Join us here everyday for thoughts, predictions, scores, and more with some of the best sports authorities in the Upstate. We have blogs from Greg McKinney of the Huddle, Mark Sturgis and Price Atkinson from Straight up with Sturg and guest blogs from Regie Eller!
It's back! Our weekly college football picks among members of the ESPN Upstate team and staff here at Entercom.
Last year, Angry Zack and Lonzo reigned surpreme over the ESPN Upstate team and have had bragging rights for the year. Now the rest of us will get the chance to get even with our picking prowess. It'll take a few weeks to begin separating the contenders from the pretenders because of all the chalk dotting the opening weekends of games. And that's certainly the case this weekend, as chalk is all over the board leaving little thought on possible upsets.
If you followed along with our picks last season, you know this weekly post leads with a photo that's dedicated to some of the college cheerleading beauties who grace the sidelines every weekend at a stadium near you. Most of the time they'll be representative of a particular school with a big upcoming game that weekend.
We're leading off with some of "Hook 'Ems" finest in Austin. Why? Because I don't think we'll get a reprive of Charlie Strong's team (or his beauties) in another big game this coming sseason. The Longhorns will host Notre Dame on Saturday night (7:30 pm, NBC) and like most teams around the country, it's hard to get a particular read on Texas heading into the 2015 campaign. They'll certainly be improved on Strong's first season, while the Irish are an outside College Football Playoff pick by many analysts (I'm not one of them though I think 9 wins is easily doable).
One more final disclaimer, I'm not at all responsible for the weekly selection of games below. That would be Sturg who oftens leaves out good separation games (i.e - Coastal Carolina at Furman) in favor of some Mountain Wesst crapshoot that doesn't kickoff until 11:15 pm most Saturday nights.
So, off we go with our opening picks for Week 1...
Michigan at Utah
Wash at Boise St.
Colorado at Hawaii
BYU at Nebraska
Texas at Notre Dame
Purdue at Marshall
Ohio St at Va. Tech
Note: Our weekly picks sponsor is Smke on the Water's Mike Shuler. This week Shuler went with USC, Michigan, Washington, Colorado, Auburn, BYU, Notre Dame, Alabama, Marshall and Ohio State.
September has arrived, and there are some great high school football games in the area this Friday night.
After a 2-0 start, the Byrnes Rebels face a very tough out-of-state opponent as the two-time defending 4AA North Carolina State Champion Mallard Creek Mavericks visit Nixon Field. The Mavericks are the top 4A team in the Tar Heel State, coming off a 24-10 win over #2 Butler last Friday. Rebels Defensive Coordinator Phil Magdic is tasked with trying to slow senior tailback Chauncery Bowman, who gashed Butler for 241 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries last week.
On defense, Mallard Creek is led by outside linebacker Josh Brown, a Florida State commitment. While the Rebels have been up to the challenge against Northwestern and an improved Hanna team, it will take a different level of play to win this week against the Mavericks. It should be a great atmosphere at Nixon Field.
Some other games of note this week:
Chesnee at Abbeville – Can Abbeville avoid a letdown after halting Christ Church's 55 game win streak?
BHP at Westside - Scott Earley beat his old team, Lexington, last week. BHP Bears are always tough.
Boiling Springs at Gaffney – New QB Mason Streater has the Bulldogs playing well.
Chapman at Woodruff – Trey Elder's Wolverines are looking good, even with a backup QB.
Dorman at Greenwood – Always a classic matchup. Dorman is coming off a nice win over Gaffney.
Spartanburg at Union County – Will Steve Tanneyhill's WR corps be enough to challenge the #1 Vikings?
Berea at Powdersville
Eastside at Christ Church
Seneca at Easley
Hillcrest at Wade Hampton
Greenville at Fort Mill
ESPN Upstate has you covered for high school football on Friday night. We'll have Mallard Creek at Byrnes starting with the pregame show at 7:00 pm, with Randy Cable, Tony McAbee and myself on the call. After the game, join Lonzo, Matt, and Angry Zack for the "Friday Night Wrap Scoreboard" all the way up to midnight.
