Chris Michael

About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet.

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Winter Sports Wrap (Part 1)

Over the next two weeks we’ll take a look back at what has been an extraordinary year for District XI winter high school sports.

“Eight is Enough”
Eight is the maximum number of gold medals one could accumulate while playing two sports—and that feat was accomplished by Parkland’s DeVante Cross.  He and his Trojans completed another dominating performance in District XI, not losing a game in the Lehigh Valley once he and his football teammates were finished with another district title (and playing for a state championship) on the gridiron.

Cross will be taking his talents to the Boston College football team where he will look to follow in the recent footsteps of other Lehigh Valley athletes who’ve had collegiate football success and then moved on to play at the professional level.  In my opinion, I believe him to be one of the top point guards we’ve had in District XI in some time, and my only regret is that we won’t see him on the basketball court again, but I know we’ll be seeing plenty of highlights once the collegiate football season gets underway.

We’ll be talking with Parkland Head Coach Andy Stephens and members of his boys basketball team on the Thursday, March 24th edition of “RCN SportsTalk” at 7pm.

I don’t think Parkland will drop off too much, despite the graduation of some key seniors.  However, the 2017 boys basketball season will be wide open with so many returning star performers back on the hardwood again, and many will benefit from the extra year of varsity experience.  The same is true for a few key women’s basketball teams—we’ll have more on them next week.

“Save Your Programs”
On both “SportsTalk” and during our high school basketball broadcasts, we’ve talked at length this winter about all the amazing underclassmen talent around the region.  Heck, Allen, Central Catholic and Pocono Mountain West boys’ teams (among others) have virtually their entire teams returning next year.

While Emmaus will lose several quality people to graduation as well, they return arguably the area’s best player, David Kachelries, along with his twin brother Matt.  The Hornets also have some MAJOR size coming up through their system and will return to make the competition for league and district championships in 2017 even more challenging than it was this winter.

One underclassman who won’t be returning is Nazareth’s Jahan Dotson, who will be moving to play at a prominent high school football program this fall.  Dotson was a great athlete to watch and I enjoyed watching him on the hardwood—both being a dynamic scorer and delivering some great passes setting up his teammates.  We wish him the best on what could be a lengthy athletic career.

“Colonial League vs. EPC”
While some people like to put down the Colonial League in favor of the bigger schools that comprise the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, I always enjoy the opportunity to see and meet the members of the “smaller school” league in District XI.  We’ve often highlighted their accomplishments (including having both Bangor and Salisbury as in-studio “SportsTalk” guests).  The Slaters and the Falcons posted some tremendous wins this year, with both teams reaching the state tournament after having to battle each other for the Colonial League Championship.

“Rifling”
We also did our first ever feature on rifling this winter.  Many people don’t realize it is a PIAA-sanctioned sport—and has been for some time.  Our chat with members of the Freedom Rifle Team on “SportsTalk” was very informative and certainly brought to light many unique aspects of the sport.

Look for more high school winter sports notes and videos coming your way in the next “SportsTalk Shop” entry.  Also, be sure to tune in for this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” (and then on our podcast here on Friday) as we take a more in-depth look at the boys and girls high school basketball programs in the Eastern Pennsylvania region.

The SportsTalk Shop: Nationals, Phillies Spring Training Issues

Spring Training baseball is underway, and the Nats and Phils have two opposite perspectives on what to watch for this month during the exhibition season as they get ready to accomplish distinct different goals in 2016.  Here’s a look at key issues for both teams as the pre-season unfolds.

 

Nationals…

 …continue to look for and add depth.

 

This, in my mind, was one of the biggest issues with the 2015 Nationals.  When injuries came, they had one or two “backup” plans, and when they didn’t pan out, there were major issues.  Acquiring players as the season unfolds, both quality bench personnel, along with high-character guys, are key for this team to make it to the next level.  Washington does not want to get painted into a corner where they have to make a move for someone like another Jonathan Papelbon out of necessity, but should be continuing to look for ways to add depth into and throughout the season.  Just ask the Phillies how important a “minor” addition like Matt Stairs turned out to be.

 

Speaking of depth, the Nats need to bring up at least one or two players from the minors that will contribute.  With the number of injuries players sustain today, it isn’t realistic to think that five, or even four, members of the starting rotation will make it through an entire year—no matter how good they are.  Plus, they need players to come up and challenge the veterans.  Guys like Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo, Lucas Giolito and others must continue to improve and push the more established players at the Major League level (both Difo and Giolito had nice performances last Friday).

