Kinney gets the call from ChiSox

(Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Knights)

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
August 25, 2011

When Josh Kinney opened the 2011 baseball season with the Charlotte Knights instead of their parent club, the Chicago White Sox, he took the Triple-A assignment in stride but never stopped working toward a return to the big leagues.

“All you can really do is just play the game and do your best, and hopefully it works out,” the veteran reliever said during the Knights’ May visit to Buffalo.

Last Friday, that work paid off. When ChiSox pitcher Philip Humber ended up on the disabled list, Kinney got the call he’d been waiting for, and barely had time to unpack in Chicago before taking the mound against the Texas Rangers that night.

The quick turnaround apparently didn’t bother the Port High grad, nor did facing the defending American League champions in his first major-league appearance since October 2009. Entering the game with the Sox trailing 7-4 after the Rangers touched starter Jake Peavy for three home runs, Kinney merely whiffed a career-best six of the 11 batters he saw, allowing just one hit and an intentional walk in three scoreless innings of relief.

“Given the circumstances, you don’t really want to see Peavy have that happen to him the way it worked out,” Kinney told reporters afterward. “But I know that’s probably going to be my job – to go in there in those types of situations and save our ‘pen. I was glad to be able to get the three innings and save our guys.”

And those six strikeouts?

“Yeah, that’s nice,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not going out there trying to strike guys out. My game’s kind of letting them put the ball in play and let the defense take care of it. It’s just kind of the way it worked out last night. I was happy with the way I threw the ball and real happy to give the bullpen a break.”

The 32-year-old Kinney started the season as a setup man before taking over the closer’s role in Charlotte. He compiled a 6-3 record and 2.77 ERA in 49 appearances for the Knights, holding opposing batters to a paltry .221 average and earning a team-high 14 saves before last week’s callup.

Now, if the Sox can creep a little closer to the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers, he might even find himself in a pennant race again.

“It’s been a long road for me in my career,” Kinney said. “Just to get the call to come up here with these guys this time of year, with the position this team’s in, it’s pretty special. I can appreciate that. Forty games left to play and we’re after something. It’s pretty cool and I’m delighted to be here.”

 

(Information from MLB.com and ESPN.com was used in this story.)

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38th Raabe Classic: Pennsy rumbles past New York, 28-3

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
August 11, 2011

An hour before the scheduled kickoff of Saturday’s 38th annual Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic, a thunderstorm rumbled across Bradford’s Parkway Field.

Once the game began, the Pennsylvania all-stars did the same.

Driving inside the New York 20-yard line on seven consecutive possessions, the Pennsy offense bulldozed its way to an 18-point halftime lead, including a touchdown run by Port Allegany receiver Camrin Stuckey. Meanwhile, an opportunistic defense allowed only a first-quarter field goal, keeping the New Yorkers bottled up deep in their own territory for most of the game and staking the Keystone State to a 28-3 victory even more lopsided than the score might suggest.

“Very, very excited to win,” said Gators kicker Ken Kysor after Pennsylvania claimed its sixth game out of the last eight to pull closer to New York, which clings to a 19-17-2 lead in the series. “It’s good to make up for last year; I know we lost. But this year, having a good squad of guys – everybody knows what they’re doing – we just worked what we practiced, and we put it together to get a win.”

Pennsylvania’s run-heavy gameplan couldn’t have worked much better for head coach Jason Barner, still shaking off a celebratory Gatorade-bucket shower – “I’ve got a bad heart. That’s not good for that,” he said, chuckling – during his postgame chat with reporters.

“Both series of backs, I thought, really ran hard and controlled the game,” the Kane Wolves’ mentor said. “We moved the ball, we controlled the clock. We had a couple of bumps in the road, so to speak, but the kids overcame them. And it opened up the passing game, obviously. When you’re able to pound the ball up the middle, you’re able to get the ball to the edge, it opens up things in the air. It helped us there quite a bit.”

Big 30 All-Stars Pat Pascarella (Bradford) and Ricky Pearsall (Elk County Catholic) received most of the pregame press, but on Saturday night, a runner most area fans haven’t seen led the way on the ground. Showing a burst of outside speed to go with his powerful runs between the tackles, 6-2, 215-pound Warren Dragons fullback T.J. Latimer led all rushers, carrying 11 times for 64 yards.

Portville’s Trent Unverdorben paced the New York ground game with 46 yards on six carries. But most of those touches, and 66 of New York’s 89 total rushing yards, came on the opening drive. After that, the Pennsy defense sent their counterparts into reverse, forcing three turnovers – including one that handed the offense the ball at the New York 4 – and not allowing another first down until late in the third quarter, when the game was well in hand.

“I thought we looked really good (on the first drive),” a dejected New York coach Jason Marsh said. “They weren’t doing anything different. It was just us not getting to where we needed to be.”

He added, “Sometimes we were kind of handcuffed by our field position. A tribute to our defense, they made some good stops inside the 10, but then we couldn’t get that ball out of there to get field position to start using everything in our playbook.”

