High School Lites Preview: Holiday Tournaments

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High School Lites Preview: Holiday Tournaments

As the song goes, "there's no place like home for the holidays." Why not make Comcast SportsNet your home this holiday weekend? Next to playoff basketball, there is no time on the high school basketball calendar that churns up more excitement than holiday tournament week. On Friday's edition of High School Lites, our cameras will venture to championship games from the far northwest suburbs all the way down Interstate 55 to Pontiac. We will bring you the latest highlights, scores and postgame interviews. Which high school basketball teams will carry momentum into 2012? Here is a snapshot of each tournament Comcast SportsNet will be covering this week on High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

THURSDAY GAMES

Dundee-Crown Charger Classic

The 29th annual Charger Classic girls basketball tournament will feature a Bartlett team with a player coming off an exceptional performance. Kristin Conniff scored a career-best 32 points Wednesday night as her Hawks took down Fremd 70-61. Their opponent will be New Trier and Northwestern-bound guard Maggie Lyon. She tallied 22 points with 12 boards and battled an ankle injury briefly in the third quarter of Wednesday's victory over Fenwick.. She should be ready to go for the championship at 8p.m. Thursday. The third place game, Fenwick vs. Fremd, precedes it at 6:30 p.m.

FUN FACT: Bartlett is a familiar team in this tournament come championship time. They lost to Fenwick in the title game 65-47 last season.

FRIDAY GAMES

McDipper Tournament (at Rich South)

Thursday's semifinals should be wildly entertaining. Seton Academy will put their undefeated record to the test as the battle Crete-Monee, while the host Stars take on Bloom. The winners of each game meet up on Friday at 7p.m. Seton has been paced so far by J.R. Toliver, while Crete-Monee got 27 points from LaQuon Treadwell in Monday's first round game against Tinley Park. Lejavius Johnson and Donald Moore have carried Bloom to two early victories, while Rich South advanced by beating Joliet West and Hales.

FUN FACT: RIch Central has won this tournament nine times since its inception back in 1973, including 1985 -- the year that former Bull and current CSN analyst Kendall Gill won tournament MVP.

Pontiac Holiday Tournament

It's the 81st edition of this prestigious central Illinois tournament, which is about two hours southwest of Chicago via I-55. Last year, Warren High School gave eventual state champion Simeon a run in the championship game. Could a rematch be in the works? Warren dealt with Plainfield North accordingly in the opening round, winning 71-40. Nathan Boothe and Darius Paul are two key weapons in the Blue Devil arsenal. They will take on Joliet West in the second round while Simeon, a 70-31 winner over Bloomington Wednesday, faces United Township (East Moline) next. Simeon and Warren could meet in the championship, but not if teams like Peoria Manual and Curie had their way. Thursday's West Aurora-Curie matchup could be worth the price of admission in its own right.

FUN FACT: Peoria Manual holds the record for most points in a game at this tournament with 126 in 1986.

Proviso West Holiday Tournament

Could New Trier's basketball have both of their programs land in holiday tournament championship games? It's a distinct possibility now, as New Trier earned a big feather in their cap Wednesday night, taking down Homewood-Flossmoor 61-58 in the quarterfinals. Dartmouth-bound Connor Boehm had 25 points in the victory. They will take on Morgan Park, who advanced by defeating Glenbrook North 42-28. That semifinal will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday while the other, Proviso East vs. Rockford Auburn, tips off around 8p.m. East took down last year's champs, Benet, in the quarterfinals while Auburn fought off a 12-point deficit to trump Hillcrest, 69-60. The winners of each semifinal will battle for the championship trophy Friday night at 8 p.m., while each game's loser will square off the third place crown 90 minutes prior.

FUN FACT: NBA players Mark Aguirre, Jeff Hornacek, Doc Rivers, Isiah Thomas, Hersey Hawkins, Marcus Liberty, Michael Finley, Kevin Garnett, Juwan Howard and Shannon Brown once played at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament...just to name a few.