 

Finding a couple players to contribute as the season wears on is key to driving this team forward–if, for the purposes of just this year, that role is simply to light a fire under a current player who’s underperforming.

 …the return of Rendon—the REAL Rendon.

 

Anthony Rendon was one of a number of injured players during 2015.  He did play last season, but he wasn’t the Rendon that people wanted…needed for the Nationals to play a legitimate playoff run.  Instead of building on a tremendous 2014 campaign, a string of issues (starting in spring training and lingering throughout the year) kept the third base-turned-second baseman from ever truly hitting his stride last summer.  This spring, following the acquisition of second basemen Daniel Murphy, he’s been returned to his natural defensive position and hopefully will lead the team offensively in the way the team needs him to be.  The Nationals have done a great job, in my opinion, building an offense around the core.  But Rendon is that special player that, if healthy, is the guy who can carry a team during team-wide struggles and also is the guy I’d want at the plate with the game on the line.

 

Getting him ready for the season is nice, but, perhaps more than any one position player, a healthy exhibition season and a clean, injury-free, path to Opening Day is one of the most important issues for Washington this month.

 

 

Phillies…

 Maikel Franco MUST continue improving.

 

Much like Rendon, Franco, right now, looks to be the centerpiece of the Phillies position players and will be looked to (until proven otherwise) as the team’s “go-to guy.”  The Phillies have done a great job of building a collection of great prospects, with the knowledge that, while some young players won’t live up to their potential, an increase in the number of blue-chip players in the organization strengthens the chances that SOME of these players make a significant impact.  The organization has been hedging their bets and not riding all their hopes on one player.  However, Franco—a home-grown entity—has been touted as the one key player to build around.  If he regresses, it won’t end the rebuild, but any lack of progress this summer will be tough for Phillies to deal with, especially from a PR-standpoint (see the 76ers situation).   Franco is the guy who Phillies fans can see–right now–in Philadelphia, and he’s shown flashes of amazing ability.  The fan base can be patient if they have some hope that they can see in close proximity.  Philadelphia’s starting third-baseman is off to a great start (he’s already hit as many home runs the first week of spring training as the two previous pre-seasons combined.)  As long as he continues to flourish at the Big League level this summer, it is easier to sell the fact that more players like him are coming down the pipeline.

 

 

…the pitching watch.

 

Through all the horrible 2015 baseball seen in the Delaware Valley…it was made dreadfully worse by poor pitching.  Again, new GM Matt Klentak has done a great job of building an abundance of low-risk, high-reward players, in the hopes that a few can be serviceable major league hurlers—either to be traded away for more prospects, or as veterans to help hold a future pitching staff together with experience.  There’s a number of pitchers to keep an eye on as spring training and the regular season unfolds, and a finding a few gems this season could really help the rebuilding efforts along.

 

Keep in mind, even the older veteran’s success—pitching or position players–can impact and have a significant influence on the future.  If one or more players is having a solid season heading into July (and approaching the trade deadlines), a contending team may be desperate to add a necessary piece (see the Nats’ with Papelbon a year ago).  Players that don’t figure in as regulars in the Phillies lineup two-to-three years from now (Carlos Ruiz, Cody Asche, Darin Ruf, Charlie Morton and others) might get you a diamond-in-the-rough prospect that helps Philadelphia in future seasons?

 

 

Join us on “RCN SportsTalk” in the coming weeks (Thursdays live, 7-8pm on RCN-TV or catch our podcasts here) as we get updates on the Phillies and Nationals’ spring training updates from the team’s beat writers.  We’ll also have discussions on this weekend’s Pennsylvania and Washington, DC high school playoff action on this week’s program.

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Hoops – Playoff Video Recaps

After a busy and exciting week of calling District XI high school championship playoff action on RCN-TV, I am taking a few days off as we prepare for RCN’s coverage of PIAA State Playoff action.

So at the “SportsTalk Shop,” here is a highlights package of the playoff action over the past few weeks featuring teams in the RCN coverage area.  I’ll be back next week with more sports insights here at “The Shop” as well as on “RCN SportsTalk” next Thursday, live at 7pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to check out RCN’s sports coverage of District XI teams in the state playoffs starting this Friday and best of luck to all the teams participating in the tournament!