Re-live the action from Byrnes' 42-21 win at T.L. Hanna last week...
Finally, all starved college football fans here in the Upstate are about to "eat" Thursday night and all the way into and thru the weekend. For someone like me, I'm still counting the days to college basketball (31 in case you were frothing out the mouth to know).
Excitement and tailgates are 48 hours away with fans set to convene in Charlotte and Clemson along with many places in between and elsewhere. So with kickoff on the horizon, I thought I'd throw out a few bold predictions of my own for the upcoming season.
Bold is more fun than tame so I didn't hold back…
Best first-year coaching success will come from Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator walked into an outstanding situation, especially on offense with 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year running back John Conner and wide receiver Tyler Boyd both returning. Narzduzzi's defensive pedigree speaks for itself, which is why I think the Panthers finish in the top three of the ACC's Coastal Division.
The best player outside of Trevone Boykin in college football is Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright. The 2014 multi-award winner and first-team All American last year is a stud, covers a ton of ground and will be a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. If there's a backup choice to Wright, I'll go with Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo. Who wouldn't want Mr. Automatic and probably the best kicker in the last 20 years?
Florida will again be an afterthought in the SEC and only beat out Vandy in the SEC East. New head coach Jim McElwain was the right pick for the job. But even the offensive minded new coach will struggle to score with the roster he inherited, which has MAJOR issues up front on the offensive line. Thank goodness for All-American DB Vernon Hargreaves or else nobody might even mention the Gators all season.
Alabama fails to reach double-digit, regular-season wins due to a brutal schedule. Sure, I know how good Nick Saban is and how talented the Tide are. They'll lose two of their four road games this season (Georgia, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Auburn) and one of their home games after such much attrition to the NFL the last several seasons.
Miami's Al Golden won't get canned at the end of the season. Why? Besides the fact I think he's one of the more underrated coaches in the country, sophomore QB Brad Kaaya. I know Golden is squarely on the hot seat after underachieving the last-four season in Coral Gables, but Kaaya will help the 'Canes overcome the loss of 24 lettermen last year. Their season and possibly Golden's future will hinge on a three-game stretch in October at Florida State (Oct. 10), Virginia Tech (Oct. 17) and Miami (Oct. 24).
After Ohio State and TCU, it'll be a crapshoot to see which other teams join them in the College Football Playoff. I think Arizona and Arizona State could be left battling for one of those spots on November 21 with UCLA the other Pac-12 team that shouldn't be forgotten. Notre Dame could be in the mix, while a team not named Alabama or Auburn from the SEC West could potentially be the fourth team.
If two teams from one conference make the CFB Playoff, mark it down that it's the Big Ten with Ohio State and Michigan State. Why? Mostly because of schedules because Ohio State won't seriously be challenged until the final-two weeks. And an early win by the Spartans over Oregon could carry MSU a long way, especially if they don't lose again and avoid a Big Ten title game.
The new official term "Army West Point" will sound strange long after announcers finish calling games for the Black Knights this season. It's kind of like our local hockey team trying to outrun a massive budget loss every year by changing their name from Road Warriors to something even dumber (Swamp Rabbits). Army can't outrun its recent football struggles with a simple and stupid name change. How about sticking with just Army or West Point?
Some thoughts on the upcoming season as we're now just two short days away from kickoff in Charlotte...
In a season where Clemson is the ACC favorite, the margin of error for the Tigers has become razor thin. Clemson has to find a way to remain healthy on defense through the first two games and take a full complement of weapons to Louisville. The Tigers get 16 days off before Notre Dame, and that will be big. Football is a physical game, and it will take its toll, so 10 wins for the Tigers in 2015 (bowl game included). I wouldn't rule out a special season as so many have predicted, but again, attrition will be the key.
In Columbia, Coach Steve Spurrier will find the opposite charge this season as scoring points last year was never an issue, but keeping opposing teams off the board was another story entirely. The Gamecocks will be better on defense in 2015, but look like they will struggle to score. The schedule is a beast as well, especially in the front half of the season. The opener against UNC on Thursday night is crucial, and we will truly know more then. If USC can get to 8 wins, job well done.
