Former Greenbrier baseball star Michael Newman is entering his junior season for Georgia College & State University. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander had a monster sophomore campaign in Milledgeville.
He led the Peach Belt Conference in appearances with 41 (a conference record) and ERA at 1.78. He was second in the conference, with 11 victories and only two defeats. He established a school record with eight saves. Along the way, Newman struck out 62 batters and walked just 11 in 81 innings of work.
Thanks to Newman's steady performance a year ago, the Bobcats finished 2006 with a 53-12 record and an NCAA tournament appearance. The team spent eight weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation and went the entire season without losing back-to-back games.
Recently GC&SU was selected as the preseason favorite in the Peach Belt Conference. That is saying something in a league where five teams are ranked in collegiate baseball's national top 30 poll. The Bobcats enter the season as the preseason's No. 2 team.
Newman is not the only local product on the roster at GC&SU. Former Lakeside Panther Sean Harrell (6-0, 165 lb. sophomore) will compete for time in an extremely talented outfield. Last season, Harrell was impressive in limited duty, hitting .538 in 18 games.
GC&SU opened their schedule this weekend in Florida against Tampa University, the nation's top ranked team. They open their home schedule with a three-game series against North Greenville beginning Feb. 16.
There is no local angle on Super Bowl XLI, but there are plenty of reasons to watch besides the $2.6 million commercials. As disappointed as I am that my Steelers were unable to make a return trip to the big game this season, I am happy that two impressive head coaches (Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith) are getting their shot to shine. Also, sure-fire Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison will finally get a chance to be fitted for Super Bowl rings.
I think the game will be terrific. Indianapolis and Chicago provide some intriguing match-ups on both sides of the ball. Will Indy be able to stop Bears rookie return phenom Devin Hester? Will the Bears defense be able to confuse one of the league's premier defense readers? Can Rex Grossman prove all the critics wrong by making some plays to help the Bears win? I could go on and on.
I see this game being high scoring. Most people think that the Colts have the huge edge when it comes to scoring points. The Bears averaged the same number of points per game (27) in the regular season. Here are my keys to the game, other than the obvious (limiting turnovers and winning the field position battle).
Keys to a Bears win
- Get Manning flustered. The Colts offense obviously revolves around him. The Bears must get in his face and put him on the turf as much as possible. The Bears' opportunistic defense must create at least two turnovers if they want to hoist the Lombardi trophy.
- Keep the big plays coming, During the Bears' run over the past couple of years they have been able to generate points on defense and special teams better than any other team in the NFL. A Hester punt return could really turn the game in Chicago's favor.
Keys to a Colts win
- Get the ground game going. Joseph Addai must have a good game for the Colts. He does not have to get 130 yards, but if he gets more than 100 the Colts get the "W." He has been solid all season, and the rookie back has the ability to take some of the pressure off of Manning
- Red zone scoring. The Colts need to make their trips inside the 20-yard line count, and I am not talking about Vinatieri field goals. When the Colts get deep in Bears territory they have to come away with touchdowns. Teams with great defense and special teams make you pay when you settle for field goals.
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