Morning Sun
  • The top 10 sports stories of 2012

  • It was a great year for sports.

    Of course, 2012 did not have a centerpiece like the Pittsburg State football team winning the National Championship in 2011.

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  • It was a great year for sports.
    Of course, 2012 did not have a centerpiece like the Pittsburg State football team winning the National Championship in 2011.
    However, overall, it seemed like there was at least one great sports story every week.
    Thank you to all the coaches, the players and everybody else who helped make 2012 a great year for sports.
    PSU women make Elite Eight
    After their first NCAA Tournament win over Central Missouri, the Gorillas kept rolling with victories over Northeastern State (68-54) and Emporia State (79-67).
    Pitt State used the balanced scoring efforts of Lizzy Jeronimus (17 points), Drew Roberts (16) and Larissa Richards (15) and limited the RiverHawks to 32.1 percent field goals (18-56) for the game.
    In the Regional Final, Jeronimus scored a career-high 35 points and Topeka native Alexa Bordewick came through big with 15 points.
    “It’s unbelievable,” Bordewick said. “It’s almost surreal. Pitt State’s never done this well and I don’t think it’s hit any of us quite yet but we’re excited to go to San Antonio and see what we can prove to everyone.”
    Down in San Antonio, Pitt State’s historical voyage ended in the Elite Eight with a 61-58 loss to eventual national champion Shaw.
    “(Our girls) played their guts out,” Pitt State head coach Lane Lord said. “These guys had the best record we’ve ever had at Pittsburg State. We won our first three NCAA games in the history of our program, our first Elite Eight appearance, and we’re awful proud of them.”
    Pitt State ended its season 27-6. Five key seniors graduated — Richards, Brooke Conley, Courtney Tate, Amanda Orloske and Britnee Foster.
    Cichon wins No. 500
    Anybody who’s ever coached a game can probably better appreciate the sheer magnitude of the accomplishment of reaching 500 wins.
    St. Mary’s Colgan boys basketball coach Wayne Cichon won No. 500 on Feb. 10 as the Panthers defeated the Frontenac Raiders 57-42.
    “I’m humbled by the whole thing,” Cichon said. “I sat down the other day and I thought about the 500 wins. It was a long way over the last 20-some years. The players we’ve had have always done the things we’ve asked them to do.”
    Those players have produced five Class 2A state titles, a stretch of nine consecutive state title game appearances, and over 500 wins since Cichon took over head coaching duties in 1983.
    Accomplishments like that do earn respect.
    “This was not the first win for Coach (Cichon) and it won’t be his last,” Frontenac head coach Doug Barto said. “He’s a great coach. He’s one of the best in this area and he’s one of the best in the state. Every time I look at the schedule, I know that the game against Colgan will be without a doubt the hardest game. I would have liked to have made him wait another game but he’s a good coach and a good friend.”
    Page 2 of 6 - Watt wins No. 500
    The 2011-2012 school year saw three Colgan head coaches reach milestone achievements spread out over all three seasons: football coach Chuck Smith 300 wins, boys basketball coach Wayne Cichon 500 wins and baseball coach Mike Watt 500 wins.
    Colgan won No. 500 for Coach Watt with a 3-2 win over Frontenac in Game 1 of a high-caliber Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League doubleheader at JayCee Ballpark.
    “The wins and losses aren’t something I really think about,” Watt said. “When I coach, I get lost in the game. I guess that’s why you call it a passion. When I’m out here and on the field, I don’t think about anything but what’s going on in the ballpark and I get totally lost in it.”
    Frontenac won the second game 2-0 for a split and over 14 innings of baseball, Frontenac and Colgan totaled seven runs on 16 hits due to the pitching of Sam Gilbert, Christian Cedeno and Jack Villamaria (Colgan) and Blake Vail and Matt Standlee (Frontenac).
    “The pitching was just exceptional,” Watt said. “Everybody that went out there. Blake Vail and Matt Standlee and Sam, Christian, Jack, they all went out and pitched exceptionally well. It was fun to watch and it was exactly what we expected, two top teams going at it and it was fun. These are the games that kids love to play in and coaches love to coach.”
    Coach Watt actually reached 500 wins a few games sooner but he does not count regional bye wins on his record.
    Since 1986, the Panthers have 24 state tournament appearances, 12 state championships, three state runner-ups, one third place finish, three fourth places and 15 CNC League titles.
    Frontenac wins state baseball title
    There’s always something very special about a first.