Some other random thoughts…
Who is going to make a run to the College Football Playoff this season? The only obvious answer is Ohio State. Something tells me that a Big 12 team will be rewarded after being left out, so that makes two. It's hard for me to believe an SEC team won't make it, and it may be my bias, but put them down as a third. That leaves the ACC and PAC 12 team fighting for inclusion. I see a lot of depth in the PAC 12 but no one juggernaut. I think that is the league who could cannibalize itself before all is said and done, so the ACC gets the final berth. I don't know who will win it all, but I'm betting against Ohio State.
Notre Dame will become increasingly impatient as the Irish will have another "good" season but won't sniff playoff contention. It may take a few more seasons of the same thing happening over and over again for the folks in South Bend to realize that "All In" with the ACC is the lesser of the evils. I will also go out on a limb and predict that somehow John Swofford will allow the Irish to accept a one-time buyout from NBC and keep all the money to themselves, and then charge the ACC for being a full time member. Somehow this will turn out crazy, but Notre Dame will be an ACC member in the long run.
Who is a sleeper in my book? Watch out for Arizona State. Todd Graham has a lot of pieces in place for a run out in the desert, but somehow it always seems the Sun Devils have a way of losing a game they shouldn't. Can we pass the torch and call that "Sun Deviling"?
Which opener will I be watching closely? As many as I can!! I will have eyes cast towards Blacksburg on Monday night though. The Buckeyes have four players suspended, but should have enough talent to win by a couple of scores. Some would have you believe that Virginia Tech could be poised for a run due to a stacked defense and Bud Foster as Defensive Coordinator. If Ohio State comes in to what should be a great atmosphere and curb stomp the Hokies, then that's not good for any of us!!!
As a loyal listener to ESPN Upstate, you've heard our talented "Straight Up With Sturg" understudy Victoria Vesce. We don't use the word intern so I'll refrain instead calling her our newest team member for the fall semester.
In the words of Taylor Swift, "Don't say I didn't say I didn't warn you." Victoria did in fact warn us of her versatility in advance with an ability to do sports talk radio, work as an NBA dancer, model, win beauty pageants, charm, rap and be a flat out super cool member of the team.
Now, she's adding another talent to her long resume...comedian!
In the inaugural installment of "Victoria's Views", Victoria shows of some of her most basic (and in her words "awesome") dance moves, rattles off her first-ever Clemson cadence count, asks for advice on how an N.C. State student should dress in her first trip to Death Valley and gives star quarterback DeShaun Watson five free pieces of advice for a successful season. I'm sure he'll use ALL of them!
Check out her first installement of "Victoria's Views" that'll be coming to each week here at ESPNUpstate.com!
Sturg and I are still making our way back from Williamsport and hustling home to our TVs for tonight’s first pitch at 7 pm with Northwood Little League taking the field again the “hometown” Red Land (PA).
To say this has been a long trip and a grinder would be a vast understatement. However, there’s no way Sturg and I would have missed it. This was way too big and way too important for Northwood, their program, the Upstate and also for our entire state. If you all only knew how much we wished we could have stayed for tonight’s game and thru the week with Northwood hopefully playing deep into the coming week.
The Little League World Series experience and this incredible sporting opportunity, all made possible by the special players and coaches from Northwood, was something I’ll remember forever. It was a sports experience that ranks right up there next to the Army-Navy game for me. The combination of so many things made it something unlike any other I’ve ever been a part of. Because the LLWS is just so pure and authentic.
Sports in its purest form is special yet rare in this day and age. The LLWS experience is one of the most pure and on such a grand stage in America.
This was an All-American chance to see the display of heart-touching sportsmanship by the kids to each other (on opposing teams), camaraderie among the team parents, and an entire community rallying together to give visiting kids, families, sponsors and media the experience of a litime. All unfolding in this little, quaint central Pennsylvania town nestled in the valley.
