Cubs fall short of sweeping Cards

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Cubs fall short of sweeping Cards

David Freese wanted to make sure the Cardinals weren't swept. So he took matters into his own hands.Freese homered and Lance Lynn threw eight strong innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday afternoon."You lose two emotional games like we did, you never want to get swept, to get that third one heading back home is nice," Freese said. "We came out of the gate so hot, this game will even you out real quick."Lynn (4-0) held Chicago to six hits in becoming the first four-game winner in the majors and helping the Cardinals avoid a three-game sweep."What Lance was able to do set the tone for everything," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Whenever he did get into a little trouble, it was a lot like what we saw with (Adam Wainwright on Tuesday) - just made better pitches."Freese's two-run blast in the sixth capped a three-run, two-out rally against starter Chris Volstad. Freese added an RBI double in the eighth."We put up enough runs - we'd still like to put it on the opponent a little harder, a little more, but we'll take this one," Freese said. "Our pitchers are doing a phenomenal job, we just have to keep scrapping."Volstad (0-3) threw six solid innings, retiring St. Louis in order during four of them. But he's still 0-8 in 15 starts since July 10, 2011.Bryan LaHair homered to lead off the fourth for Chicago's only run. LaHair has four of Chicago's lowest seven home runs this season, the lowest total in the majors."I'm going pretty good when I go the other way," LaHair said after his second straight day with an opposite-field homer. "They're attacking me away right now. They'll probably start coming in, which is a good thing, too."The Cardinals avoided being swept at Wrigley Field for the first time since July 27-30, 2006. The Cubs took the first two games of the series in their final at-bat, winning their first series of the season under new manager Dale Sveum.Lynn threw 110 pitches, only the third time this season a Cardinals pitcher has surpassed 100. He's done it on two of those occasions, not bad for a pitcher who only became a starter because rotation stalwart Chris Carpenter went on the disabled list with a shoulder problem. His eight innings marked the longest outing by a Cardinals pitcher this season, and he lowered his ERA to 1.33."Early on they were putting good swings on ball," Lynn said. "I was able to start making the ball move a little bit more and getting quicker outs later in the game."Freese led the Cardinals offense with two hits and three RBIs. Carlos Beltran doubled, walked, scored two runs and stole two bases.Beltran has five steals this season, already his most since 2009.The sixth-inning double snapped an 0 for 18 slump for Beltran. Matheny planned on giving Beltran the day off Wednesday, but the 35-year-old asked to be in the lineup."You love that from a veteran player, who's just begging to be in there a day game after a night game," Matheny said. "Yesterday was his birthday. The guys were all over him about trying to make something happen.""He was excited to make something happen today."NOTES:
Shane Robinson singled three times and stole a base for St. Louis. His three hits matched a career high. ... The Cardinals are headed back to St. Louis for a six-game homestand beginning Friday against Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. . The Cubs embark on a seven-game trip, with a four-game set beginning at Philadelphia on Friday. They also play three at Cincinnati. . Cubs reliever Kerry Wood threw a bullpen session on Tuesday without incident. He's on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue. While Wood is eligible to come off the DL on April 29, Sveum said no timetable has been established for his return.

Big Ten preview: Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

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Big Ten preview: Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

Ohio State lost an unbelievable amount of talent this offseason, sending 12 players — big-time, impact players — to the NFL Draft.

So there’s no way the Buckeyes can still be in contention for the Big Ten title, right?

Wrong.

“I would say going into this (season) this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had,” Urban Meyer said during Big Ten Media Days.

Uh, what?

Here’s the list of the Buckeyes drafted to NFL teams earlier this year: Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apply, Taylor Decker, Darron Lee, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Wahsington, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Joshua Perry and Cardale Jones. That’s a college football All-Star team right there.

But what you’ve got to understand is that Meyer and the Buckeyes don’t rebuild, they reload. Meyer’s five recruiting classes since he took the reins of the Ohio State program have been ranked No. 4 (2012), No. 2 (2013), No. 3 (2014), No. 9 (2015) and No. 3 (2016) — and the Class of 2017 is already ranked No. 2, perhaps his best yet.

