Mayes is Aurora Christian's all-around star

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Mayes is Aurora Christian's all-around star

A reporter interrupted Brandon Mayes after a recent practice session. Aurora Christian's 5-foot-11, 182-pound senior tailbackwideoutfree safety was taking an ice bath...15 to 20 minutes, three gallons of ice, 40 degrees, cool.

"I play both ways and take a lot of beating," Mayes said. "So I take an ice bath after every practice and after every game, either at home in a whirlpool or at school in garbage cans. I do it to stay fresh and on top of my game."

It is hard to top Mayes' game. Coach Don Beebe said he is "arguably the best football player I have coached when you take everything into consideration...leadership, skill, off-season work ethic, two-way player, leading tackler, one of our top guys on offense."

Mayes is one of the leaders on a team that Beebe calls "the best team we have had, talent-wise," better than last year's 13-1 Class 3A champion.

"We've never had this many Division I players, three who are committed and two others who will be. We've never had that before. For a small school, that's a great feat."

Mayes, who is committed to Northern Illinois as a cornerback, has rushed for 760 yards and six touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 452 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he has made 102 tackles, including 45 solo, 15 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions. "He plays like a linebacker," Beebe said.

The other Division I recruits are wide receiver Chad Beebe, the coach's son, and tailback Joel Bouganon, who also are committed to Northern Illinois. Almost certain to sign Division I scholarships are 6-foot-4, 260-pound tackleend Josh Kok, who was selected as the Suburban Christian Blue's Lineman of the Year over Michigan-bound Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis, and 6-foot-3, 193-pound wide receiver Cory Windle.

They and their teammates will face a tough test at 2 p.m. Saturday when Aurora Christian (11-1) plays at Sterling Newman (12-0) in a Class 3A semifinal. Sterling Newman is a perennial small-school power. Coach Mike Papoccia, in his 33rd year, won state titles in 1990, 1994, 2004 and 2010 and finished second in 1993 and 1998,

"We play tough competition (Montini, Immaculate Conception, St. Francis, Marmion) so that isn't a factor. But they have as good a defense as we will face," Beebe said. "We have to get their offense off the field. They pound the ball down your throat. We can't turn the ball over. We must start fast and play smart football early and get on a roll."

One statistic concerns Beebe. Last week, in a 49-14 victory over Winnebago, his defense allowed 24 first downs and 320 yards rushing. In the last two games, the defense (which starts six juniors and one sophomore) has given up 600 yards. "And this is the best defense we have had," he said.

"But this team has moxie. They expect to win. That is a big key, a mindset. You have to stay hungry and humble and not get complacent. Everybody talks us up like we're really good but you have to remember that you are never as good as people say you are or as bad as they say you are."

Beebe can say only good things about Mayes. "He is the consummate leader. He is the one kid every coach wishes he had who has a warrior mentality. He hates to lose and loves to compete. He will lead his team to the last down. When he was a freshman, we knew he would be special," the coach said.

Mayes started playing football in the Aurora Superstars' midget division when he was 8 years old. He also participated in basketball, baseball and track. One by one, however, he dropped the other sports to concentrate on football.

"I didn't feel as much passion in the other sports as I felt in football," he said. "I'm one of those guys who likes to compete all the time. I just love the atmosphere of football, the Friday night lights. Homecoming is awesome. You don't find that in any other sport.

"It is a big stress relief for me when I'm playing football. I'm in my own little zone. I love playing both ways. I love to be on the field. Ilove playing defense. God has given me this platform to play football and I want to use it to honor Him."

When Richard McNutt was recruiting Mayes as a cornerback for Northern Illinois, he didn't have to be reminded that cornerback is one of the toughest positions (the others are quarterback and left offensive tackle) for college and NFL coaches to fill.

"I like covering bigger guys," Mayes said. "Sometimes you find yourself out there all alone. It's your own piece of real estate, a big challenge. If it was my choice, I'd play cornerback."

Aurora Christian's 2012 team has been on a mission since last November. On the Monday after winning the state title, Mayes and other underclassmen reported to the weight room ready to lift.

"It was a testament to how hard we work together," Mayes said. "We never think about losing. We believe firmly in our team. We know Sterling Newman is a great team but we never go into a game thinking we will lose.

"It would be devastating to lose. When you work hard for something and it doesn't pan out, it is devastating. This team has two common goals that our other teams have had--to honor God and have a winning attitude.

"We don't measure ourselves on defense on how many points we give up but if everyone did their job and played to their full potential. Last year's seniors instilled a good work ethic in us. It goes from the sophomores to the juniors to the seniors. It keeps the program going. That's what great programs do."

Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

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Lackey's 'country hardball' leads to 11 strikeouts in win over Nationals

John Lackey struck out 11 hitters for the second time this season Friday.

He had a slightly different way of describing it:

“We’re going to play a little country hardball and figure it out.”

The “country hardball” was working well for Lackey, who punched out nearly a dozen Washington Nationals in the Cubs’ 8-6 win at Wrigley Field, matching a season high in whiffs and earning his fourth win of the year.

