• BROWN’S GAMBLE PAYS OFF — McPherson High boys tennis coach Tyler Brown rolled the dice on Friday in the Class 4A Regional Tournament.
And it paid off big time.
Brown had a lot of different ways he could go with his lineup, but he wanted to make sure and get all six of his players on to the state meet that begins on Friday in Pratt.
I’m sure he raised eyebrows at the coaches’ seeding meeting when he entered Gallagher Martin and Nolan Schrader as a doubles team. They had not played a single event together this season, and while they had practiced together, performing under pressure is a different kind of animal.
All they did was run the table with four straight wins, including toppling teammates Kento Aizawa and Luke Williams in the semifinals. They were a 6-3, 6-3 winner in the finals over Abilene’s Reggie Koop and Ryan LaCombe, who were 15-2 on the season up to that point.
Aizawa and Williams charged back to win third. Singles players Andrew Snell and Kaden Stewart were second and fourth, respectively.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out at Pratt. The second-ranked Bullpups are one of the team favorites, along with No. 1 Independence and No. 3 Topeka Hayden. Hayden’s Tommy Hunter is a strong choice to win the singles division, but doubles appears to be wide open.
Brown is gambling that all his entrants can score points and it may all add up to a championship. MHS finished ahead of Independence recently at the Wichita Collegiate Invitational, but the Bulldogs won the McPherson Invitational nine days ago, although Aizawa and Martin didn’t play for the Bullpups because of academic commitments.
There doesn’t appear to be a dominant team. It’s all going down to that singles player or doubles team who comes out of the pack for a surprise finish.
• ROYALS TAKE A BIG STEP — A year ago, the Detroit Tigers wore the Kansas City Royals like a hand puppet.
The Tigers were 13-6 against the Royals, but yet the American League Central Division title wasn’t decided until the final day as the teams battled down to the wire.
Kansas City’s chances to win the Central depend greatly on how they fare with the Tigers head-to-head. After all, the teams play 19 times.
After splitting four games last week in Kansas City, the Royals ventured into the Motor City over the weekend probably hoping to win one of three.
But this morning’s 2-1 10-inning victory — that’s right, the game ended well after midnight because of a lengthy rain delay — gave the Royals two of three in the series and they are now 4-3 against their chief nemesis. They also now have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Tigers.
Don’t be surprised if the Royals drop a clunker in Texas tonight. Winning the rubber game of the series Sunday was a huge boost, but it was such a mental and physical drain that I’ll be surprised if they have much left for tonight, especially since they left for Arlington deep into the night.
Kansas City is playing four against the Rangers, who once were the power of the AL West but have regressed to also-ran status. They have played better recently, but are still five games under .500 and rather toothless offensively after living on the home run ball for years.
Last year the Royals were able to avoid key injuries. But it’s been an epidemic this year, with the most damaging right now the broken hand for Alex Rios. From all reports, he’s about three weeks away, which would signal that he’ll be ready about June 1.
Jarod Dyson and Paulo Orlando haven’t been giving the Royals much production lately. Orlando was the early season story with his spate of triples, but it hasn’t taken long for “the book” on him to spread around the league. He’s down in the .230s and Dyson is now getting more starts. We all know “what Speed Do,” but you have to make contact first to take advantage of it.
The Royals also have survived some spotty starting pitching to stay in first, but Chris Young has been a godsend. He’s started twice against Detroit, allowing only one earned run. The rest of the Royals need to follow his lead.
• THE PLAYERS WAS EXCITING — The Players Championship is golf’s unofficial “fifth major” and most pros will tell you there’s much more emphasis on this tournament than the PGA, which is the fourth and final major.
Sunday’s final round was pure theatre. There was no Tiger or Phil, while Rory and Jordan (Speith, he’s almost to one-name status) weren’t factors, though McIlroy could have been had his putter not betrayed him.
Rickie Fowler finally emerged as the champion, surviving a three-way playoff with unknown Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia, who had won a Players title in a dramatic playoff some seven years ago.
Fowler was able to birdie the famed “island hole” five times on the weekend, twice in the playoff. Trying to land a shot on that green causes the pros to hyperventilate, but Fowler coolly time and again stuck it close.
Fowler’s victory was ironic as well as satisfying. An anonymous poll had been published during the week in which the pros picked him as the most overrated golfer on tour.
I guess they underrated Fowler.