The winning tradition of the Lincoln-Sudbury baseball team

SUDBURY – There’s a rich tradition entrenched in the Lincoln-Sudbury baseball program, and it resonates even when the Warriors are on the practice field.

As they took to the diamond in preparation for their season opener, players sported T-shirts with that read, “LS Championship Tradition.” Under coach Kirk Fredericks, the Warriors have won 12 consecutive Dual County League titles and won state championships in 2011, 2007 and 2005.

But after defeating Minnechaug 10-2 to win the 2011 D1 title, the Warriors are rebuilding. Even still, last year’s relatively young squad finished 16-4 last season and advanced to the D1 North quarterfinals, despite playing without 14 kids from the prior state championship squad roster.

Acton-Boxboro defeated L-S, 5-3, in 10 innings to knock the Warriors out of last year’s tournament.

“Everyone thought we were going to stink, and our kids thought they were going to win the state championship [last season],” Fredericks said. “Their attitude, their effort – I was just amazed by that. It carried us the most of the year.”

The players at Lincoln-Sudbury have embraced the program’s winning culture, and hope to add another chapter to the legacy.

Lincoln-Sudbury loses to Nashoba, 6-5 in extra innings in its season debut. See more photos from the game here.
(Photo Credit: Anthony Gulizia)

“We’re just trying to put pieces of the puzzle together,” Fredericks said. “There are a lot of guys that have shown a lot of good things, and a lot of guys that have struggled in certain areas. We’re just trying to make decisions on the holes that we have.”

While pitching carried the Warriors to their 2011 state championship, Fredericks believed that was one of the main weaknesses last season.

This year, the staff has shaped together with the likes of senior Cam Waggener, and juniors Sid Warrenbrand and Alex Wieland.

“Having three of those guys back is a huge plus,” Fredericks said. “We’re just trying to continue to build [the pitching staff] before the year is over.”

Warrenbrand gained valuable experience last season as a sophomore, and it showed in the team’s home opener. The junior right-hander threw five innings of shutout baseball against Nashoba and struck out 10, but the Warriors let the lead slip away and lost 6-5 in extra innings.

Although the result wasn’t ideal, Warrenbrand’s start was encouraging. Two days later, the Warriors bounced back and beat Wayland, 8-0.

“We have a slew of kids that have shown promise,” Fredericks said. “The problem will be the consistency.”

Waggener said that although the team made it deep into the postseason last season, the bar is always set higher

“We went a long way last year with maybe some players that weren’t very experienced, and I think we’re expecting the same result this year,” Waggener said. “We’ve lost a lot of seniors in the last couple of years, but Coach Fredericks has taken us under his wing and get the most out of us. That’s really important, especially when some guys are coming from the lower level and might not know what it takes to compete at a high level.”

Michael Walsh, a junior infielder, is eager to help his team achieve their high expectations.

“Every year, we’re expected to win,” said Walsh, who played a few games on varsity as a sophomore last season. “The older guys are definitely there to support you, and they’re not there to put you down or anything. When I was a freshman, all the older guys were helping me out. That’s what makes L-S baseball such a great thing.”

While Walsh has enjoyed flourishing under the leadership of the older players, he’s enjoyed learning from Fredericks.

“He knows a lot,” Walsh said. “And he’s there to help us. Even the little things, he’s there to correct you and it’s great playing for him. I love it.”

Fredericks has eight juniors on the team, but a strong core of seven seniors accompanies them. Among the senior leaders are centerfielder Brian Carroll and catcher Shane Sefton – both of which add pop to lineup.

In the opening loss to Nashoba, Carroll knocked in three of the team’s five runs.

“Shane Sefton has really improved at the plate and he’s an incredible leader for us,” Fredericks said. “Brian Carroll has hit the ball well, and he’s the best athlete in the school.”

The pieces are in place for Lincoln-Sudbury to be contenders at season’s end. But for Fredericks, the task at hand is to assemble a lineup that can produce on a consistent basis.

Even more, he wants the players to know they’re capable of doing so.

“[This team] doesn’t have the confidence [last year’s team had],” Fredericks said. “They don’t have that confidence, that thing where they’ve been playing for L-S baseball for a while and that we always are successful. We’re trying to find that right now. They should have it and they’re good players.