After surrendering a pair of early runs, Lackey settled in nicely, allowing just two hits in his final five innings of work. Getting a ton of assistance from his offense certainly helped, the Cubs digging out of that early 2-0 hole by bashing four home runs against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Given Scherzer’s fate, Lackey’s performance on a day when the ball was soaring out of the Friendly Confines was particularly impressive. So too was his second 11-strikeout game of 2016 after not reaching that number in any game last season with the Cardinals.

“It was definitely a day for the hitters. A little warmer, wind blowing the other direction. It was a tough challenge today, for sure, with a good lineup, and I was fortunate to get a few strikeouts,” Lackey said. “You never know with the fly ball when things are like that around here.

“You’re going to have to miss some bats in this ballpark, especially later on in the summer when it warms up. Obviously it’s not a great place to pitch some days when the wind’s blowing out. It can play pretty small. Today I was fortunate.”

The Cubs’ hitters will take the headlines and make the highlight shows, an unsurprising result when Ben Zobrist hits four homers in three games and the Cubs boast a mind-boggling plus-98 run differential.

But that run differential and the Cubs’ success in general — 22 wins in their first 28 games of the season — wouldn’t be possible without elite pitching. Jake Arrieta’s credentials are well known, as are Jon Lester’s, and Jason Hammel has dazzled, too, with a 1.24 ERA.

Lackey has maybe seemed the odd man out with an ERA north of 4.00, but he’s shone in more than half his starts this season. In fact, he’s finding the confines at Wrigley to be quite friendly, owning a 2-0 record and a 2.49 ERA in three home starts. He’s gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts and has a team-high 40 strikeouts on the season.

Make no mistake, every piece of this five-man rotation is pulling his weight, and Lackey is no exception.

“I’ve been in a few rotations, I try to handle my own business,” Lackey said. “We definitely root for each other hard. Jake’s on another level right now doing his thing. It’s a great group, it’s a fun group to hang out with and we work hard in the weight room, push each other. And then whoever’s day is that day, I’m their biggest fan, and I hope everybody does well.”

Lackey also became the fifth active pitcher to reach 2,000 career strikeouts, an achievement he chalked up to being old.

“I guess it means I’m old and been around a while, done a few things.”

The truth is that Lackey has “done a few things,” and it’s why he’s here. Theo Epstein’s front office brought Lackey in this winter because of his pedigree, which includes a pair of World Series rings and a dominating performance against this very Cubs lineup in Game 1 of last year’s NLDS.

Lackey signed on for the same reason the other big-name free agents did this offseason: This Cubs team has a chance to make his jewelry collection even more impressive.

With the Cubs owning the title of baseball’s best team almost 30 games into this season, is it time to start comparing this group with Lackey’s past title-winning squads?

“It’s a little early to get too crazy,” Lackey said. “Let’s play a little baseball.”

Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

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Injury Report: White Sox, Cubs weekly update

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

- Catchers Alex Avila (strained hamstring) and Kevan Smith (back) were sent to the 15-day disabled list on April 24. On Friday, Avila started his rehab assignment in Triple-A Charlotte. Smith is in Glendale, Ariz. rehabbing his injury.

- Daniel Webb went to the 15-day DL on April 29 for right elbow flexor inflammation.

- Jake Petricka hit the 15-day DL with a right hip impingement.

CUBS

- Matt Szczur was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained right hamstring.

- Miguel Montero is eligible to return from the DL next Tuesday but Joe Maddon isn't sure if he needs a rehab stint. Montero landed on the DL on April 25 with back stiffness.

White Sox recall Scott Carroll, name Miguel Gonzalez as Monday's starter

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White Sox recall Scott Carroll, name Miguel Gonzalez as Monday's starter

Scott Carroll is here to supplement the White Sox bullpen and Miguel Gonzalez will be back in time to start on Monday.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura confirmed that Gonzalez would return to the rotation when the team opens a three-game series at the Texas Rangers on Monday night. Gonzalez — who signed a minor-league deal on April 3 — earned a no decision in his previous start against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 25. As for beyond Monday, the White Sox are in to-be-determined mode as to whom will handle the fifth spot in the rotation.

“(Miguel will) definitely get a run Monday,” Ventura said. “He’s gonna get a run Monday, see how many innings he can go. You look at what he did in Toronto, to get through a lineup like that, and to be in a spot to earn something, I think he has a presence about him that he can throw strikes and do what he needs to do to get through it.”

Carroll has worked entirely in relief since he was activated off the 7-day disabled list in late April. The right-hander went on the DL early in the season after he felt some instability in his shoulder. Carroll said he feels “really strong.”

The back of the bullpen has worked harder than normal the past two nights with the team’s two starters working 11 innings in consecutive losses to the Boston Red Sox. Carroll’s experience as a long man could come in handy for a bullpen that just lost Jake Petricka to the DL.

Carroll said he’s excited to get back around the big league club and the good vibes in the clubhouse.

“Early on, you could just tell with the new arrivals we had, it was just a different feeling than the last couple of years,” Carroll said. “Obviously, I’m a younger guy who hasn’t been with the White Sox, but you could definitely tell there was a different feeling than in past years.”