Jack Tosh Holiday Classic (at York)

Downers Grove South, St. Ignatius, De La Salle and Naperville North comprise the final four in Elmhurst. Defending champion Downers Grove South advanced over Maine South 69-52 with the help of Jerron Wilbut's 24 points, while their Thursday opponent, St. Ignatius, took down Riverside-Brookfield 62-52. DGS will have to find a way to contain Brian Howard, who scored 29 points in the win over R-B. De La Salle is loaded this year. Naperville North could have their hands full with the likes of Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster. But Naperville North looked impressive in trouncing last year's runner-up, Lyons, last night in a 59-56 victory. Matt Robare led the Huskies with 13. De La Salle and North lock horns at 5:45 p.m. Thursday while DGS and St. Ignatius follow at 7:15 p.m. The two winners duke it out for the championship Friday at 7:15 p.m.

FUN FACT: Jack Tosh was the long-time athletic director for York High School.

Every Friday night at 10:30 p.m., High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after Blackhawks hockey and SportsNet Central. We'll also have in-depth feature stories and take a look back down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment. This week, be sure to check out CSN's Muscle Milk Team of the Week, the Elgin Maroons. How did this northwest suburban school knock off national powerhouse La Lumiere? Also, we'll have the latest on the Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday right here on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Submit them below.

Preview: White Sox aim for 20th win in series finale vs. Red Sox on CSN+

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Preview: White Sox aim for 20th win in series finale vs. Red Sox on CSN+

The White Sox aim for win No. 20 in their series finale against the Boston Red Sox tonight on Comcast SportsNet Plus. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Henry Owens (0-0) vs. Erik Johnson (0-0)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

David Ortiz paces Red Sox past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

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David Ortiz paces Red Sox past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

Carlos Rodon hasn’t been too far off the mark in his outings early in 2016.

His April 18 start aside, the team’s 2014 first-round pick has thrown the ball very well. Yet six starts into his sophomore campaign, Rodon has a 1-4 record.

The young White Sox left-hander made only one big mistake on Wednesday night and Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took advantage. Ortiz’s fifth-inning home run off a Rodon fastball got the Red Sox on track and they tacked on several runs late to snap a three-game winning streak for the White Sox, who fell 5-2 in front of 14,383 at U.S. Cellular Field. Jose Abreu homered, but that was all for the 19-9 White Sox, who were stymied by seven sharp innings from Clay Buchholz.

“Just one pitch, and that’s the name of this game I guess,” Rodon said. “One pitch changes the game pretty dramatically. That’s why people love baseball I guess.”

Rodon has discovered the importance of one pitch several times this season.

He threw an outstanding game in his first start at Oakland on April 6 only to be felled by an opposite-field homer by Mark Canha. In his last turn in Baltimore, Rodon was on cruise control before his defense did him in. Later in the contest, Rodon allowed another opposite-field blast to Nolan Reimold, which sealed the southpaw’s fate.

On Wednesday, Ortiz taught him a lesson after Rodon issued a two-out walk to Xander Bogaerts with the White Sox leading 2-1 in the fifth. Rodon left a 1-1 fastball over the plate and Ortiz turned on it and drove it 397 feet to right on a windy, cold night.

“Don’t throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,” Rodon said.

It was the sixth homer of the season and 509th of his career for Ortiz, who is set to retire after the season ends.

But Big Papi wasn’t done yet.

He followed a pair of one-out singles in the seventh inning with one of his own against Zach Duke. Ortiz beat a White Sox shift and dribbled a single through an open spot on the left side of the infield to drive in run No. 22 on the season and put Boston ahead 4-2. The Red Sox added another run in the eighth.

Ortiz, 40, is hitting .311/.404/.633.

“He comes up big in certain situations,” White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “Ortiz is a heck of a hitter, and he’s gonna make you pay.”

The White Sox couldn’t do the same with Buchholz, who entered the game 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA. Eaton said the right-hander kept them off-balance by using all five of his pitches. Buchholz appeared to have trouble keeping the ball down in the first as Eaton flew out deep to left ahead of a Jimmy Rollins single and Abreu’s two-run homer, his first since April 19. Abreu’s fourth homer snapped a 61-plate appearance drought and put the White Sox ahead 2-0.

But Buchholz settled in and retired 19 of the last 22 batters he faced, including 10 in a row.

He limited the White Sox to two runs and three hits while striking out six.

“We got off well there, Jimmy getting on and Jose hitting a homer, but we can’t stop there,” Eaton said. “You know as an offense you can’t stop there.”

A lack of run support has also been an early theme in Rodon’s starts.

