Chicago White Sox

Who's best in 3A? Peoria or Lanphier?

600388.png

Who's best in 3A? Peoria or Lanphier?

While Chicagoans are anxious to see a SimeonProviso East match-up for the Class 4A championship, downstaters are eager to see a Peoria CentralSpringfield Lanphier duel for the Class 3A title.

The two teams have history. Lanphier defeated Peoria Central 59-45 on Nov. 25 in the semifinals of the Decatur Turkey Tournament. On Feb. 17, Peoria Central defeated Lanphier 70-59.

Of course, they have to survive Friday's semifinals. Springfield Lanphier (28-3) meets North Chicago (24-6) and high scoring Aaron Simpson while Peoria Central (26-3) faces Hillcrest (26-5).

Lincoln coach Neil Alexander, who lost to Lanphier twice, said he doesn't think Lanphier can win the state title because it doesn't shoot well and lacks size. "But they are as quick as any team I've seen in a long time," he said.

Peoria Central has plenty of size and experience. In his eighth year, coach Dan Ruffin has five seniors who are seeking the fifth state title in school history, the first since Chuck Buescher's Shaun Livingston-led teams won in 2003 and 2004.

"We have a great combination of size and quickness," said Ruffin, whose team dispatched Rockford East 77-59 in Tuesday's supersectional. "Being a guy who went to school here (Peoria Central graduate of 1976) and played here and coached my whole career here, this is a continuation of what I did as a player--play hard, play fair and represent the school in the best fashion. We don't change things that work."

Ruffin has more size than Peoria Central has ever had with 6-foot-10 senior Kevin Jordan (13 ppg, 7 rpg), 6-foot-7 senior Trey Kellum (15 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6-foot-5 senior Aldonis Foote (10 ppg). But the Lions' floor leader is 5-foot-6 senior point guard Jerrell White (5 ppg, 6 assists). And they get outside shooting from 6-foot-4 senior Shamar Hill (12 ppg).

If that isn't enough muscle, Ruffin also can call on 6-foot-5, 275-pound football star Josh Augusta.

"With its size and athleticism, this team has the potential to be the best team we've ever had," Ruffin said. "But its basketball know-how and IQ isn't has high as some of our other teams. We've been playing pretty good.
What I need to see is a continuation of execution. Then we'll have a great chance of success."

Peoria Central has managed to negotiate a very difficult path to the state finals. After losing to archrival Peoria Manual in the final game of the regular season, Peoria Central defeated Peoria Richwoods 75-62 for the regional title, then edged highly rated Washington 56-53 in overtime for the sectional crown. Earlier, Washington had eliminated Peoria Manual in a four-overtime thriller.

Springfield Lanphier, which won its only state title in 1983 but has been forced to settle for second-place finishes in 1977, 1985 and 2002, has come a long way since coach Chuck Shanklin's first team went 11-13 four years ago. A Springfield Southeast graduate of 1986, Shanklin has proven to skeptics and critics that the Lanphier administration made the right choice.

"I was the heir apparent at Southeast but Tim Goers, Steve Goers' son, got the job. I was taken aback by the chance to get the job at Lanphier,"said Shanklin, who a year ago was fighting for his job. "How was it going to go over with the Lanphier community? I wasn't sure they would accept me, even though I was from Springfield. I thought there would be a backlash coming from Southeast.

"Sure, there has been some backlash but winning cures a lot of ills. Outside of Chicago, Lanphier is a mecca of basketball. You won't go to many gyms that have as much tradition. There is a certain brand of success that we have to uphold. We've talked about it since day one. We've been able to bring back some lustre.

"I knew I had to have one group of kids who believed in me and my mission. If I had a group like that, we could do something special. This is that group. This group understands. It has a high basketball IQ. We have played a lot of good teams that were bigger than us and we have been able to hold our own."

