• KCAC-HOA FOOTBALL CHALLENGE THIS WEEKEND — The second — and what turns out to be the last — KCAC-Heart of America Conference Football Challenge is set for this weekend.
The series ends after this year, as the KCAC has entered into a new agreement for 2015 with the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), with this year’s standings determining the schedule. I find it somewhat disappointing since a KCAC-Heart challenge makes far more sense in terms of travel and familiarity.
The KCAC scored some points in the national eyes last year when it split 5-5 against the Heart in the head-to-head challenge. I’m sure at the time the Heart teams were feeling somewhat surprised, since it’s generally thought its league plays what is regarded as a higher brand of football — despite the fact the KCAC currently has four teams ranked nationally, which is the same as the Heart.
The caveat last year was that the KCAC teams were the hosts, but this year the scene shifts to the homes of the Heart. Chances of the KCAC duplicating or surpassing last year’s performance probably are a long shot at best.
Here are the 2014 matchups:
• McPherson College at MidAmerica Nazarene
• Bethany at Graceland
• Ottawa at Benedictine
• Tabor at Missouri Valley
• Southwestern at Evangel
• Friends at Peru State
• Sterling at Baker
• Kansas Wesleyan at Central Methodist
• Saint Mary at Culver-Stockton
• Bethel at Avila
Obviously the best matchups will be those of ranked teams — Ottawa-Benedictine, Tabor-Missouri Valley, Sterling-Baker and Friends-Peru State.
The KCAC probably would be satisfied for a split of those four games. I think the best chances are for Ottawa and Friends, while Tabor-Missouri Valley is a tossup and Sterling-Baker should go the Heart’s way, given how both teams opened the season.
Maybe the KCAC team with the best chance of winning is Bethany. The Swedes obviously are much improved over last year, while Graceland was the one Heart team that suffered a blowout, a 34-0 shellacking at the hands of McPherson College.
The Bulldogs have an intriguing matchup of their own. They return to Olathe to play MidAmerica Nazarene, two teams that met in 2009 in Olathe in the NAIA playoffs. That was a barnburner of a game before the Pioneers seized command in the fourth quarter to advance. Mac and MidAmerica, however, aren’t the powers they were five years ago.
• ROYALS’ BATS FREEZING — Since reeling off 15 wins in 18 games to improve to 72-56, the Kansas City Royals are 7-8.
Stunningly in those 15 games, they have scored two runs or less in 10 of them. Only in three games have they scored at least five runs — and they lost two of them.
The Royals and Detroit Tigers are now tied for the American League Central lead. Tonight is the final game of the three-game series in Detroit, though there are indications the game might be postponed as threatening weather is said to be in the Motor City area.
To be the team, you have to beat the team. And the Royals haven’t been able to do that this year, losing 11 of the 15 meetings, most of which the Tigers have pounded the highly acclaimed Kansas City pitching staff into submission. While the Royals have relied almost exclusively on their pitching and defense, they seem to turn to jello when they play the Tigers.
If tonight’s game is indeed played, the teams have three more head-to-head meetings left, which will be played in Kansas City.
When the Royals were reeling off 24 wins in 30 games, they had some frenzied hitting to go along with their superb pitching. But just as all the Royals got hot at the same time, they have all gone cold at the same time. Manager Ned Yost has tried various combinations, a lot of them leaving longtime staple Billy Butler on the bench. It’s becoming more and more obvious that Yost and Butler aren’t on the same page and Butler’s days could be numbered, especially when you could consider what he’s due next year monetarily. Kansas City pays Butler to provide pop, not to put the ”Judy” in the term “Punch and Judy.”
The other Royal who is falling on his face is Eric Hosmer. Since returning to the lineup following a month’s absence, he has provided next to nothing. Even more alarming is his defense, as he hasn’t resembled his Gold Glove form of last year. Hosmer is an enigma to me as he looks the part of a star. But apparently looks are deceiving.
The Royals’ offensive funk can be traced to their season-long problem — plate discipline. I can’t believe somebody hasn’t taken Salvador Perez off to the side and shown him just how many bad pitches he swings at. It looks like the book is out now that all you have to do is throw him a slider low and away with two strikes and he’ll go fishing every time. Perez was at his best when he was hitting the ball to all fields, but now all he wants to do is jerk everything out of the park.
I am going to stay with my season-long prediction that the Royals are going to miss the playoffs. They have some health issues with their pitchers and their offense is just too unreliable.