There wasn’t anything resembling a college football tailgate outside the stadium with endless 12 ounce cans being consumed. The term "rowdy" in Williamsport is only used to describe an army of team parents leaping to their feet, cheering a home run at Lamade or Volunteer Stadiums. Curse words weren’t in the lexicon of the adults taking in the game as spectators in the stands.
Make no mistake, it wasn’t easy to get to. But once you arrive in Williamsport and get a taste of the Little League atmosphere, you’ll be forever grateful that you made the pilgrimage. Sturg and I both sure are.
Speaking of grateful, let’s be real…this was ALL made possible by the 14 special kids from Northwood and their humble and grounded coaching staff led by Kevin Tumblin. I mentioned it in a previous post that it’s crystal clear why Northwood is in this position. It’s Kevin’s leadership. It’s his quiet confidence. It’s his passion.
Every single Northwood parent we interacted with provided us with enough words, emotions and stories to let us know Kevin’s guidance is the reason his team plays with confidence, a steady hand and isn’t intimidated by the big stage or bright ESPN lights or cameras.
I haven’t known Kevin that long, barely two weeks now. Heck, after several gracious phone interviews, I met him in person for the very first time just before doing a pregame interview with him Friday afternoon before Northwood’s historic opening win. You can see his passion and big heart just by standing and watching him coach his players, hug his wife Courtney and twin girls before a game or just listening to him describe how special this experience is having his 12-year old son Ben in the dugout and starting in right field for his team. He’s cherishing every minute and second of this father-son experience most dream of.
I’ll forever cherish and remember the smiles I saw on the faces of Ben, Braden Golinski, Alex Edmondson and Terrence Gist when they walked into the post game interview room after Friday’s win over Rhode Island. I’ll remember standing right at the backstop fence as Alex tossed that final out of his no-hitter, giving our state a moment in history with the win and the elation every Northwood player had on the diamond and those running out of the dugout to celebrate.
I’ll remember ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst Tim Kurkjian live on the air with us when Terrence hit a blast over the left field wall and simply looking down at the table uttering “my goodness,” while shaking his head in utter disbelief at how far the ball traveled. I’ll also remember Rhode Island coach Gary Bucci saying less than 10 feet from me after the game, “(Terrence’s) ball is still going somewhere.”
I’ll also remember that one last glimpse of the early-evening sun setting over Lamade Stadium as we walked to the ESPN Upstate vehicle to say goodbye and begin our trek back to Greenville.
And how could I ever forget hill slides with Sturg, as kids giggled, laughed and filmed two over-the-hill radio guys trying to act like kids their age again?
While our trip may be over, Northwood’s journey is far from complete in Williamsport. Tonight’s game against the Pennsylvania squad is huge with a spot in the U.S. semifinals on the line. A loss would mean our boys would still live to fight another day but have to work their way thru several elimination games to make the semis. Anything is possible with this steely and unfazed bunch.
Decked out in my new black and gold Southeast Region t-shirt (thanks Sturg) and lid, I’ll be home supporting Kevin and the boys. Wishing we were still in Williamsport as one of the approximate 100 cheering behind the dugout, I know with or without us that they’ll get it done and continue this amazing ride they’ve taken the Upstate on.
Keep it going Northwood…ESPN Upstate and the entire community is behind you!
One more special thank you to our trip’s title sponsor Tiger O’Rourke with Henry’s Smokehouse for stepping up to the plate for us. And thank you as well to Matthew Rollins with Anchor Bat Company in Greenville for the boost. This roadie wouldn’t have been possible without them.
Thanks to each of you for reading and following along the last few days. I hope you’ve had some fun reading and also listening in on Friday. Thank you! -Sturg and Price.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA - I'll be back later with a full recap of our second day at the 2015 Little League World Series but what you're about to see and read below encapsulates a large portion of our super fun and laid back day today.
After yesterday's LONG day of travel, a four-hour edition of "Straight Up With Sturg," a thrilling and historic win by the Northwood Little League team and a nightcap with Northwood parents at Buffalo Wild Wings, Sturg and I are were determined to have some straight-up, Willy Wonka type fun today. And boy did we, especially our fearless leader!