The RCN SportsTalk Shop: More District XI Playoff Coverage


There are some great high school match-ups over the next few days that I’m very excited about–especially on the girls basketball side.  Here are some observations and notes about District XI teams in the RCN coverage area to get you ready for this week’s playoff coverage on RCN-TV.

The 4A Girls Bracket
It was a coming-out party for Northampton freshman Victoria Keenan, who made her RCN debut last Friday with a spectacular performance en route to a big win over the second-seeded Parkland Trojans.  Despite her (and her frontcourt mates) getting in some early foul trouble, Keenan showcased her ball-handling and shooting abilities from different spots on the floor all game long.  I immediately noticed her poise and confidence in the pre-game warm-ups and she did not seemed fazed in the least about the win-or-go-home contest in front of her.

She finished with a game-high 23 points (no one else on either side finished in double figures) and set up her team to face their area rivals, Nazareth, in the semifinal matchup (7:30pm LIVE, Tuesday, RCN-TV).

I don’t often make predictions about players, and even more rarely do I single out a freshman, but after seeing Keenan play last week I feel confident in saying she’ll become one of the top girls basketball players in the area, if she’s not almost there already.

Not to be left out was Aja Blount, who came into the quarterfinal match-up averaging 20 points per game.  The Trojans played stifling defense on her and did not allow Blount her usual amount of touches, but Aja returned the favor by playing her own brand of ‘shut-all-windows-and-doors” defense against a talented Parkland frontcourt in the victory. Devon Saul, Lauren Sterner, Jenna Rogers, Brielle Ringo and (despite some quick fouls called on her) Sophia Eckroth all played well and I’m looking forward to seeing their next game on Tuesday.

I have not seen the Blue Eagles in person this year, but I’m well aware of the high level of play from returning players Tessa Brugler and Jessica Durnin, and the strong defense Head Coach Rick Bickert always cultivates.  This semifinal game should go right down to the wire.

I was very impressed by my first look at this year’s Easton game–a squad I saw last year and knew they would surpass those levels from a year ago.  We’ve spoken quite a bit about the Red Rovers on recent “SportsTalk” shows and podcasts (which you can hear here).  Pottsville has been led by two outstanding scoring threats, Kyra Schenk and Sadie Cresswell (the latter really shoots well from three-point land and will play college ball at East Stroudsburg University).  The Tide have some size and could create some interesting match-up issues for Easton (Tuesday, 6pm Live, RCN-TV).

Was Parkland vs. Allen the best HS game in decades?
I had a number of people answer in the affirmative about the above question between the boys teams from Allen and Parkland.   Emmaus’ Saturday victory over the Canaries will keep area fans from seeing a rematch of this contest (Parkland and Allen did not play each other during the regular season).  While I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was the greatest local game in over ten years, I will say unequivocally that on any given night, the Allen boys team can be as entertaining to watch as any team in the RCN viewing area.

Remember, nearly all of Allen’s key players were juniors or younger this winter and should return in 2017.  With Parkland graduating a number of the area’s top performers, I think you could certainly put the Canaries as one of the two or three best teams heading into the next high school basketball season, and should be a fun team to watch during the summer leagues.

With the Hornets win, we’ll see another great Parkland vs. Emmaus battle on Wednesday night (live, 7:30pm, RCN-TV).

We’ve talked about both teams quite a bit this season, and on paper, it still seems that the Trojans are heavy favorites.  The Hornets have battled through some tough games this season and we’ll see if Emmaus can come up with a new wrinkle or two to try to frustrate top-seeded Parkland.

SHOUT-OUTS
* Pocono Mountain West’s Lance Singh (a junior) had one of the best individual men’s performances I’ve seen in quite some time.  He scored 35 against Allen in the EPC semifinal and owned the first and last quarters, with the ability to score despite sometimes being triple-teamed, but also set up his teammates well down the stretch run.  Jalen Vaughns (also an 11th grader) is also a difficult match-up—a guy who can score from different spots on the floor and is also a beast on the boards, and Isaiah Wiggins (another junior, by the way) also has a very similar skill set.  I think it’s safe to say PMW is clearly the single most talented scoring machine that Bangor has faced all season, and the Slaters will have their hands full in their semifinal match-up.