What is Lanphier's edge? Quickness. "Everybody talks about how quick and fast we are. And they talk about our defense and athleticism. I'm not concerned with our lack of size. Our quickness has overcome our lack of size. We also make up for it with heart and our relentless play on defense and on the glass. I'm not surprised we are having a good season. The surprise is how good of a season we are having."

Last year's 17-11 team that lost to Morton by two in the regional final suffered from personal problems and lack of cohesion. The Lions played in four championship games and won only one. By contrast, this year's team has learned to play against good teams in tough environments.

Lanphier is led by 6-foot-1 sophomore Larry Austin Jr. (11 ppg, 4 assists), a promising point guard prospect who already has scholarship offers from Illinois, DePaul, Bradley and Memphis; 6-foot-1 senior Everett Clemons (21 ppg, 6 rpg), an All-State selection who is the son of former Springfield Calvary star Rennie Clemons; 5-foot-8 senior guard T.J. Davis (11 ppg); 6-foot-7 sophomore Chris Wallace; and 6-foot-3 senior A.J. Powers. Top reserves are 5-foot-8 senior guard Jaylen Briggity (10 ppg) and 6-foot-4 senior Lance Boozer (6 rpg).

"People keep comparing us to the old Peoria Manual state championship teams of the late 1990s with their defense and quickness and relentlessness," Shanklin said. "Are we that good? We'll see."

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Wednesday’s homer may only have been Yoan Moncada’s first, but he predicts plenty more are headed this way.

The White Sox second baseman and baseball’s top prospect crossed off another first when he blasted a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs. Moncada’s 417-foot drive to center field sent Cubs starter Jake Arrieta to the showers, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox fell to the Cubs 8-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The round-tripper came in the 47th plate appearance of Moncada’s young career and 27 th this season.

Acquired from the Red Sox in December, Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 18 and picked up his first hit on Friday.

“It means a lot because it was the first one of many that are coming, and I’m happy,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “It has been a nice week for me.”

Moncada had already walked and struck out looking by the time he faced Arrieta in the seventh inning. The rookie fell behind Arrieta 0-2 in the count but didn’t panic and belted an 0-2 curveball on the outside corner for a solo shot to center. The drive left Moncada’s bat at 105 mph and bounced off the green tin roof in straightaway center.

“He really put a good charge into that ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right off the bat, too. I mean the ball really jumped off his bat. I think it was a breaking ball, too. Stayed on it, really good swing. I think his at-bats in general were pretty good. I think both sides probably got squeezed a little bit, but I think most of the guys put together some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada has managed to put together a nice little memorabilia package in his first eight days in the big leagues. He received the lineup card from Renteria after he debuted against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday. Moncada also retrieved his first home run ball and hoped to get the lineup card from Renteria, too.

Arrieta was satisfied with his pitch but not the location. Still, the Cubs pitcher sounded impressed by the swing Moncada put on it and the result.

“It was a good breaking ball, but not in an 0-2 count where a guy’s in swing mode,” Arrieta said. “And he put a good swing on it, especially to hit it to dead center. Pretty balanced swing. You can tell that that guy is going to have a lot of potential. He’s pretty balanced in the box, but the pitch wasn’t supposed to be there.”

The offensive production hasn’t been there as much as Moncada would like early in the season. But, he suspects that will change.

“The results are going to come step by step,” Moncada said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and try to take advantage of the experience and the opportunity to play here. I’m just happy I’m having this opportunity here.”

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

There’s nothing fun about losing, as the White Sox are finding out first hand.

Wednesday night featured another defeat, this one coming at the hands of the visiting Cubs, the North Siders taking Game 3 of this edition of the Crosstown series by an 8-3 final score.

But should the White Sox need commiserators — and inspiration — they need look no further than the team across the field.

See, the Cubs have been where the White Sox are right now. Last season’s curse-smashing World Series championship was the fruit yielded by a lengthy rebuild on the North Side, one with a similar level of minor league focus and future expectations as the one currently underway on the South Side.

