Gridiron Season Approaches

19 08 2010

August 18, 2010

It’s that time of year again, despite baseball season still being in full swing everybody is itching for football season.  I’m a self-proclaimed baseball nut but even I’m anxious for some pigskin action.

It’s been very encouraging to see success in the NFL preseason by players who were suiting up for the University of Montana just a year ago.  In his first game for the Titans (against Seattle on Sunday, August 15) Marc Mariani hauled in 3 catches for 21 yards, caught a 2-point conversion, and returned several punts and kicks… his spot on the roster = solidified.  Meanwhile Stephen Pfahler had a 16-yard reception himself for Tennessee.  Shann Schillinger also made headlines over with the Falcons, with a tackle and interception (returned 29 yards) in his first professional game.

As great as it is to see those guys continue their success… there remain several questions about the immediate future the current Montana Grizzly team will have.  I was at their first scrimmage of the season on Sunday.  The vigor of our young tailbacks such as Peter Nguyen and Jordan Canada was good to see.  Both ran hard and took several attempted tackles to bring down.  Obviously the starting job in the ground game is still Chase Reynolds without question but any and all offensive weapons are good to see.  On the defensive side, it was all about a sure-handed secondary of safeties grabbing four picks on the afternoon.  Returning starter Erik Stoll made a great interception along the sideline, Mike McCord had a 99-yard touchdown return on his pick (albeit an easy play on a terrible ball thrown by Chase Reynolds), and junior transfer Andrew Badger caught two interceptions himself (one if which he returned 17 yards for a score, brilliantly navigating through a slew of attempted tackles).

I have yet to place my faith on the passing game, the scrimmage saw lots of minimal success screens and dump-out passes… we’ll just have to wait until the season fires up to see if we have a chance to advance to a third straight national championship game under our new coach in Robin Plugrad.

Of course I haven’t given up on baseball by any degree… and the Missoula Osprey are looking the best they have since the season began.  The team sits just one game back of first-place Helena in the current 2nd half season standings, despite being two games under .500 at 7-9.  Adam Eaton continues to tear up the Pioneer League as he leads the league in hitting (.374), slugging (.563), on-base-percentage (.507), OPS (1.070) and even ranks second in steals with 17.  However if the team pitching doesn’t find it’s magic slipper soon it will remain an ugly pumpkin that will keep the O’s from finding a playoff berth (the team ranks last in ERA at 5.09).

On one light-hearted note, Kayla and I had a ton of fun doing a story on Matt Helm and Bobby Stone anchoring the corners of the infield… and doing so fashionably with a mullet each.  To view the story click here: Mullet Magic.

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Summer Days

7 07 2010

July 6, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything I know… there’s no real excuse for the huge absence of over a month… although my computer was out of commission for the past several weeks.

Anyhow, I have been staying quite busy with the world of sports journalism.  As a whole the local sports world has cut-down tremendously with the end of the high school and collegiate sports seasons; however I have stayed busy with Legion Baseball, Missoula Osprey minor league baseball, as well as other odds and ends.

One of those more interesting odds and ends took place this past weekend as Missoula hosted this year’s 2010 U.S. Freestyle Kayaking National Championships.  I spent three days covering the event and had a great time.  The atmosphere of fans and participants was a unique glimpse of the world of alternate and Olympic sports.  The best kayakers in the nation competed at the event and I had the opportunity to meet and interview the entire Jackson family (Eric Jackson being a former world champion, daughter Emily Jackson being a defending national champion, and son Dane Jackson tearing it up over the weekend and qualifying for next year’s Kayaking World Cup in Germany in multiple events).  I learned the differences of freestyle moves such as the space godzilla, lunar orbit, air screw, mcnasty, and others.

In the more mainstream sporting world, the Missoula Osprey season is over a couple weeks underway.  I’ve had the pleasure to attend this past four game series, which the split against the Helena Brewers.  The team is off to a rocky start (6-10) but shows plenty of promise to turn it around.