* Speaking of Bangor, props to last week’s “SportsTalk” panelist Toomey Anderson (from “LV Basketball Rankings”) for stating on the show that the Slaters will have a breakout performance and post a statement-declaring win over Whitehall in Saturday’s quarterfinal game.  We have been touting the great teams in the Colonial League since early December here at the “SportsTalk Shop” (feel free to go back through our past blog entries to see for yourself) and it is no surprise to me that there are two Colonial League teams still alive as we advance to the semifinal round of the District XI playoffs.

* Another correct “lock” prediction made on last week’s program was Andre Williams declaring that Bethlehem Catholic would beat Allentown Central Catholic in the so-called “Lehigh Valley Holy War.”   First-year Head Coach Ray Barbosa has done a remarkable job since taking over the program, even before his big win over the Vikings last Friday.  He has his team playing its best basketball of the season at just the right time.  They face undefeated Pottsville on Tuesday night (9:30pm, tape-delayed, RCN-TV).  The Tide have played some quality opponents and are an athletic team.  If Becahi can play like they did against Parkland in the EPC Quarterfinals, they’ll have a shot.  Regardless of this game’s outcome, the Golden Hawks already have had a tremendous season after winning just three games a year ago.

Send us your high school basketball comments and opinions via email (RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com) and enjoy all the playoff basketball action coming your way on RCN-TV over the next week!

The SportsTalk Shop: District XI Basketball Playoff Preview

Last week, we discussed a number of teams in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference or Colonial League post-season races—nearly all of them will look to be major players in the District XI tournament, which starts this week.  Today here at “The Shop,” we take a look at a few more teams that begin their district championship quests over the next few days.

“Give Me Liberty…”
Don’t let a first-round loss in the EPC playoffs fool you.  Chad Landis always seems to find a way to get his team playing deep into the district playoffs—and usually well enough to get at least one of the top-3 district seeds, which would give the Hurricanes a trip to states.

Liberty lost to a very talented Allen team last week.  On paper, however, I think Liberty could play with almost anyone in their bracket.  They have a tremendous talent on the inside in Cam Hoffman and exciting guard play with added depth now that Chance Neilly has returned and gotten some game action under his belt. They’ll open up the tournament by facing Nazareth on Wednesday (live, RCN4 at 7pm).

“…or Fly Like An Eagle”
Nazareth Head Coach Joe Arndt has to be on a short list of underrated basketball coaches in the region.  Following his great run in the post-season last year (more on that later), he has done a great job grooming young talents Jahan Dotson and Kevin Wagner to become one of the strongest 1-2 underclassmen punches among EPC teams.  Nick Youngkin has added scoring punch from different spots on the floor and probably deserves more attention that he’s received this season.  The key will be containing the likes of Hoffman, Andrew Hudak and Caleb Martinez on the inside and for Nazareth to get its share of rebounds.  More inside scoring could go along way for Blue Eagles—the loser of this ball game sees their season come to an end.

The 3A Race Should be Fun To Watch
Central Catholic has an incredibly talented team, filled with underclassmen and amazing potential.  But when you have a younger group of players, there’s always an element–however slight—of ambiguity in reading how they will play together in the post-season.  They lost to a very solid Pocono Mountain West team in the first round of the league playoffs and, unlike previous years, I don’t think the Vikings are your ‘stone-cold locks’ to win the district title.  Salisbury, Notre Dame and Saucon Valley are all good, well-balanced teams who can play with Central Catholic.

Bethlehem Catholic also showed a tremendous amount of poise in hanging with the area’s best team, Parkland, in their EPC first-round match-up and have scored some impressive wins during the regular season.  Ray Barbosa has done a great job in his first year with the Golden Hawks and I don’t think a lengthy run in districts should be seen as a shocker.

Also, waiting “in the wings” is a Pottsville team that just completed a perfect 22-0 regular season.  The Tide will face the winner of Tuesday’s match-up between Saucon Valley/Lehighton (live, RCN4 at 7pm).  There will be very few “easy” games in the District XI 3A Classification this time around, and I doubt very many people could clearly predict just how this bracket will shake out this winter.

This Year’s Cinderella?
Last year it was Nazareth’s boys team that surprised people with a lengthy and exciting run through the District XI tournament—winning a few more games than many expected.

Who will be this year’s dark horse squad to last the longest? Stroudsburg is always an underrated team that seems to find a way to advance deep in the playoffs—despite the fact local experts rarely predict a successful post-season run for the Mountaineers.  If they can get by Freedom on Wednesday, they have as good a shot against Pocono Mountain West, then would face the winner of the Bangor vs. Solehi/Whitehall matchup, so another post-season run by the Mounties certainly looks like it has potential.

