Pirates win title with injuries

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Pirates win title with injuries

By Tashara Parker
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Its been 16 years since the Palatine Pirates took home two consecutive Mid Suburban West titles. And on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 the host Pirates made history once again with an overwhelming shut out of Schaumburg 51-18, crowning themselves once again the Mid Suburban West conference champs.

Being the first team to do this was pretty exciting, I mean some of our team wasnt even born yet, chuckled wide receiver Cam Kuksa. We just followed our offensive strategy and spread the ball as much as we could.

Not only was history made by the team, but Pirates QB Ethan Olles set his own record in the Palatine history books surpassing Randy Hecklinski with 2,329 yards.

Olles said he didnt even know about the record, but its definitely cool to have received the recognition.

Perhaps the biggest story here is the fact that the Pirates ended with an 8-1 season, while many of their key play-makers suffered from injuries for many of the games.

We had a lot of people step up, Eric Theis has been huge this year, the QB added. 

Two of their key defensive and offensive players (Jesse Bobbit and Kuska) were out several games this season. Jesse Bobbit missed the first two games and delivered an outstanding performance when he returned during the third week against Elk Grove.

Bobbit said it didnt feel good sitting on the sideline, but watching the team grow was great. We didnt even know we had as much depth as we have, so I enjoyed helping the guys out and it was fun.

Kuska was out with injuries for the first seven games of the season -- returning against Barrington and looking as if he never missed a step as he connected with Olles on eight passes for 102 yards.

It seems as if the Pirates battled through the trenches even without many of their key components. We had a lot of kids coming back from last years team and I think thats why we were able to weather the storm, said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly referring to their 8-1 season.

A state title has never been accomplished at Palatine, and thats something were looking forward to accomplish our last year said Olles.

The guys are all back together and the team is healthier than ever moving into the postseason. On Saturday, the Pirates will face off against an opponent that theyve never played before -- Niles West, a team that wants to advance to the second round as much as Palatine does.

We know this team has a lot of talent -- no questions, but weve got to execute on all sides of the ball and all phases of the game -- if we do that, then weve got a shot, coach Donnelly added.

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis may not light up the radar gun like Aroldis Chapman, but the veteran closer has still had a similar impact shortening games for the Cubs.

Davis is 10-for-10 in save opportunities in his first year in Chicago, providing Joe Maddon and the Cubs with peace of mind as an anchor in a bullpen that has thrown the eighth-most innings in baseball (and ranks No. 8 in ERA with a 3.45 mark).

Davis just surrendered his first runs of the season Wednesday night on a Mac Williamson homer that snuck into the right-field basket.

Yet Davis still wound up preserving the victory by buckling down and turning away the Giants in the ninth. It was the first homer he's allowed since Sept. 24, 2015 and only the fourth longball he's given up since the start of the 2014 campaign, a span of 201 innings.

With 24 whiffs in 18.1 innings, Davis is striking out 34.8 percent of the batters he's faced in a Cubs uniform, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (he struck out 39.1 percent of batters in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals setup man).

The 31-year-old nine-year MLB veteran is showing no ill effects from the forearm issue that limited him to only 43.1 innings last season.

[RELATED: How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring]

But his impact isn't restricted to just on-the-field dominance. In spring training, Justin Grimm said he spent as much time as he could around Davis in an attempt to soak up all the knowledge he could.

"It's the stuff that you see — obviously he's really good," Maddon said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a very good closer, he's very successful. But he's a really good mentor to the other guys.

"Oftentimes, I'll walk through the video room and he'll be sitting there with a young relief pitcher or a catcher. There's a lot of respect. A lot of guys come to me and say, 'Listen, Wade's really great to be around.'"

Maddon was the manager with the Tampa Bay Rays when Davis first made his big-league debut in 2009 and the now-Cubs skipper credits the Rays organization with teaching Davis the right habits.

Davis also began his career as a starter before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and reinventing himself as one of the best pitchers on the planet.

"He's grown into this," Maddon said. "He was raised properly. He comes from the organization with the Rays — really good pitching, really good pitching health regarding coaching. And then some of the veteran players that were around him to begin with.

"He's passing it along. The obvious is that he's got a great cutter, slider, fastball, curveball, whatever. He's very good with everybody else around him."

Davis needed 34 pitches to work around a couple jams and get the save Wednesday night. That's his highest pitch count in an outing since June 2, 2015.

Wednesday was also Davis' first time working in a week as the Cubs have not had a save situation in that span.

Maddon said he sees no link between the week off and Davis' struggles in Wednesday's outing and the Cubs manager also has no hesitance going to his closer for more than three outs.

However, Maddon doesn't see a need to extend Davis at this point in the season and would prefer to keep the Cubs' best reliever fresh for the stretch run and what the organization hopes is another shot at a World Series title.

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

The 2017 veteran makeover of the Bears’ wide-receiver position group continued on Thursday with the signing of former New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, a fourth move this offseason fitting an intriguing pattern in Bears roster construction.

Cruz “announced” the move on his Instagram account, declaring, “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz wrote. “But for now, Bear down!!!” He becomes the fourth free-agent wide receiver signed by Bears and coming in with no fewer than four seasons of NFL experience.

The Bears have been about the business of shoring up their receiver group virtually since the 2016 season ended, adding depth in addition to filling in the vacancies created by Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency, and the subsequent release of veteran Eddie Royal.

In their places, the Bears have added Cruz, Rueben Randle (Jan. 10), Markus Wheaton (Mar. 10) and Kendall Wright (Mar. 11), in addition to having Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Kevin White in place.

Cruz, whose trademark Salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns has been an NFL staple over his six seasons with the Giants, for whom he started 53 of 70 career games after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Cruz has caught 303 career passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and earning selection to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

Cruz has not played a full 16-game season since 2012, when he caught a career-best 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 after rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon in the 2014 season and then suffering a calf injury that eventually required surgery. The Giants released Cruz in early February this year.