school and the respective sports in the long run, but, as Wrage reminded me, volleyball isn't finished yet.

I'll hold off on a decision before seeing what Arroyo Grande can do against Santa Barbara on Friday. But that doesn't mean you have to.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Untold tales of sportsmanship

Midway through San Luis Obispo High's tennis match with visiting Burroughs-Burbank in the first round of CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs Thursday, I had a chat with Burroughs coach Roy Bernhardt.

His team hadn't been in the playoffs since 1993, and as a warmup question, I asked him what he thought of the Tigers — the cream of the team crop here in our area.

The question wasn't hard-hitting enough to beat an egg, I know, but I was feeling him out. San Luis Obispo, which won 12-6, was dominating, and hey, you are reading a blog about it.

The first thing he complimented the Tigers on was their conduct. They all were true sportsmen, he said. It was relevant considering that certain nameless players were flinging rackets and water bottles in losing frustration.

Here's my comment. I wish I'd said it to him. Winning a game or match going away isn't a true test of sportsmanship.

I've gotta say it's pretty easy to deal with winning, especially when it's by a lot. Winning with class does take some effort, but your level of sportsmanship truly shows when you have to deal with adversity — a blown call, some bad luck or a hostile crowd.

Paso Robles softball pitcher Michelle Moses gave up the first ever home run at San Luis Obispo's softball diamond, and it cost the Bearcats the game and the chance to be all alone in first place in the PAC 7 a couple weeks ago.

Choking back some emotion, she actually did an interview with me after the game and thanked me for coming. A lesser sportsman might have told me to buzz off.

After being eliminated from playoff contention in a blowout loss to Atascadero this week, Arroyo Grande baseball catcher Lucas Kephart saw me walking by and flashed me a big smile.

I'd seen it before. It was the same one I got after two games where I watched him homer earlier in the season. It's the same one I'll see next time, too, whether he pops up or strikes out.

At the PAC 7 track finals last week, Eagles sprinter Stephanie Micheli thought she finally had rival Tonie Williams of San Luis Obispo in the 200-meter dash. But Micheli lost by .01 seconds, lost her balance through the finish line and lost sizeable chunks of cheek and shoulder skin on the track.

Not only did she come back for her next race a few minutes later, but she talked to me, gave kudos to Williams and vowed to beat her with a renewed determination.

These kids weren't happy with losing. Nobody really is. But they had untold stories where they handled it with grace.

Tigers tennis handled winning just fine. Will they do the same while losing? Only a runaway section title would mean they wouldn't get the chance.