Before we left on the roadtrip, we asked for your suggestions on must-do things for Sturg to embark on, while in Williamsport for the weekend. You spoke and we listened...actually, Sturg did more of the listening. Why? Because as you'll see, Sturg got busy today...
Hill slides on cardboard down the steep hills at Lamade Stadium
Easily the must suggested thing to do and extracurricular activity in Williamsport outside of taking in the actual games. As soon as we arrived today, Sturg and I set our computer bags down and made the hike up and over to the hills.
Enjoy the look of terror as Sturg made his way down (and no Teresa, your husband didn't hurt himself!)...
And for good measure, we had to get our joyride on together with an ESPN Upstate hill slide. I actually dedicated this one to Tiger O'Rourke with Henry's Smokehouse for being our trip's title sponsor and for all the king of the mountains we used to play at this age. For the record, I would NEVER play king of the mountain on these massive hills...
Sturg works as an ESPN cameraman during a game
He did what? Oh yes he did. In-game, too. I mean how hard can it be right? You jusy point and shoot. Sturg got a quick bit of camera coaching between half innings before he took his turn recording all the exciting #LLWS action on the field. If you saw any of the Portland, OR-Bowling Green, KY game midafternoon and happened to notice a shaky outfield camera, then now you know why!
Sturg works (cooks) at the BBQ Smokehouse stand
Yep, our guy Sturg has always been known as a bit of a sly cook. He won't come out and volunteer his culinary skills to most people, but he's easily the top chef on the ESPN Upstate crew (sorry Greg I don't know your kitchen mastery yet). Today, he opted to show off as I was knee deep on the phone dealing with new car issues for my better half back at home. Skills he showed off? Smokin' some good 'ole Southern corn. You'd be proud Tiger and might have a new member of your Henry's competition cooking team...
Sold "Bomb Pops" to young whipper snappers
I'll be honest, I didn't know what a "Bomb Pop" was until this weekend. Apparently, Sturg knew all about 'em because he seemed to frequent the stand often during the last two days. During those frequent trips he obviously got to know the fine "Bomb Pop" folks pretty well, allowing him to serve himself inside...
Stiched hats at the New Era hat stand
Who knew Sturg had a knack for needlepoint? Sorry, I meant hat stiching...because I didn't. Not sure if it's his attraction to the craft or the cute brunette but Sturg got busy on a few new lids today. Hope the few he knocked out at the stand didn't all get "Roll Tide" stiched in on the side...
Scoreboard operator for a half inning
By gosh he did it. Sturg pulled off one of the toughest tasks listed before we left. He (somehow) found his way into the LLWS game operations box and gained control of the scoreboard for a half inning. He won't admit to it, but something tells me he had to empty his wallet a touch to pull this one off...
Sturg joined the groundscrew between games
I told you I made he sure he packed his work gloves and boots for a reason. Unfortunately, he conviently left them back at the hotel but it didn't stop him from getting down and dirty with the fine folks keeping the Lamade Stadium prestine. If only there had been some rain because it would've been even more fun to watch him get soaked pulling tarp...
Sing the National Anthem?
The "Fab Four" as they were introduced walking onto the field. The boy band added fifth young chap, who slid in at the last minute and sang acapella with the "Hometown Boys," as they're now affectionately dubbed around the ballpark. The Backroom Boys have nothing on these five. You would've been proud Victoria...it's the one thing you wanted Sturg to do, and you got it...
All fun and games right? Well, it seems Sturg pushed a bit too far today with some of his antics. Members of Williamsport's finest took our man into custody to inquire how he pulled it all off today. A teamplayer never spills his secrets. Being the team player he is, Sturg didn't talk so then this happened...
Thanks to our bosses Steve Sinicropi and Mark Hendrix for the wire transfer and sending some iron up our way. Our Super 8 motel last night cleaned my bank account out and I didn't have enough to cover getting him out. Appreciate the help because I know Sturg certainly did!
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA - It's not often I'm at a loss for words when it comes to sports. But when we arrived and walked into Lamade Stadium and the Little League World Series yesterday afternoon, the entire experience was a grand spectacle unlike anything we had prepared for.