I had the pleasure to interview two Osprey players today on their individual starts to the season as well as the team’s start.  They happened to be the pitcher-catcher brother combination of Robby and Richie Rowland.  Richie has had a hot bat with 3 home runs in his last four games along with a 13-game hit streak and a batting average of .451, tops in the Pioneer League.  Robby meanwhile had a strong outing on the mound Monday night, going 3 innings and giving up just one run on two hits.   The two were great guys to talk to and both were very optimistic about the team improving over the next few weeks… they’ll have their work cut out for them as they now embark on a 6-game road-trip against Billings and then Great Falls.





Elite Field Events Showcase

6 06 2010

June 5, 2010

I had the pleasure to witness some world-class athletic competition today right here in Missoula.  The 2nd annual elite field events showcase took place this afternoon at Dornblaser Field.

The event is designed to promote track and field in Montana and it hosted some of the top athletes in the world in the events of women’s pole vault, men’s javelin and men’s discus.

It was a real treat to cover these field stars who were vaulting 15 feet, throwing discs nearly 200 feet and throwing javelins over 260 feet

Florida State alum Lacy Janson won the first event in women’s pole vault by clearing 15 feet 1 inch.  Also competing were Montana products in Melinda Owens (Polson) and K.C. Dahlgren (Missoula Big Sky).

2-time Olympian Vikas Gowda took home first in the discus with a throw of just over 199 feet.  In javelin it was a great day for former Georgia Bulldog Chris Hill; Hill posted the top four throws in the event, including a winning toss of 262 feet… that throw going against a small breeze I might add.

It was a great event and for the first time in days the weather was actually very accommodating with sun and warmth all day.  It’s definitely an awesome opportunity to see world class athletes and Olympians compete, the showcase plans to add another event next year.





A Week in Review

24 05 2010

It’s been a while since I posted; I’ve been super busy between school ending, moving into a new house, and the spring sports season at KECI.  But here’s some of what I’ve been up to:

WEDNESDAY:

I traveled up to Polson to cover the Missoula Mavericks taking on the Mission Mariners in a non-conference legion baseball matchup.  Needless to say the game went to the Mavericks, who 10-runned Mission 14-4 in the contest and improved to 21-1 on the season.  Having played legion baseball myself, I was surprised Missoula’s AA was even playing Mission at this point in the season, since Mission is in the A conference and thus extremely outmatched by Missoula’s AA.  Brody Miller was 4-6 from the plate for the Mavs with a double, a home run and 5 RBIs in the game.

THURSDAY:

I quickly covered a couple of early round B-C girls state tennis matches here in Missoula.  Being my third time shooting tennis, I’m starting to get comfortable with it (just in time for tennis season to be over of course).  The trick isn’t the difficulty of shooting the action since obviously the game takes place in a fairly small confinement.  The trick is staying aware of who is playing who, which matches are the most important, and keeping track of what the games and sets are at.  By now I’m a lot more confident with those aspects of covering the sport, hence it’s a rather easy/relaxing activity to shoot on a nice sunny day.  However Thursday was not so nice… I only got about 30 minutes of footage before the courts were cleared for a rain delay.

At this point Kayla and I headed to Sentinel High School to catch the 3rd game of a playoff series between Sentinel and Hellgate; the winner of which punched their ticket to the state tournament.  After losing the first game 5-4, the Spartan bats awakend in the second game as they mercy ruled the Knights 18-1 in 5 innings.  It was more Sentinel dominance when I got to third game, as they’d need only 6 innings to take down Hellgate 11-1.  The win gets the Spartan softball squad to the state tournament for the first time since 2005.  Jamie Jo Kallis had a heck of series on the day for Sentinel, she went 9-11 from the plate with 6 RBIs, 4 of which were the result of her grand slam in the second game.