Also, there’s a number of talented girls basketball individuals and teams to keep an eye on that don’t get the hype they deserve.  Easton is coming off an impressive performance in its EPC Championship victory and are led by standout stars like Gabby Bloshuk, Leanna Deegan, Olivia George and Shelby Stocker.

However, this might be one of the most competitive District XI girls playoff fields we’ve seen in some time.  Parkland features Emily Piston, Rachel Medlar, Nadine Ewald and Sarah Stagaard.  Among the other top EPC talents include Nazareth’s Tessa Brugler, Northampton’s Aja Blount and Victoria Keenan.  Colonial League players to watch include Southern Lehigh’s Amanda Mobley, Olivia Snyder and Ellie Cassel (all underclassmen, by the way), Palisades’ Karlee Krchnavi, Northwestern’s Erika Thomas and Bangor’s Marissa Fernandez-Tierney.  We talked about a number of these teams and players in last week’s “SportsTalk” podcast (listen here: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk).

Don’t forget, we’ll be discussing many more teams, previewing match-ups and making District XI playoff predictions on Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” show, live from 7-8pm on RCN-TV with the show’s podcast available on Friday.  Guests include RCN Basketball Analyst Tom Stoudt along with Toomey Anderson and Andre Williams from LVBasketballRankings.com.  Email your high schools opinions and questions to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and our panel will read and respond to your comments live on the air!

The SportsTalk Shop: League Basketball Playoffs

The high school basketball playoffs have arrived in the Lehigh Valley region.  Thanks to the expanded playoff format (of which there’s been much debate amongst local sports fans–discussed at length on ‘RCN SportsTalk’), the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and the Colonial League post-season actually got underway last weekend, with the league semifinals to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday (check the RCN broadcast schedule for our coverage).

On this Thursday’s live “SportsTalk” program (7-8pm), we’ll have local coaches and experts Megan Dellegrotti (former Southern Lehigh Head Coach/fmr. DeSales Assistant Head Coach), Joe Jarjous (current Dieruff boys head basketball coach), Kyle Hutnik (Pen Argyl Boys Basketball Head Coach) and Ed Seidick (Catasaqua Girls Head Basketball Coach) on the show to give their insights on the teams involved, along with opinions, predictions and key match-ups to watch for on both leagues’ championship nights for both the boys and girls title games (also to be broadcast on RCN-TV on Friday).

To get you set for the semifinals, here are thoughts on the teams that I’ve seen so far this winter, along with the video highlights from RCN’s regular season coverage of high school basketball in the Lehigh Valley.

EPC:  PARKLAND
Despite just a five-point lead over Bethlehem Catholic at halftime, Parkland looked just as strong in the second half of its opening round playoff game as they have at any point during their season since the football players returned.  I’m sticking with my prediction from early December that the Trojans win the EPC and continue to advance all the way to the PIAA state championship.  A big key for this to happen will be for Parkland to avoid one of the top Philadelphia schools (aka., Roman Catholic) in the first few rounds of the  tourney.  However, this team is so well-balanced and has all the advantages (size, speed, shooting ability et al) over nearly every team they’ll face over the next few weeks.

ALLEN

Another prediction I made back on this blog before the season started (and I’m sticking with now) is that Talek Williams is one of the most dynamic players in the Lehigh Valley.  From what I’ve seen of his Canaries teammates this year, I don’t believe Allen is a one-star team.  At any given time, Williams and Co. could be the Lehigh Valley team to give Parkland its biggest challenge.  The key for the Canaries is their consistency—they’ve looked great at times, and have also struggled: sometimes game-to-game, other times quarter-to-quarter.  If Allen can put together a string of solid efforts, they could give the Trojans a battle for the EPC Championship Friday (RCN-TV, live, Friday at 7:30pm), provided they don’t look past Pocono Mountain West in the semis.