“If they do have confidence and we do put it together, there’s no reason we can’t win many baseball games this year.”

Why I’m grateful Clay Buchholz didn’t no-hit the Tampa Bay Rays

On Sept. 1, 2007, a wide-eyed kid named Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles in his second career start.

On Sunday, he flirted with another one, throwing seven no-hit innings before Kelly Johnson singled in the top of the 8th inning to break it up. Buchholz allowed two hits and finished the inning and Boston beat Tampa, 5-0.

The baseball fan in me was begging for a no-hitter. But in reality, it would have been foolish to tax a pitcher’s arm this early in the season. After six innings, Buchholz already tossed 90 pitches, and he finished with 109. Seeing him throw 125+ in April would have made a lot of folks cringe. Not to mention, he’s off to a white-hot start at 3-0 with a microscopic .41 ERA so it’d be in the best interest to keep him healthy.

Last June, New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana tossed the first no-hitter in club history and threw a career-high 134 pitches. According to Baseball Reference, he was 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA after throwing that many pitches. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that he recovered from shoulder surgery in 2011 and is out all of this season, but it’s not worth a pitcher going that long. And June is certainly later than April, but still. Buchholz has had his fair share of stays on the DL.

No point in risking another.

And to underscore the relief of his no hitter being broken up, we were all able to watch the final day of the Masters without any more interruptions.

Maria Balinska: How to make international news relevant

The journalism landscape is evolving rapidly. The way in which we get our news is changing, as users are turning to Internet blogs and mobile devices. Maria Balinska, a former BBC editor and the founder and CEO of Latitude News, believes that the emphasis should also be on content, rather than the technology.

“You can really make an impact with your own ideas,” Balinska said in class Friday. “You have to be nimble. Marketing of the idea is critical. Innovation is not just about the technology, it’s about the content, too.”

At Latitude News, Balinska and her staff strive to connect the U.S. with the rest of the world and refine the way international news is coverage.

The question, Balinska posed, is how to make international news relevant?

“Where does local news meet the global news? How do we make it relevant,” she said. “How do we look at our own lives and see the international dimension?”

After living in England for 20 years, she took a buyout from the BBC and moved back and started Latitude.

“Being in the entrepreneurial space is like walking a tightrope,” she said. “It’s exhilarating and exciting because you can do anything. But that is also scary. Will the audience want what you’re putting out there?”

So the question then, is how do you keep your audience interested? Balinska found the answer through her experience at the BBC.

“I learned to be constantly thinking of the audience,” Balinska said. “How do you create a program to engage younger people in international affairs? You need a volume of content. If you’re going to get people to keep coming back, you need a high volume of content or a good niche with an authored voice. The United States needs to be compared with other places. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

What’s wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays?

Last weekend, the Red Sox won two of three games against the Toronto Blue Jays and capped the series with a 13-0 clobbering. It’s been a few days since the two teams squared off, but the question is still looming:

What is wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays?

What is wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays? (Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

For today, I’ll deviate from a post on the Red Sox and focus on their American League East foe which was pegged by many to contend for the division crown come September.

Nine games into the season, the Blue Jays are 3-6 and got clobbered again Thursday night in an 11-1 loss to the Tigers.Edwin Encarnacion, who clubbed 42 homeruns and 110 RBI last season, is hitting a paltry .129.

R.A. Dickey, the 2012 N.L. Cy Young winner, is 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA with his new club. The Blue Jays picked up the pieces in the Miami Marlins fire sale and acquired pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, who are winless and have a combined 21.29 ERA. Don’t adjust your computer screen, you read that correctly.

The one bright spot, I guess, is shortstop Jose Reyes’ .412 batting average. Reyes was also acquired in the Marlins trade.

Of course, there is PLENTY of games left and the Jays can turn things around. But looking at this situation at first glance brings back nauseating parallels to the Sox’ signings for the 2011 season (see: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford). Learn from the disaster that was the 2011-12 seasons in Boston. You can’t buy a pennant, slam a bunch of high-priced guys into a lineup and hope it sticks.

It never ends well.

Although Toronto fans booed and blasted Sox manager John Farrell heavily for leaving, he might get the last laugh.