So, yes, there are tons of holes to fill, and this Buckeyes team is very young, especially compared to recent seasons with championship wins and championship expectations. But the way Meyer has recruited, it’s not a question of how good the next wave is, it’s a question of when it will be ready to compete for a conference title.

“This year I’m trying to help the younger guys get up to our standard of how we play here at Ohio State and make sure they understand that we don’t have rebuilding years,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “The expectations are not going to change because you all don’t have experience. We’re going to try to do our best to make sure you get that in camp and practice, and it’s your job to make sure you come to play.”

And Meyer agrees. He thinks this team has the ability to win, but he knows that he needs to get it ready to do that.

“I see that potential,” he said. “I see I think 2014 was the template that everybody wants. J.T. Barrett was buried in the depth chart, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, Zeke Elliott, Mike Thomas — those guys were no-names, and they became very good throughout the course of 2014. And another guy, Cardale Jones, was buried on the depth chart. A lot of pressure on our coaches, assistant coaches and myself, to get them game-ready. I would say going into this this is as talented a group top to bottom as we've had. Now how do we get them game-ready?”

Getting the team ready to do that is a different challenge than recruiting, however.

Ahead of training camp, back at the end of July, Meyer said he was looking at August as “the most critical coaching month” he’s ever had. That’s saying something for a guy who’s won a trio of national championships.

But as he pointed out, there are parallels to the 2014 team. Barrett was thrust into duty that season after an injury to Miller, Bosa was just a sophomore and nobody knew if Elliott could follow in the footsteps of Carlos Hyde. Similar questions — save the quarterback one — exist heading into 2016. So don’t be alarmed if the Buckeyes are again playing for a conference championship or more come the winter.

It is Meyer, after all.

“Where we are as a team in 2016, have to find a way to replace arguably one of the best group of players ever to come through college football,” Meyer said. “I've been answering a lot of questions about a young team. The issue would be if it was a non-talented young team. And that's not the case at all. So it's a very young team, but talented. Probably the most critical coaching month that I've ever been through. We have to get these guys ready. Forty-four of our players, which is over half of our scholarships, are kids that never played in a game. So we have to get them ready.”

Former four-star wideout Ahmir Mitchell announces he's leaving Michigan

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Former four-star wideout Ahmir Mitchell announces he's leaving Michigan

It appears that one of the top-rated players in Michigan's 2016 recruiting class will never suit up in maize and blue.

Ahmir Mitchell, rated as a four-star prospect and one of the top 30 wideouts in the country in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, announced via Twitter that he has reopened his recuitment, meaning he'll be transferring from Michigan.

There were high hopes for Mitchell, though he was revealed to be suspended after reporters asked head coach Jim Harbaugh about Mitchell's absence from the team picture, a line of questioning to which Harbaugh did not react well.

Mitchell was part of a hugely successful 2016 recruiting class for the Wolverines, one that ranked No. 4 in the country behind only Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, per Rivals' rankings.

Mitchell, a New Jersey native ranked as the No. 139 recruit in the country, selected Michigan over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among others.

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Mitchell could still play at an FCS school this season by deciding to transfer at this point in the year.

Champions Classic extended three more years, coming back to Chicago in 2017

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Champions Classic extended three more years, coming back to Chicago in 2017

We're getting three more seasons of the Champions Classic.

The annual early season college hoops event will run through at least 2019, it was announced Wednesday, with Michigan State, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky signing on for three more epic showcases in Chicago, Indianapolis and New York.

The event has been held each November since 2011, twice at the United Center and one time each at Madison Square Garden in New York, Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Madison Square Garden will host the pair of games for the second time this fall.

The new deal puts matchups at the United Center next year (Kansas vs. Kentucky, Michigan State vs. Duke), in Indy in 2018 (Michigan State vs. Kansas, Duke vs. Kentucky) and in New York in 2019 (Kansas vs. Duke, Michigan State vs. Kentucky).

The Spartans have fared well in the event, winning three of the five games its played, with the only two losses coming against Duke.

With all four teams so often receiving high preseason rankings, the event is a treat for college hoops fans, and it also does well to bolster those teams' strength of schedule for when tournament seeding comes in March.