Having never been before, we didn't know what to expect. But as legendary ESPN Tonight baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian told us yesterday afternoon on the air when describing his thoughts of being at his very first LLWS, "This whole thing is bigger than I ever imagined."
Indeed, yesterday was unlike any day I've experience in sports for the last five to 10 years. But that bigger Kukrjian mentioned got much, much bigger for us all. Decked out in Southeast black and gold or wearing the blue and green colors of our hometown Northwood Little League team, we were all there for a piece of history yesterday. And we got yesterday in a big, big way.
Behind another dominating performance on the mound, pitcher Alex Edmondson dazzled a packed house by tossing his second-straight no-hitter in his first appearance on the biggest Little League Baseball stage possible. Massive centerfielder Terrence Gist blasted a bomb over the left field wall that a Williamsport sportswriter told me after the game it was the longest homer he'd ever seen hit there in 17-straight years covering the tournament. It all added up to a historic 7-1 win, giving our state its first win in the LLWS.
Upon arrival, Sturg and I finally found media parking that didn't consist of me having to hike back down and then up the massive hill because Lamada Stadium deeps down off the road. We made our way into credentialing and then he up to our broadcast spot on press row. In meeting Northwood head coach Kevin Tumblin's family on our way in, I stayed back to grab a quick pregame interview with him to use on "Straight Up With Sturg" and do a live drop with colleague Greg McKinney on "The Huddle."
As soon as I finished, I got up to press row and to my dismay saw a flustered Sturg (imagine that) troubleshooting our equipment with less than 45 minutes until air time at 3:00 pm. In only Sturg fashion and with the key help of our outstanding Entercom engineer Tony Dimsdale, we finally got up and running.
After some quick prep and the chance to catch our breaths to get set, we mapped out the first two hours of the "pregame" show. I grabbed several gracious Northwood parents, who came up and did interview live on "Straight Up With Sturg." In every single one of them you could see the clear excitement, anticipation as well as nervous energy in ready to get the game started.
Special thanks to Northwood head of umpries and Williamsport native (how cool!) Michael Daniels, Terrence Gist's father Tim, David Clark's mother Cathy and Coach Tumblin's wife Courtney for giving us a few minutes before the big game. They were all awesome!
It was a neat moment as the Northwood team took infield about 35 minutes before gametime when Cathy Clark had to catch her breath for a second, looking out onto the LLWS field and seeing her son David at first base. Really cool moment for us but more importantly her.
Gametime arrived and we reminded listeners we were precluded by the strict Little League World Series rules from providing any live pitch-by-pitch bradcast commentary. The only thing we were allowed were six live in-game updates.
One thing we heard repeteadly before the game from Coach Tumblin, parents and everyone around the team was that they were ready. They were focused and Tim Gist even told me a story going back down to the cheering section after our interview about the leadership of Coach Tumblin.
It was no secret after hearing so many people talk and comment that the biggest reason for Northwood's poise, calmness and confidence was Coach Kevin Tumblin and the outstanding leadership he provides those kids.
After one select LLWS media relations staffer was ugly and gave us a very hard time for allowing one of Coach Tumblin's daughters into the press area (evidently children aren't allowed in the press area) with his wife Courtney, I got disgusted and threw on my Northwood team lid. Because of that and in talking with Tim Kurkjian I fully disclosed I wasn't and couldn't be objective covering the team. Sturg and I were there as full-blooded Northwood fans. I didn't care about being neutral with press around me and wore my green/blue SC hat with pride the rest of the afternoon.
We signed off the air after four-straight hours and with just two outs left to go before Alex sealed his no-hitter and the Palmetto State's first-ever win in WIlliamsport. As Sturg packed up, I quickly ran down the stairs to get near the roaring Northwood cheering section for photos and video of the historic moment.
Besides our friend Todd Summers from WSPA in Spartanburg, we were the only Upstate/SC media in the postgame interview room. Losing team goes first and Cranston, RI head coach Gary Bucci took the podium. When asked about Terrence Gist's bomb to left field, Bucci said, "I think that ball is still going somewhere."