Emmaus
The Hornets also have the size, guard-play and speed to hang with Parkland, but have not been able to come close to a win in the two meetings between these two juggernauts.  I believe they have the biggest collection of underrated players in the area (Cam Widdoss, Brandon Rapose, Jake Freirtag, Joey Polczynski, Eric Cichocki, Jake Scarnulis).  Because of their regular-season finale loss to Whitehall, they drew Parkland in the semifinal round (RCN-TV, live Tuesday at 7:30pm).  This might be the wrong way to look at things, but if Emmaus loses to Parkland in the league playoff, the old adage of “it’s hard to beat a good team four times” might apply if these area rivals would face each other again in the District XI playoffs—or even a fifth time if they would both clinch and meet in the state playoffs.

Colonial League:  Bangor vs. Saucon Valley
While Bangor’s Michael Martino has been the headline name in the league this past year, I think both the Slaters and the Panthers have a lot of high-talent players, and their semifinal matchup (RCN4, live Wednesday at 7:30pm) should be just as competitive as their regular season meetings.  While Bangor won each contest, Mike Kane was not available for the first meeting between these two teams, and he has shown he can be a difference maker.

Another player to watch?  While he’s certainly gone under the radar, I believe Saucon Valley guard Josh Snead might just be the best point guard in the Colonial League this year.  Equally underrated are Bangor’s guard Reece Jones along with the Slaters’ frontcourt—with some up-and-coming talent also on the way.

Southern Lehigh vs. Salisbury
I haven’t gotten a chance to see in person either of these teams this year, but will this Wednesday in the first Colonial League semifinal contest (RCN4, live at 6pm).  For some great insights on the Falcons from Head Coach Jason Weaver and his players, check out their “SportsTalk” appearance on our podcast here.  In addition to talking about their successes this year and thoughts on the post-season, top scorer Tevon Weber told some great stories about his shot selection, and what he does every time he hits a three-pointer.

If you have a comment or question about the local high school basketball playoffs, email them to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and tune in Thursday at 7pm for our “League Championship Preview Show” as we read and respond to your thoughts on the local league playoff season in the Lehigh Valley.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: District Wrestling Preview

One of the biggest Lehigh Valley local sports winter events is happening this Saturday—the District XI AAA Team Wrestling Final & Ultimate Qualifier (live, 4:30pm on RCN-TV).  Local wrestling gurus Gene Waas and Jack Logic were on our “SportsTalk” show to discuss that event, as well as give their opinions on many local wrestling issues.  Among the topics discussed–they gave their takes on the “EPC Challenge” and on the first year of the “revamped” alignments for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.  Here’s a brief sample of our discussion of the “new look EPC” for wrestling–the entire program along with thoughts on the District XI tournament structure is available here on our podcast.

We’ve also had some great wrestling action on RCN-TV this past winter.  We covered a number of Colonial League teams on our “RCN SportsTalk” show—the interviews and videos are available on-demand for RCN customers.

To get you set for this weekend’s tournament action, here’s a look back at the highlights of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference wrestling matches featured on RCN-TV this season.

In addition to this Saturday’s team district wrestling coverage, we have more wrestling coverage coming up in the next few weeks.  On the Thursday, February 25th edition of “SportsTalk” from 7-8 pm, we’ll have preview of that weekend’s District XI AA and AAA individual wrestling tournament.  On Saturday, February 27th at 9:30 RCN-TV will have the AAA Wrestling Final and the following week RCN will be broadcasting the PIAA Northeast Wrestling Final at 9pm.

Keep checking the RCN-TV schedule page here on the website for the latest news and/or changes for our local sports coverage.  Also, don’t forget to email you opinions and feelings the local sports action to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com .

The SportsTalk Shop: Thinking Warm Thoughts…

In the fallout of record amounts of snowfall, coinciding with the cold and blustery conditions we suffered through this past weekend, I’d like to pass along the following public service announcement…

“We’re under a month away from the start of Major League Baseball’s opening of spring training!”

I said in an earlier post that I’m more confident in the Nationals’ chances of making the playoffs this year and it should be a great summer/fall for fans in the Washington, DC region.

While many baseball fans will write off 2016 year as a lost year for the Phillies—with most of the organization’s top prospects at least a few months away from being on the major league roster—I think there are many intriguing storylines for the upcoming season.

The “SportsTalk” cameras recently had a chance recently to speak with some of the key members of the organization going forward, new General Manager Matt Klentak, Manager Pete Mackanin, who’ll begin his first full year as the team’s skipper, and young right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola.  Despite the fact that Nola enters the season with just a few months of Major League experience under his belt, he holds the distinction of being one of the “oldest” members of the pitching staff, and could very well be the “eldest” pitcher on the team’s Opening Day starting rotation.