FRIDAY:

Friday I took a trip all the way up to Thompson Falls to cover the semifnals of the Western B-C Divsional softball tournament, the winners of which would clinch state softball tournament positions.  I was there for the entire first game between the Loyola Breakers and Mission Bulldogs; Loyola is the most prominent class B softball team we cover (in terms of viewership, geography). Although Loyola won the regular season conference title, they were playing without their star catcher and power hitter Alex Hughes, who was not yet medically cleared to play after receiving a concussion at a tournament in Butte the week before.  The game was a tight 2-1 contest throught the first four innings but then Loyola pulled away in the final three innings, winning by a final of 7-3 and securing their state tournament berth.

I could only stay for the first three innings of the next semifinal between the Florence Falcons and the hometown Thompson Falls Lady Bluehawks but I saw enough.  Lady Bluehawks pitching ace Kyla Molzhon is the most dominant western montana picther I’ve seen this year, she struck out six Falcons through just the first three innings… her squad needed just a lone run in the fifth to beat Florence 1-0 in the game.

SATURDAY:

I covered three championship matches at the class B-C state tennis tournament.  The boys singles championship match was the only one I covered that went three sets.  Spencer Ahlborn of St. Ignatius defeated Bridger Mahlum from Bigfork 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.  The politness between the two really threw me for a loop, especially when a state title is on the line.  They complimented each other every game for impressive serves and returns.  It was nonetheless refreshing, and in no way deterred from the competitiveness of the match.  Ahlborn was very athletic playing close to the net and charged it every opportunity he had, which made it fitting that his match point came off of a dominant overhead smash at the net.  This was Ahlborn’s third victory over Mahlum in four meetings.





Windy Weekend

3 05 2010

May 2, 2010

Quite an eventful weekend in the local sporting world.  Saturday was a wet and cold day for shooting.  We (Kayla and myself) started out at a softball game between the Hellgate Knights and the cross-town rival Sentinel Spartans.  Sentinel was already up 5-2 when we arrived.  The Spartans went on to win the game 8-3.  Our highlights mainly consisted of an RBI double off of the fence in center by Spartans first-baseman Katie Focher and a solo Sentinel home run to deep left-center by Riliey Cullip.  I’m still struggling to perfect my softball filming.  On Cullip’s home run I completely lost the ball and had a choppy pan past the fence to finally locate the ball after it had already landed… I’ll get better but the sport has definitely been giving me some fresh photog challenges.

After that game we headed to catch some of the Mavericks matchup against the Billings Scarlets.  Let’s just say that game was all Missoula en route to a 21-2 Mavs win.  The Mavericks have been looking really solid so far in this young legion season.

After gathering a plethora of Mavs highlights from the game we headed over to the infamous Maggotfest to get a VO-SOT from the rugby action.  As fate would have it, the perfect interviewee in Rich Sondermann (a player for the local Missoula Maggots squad) walked right up to us and started conversing.  He actually had a  few staples just above his right eye that were securing a fresh wound he’d received from an earlier game.  After some great soundbites and game shots we headed back to the station to edit and script the day’s footage.  Luckily the rain didn’t really start pouring until we had already declared the day’s filming deeds as done.

Today was more baseball under drier but windier skies.  We covered a pair of Legion games as the Bozeman Bucs edged out the Scarlets 9-8 and then the Mavericks defeated the Bucs 9-5.  The biggest hit of the day’s action came off of the bat of Bucs player Corbin Gates, as he hammered a solo shot deep over the wall in left to put the Bucs up 4-1.  But it was birthday boy Nathan Jewett (who I was informed turned 16 this weekend) who put the Mavs on top 5-4 with a 3-run triple in the bottom of the 3rd inning.

Despite the windy and therefore somewhat cold conditions, the quantity of baseball action this weekend has me excited for summer to be here… only two more weeks of school!





More Sun and More Firsts

19 04 2010

April 18, 2010

What a beautiful weekend to live in Missoula.  With clear skies and temperatures in the 70s, the conditions were extremely inviting for all of the outdoor sporting events I was involved with over the weekend.