On Alex Edmondson's no-hitter: "As hard of a thrower as I've ever seen in my Little League career. He was tall, intimidating, came from the right side and had a good offspeed pitch. His curve ball was more effective that we anticipated, but his velocity was hard to simulate."
The victors led by Coach Tumblin and his son, Braden Golinski, Edmondson and Gist (left to right below) made their way in. Gist's homer and Edmonson's no-no were obviously the hot topics and asked about first.
But I asked Coach Tumblin about the meaning of the historic win: "It's incredible. It's something I thought about and was the first thing I mentioned to the team in the huddle afterwards. That was a big deal and it feels great."
Ironic that catcher Braden Golinski was the only one with a ice pack on? Heck no, not with an 80+ mph fastball Edmondson was throwing all afternoon (which reportedly touched 82 mph in the second inning).
After postgame press conferences, we stuck around to watch some of the nightcap with the "home" team from Pennsylvania Red Land Little League taking on the team considered the field's weakest in Webb City, Missouri. Biggest reason? We wanted to see the spectacle of Lamade Stadium at night, especially with the PA team in the house.
Wow, close to 33,000 (mostly on the outfield hill). Unreal!
We worked for a bit longer, getting a slew of content posted to our social media sites. Then decided to make out way into downtown Williamsport to find a cold beverage and decompress after being awake more 20-straight hours. Our can't-miss ESPN Upstate vehicle was spotted on the way out of media parking by Northwood parents and Emily Johnson, who invited us to join 'em at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Sturg and I quickly realized we were in for a treat joining the entire Northwood parents contingent at BWW. Most didn't know who in the heck we were, but quickly got to meet several of the parents and had fun watching and cheering Northwood highlights on ESPN, as Sturg torn thru a sampler platter (huge thanks to Chad Tumblin there).
A few big boy and little boy drinks (who's is which below) later as well as no sleep for almost 22 hours, we thanked everyone for allowing us to hang out and end the incredible day in the most perfect way possible. Thanks for the invite Emily!
Thanks to the Super 8 motel in Danville, PA (yes, motel not hotel) about 25-30 minutes from downtown Williamsport for serving it's purpose last night. Providing cool air, a mattress (bed bug free) and a warm shower.
Score one for Sturg for booking our luxurious accommodations...
Today is all about going back over to the stadium here shortly and having some fun around the event. Because as you'll remember, Sturg has a few must-do items of his own around the stadium. Not sure if I'll be able to book him a singing of the national anthem in any of the four games today, but running the bases, sliding down the giant hill on a cardboard box and possibly throwing out the first pitch are all likely in the cards.
Be sure to check out ESPN Upstate's social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine) today, as we'll be posting updates, pictures, video and much more!
Alright folks, Sturg and I are off and running. Our trip to follow and support the Northwood Little League program in the 2015 Little League World Series in Williamport has begun!
It’s ridiculously early in the morning right now (try 2:12 am) and I’m about walk out the door to go meet Sturg at the ESPN Upstate studios. We’ll be checking in all day and posting live updates during our nine and a half hour drive across five state lines. Cross your fingers that Sturg keeps his speeding tickets to a minimum this morning, so we arrive with time to spare.
(Note: Opening day of play was washed out yesterday at the LLWS and Northwood's opener has been pushed back with first pitch this afternoon at 5 pm. Sturg and I will be live on the air from 3-7 pm.)
Follow along here for fun, videos, photos and more all day…see y’all soon from the road!
2:38 am: Just rolled into the Entercom parking lot off Woodruff Road. It pays to leave the house and travel on Woodruff Road at this time of day!
2:42 am: Four minutes later, we're off!
3:02 am: Resident night-owl Sturg has taken the reins of the vehicle with the first/early shift getting us up the road a few hours since he's so much more familiar with 3:00 and 4:00 am than I am. Come talk to me around 5:00 am at the earliest!
4:56 am: Well...no speeding tickets so far. And no sleep either after my 4 hours last night. Adrenaline pumping too good to sleep along with yaking with Sturg who's got the wheel. I looked over at one point while trying to catch some shuteye to see Sturg cruising at a cool 94 MPH in the ESPN Upstate vehicle. (Speeding ticket foreshadowing?!?)