The team has scored a total of 10 runs with Rodon on the mound in six starts. Entering Wednesday, his 2.1 run support average per nine innings ranked 67th among 73 qualified starters, according to baseball-reference.com.

The limited backing has often left Rodon -- who minus his April 18 start against the Los Angeles Angels has a 3.03 ERA -- susceptible to one mistake costing him the game.

“I think he learns something every time out there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There's something to be gained from it and for him, he's going to be better for it. He's got great stuff, a competitor and all that, but you always learn stuff as you're going through this. Even looking at Sale or Quintana, they're still doing things and you learn something every time you're out there. Carlos is no different.

“We know he's a good pitcher, but even the good ones run through tough stretches.”

Jose Abreu's hot streak a good sign for White Sox

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Jose Abreu's hot streak a good sign for White Sox

Jose Abreu made it official on Wednesday night -- he’s on fire.

Everyone around the White Sox has known this hot streak would soon arrive. They saw signs in Toronto and again in Baltimore as he began to drive the ball to right with authority. They heard the sounds his lumber produced when he smacked another pitch.

But the first baseman confirmed it in the first inning Wednesday when he snapped a 61-plate appearance homeless streak with a towering two-run homer to left. And the idea that the White Sox have played as well as they have without consistent production from Abreu has the club very optimistic about its chances to contend this season.

“It’s awesome,” leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “You know it’s going to happen. He’s never not going to get going and be the type of hitter he is.”

“You’ve seen the month we’ve had and realistically without him producing a tremendous amount, without really the hitters producing a tremendous amount. The pitching staff has really carried us.”

Abreu has been a dominant force in the lineup in each of his two previous seasons. The 2014 American League Rookie of the Year has produced 9.3 Wins Above Replacement in his first two seasons, according to baseball-reference.com.

But until this last week, Abreu hasn’t been himself.

He hit .229/.303/.354 in April with 13 RBIs, the fewest he’s ever had in the opening month of the season. He chased pitches that weren’t his and got away from his game, rifling inside fastballs to right field. Yet the lengthy slump from a player who hit .303/.364/.540 with 66 homers and 208 RBIs in his first two seasons hasn’t dramatically hurt the White Sox, who entered Wednesday with the best record in the AL.

Abreu said the stretch reminds him of 2009 when he got out to a slow start and his team, the Elefantes de Cienfuegos, continued to play well in the Occidental Division of the Cuban National Series. Despite Abreu’s early slump, Cienfuegos finished in second place in the division and earned a postseason birth as it did in each of Abreu’s final eight seasons.

“I’ve had this moment before in Cuba,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was struggling and the team was winning games.

“We won that year. That’s the same kind of feeling as I’m having right now because we’re getting all together, working hard and pulling in the same direction and that’s probably something God has for us for the season and I’m happy.”

Manager Robin Ventura might like similar results from this situation. Abreu finished the 2009 season hitting .399/.555/.822 with 30 homers and 76 RBIs in 393 plate appearances. Projected out to 600 plate appearances, Abreu would wind up with 45 round-trippers, or nine more than his career high.

No matter what kind of numbers Abreu produces, it’s clear he’s in a better position to do it after a slow start. From April 25 through Tuesday, Abreu hit .406/.486/.531 with nine RBIs in 37 plate appearances. While he hadn’t gone deep in that span, Abreu walked five times and struck out only three.

Abreu said it’s a function of improved timing. He feels right when he drives the ball on a line to right as he did throughout a four-game series in Baltimore. Those are the signs Ventura has seen plenty of lately.

“It sounds better,” Ventura said. “His hands work better. It just seemed like he could pull the inside pitch a little better and drive some more to right field. He was working on it, probably gave up a couple of at-bats trying to find it, knowing it might not look right. We could tell what he was trying to do, and I think it has helped him as we got home, how it feels for him.”

Eaton looks forward to what it can mean for the White Sox. The offense entered Wednesday with 45 runs in the past eight games after it produced 62 in the first 21.  

“He stays inside the ball really well, he goes the other way really well,” Eaton said. “That’s where his power is and somebody hangs one, he’ll pull it

“When he starts doing that and barreling balls the other way, and they throw a 95-mph heater on the inside part of the plate, he shoots it to right with authority and that’s when you know Jose is going.

“It should be interesting once he gets going and gets in a rhythm.”