    For example, the Frontenac Raiders won their first league title in baseball during the regular season and topped that with their first state baseball title in the postseason, building on a third-place finish from the previous season.
    The Raiders defeated the Wellsville Eagles 12-2 in the Class 3A title game at Tointon Family Stadium on the campus of Kansas State.
    Frontenac head coach Bill Sullivan, outfielder-pitcher Blake Vail and shortstop-pitcher Matt Standlee were found amidst the jubilant celebration of a community which had grown even closer together during the baseball season.
    “Words can’t even describe it,” Sullivan said. “It’s what you go out and play the game for. It’s a tough road to get here and for all the adversity they faced this year, just to keep going and going and going nonstop, words can’t describe it. I don’t even know if it’s sunk in yet. It’s a great feeling.”
    “The feeling is just indescribable,” Vail said. “It feels great to be here.”
    Page 3 of 6 - “It feels good to be a state champion,” Standlee said. “We came in confident because we went to state last year and we had a lot of our starters coming back. We felt good about this year and we just wanted to get back to state.”
    Frontenac ended its historical season 24-2 and the core players of the championship nucleus return for the 2013 campaign.
    McNair wins state title
    Girard junior golfer Timbrelee McNair has been one of the best area golfers since her freshman season.
    She outdid herself her junior season.
    After taking fourth in the season-opening tournament in Joplin, McNair won nine straight tournaments, established multiple school records, won a regional title on the home course and won her first Class 4A state title by sinking a birdie putt on the first playoff hole, tying her own school record lowest 18-hole score of 72 for the milestone victory.
    “My putter was definitely on that day,” McNair said. “It was kind of a bit of luck. A couple days before state, we changed the grip on my putter. If you’ve ever changed the grip on a putter, it’s so different when you first start out. It was really new. I was really nervous about my putting going into it. That was probably the most nerve-wracking part about it . . . but I putted great.”
    She was recognized in the pages of Sports Illustrated.
    McNair broke her own season average record for the second consecutive year, finishing at 77.3 her junior season after 83.6 (sophomore) and 85.8 (freshman). She owns the records for best 9-hole score (36) and best 18-hole score (72) in Girard history.
    Seybold wins back-to-back state titles
    Pittsburg wrestler Aaron Seybold (now plying his trade at Labette Community College, defending national champions) won his first state title his junior year at 135 pounds in Class 5A and he came back his senior year to win at 145 pounds in 4A, winning a 2-1 decision over Jonathan Blackwell of Bonner Springs. The wrestlers had a combined 81-4 record entering their match.
    “Basically, going into it, I knew it was going to be real close,” Seybold said. “It was going to be a nailbiter. In the first period, I was trying to get a feel for him and I was trying to keep my distance for a second and see what the feel was because I like doing that when I’m wrestling somebody like that when there’s so much at stake. I felt him out for that first period and that 2 minutes felt like it took 10 minutes.
    “But then, in the second, I got first choice and I chose down because I wanted to get the first point. I got a reversal pretty quick and then I knew I had two more periods to not let him score. I rode him out for the whole second period. . . . That last 1 1/2 minutes of the third period, my heart was racing because I didn’t want to make any mistakes.”
    Page 4 of 6 - Seybold finished his senior year with a 38-2 overall record, earning his place as one of the best — if not the best — wrestlers in PHS history.
    “Seybold has done something that in 32 years has never been done at this high school and that’s win two individual state championships,” Pittsburg head coach Scott Rieck said. “To beat Jonathan Blackwell from Bonner, he’s a three-time finalist and returning state champion, was a great win and the pressure on Aaron all year, having a bull’s eye on him from coming back and being a state champion, everybody wants to beat that guy. That’s a feather in your cap and that’s what I tell our kids, ‘It’s not the tournaments you win that makes you a great wrestler but it’s the individuals that you beat that makes you a great wrestler.’ For him to be a state champion, everybody wanted to beat him.”
    Bennett joins his brother as state champ
    Pittsburg wrestler Broc Bennett closed out his high school career with his first state title with a 3-1 overtime decision over Bo Lanning of McPherson. That was three less periods than his four-overtime semifinal win over Caleb King of KC Piper. Losing his junior year motivated Bennett for his senior year.
    “I ended up getting fifth (at state, junior year) and it was very disappointing,” Bennett said. “I let my coach (Scott Rieck) down a little bit. He expected a little more out of me. I started working out more and started doing summer wrestling for the first time ever in my junior year, going to Junior Nationals at Oklahoma City and just getting a little more mat time in. I did more to get myself ready for the upcoming high school year.”