5:39 am: Cruised thru North Carolina (after Sturg blew past and missed the exit for I-77 off 485 around Charlotte) and stopped about 10 miles from I-81 (which we'll be on forever....over 300 miles) for some gas and McDonald's. Coffee, cokes and McMuffins....the perfect start to anyone's Friday morning.
6:15 am: Not sure what time but Sturg will be doing a live hit with our friends on "The Rise Guys" about our roadtrip progress and trip up to Williamsport. If you're listening to 93.3 The Planet, listen up for knucklehead this am!
6:33 am: A gorgeous sunrise across Roanoke, VA this am!
7:24 am: It's not often that Sturg gets ticked off with me. But running on little sleep, it happened. Can you guess why below?!?
8:06 am: About to have our second pit stop pretty soon, as we're 407 miles into the trip with 267 more to go passing by my wife's alma mater James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. Sturg is turning the ship over to me!
9:49 am: Six states this morning, all before 10:00 am!!!
11:26 am: Final pit along the way...next stop? Williamsport (finally). Only 47 more miles to go. But have a feeling these 47 miles could take a while with traffic picking up on these PA state highways through the mountains.
11:35 am: Sorry for the hiatus...like I said it was my turn at the wheel!
12:07 pm: Just talked to Northwood Little League president Jody Parker checking in with us on the trip. He's putting the word out to all the NLL folks about today's special "Straight Up With Sturg" from 3-7 pm. Jody mentioned everybody's excited about us being on the ground today, but I can assure you nobody is as excited to be there as Sturg and I.
1:02 pm: After Highway 15 got down to one lane in Lewisburg, we had a bit of a delay in arriving at the Lamade Stadium...but we've arrived. Hopping out of the car heading to media check-in for our credentials. Back sometime after we get set up!
When we hit the road, Sturg and I like to have fun. And we like to mix things up without taking things too seriously.
Earlier in the week, I posted a recap of some of Sturg’s top “moments” from past road trips. Our trip to Williamsport to follow Northwood Little League in the Little League World Series this weekend should be epic.
The LLWS is a bucketlist sporting event for both of us, but I’ve run into trouble. I haven’t been able to find many people who’ve actually been while seeking advice and input of things we should do on the trip. So I took the liberty to put together some possibilities for Sturg to indulge in, while we’re at Lamade Stadium this weekend.
Weigh-in and let Sturg know which you’d like to see him do on our trip…
How can you NOT go to Williamsport and feel like a kid at heart by hitting the hill with a piece of cardboard? Hill slides are one of the most popular recreational activities at the LLWS. This is an easy one so I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to chalk this one up for our guy!
Take a lap around the bases?
How cool would it be to see Sturg run the bases at Lamade Stadium? How we’ll pull this off is anybody’s guess. Outside of Sturg hopping the wall before getting tackled attempting to touch all “four,” this one is gonna take some thought on how to pull it off. If you’re watching the LLWS at home and notice a quick cut away from the action, chances are he’s hit the field and succeeded!
Sing the national anthem on ESPN?
This likely could be the toughest to chalk up a win on. But I’ll inquire the minute we arrive to see if the LLWS staff has any opening or cancellations for the scheduled slate of games. If yes, I’ll immediately check on voice coaches in the greater Williamsport area to see if we can’t at least get Sturg on cue before he belts one out.
Work as a member of the grounds crew?
Who doesn’t need and want free or hired help? More warm bodies the merrier, especially when it comes to preparing the ball field for play or pulling tarp in a rain delay. I’d say the possibility on this one is pretty strong. Will make sure Sturg packs his work gloves and boots, so he’ll be fully prepared when he gets the call from the ‘pen.
Run the scoreboard at Lamade Stadium?
I’ve got no clue how Sturg would do following balls and strikes every inning with his short attention span. But this is one of the five that I volunteer to give him a hand on. As long as he stacks the deck for Northwood, then I’m sure he’ll do just fine running the show in the press box.