And as the Cubs and their fans well know, major league losing is a part of the process.

The White Sox dropped to 39-59 on Wednesday night, mired in last place in the American League Central. The Cubs spent five straight seasons in fifth place in the National League Central, methodically accruing top prospects with top draft picks.

The kind of nasty outing James Shields turned in Wednesday? The Cubs have seen that before, too. Wearing blue at the time were the likes of Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad and Carlos Silva, the precursors to Shields, who hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in four of his last six starts. The stories aren’t much different for the rest of the White Sox current rotation, with veterans like Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey struggling most times out.

The White Sox bats did a whole lot of nothing against Jake Arrieta on Wednesday, silenced offensively the same way the Cubs were repeatedly a few years back, in seasons when guys like Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney led the North Siders in Wins Above Replacement.

Heck, they even had the same manager. Rick Renteria skippered the Cubs in 2014, the final fifth-place finish before Joe Maddon took over.

“We’re just going to have to keep going,” Renteria said Wednesday night, sounding like an echo of himself when he used to helm the Cubs. “There’s no lamenting or anything. This is the situation we’re in, and I think the guys want the ball every time I give it to them and they want to do a good job. We’re going to try to keep it respectable as much as we can, and in some cases win some ballgames.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Thing is, a look across the diamond Wednesday and once more Thursday in the Crosstown finale at Guaranteed Rate Field will allow the White Sox to see something else they share with those Cubs teams of the recent past: hope.

In the same way White Sox fans are currently gobbling up minor league reports on the organization’s fleet of highly ranked prospects, Cubs fans did that, too. They did it with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. White Sox fans are doing it with Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez. They’ll soon do it with Luis Robert and, a former Cubs prospect, Eloy Jimenez.

Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in baseball bringing Bryant-like hype to the South Side, gave White Sox fans plenty to smile about Wednesday night, smoking a 0-2 pitch from Arrieta over the center-field fence for his first career home run.

If you need a glimpse into the future of the White Sox, at what things should look like when the rebuild reaches its apex, go watch Moncada’s home run again. And again.

While the Cubs and their World Series rings own bragging rights that stand above all others, the White Sox can also look into the third-base dugout and know they’re going about things differently — and perhaps even better — than their North Side counterparts did.

While Theo Epstein built his farm system with much-hyped draft picks (in addition to a couple extremely meaningful trades) over the years, Rick Hahn has built his in what has seemed like one fell swoop. The lightning-fast pace of the White Sox rebuild could make the five years of fifth-place finishes the Cubs experienced a non-factor on the South Side. Hahn has built arguably baseball’s best farm system in a matter of months, trading All-Star caliber big leaguers to stockpile highly touted minor leaguers and acquiring other prospects through trades and the draft who provide depth to the system.

“It’s improved,” Hahn said of the depth of his farm system before Wednesday’s game. “It has absolutely been a goal from the start, not just a matter of getting as much potential impact talent as we can but trying to set up layer upon layer of that talent, trying to get to the point when inevitably some of these guys don’t develop the way everyone has projected them to develop or an injury occurs that we have other options, that we have guys that perhaps developed a little more quickly or improved beyond what we projected as their ceiling. And the only way you get there is by having a critical mass of prospect depth.

“I would say that while we are pleased with the strides we’ve made in the last year or nine months, however long you want to draw the line, we know we still have work to do. We know we’re going to have a really important draft in 2018 and before that, another few days before this (trade) deadline and then some offseason maneuvering to take place.”

The Cubs have forever been a symbol of hope for their fans, a team that no matter how sorry the finish would always have expectations and a new chance every spring.

Though White Sox fans are unlikely to embrace the team on the other side of town, they’d be well served to take a step back and look at what has happened there. Because the Cubs’ successful rebuild, one that ended in a World Series title, could provide hope for White Sox fans, too.