The Cubs have Sorianos back

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The Cubs have Sorianos back

Alfonso Soriano is one of the few remaining players who remembers what it was like in 2008, when the Cubs won 97 games and turned every day at Wrigley Field into a huge block party.

Now, of course, that might as well be ancient history, as far away as 1908, because there are people thinking that the big-market Cubs are incapable of competing until 2015.

Theo Epstein has promised to avoid the huge spending spree the Cubs made after a last-place finish in 2006, while the Tribune Co. positioned the team for a sale. The new Cubs president has also distanced himself from some of the bad contracts on the Red Sox payroll, highlighting Bostons homegrown core.

While the Cubs wait for the future, Soriano tries to get his aching knees ready, puts in extra work on his defense and never turns down optional hitting.

But as these two last-place teams came together on Saturday night in front a national television audience, there was another flashpoint in a game the Red Sox hung on to win 4-3.

There were two runners on and two outs in the sixth inning when Soriano hit a rocket line drive at Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who appeared to have secured it in his glove. Soriano stood at home plate with the bat in his hands before Middlebrooks dropped the ball and threw to first.

That set off a very loud chorus of boos from the 40,766 fans inside Wrigley Field and an equally strong and opposite reaction from those inside the clubhouse.

They dont understand the game, Soriano said. Its a line drive. Theres nothing you can do about it. If its groundball and I dont run, they can do whatever they want. But a hard line drive, right off the glove? I dont know what they want.

When Dale Sveum took this job last fall, outsiders expected a showdown between the new manager and the aging star with an eight-year, 136 million contract.

But Sveum quickly recognized Sorianos energy and warmth and the 36-year-old slugger is tied for the team lead in homers (12) and no Cub has driven in more runs (41). Sveum had no problem with Sorianos split-second reaction.

Thats one of those things where 100 percent of every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing, Sveum said. Youre mad because you just crushed the ball and the guy should have caught (it) and you take your eye off it.

Obviously, that contract comes into play sometimes with that kind of reaction, but the fact of the matter is everybody in this clubhouse knows how hard Sori works and how hard hes played this year.

Jeff Samardzija who took the loss after giving up three runs in 5.1 innings spoke for everyone in the room.

Anybody that hits that ball does the same thing, Samardzija said. Alfonso Soriano is one of the best teammates you can ever have. He plays the game the right way. Every day, he prepares to play.

Anything Alfonso does when hes playing with me in my lineup, I got no problems with. I hope hes in there every day when I pitch.

Sori takes a lot of heat for a lot of things (but) theres not a guy in that locker room that has anything bad to say about him. Hes a great player and we love him in the lineup and we love him in the locker room.

You heard the boos again after Soriano struck out to end the eighth inning and cap an 0-for-4 night. The Cubs are 22-43 and there are going to be more ugly moments like this.

Soriano still had his weightlifting gloves on when he walked into the postgame clubhouse and walked straight to his locker and answered questions from the media. He understands that this is the way it works with Cubs fans.

They always come to the game waiting for something negative or something positive, Soriano said. They come here to root for something, good or bad. Its nothing that bothers me. Im just going to keep doing my job and working hard to get better.

Terps pick Perry Hills as starting quarterback

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Terps pick Perry Hills as starting quarterback

The Terps have a starting quarterback for the beginning of the 2016 season, the same one who started the majority of the games during last season, when Maryland quarterbacks threw more interceptions than any team in college football.

First-year Terps head coach DJ Durkin announced Wednesday that Perry Hills won Maryland's preseason quarterback competition, beating out Caleb Rowe.

"After an open competition through the spring and the first two-plus weeks of training camp, we’re excited to move forward with Perry as our starting quarterback," Durkin in the announcement. "Perry has embraced this challenge from Day 1 and has put in the work and shown improvement every day. He’s grasped our offense and the way we want to do things and has shown tremendous leadership."

Hills started eight games last season but was part of a constant merry-go-round at the quarterback position when neither he nor Rowe proved capable of keeping the ball out of the hands of opposing defenders. The two combined for 28 of the team's 29 interceptions, which were far and away the most in the country.

Hills was better, statistically, last season, completing 50 percent of his passes for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions, adding 535 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Rowe, meanwhile, completed 46.1 percent of his passes for 894 yards and six touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions.

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 2 Glenbard West

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 2 Glenbard West

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. View Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Glenbard West

Head coach: Chad Hetlet

How they fared in 2015: 14-0 (6-0) West Suburban Silver Conference. Glenbard West made the Class 7A state playoff field. The Hilltoppers defeated Moline, Mount Carmel, Auburn, Cary-Grove and Libertyville to capture the title. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Hilltoppers repeat?

Names to watch this season: FB/DE Dionte Moorehead, LB Jackson Goleash​

​​​​​[PREPS: Edgy Tim's Countdown to Kickoff series]

Biggest holes to fill: Who picks up the offensive slack with the graduation of running back Sam Brodner (Wisconsin)?

EDGY's early take: Glenbard West returns 12 starters (five offense, seven defense) from its undefeated state title team last season, and whenever Hetlet has experience back on defense you can expect a strong year from Glenbard West.

Hilltoppers schedule:

Aug. 26 at Bolingbrook (7 p.m.)

Sept. 2 at Hinsdale South (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 9 at York (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 17 vs. Downers Grove North (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 24 vs. Lyons Township (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 1 at Hinsdale Central (12 p.m.)

Oct. 8 vs. Oak Park-River Forest (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 14 at Proviso West (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 22 vs. Addison Trail (1:30 p.m.)

Report: Tim Beckman volunteering as assistant coach at North Carolina

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Report: Tim Beckman volunteering as assistant coach at North Carolina

A year ago, Tim Beckman was fired as the head football coach at Illinois after an investigation, spurred by social-media accusations by former players, backed up claims of player mistreatment.

But Beckman is apparently back coaching up student-athletes.

According to a Tuesday-night report from the Champaign News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen, Beckman is serving as a volunteer assistant coach at North Carolina under head coach Larry Fedora.

Illinois plays North Carolina in its second game of the season under new head coach Lovie Smith.

In three seasons as the Illini head coach, Beckman oversaw little on-field success, his teams posting a collective 12-25 record, winning just four Big Ten games and making just one bowl appearance. On Mother's Day of last year, former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic sent out a lengthy string of tweets accusing Beckman of forcing players to play injured, demeaning injured players and threatening to take players' scholarships away. An investigation into the program found evidence supporting those claims, and Beckman was fired a week prior to the start of the 2015 campaign.

Beckman released a statement defending himself but ended up settling with the university for a one-time payment of $250,000.

The Illini have had two head coaches since Beckman's firing. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit was promoted to interim head coach for most of last season before agreeing to a two-year contract that made him the full-time head coach ahead of the Illini's final game of the season. Several months later, athletics director Josh Whitman in one of his first actions dismissed Cubit, then hired Smith a couple days later.

There's no telling whether Beckman, who worked alongside Fedora when the two were coordinators at Oklahoma State during the 2007 season, will be making the trip to Champaign for that game on Sept. 10.