Cubs Minor League update: Rizzo still raking


Cubs Minor League update: Rizzo still raking

AAA Iowa Cubs

Although his average may be dropping slightly, Anthony Rizzo continues to dominate the Pacific Coast League. This past week he went 9-for-28 (.321), but surprisingly this extremely respectable number lowered his batting average from .355 to .348. What is most impressive about Rizzos past week were his five round-trippers and 11 RBIs. His five bombs pushed his total to 12 home runs on the season. Rizzos hitting was in no way a concern and yet he continues to get even more comfortable at the plate. Come June or July, if Rizzo is continuing to pound the ball in this fashion Dale Sveum and the Cubs are going to need to make space in the lineup for a new first baseman.

The slumping Brett Jackson continues to make scouts scratch their heads in confusion. If people are beginning to worry about the big-bodied center fielder, this week did nothing to calm their nerves. Jackson went 2-for-19 this week (.105) with eight strikeouts. This lowered his average back down to .233. But where there is a problemthere is a solution. Jackson is hitting .375 against left-handed pitching, while he struggles to keep his head above water while facing righties at .188. Jackson simply needs to become more comfortable with facing right-handers in order to fulfill his big time potential.

Another Iowa standout this week was Chris Rusin who was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week. In his two starts he was 2-0 in 14 innings pitched with 12 strikeouts. This included a superb eight inning shutout performance on Sunday. Rusin is the first Cub to receive this honor since May 31, 2010.

AA Tennessee Smokies

21-year-old shortstop prospect Junior Lake spent his first full week with his new club and performed pretty well. Despite only going 5-for-23 (.217), Lake drove in three runs with a home run and two extra base hits. His slugging percentage was a respectable .484, and he showed patience at the dish, walking seven times. Lake will only continue to get better as he gets more seasoning both offensively and defensively and as he defines his position either at shortstop or somewhere else on the infield.

Righty hurler Kevin Rhoderick was the stand out pitcher of the week for the Smokies. The Oregon State product allowed no hits in his two relief appearances this week. Rhoderick has been thrown into a number of difficult situations this year and has performed exceptionally well. He carries a 1.29 ERA, and has recorded 17 Ks in 14 innings pitched. He has only allowed two earned runs in his 12 appearances. Rhoderick possess the stopping power every manager desires to have in their bullpen.

Class A Daytona Cubs

Illinois native and former Northwestern Wildcat Eric Jokisch was named the Florida State League pitcher of the week for the second week of May. Jokisch had two wins in two starts in which he allowed no runs in 13 innings of work. He was dominant on the hill due to his impeccable location, giving up no walks to opposing hitters all week. He also racked up 16 strikeouts along the way. Jokisch improves to 3-3 on the season with a 2.90 ERA.

Highly touted outfield prospect Matt Szczur continues to struggle through the opening half of the season. He went 2-for-11 in his three games played this week. He had no RBIs and only one extra base hit. His average continues to dwindle at a mediocre .250. Much like Brett Jackson, Szczur has the ability to be a big contributor in the next few years, but they both must find a groove and turn around what has been an average 2012 season.

Joe Musso contributed to this article

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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