However, the story I shot with Kayla on Friday actually took place indoors… but was still the hottest story I’ve ever had to cover.  I shot  a 90 minute session of Bikram Yoga which Kayla was participating in.  The story is the first of a series of news packages she is putting together to inform viewers on various ways to workout and get in shape.  The catch about Bikram Yoga is that it takes place in a room heated at over 100 degrees… I can honestly say I’m not sure I’ve ever sweated more than I did while I was shooting that story.  My shirt was entirely soaked through and I had drops dripping from my face every few seconds… and  I didn’t even do the workout like Kayla did.  I will say that after the class was over AND we shot our interviews AND I had a chance to shower AND I was convined the torture was over, I did feel very accomplished and my body felt the cleanest it’s felt in a long time.

Work on Saturday did take place outdoors as we shot a high school track meet, a softball game between Sentinel High and Hellgate High (Sentinel won the pitching battle by a final of 3-1), and an American Legion baseball game between the Missoula Mavericks and Belgrade (Mavs prevailed 14-4).  Ben Roberts (known as a football and basketball start for the Sentinel Spartans) is possibly the number one prospect out of the state of Montana and it was easy to see why as he hit a home run in each game of the days double-header.  Although it was a first for me in covering both track and baseball, I enjoyed both and look forward to more of the same the rest of this spring season.





Beautiful Day for Sports

11 04 2010

April 10, 2010

Spring weather in Montana is as indecisive as it gets.  Whereas it was freezing cold and snowing yesterday, today was perfectly sunny and warm all day.  Thank goodness it was too since I shot outside for five hours this afternoon.

My first stop was at Loyola’s softball field to catch a couple innings of the Breakers facing Eureka/Troy.  This was actually my first time ever shooting softball… it’s harder than I thought.  It’s tough to follow the ball cleanly off of the bat looking through lens that is in black and white.  I can only hope I get much better before baseball season rolls in.  I left after the second inning as Loyola jumped out to a 8-0 lead.  It wasn’t so much that Loyola was knocking the crap out of the ball, but they were making consistent contact and Eureka’s fielders had all sorts of throwing errors that were leading to runs for the Breakers.  Loyola ended up winning the game 10-3.

After that, I headed to Washington Grizzly Stadium to join Kayla at the Grizzly football scrimmage.  The team looked good, especially offensively.  Coach Pflugrad has definitely changed up the offensive scheme as we knew he would.  There was a lot of no huddle and the play ratio was very pass-heavy.  There were quite a few end around and reverse type plays when we did run the ball.  Jabin Sambrano looked sharp and should be quite the playmaker for us next season.  Bryce Carver also looked like a bright spot in my opinion.  For a little guy, he made a number of athletic plays as wide receiver and I can see him getting a lot of snaps next year.  The only conundrum I saw was that Chase Reynolds didn’t get any action.  It appears Pflugrad didn’t want to play him today as he tests out players at new positions… then again I suppose Reynolds won’t need as many repetitions when we’ll be running a spread offense aerial attack with some draws, screens and reverses.

After the scrimmage we interviewed Dodson, Sambrano, Selle, and Coach Pflugrad.   It was nice to hear each of the players being honest and optimistic about the transitions of coaching staff and play-book structure that they’ve dealt with so far this off-season.  It truly appears that the team is coming together and finding its new identity.

After the scrimmage I shot an actual football game in Washington Grizzly… the Missoula Phoenix taking on the Glacier Knights in Rocky Mountain Football League (RMFL) action.  I could only stay for the first half.  While I was there, the Phoenix jumped out to a 12-0 lead as a result of a pair of deep touchdown passes.  The Phoenix ended up winning the game by a final of 18-13, improving their record to 1-1 on the season.

After all that fun in the sun, I finally returned to the station just after six o’clock to edit my footage for the 10 o’clock news.  All in all a very productive day in shooting new sports and watching our football team evolve before my eyes.