Here is Mackanin’s thoughts on a number of issues, including:

  • his approach of how Ryan Howard will be used this season
  • a critical season for third baseman/outfielder Cody Asche
  • a peek at what his Opening Day outfield alignment could look like
  • who has the edge to round out the starting rotation
  • the competition for the team’s closer position
  • why fans should be enthusiastic about the 2016 Phillies ball club

New GM Matt Klentak answered questions on:

  • what are this year’s team goals
  • why the team is headed in the right directin
  • young, highly touted prospect Vincent Velasquez, who was acquired in the Ken Giles’ trade
  • an off-season conversation he had with Ryan Howard, regarding his future with the Phillies

Nola also talked about his expectations for the new season, how he and his teammates will approach a “rebuilding season,” and his insights on how he’s learned to have success, even on days in which he doesn’t have command of all his pitches.

There could very well be a number of additional storylines that develop and players to watch over the next several months for the “Phightins,” as they continue to turn over the roster and look to rebuild after a period that will go down as the greatest era in team history.  With young prospects like Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, Andrew Knapp and a host of good, young pitching prospects, it may not be too long before the Phillies return to the upper half of the division and resume stringing together playoff appearances.

Check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” as we get closer to Opening Day for more insights on the Phillies, the Nationals and topics of interested for baseball fans in the RCN viewing area.  Also, email us your baseball comments and opinions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond on an upcoming edition of “RCN SportsTalk.”

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Mid-Winter Sports Update

Maybe it was the lack of snow or the warmer-than-normal temperatures over the last month, but it is really hard to believe we are at the halfway point of the scholastic basketball season.  Here’s three Eastern Pennsylvania Conference-related observations from the first half of the winter sports campaign.

Parkland looks even better than last year

They not only have practically the same team back from a year ago, but they have more depth and can beat you in more ways than they did during last season’s run to the state playoffs.  They barely missed a beat without some of their football players on board to start the season—giving the “reserves” an extended varsity experience.  However, the returning players seem even more determined than a year ago, and I don’t think anything less than a state title game is what they are setting their sights on.

The only question might be what teams they’ll face—and when—in the PIAA tournament.  There’ll be several of the high-octane offenses from Philadelphia that love to push the tempo and Parkland doesn’t get a whole lot of chances to see that from teams in the Lehigh Valley—not to the extent of the Philly teams.  However, the team has gotten some significant tests early (and a couple more still to come before states).   I would be surprised if the seniors refuse to take every opportunity to match the football team’s success, and it certainly looks like they have the weapons to go much deeper into the state playoffs.

Central’s coming on strong
I saw Central Catholic a few times in December, and, they looked like a young team that had a ton of potential, and, after going through some growing pains, they would eventually have great success.


I’m not sure if Santa granted the Vikings a flash forward to their learning curve, but in the times I’ve seen them since Christmas, it seems like the younger players are not only buying into the team-defense approach, but they are becoming much more comfortable playing—and scoring—together on the court.  I think some of the Class 3A teams were hoping Central Catholic might have to wait until next year to once again be considered the favorite in the District XI playoffs, but the way the Vikings have been playing the last few weeks, I think they have a great chance at being in the EPC playoffs as well as being the ‘team-to-beat’ in their district classification.

Freedom as a dark horse?
There are some interesting teams in the “Steel” division of the EPC—and probably several of those teams could make the playoffs with a quality run over the next few weeks.  If I had to pick one of them to surprise area basketball fans over the next month, I’m leaning toward Freedom.

They have one of the area’s best head coaches (Joe Stellato), a great coaching staff, and some really good athletes.  On paper, they may not be the best team, but they’ve had some nice wins and have been “in” most of their losses.  Not many people are picking the Patriots to do much in the post-season, but of all the teams not directly in the area’s media spotlight, I think Freedom might be one team to make some noise over the next month.

Allen and Whitehall were also featured on RCN-TV recently and are two more teams that have played well this season.  With a number of talented teams, the Canaries, Zephyrs and a few other teams all very well could contend in the playoffs this February.  Also, Bethlehem Catholic was a team to watch on our basketball preview show back in December, and they have done very little to disappoint so far.

We’ll have more opinions and video highlights of other high school sports teams, in addition to wrestling videos, coming up over the next several weeks here at the “SportsTalk Shop.”