Sox offense pops to life against the Toronto Blue Jays

The Red Sox wrapped up a three-game series in Toronto Sunday with a 13-0 thrashing of the Blue Jays to bring their record to 4-2 on the season. Of course, a beating like the one on Sunday is always a welcoming sight, but it was particularly promising to see where the power was generated from.

During the offseason, it was clear Will Middlebrooks would be counted on to produce some power and add protection to the lineup for David Ortiz. Yesterday, Middlebrooks silenced any doubters when he hit three homeruns and knocked in four runs – including a first inning, two-run blast against reigning Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey. Middlebrooks, who had just two runs batted in entering Sunday, jolted the lineup with his career performance.

It was the first time a player hit three homeruns in a game since Dustin Pedroia did so in 2009.

Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli all homered in the game, and Napoli knocked in four runs as well.

When the Sox enter Fenway Park Monday for their home opener against Baltimore, they’ll be boasting a +17 run differential, which is tied for second-best in the league.

It’s an incredibly small sample size – but the Red Sox are sporting some power in a lineup that was tabbed for naught entering the season.

When Ortiz returns, hopefully he’ll still have a threatening lineup around him.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. stars in MLB debut

On April 1, the Red Sox rocked Yankee Stadium with an 8-2 Opening Day victory. It was no April Fools’ joke, contrary to what the Yankees Triple A…err I mean MLB lineup looked like yesterday. And, the Red Sox successfully avoided a third consecutive 0-6 start to the season.

The Red Sox did a lot of things right. Jon Lester turned in five solid innings and escaped a fourth-inning jam, the bullpen held strong and the Sox displayed patience at the plate. Above all, Jackie Bradley Jr. proved he could hang in the Majors. He worked a tremendous at-bat against C.C. Sabathia, digging back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk. He then hustled to second base to beat a throw from shortstop on  a grounder from Jose Iglesias – igniting the Sox’ four-run second inning. He also made a greta over-the-shoulder catch and drew another walk, and registered an RBI. I can gush on and on about JBJ, but I won’t. Here’s a look at how some Twitter users reacted to the rookie’s memorable performance:

 

https://twitter.com/The_ErikJohnson/status/319191540339728384

Let the JBJ era begin.

Tracking the use of data visualization

At the forefront, numbers are boring until, well, you actually dive into them. But for some readers, diving into the numbers is often the hardest part.

Welcome data visualization – the knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse to save those who have a hard time crunching the numbers. So maybe I’ve simplified it, but data viz is more than just making numbers “appealing.” It’s serves as a great story-telling tool – a secondary aid to strengthen a story. Some can even stand on their own and tell an entire story.

In today’s evolving journalism landscape, data viz has become increasingly popular to spice up online journalism and offer a component that is not available in traditional print. Here is a look at three of my favorite uses of data visualization:

Flip Flop Fly Ball: Santana’s Changeup – Aside from the typo in Johan Santana’s name in the headline (it’s one N, not two), this is a great graphic that analyzes the left-hander’s changeup. Santana broke into the MLB in 2000 and around the 2003-04 seasons he possessed one of the best off-speed pitches in the game along with Pedro Martinez. This graphic shows how left and right-handed hitters fared against the pitch, but really focuses on how well Santana hides his pitch during the delivery. I like this graphic because it helps inform non-baseball readers, but doesn’t insult baseball regulars. A brief introduction describes the changeup, and is accompanied with a small inset on how batters identify pitches. The focus is a big picture of Santana throwing, and the graphic shows how well he conceals his pitch.

March Madness Tips: I’m a college basketball junkie and March Madness is Christmas in the spring. This is a lighthearted, fun graphic that aggregated a bunch of random, funny and interesting facts about March Madness. How many slices of pizza eaten? How many gallons of beer? How much social media is used? Try 230,000 Facebook messages during a 20 second TV timeout.  If I could change one thing about this, I would add something about how many brackets are filled out each year, or something about how quickly they are busted.

Wakeboarding Essentials: This graphic stood out to me because it was about a non-traditional sport, and seems incredibly helpful to somebody who is trying to begin wakeboarding. It details what they are, what is needed and soem tips for beginners like what size board to use and how the weight of the board affects performance. And it spells out the information in an engaging way. Rather than reading an article, viewers can take a quick glance at this and get the gist of wakeboarding for beginners.