    Bennett joined his older brother, Beau, as state heavyweight champions, becoming the first pair of brothers to win state titles for PHS.
    Bennett helped pitch the Purple Dragons into the state baseball tournament for the first time since 2008 and played in the Kansas Shrine Bowl in July.
    Bever coaches his final game
    There have been only three head baseball coaches in the history of the Pittsburg State baseball program and Steve Bever coached his last game in May after 22 seasons at the helm of the Gorillas.
    “Oh, it’s been great,” Bever said at a ceremony held for him with several former players in attendance. “You make so many good friends over the years and it’s just a lot of fun to see all those guys and think that you may have been a positive influence or been a good friend and they certainly have helped me over the years. It’s not only the game of baseball. It’s been a lot of fun.”
    Page 5 of 6 - Bever played four years (1966-1969) for the first head baseball coach at Pitt State, Al Ortolani, and rebuilt the Pitt State baseball program starting from the ground up in 1991 since it was discontinued before the 1973 season.
    Pitt State closed out its season with a four-game series against Central Missouri, a traditional baseball powerhouse, at Ortolani Field.
    The Mules swept the Gorillas and the first day of the series was Alumni Day. Two of his former players were on the field, Central Missouri head coach Tommy Myers and former Pitt State assistant Daniel Esposito.
    “It’s certainly bittersweet to have Tommy here this weekend,” Bever said. “Central’s obviously very good and it’s tough to beat them but it’s good to see Tommy and have him be a part of this. It’s neat to see both third base coaches be a couple of my all-time favorite players.”
    Bever finished his career with a 565-529 overall record, good for a .516 winning percentage.
    Murray hired as new PSU baseball coach
    Former Central Missouri assistant coach Matt Murray became the third head coach in Pitt State baseball history, hired on June 1 and officially introduced June 5.
    Pitt State athletics director Jim Johnson touched on qualities which made Murray stand out among 100-plus candidates and two other finalists for the head coaching job.
    “We were looking for somebody that had a vision and had a plan for what Gorilla baseball could be in what’s going to be a new MIAA, moving into a new region and place our baseball program, along with our other sports, on a national stage,” Johnson said. “We wanted someone that could develop and train players, we wanted someone that could develop a coaching staff, we wanted someone who could build a schedule that would position us to compete for regional bids, conference championships and a shot at the College World Series and maybe, most importantly, we wanted someone that had a plan to insure academic success for our student-athletes. . . .
    “We were looking for a winner. We wanted someone that could join the rest of this coaching staff in taking this baseball program and putting it on a national stage. You heard Dan (Wilkes) talk about Matt’s record as an assistant and as a head coach and how he’s never been part of a losing season. That’s pretty impressive.”
    Pitt State begins its 2013 season Feb. 16-17 with a two-game set against Maryville. The Gorillas play their first four games at home, including a MIAA doubleheader Feb. 20 against Central Oklahoma.
    McCormick signs with Santa Fe Fuego
    St. Mary’s Colgan graduate Adam McCormick took off in 2012 and became one of the elite hitters in the NAIA his senior year at Tabor College.
    Page 6 of 6 - At one point, he was the leading hitter in the country and he won the NAIA National Hitter of the Week and the KCAC Player of the Week for the week of March 26-April 1, as Tabor went 7-1 over that span and McCormick hit .577 (15-26) with five doubles, three home runs and 16 RBI.
    “I feel like I have always been a pretty good hitter,” McCormick said, “but this year I have just been seeing the ball really well and finding holes in the defense. It helps to hit with runners in scoring position, opening up holes for me to possibly to hit through.”
    McCormick finished his 2012 season with a .441 batting average, 16 doubles, one triple, eight homers, 63 RBI and 51 runs scored, earning McCormick a spot on the NAIA All-America first team (first All-American in Tabor history).
    He kept up his torrid hitting for the Haysville Heat of the Jayhawk Summer Collegiate League. McCormick helped the Heat win the Midwest Regional Championship and finish ninth in the NBC World Series.
    Recently, McCormick signed with the Santa Fe Fuego of the Pecos League, an independent minor league featuring teams like the White Sands Pupfish, the Las Vegas Train Robbers, the Roswell Invaders, the Alpine Cowboys, the Raton Osos, the Carlsbad Bats, the Taos Blizzard and the Trinidad Triggers.

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