For Gators linebacker Seth Lowery, part of a defensive rotation that sent New York three-and-out all four times his group took the field, the bookwork was elementary.

“Their first offense seemed a lot better than the one we went against,” he said. “They didn’t really have a strong running back or anything on the defense that we had when I was out there. They were just really easy to read; I thought it would be harder than this. But it was a lot of fun.”

Following a short field goal by John Carroll (Cattaraugus-Little Valley) to put New York on top early, Pennsylvania responded with a long drive of its own, with Kane quarterback Alex Anderson scrambling the final 14 yards into the end zone and Kysor adding the extra point. The score stayed the same until deep into the second quarter when, facing third-and-goal at the New York 4, Pennsy flipped open the playbook to the trick-or-treat page. Anderson dropped back with the ball hidden on his hip, then slipped it to Stuckey, who sprinted around the left side and dove inside the pylon. Following a penalty, Kysor’s PAT attempt was blocked, but the Keystone crew still held a 13-3 lead.

“We run that reverse in our own offense,” Barner said. “We saw they were in a goal-line (defense), they had a bunch of guys packed in. So we thought it was an opportunity, we’d take a chance at it. Luckily, it all worked out. It was a gamble, and the gamble paid off.”

Asked for his reaction when he heard the playcall, Stuckey grinned.

“I was just thinking, ‘It’s open,’” he said. “During practice we ran it against a better defense, I think, with the PA defense. I figure if I can get by them, there no way anybody’s going to stop me to get by on New York.

“I trusted my offensive coach. He’s really a great guy, they all are. We had a great coaching staff. I don’t think we would’ve done this good without them. I think that’s what really sealed the deal for us, our coaching. It was great.”

The night went from bad to disastrous for New York on its next possession, when Johnsonburg defensive tackle Trevor Miller snared a fumble at the 4-yard line. Pascarella dove into the end zone two plays later, and Bradford quarterback Cody Coats found Miller’s Rams teammate, Joe Holmberg, for the two-point conversion and a 21-3 halftime margin.

The song remained the same in the second half, with Kysor booming his second and third kickoff touchbacks of the night to help keep New York pinned deep, and two Cameron County players making their presence felt. Pennsylvania cashed in on an Andrew Fragale fumble recovery when Anderson hooked up with a wide-open Holmberg for a 35-yard touchdown, part of the Johnsonburg receiver’s game-high four-catch, 95-yard night, and pounded inside the 5-yard line before coming away empty-handed on two other occasions.

With time ticking down in the fourth quarter, the New York offense showed a little life, with a highlight-reel 48-yard catch by Southwestern receiver Nick Austin and two long scrambles from Allegany-Limestone quarterback Brad Costa moving them inside the 20 for just the second time all night. But following a sack by Otto-Eldred defensive end Mike Martin, CC safety Jason Blose sealed the outcome with an interception and long return to thwart the New Yorkers’ final drive and begin the celebration on the Pennsy sideline.

Later, as the stadium cleared, Stuckey savored the moment.

“Something I never want to miss,” he said, “something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’ll be thinking about it 10, 20, 30 years from now. It’s going to be great. I’ll come back every year and think, ‘Hey, I was out there one time. I know how they feel.’

“It’s pretty sweet.”

38th Raabe Classic ready for Saturday kickoff

Lori Chase
Port Allegany Reporter Argus
August 4, 2011

After sweating through record heat during the first few days of practice for the 38th annual Big 30 Don Raabe Charities Classic all-star football game, a near-perfect midsummer evening welcomed the Pennsylvania squad to Port Allegany last Wednesday. Following the team photo shoot, Pennsy players and coaches put in a solid two-hour session at Gator Field before packing up for the night.

As his players headed into the locker room, head coach Jason Barner of Kane High School couldn’t conceal his anticipation for the upcoming game, slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday night at Bradford’s Parkway Field.

“The attitude has been phenomenal,” he said. “The kids are working hard picking it up, and we’re very pleased with where we’re at offensively and defensively. It’s been a riot.

“There are things we have to work on, obviously, timing we have to get down a little bit better. But I’m very happy with the running game right now, how we’re blocking up front and how the kids are running the football. Defensively, I’m very impressed with how the kids are picking up the different packages that we’ve put in and how fast they’re responding to it. They’re moving well and they’re playing fast, which is what I want to see. The end-all, be-all is that they’re picking up our system – all different kids from different schools. For them to be picking up our system this quickly, we’re pretty happy.”

Barner’s quarterback in Kane, Alex Anderson, will handle one offensive unit, with Elk County Catholic’s 1,700-yard rusher Ricky Pearsall and Warren fullback T.J. Latimer lining up behind him. The other backfield is an all-Bradford affair, with quarterback Cody Coats handing off to Pat Pascarella – the Big 30 Player of the Year in both football and baseball – and fullback Mark Havers. Port’s Camrin Stuckey is one of three wide receivers who will carry in plays, splitting time between both groups.