Also, keep checking back to the RCN-TV website for our schedule the latest games to be broadcast on RCN-TV and feel free to send your sports comments and opinions to us at RCNSporsTalk@rcn.com

 

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Holiday Recaps

While I always enjoy an extended vacation and quality time at home with my family during the holidays, I was excited to get back into the local high school basketball scene this past week and to talk with some of the local players, coaches and media members about the first few weeks of the hoops season.

There are several interesting storylines developing in the District XI region.  Here are three of note:

1) Salisbury is good—AGAIN
I honestly don’t know if there’s a more underrated head basketball coach than Jason Weaver…and a more underrated program than his Salisbury basketball team.  We’ve been touting Weaver and his programs for years on both the TV edition of “SportsTalk” and on this blog.  Every season he has a winning team—and most years he loses most (all?) of his entire core of players to graduation, only to come back the following year and find success.  And not only do his teams rebuild during the offseason and have good years—but they always play well out of the game—something truly extraordinary when you’re bringing in nearly a whole new set of starters most seasons.

They’re coming off a huge win over previously undefeated Bangor (a 4A school) and have a few other 4A-level teams on its non-conference schedule over the next few weeks.  Despite not getting much hype, the Falcons look like they will “surprise” people again in February, when they most likely will play deep in the league and district playoff rounds.

2) …and so are a number of other Colonial League teams.
Salisbury does not own a monopoly on quality basketball play in the Colonial League this winter.  Bangor and Southern Lehigh have just one league loss—both losing its first Colonial game of the year last week (both losses to Salisbury).  Both teams are well-balanced and led by incredibly knowledgeable head coaches, and both the Slaters and the Spartans had battle-tested contests one year ago, which will help them come crunch time(s) this winter.

Also, don’t count out the teams that got a late start due to their school’s football team playing late into the fall.  Saucon Valley, Notre Dame and Catasauqua all posted wins over quality opponents last weekend, and all three teams have climbed back above .500 in league play.

Once more, there’s some interesting head-to-head battles over the next few weeks, which include (but are not limited to):

Jan. 13
Southern Lehigh at Bangor
Catty at Saucon Valley
Northwestern at Notre Dame-GP

Jan. 15 (and again on Jan. 25)
Saucon Valley at Notre Dame-GP

Jan. 22
Saucon Valley at Bangor (on RCN-TV)
Southern Lehigh at Catty

Jan. 25
Salisbury at Notre Dame-GP

Jan. 26
Saucon Valley at Salisbury

Jan. 28
Catty at Notre Dame
Southern Lehigh at Saucon Valley

Feel free to check out the Colonial League’s website  for the latest league news, scores and schedules.

Don’t forget, RCN-TV is scheduled to broadcast the Colonial League semifinals as well as the boys and girls championship games.  Keep checking back to the RCN-TV website for scheduling updates!

3) Glovas returns!
After an outstanding playing career at DeSales University and becoming one of the schools’ all-time top scorers, Sondrine Glovas has returned to Wilson High School to continue her career as the head coach of the same Warriors program that she once played for.  In addition to a tremendous student-athlete career and being a standout player in a high quality collegiate program, Glovas benefitted from legendary Bulldogs Head Coach Fred Richter and his outstanding staff in preparing her to take over at her alma mater.

Glovas’ Warriors have gotten off to a good start and have their targets set on qualifying for a District XI playoff appearance this winter.

Keep checking back here at the “SportsTalk Shop” for more winter sports updates and news and features on teams and players in the RCN viewing area.  Next week we’ll put the spotlight on our local wrestling teams with video highlights and insights for next week’s blog entry.  We’ll also be talking wrestling on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” show (live, 7-8pm on RCN-TV) and featuring long-time wrestling Head Coach Dave Crowell and members of the Nazareth wrestling team, along with a feature on the Bangor wrestling program.  The podcast of the show will also be available on Friday and can be found at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk.

Finally, a big “THANK YOU” to all the people who voted for and watched the “Best of RCN-TV” marathon on New Year’s Day.  The event was a huge hit and while the RCN marketing team developed the idea and deserve all the credit, I’d like to think “RCN SportsTalk” had a tiny role in the outcome, as one of our programs—“NFL Draft Preview”—was one of the shows selected as the “best of” for 2015.  Again, thanks for voting for all of our RCN-TV programs and we are already planning on another NFL draft-oriented preview show once again in 2016.