Another Gator, Seth Lowery, will anchor one of the defensive units at linebacker. After a discussion by the committee, the game’s mandatory 5-2 formation was scrapped this year in favor of the more widely used 4-3 set. That’s just fine with Barner, the 2007 co-Big 30 Coach of the Year.

“I love it for my coaches and myself,” the sixth-year Wolves mentor said of the move. “It’s what we run at Kane, so for us it’s a natural fit to teach it. But I think it’s better for the kids and will be better for the game, too, I believe. It allows the overall flow of the game; that’s where everything is trending to. So I love the change to it. We’re very excited about that.”

The Pennsy squad should have a definite edge in the kicking game, with the third Gator player, kicker Ken Kysor, and ECC punter David Bojalad both earning All-State honors during their careers.

“We definitely have some pretty good kids there,” Barner said. “They both are kicking well, and the kids respond to that. That’s a big part of the game; I’ve been telling them special teams is 33 percent of the game. So you have to be very solid in those areas, and that’s why we devote a lot of time to it. Tonight, we spent almost 40 minutes on special-teams stuff, because you have to get that down. But they’re doing good; we’re happy with it.”

Barner also feels fortunate that Stuckey, Kysor’s regular holder, is on the team.

“That’s a really big benefit,” he said. “He and Camrin feed off each other, and that’s good. They’re used to it, obviously. Those two know each other, and Camrin’s a very good holder – Kenny’s a very good kicker, but Camrin’s a very good holder – so on a bad snap, he adjusts to it and gets great holds. You can see the mesh they have; there’s no hiccup at all.”

Asked for further insight on the Port High representatives in the game, Barner heaped praise on the three Gator all-stars.

“They’ve been phenomenal,” he said. “Great kids, great work ethic. They picked it up like sponges, they’re very polite, and they’re leaders. You can tell that’s why they’ve had success – because they’re good kids, and they lead. That’s what we need in this game, that leadership, and they’re all standing out and having fun. They seem to be having a riot, always laughing. They’re good kids. This town should be very proud of them, that’s for sure, because they’re good eggs.”

Players from Bradford, Cameron County, Coudersport, Eisenhower, Elk County Catholic, Kane, Johnsonburg, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Ridgway, Sheffield, Smethport, St. Marys, Warren and Youngsville comprise the Pennsylvania roster for this year’s game, while two Chautauqua County schools, Frewsburg and Southwestern, join traditional Big 30 members Allegany-Limestone, Bolivar-Richburg, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cuba-Rushford, Ellicottville, Franklinville, Gowanda, Olean, Pioneer, Portville, Randolph, Salamanca and Wellsville to form the team representing New York.

The Empire State currently holds a 19-16-2 series lead. Pennsylvania has won five of the last seven meetings, but will be looking for payback from last year’s game, a wild 46-37 New York victory which marked the second-highest total score in Big 30/Raabe history.

Barner is well aware of both the game’s history and what it means to the area – the first 37 games have raised a total of almost $1.5 million for charities and personal causes throughout the Twin Tiers – and he can’t wait for Saturday night to get here.

“Everybody’s ecstatic,” he said. “The kids are pumped for it, and for me to have a chance to do this in this game, it’s special to have this opportunity to coach these kind of kids that are into it and love it – and for the cause and what it stands for. I’m making these kids fully aware of what the benefit is about, and to represent your community, and they’re picking up on that as well.

“It’s an honor to be asked to do this. Pretty humbling.”

***

Besides Stuckey, Lowery, and Kysor, four more members of Port Allegany’s Class of 2011 – plus two other players with local ties – will also take part in Saturday’s events. Cora Bova, Breanna Foster, and Caryne Healy are all part of the Raabe cheerleading squad, while Renee Edgell will be recognized along with other area Homecoming queens.

Healy continues a long Big 30/Raabe Classic family tradition. Her father, Luke (1981), and older brother, Bryce (2009), were both selected for the game (though Luke was unable to play due to injury), and her mother, Sue, cheered at the 1982 contest.

The rosters also include two sons of Gator football alumni, Bradford’s Connor Borowski (Steve, 1981) and Wellsville’s Aaron Strait (Bob, 1976).

***

Saturday’s festivities kick off at 2 p.m. with a parade through downtown Bradford featuring the two teams, cheerleaders, and Homecoming queens. The route begins at Davis Street and follows Main Street, turning right onto Mechanic Street, then heading out West Washington Street and up Bennett Street to Parkway Field, where events are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

The pregame ceremonies will include a moment of silence in memory of Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Ken VanGiesen, a Kane native and former Big 30 Game player who was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 18. A three-year letterman for the Wolves, VanGiesen played on the offensive line for Pennsylvania in the 1999 game, a 30-14 New York victory.

SSgt. VanGiesen is the second recent Big 30 Game participant to give his life in service to his country. Sgt. Jason Denfrund, a Cattaraugus Central graduate who represented New York in the 2000 game, died in Iraq on Christmas Day 2006 while serving with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. The Raabe Classic committee retired his No. 90 jersey the following year.