Jennie Finch

Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez weigh in on Mo’ne Davis

Leave a comment

Before Mo’ne Davis, the most famous female pitchers were Olympic champion softball players such as Jennie Finch and Lisa Fernandez.

Finch and Fernandez took notice of the 13-year-old star of the Little League World Series.

“She’s breaking down barriers,” Finch said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s so exciting to see her not only make it this far, but shine on this big stage. A lot of young girls I’m sure are looking up to her and watching her.”

There are parallels. Let’s start with women striking out men.

Finch is known by baseball fans for making Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols look foolish in the batter’s box. Finch’s 2011 book was titled “Throw Like A Girl.”

Fernandez said “throw like a girl” used to feel like a putdown, but that women have come such a long way — boosted by softball being part of the Olympics from 1996 through 2008 — that the phrase is now jocular.

“It doesn’t have any relevance anymore,” said Fernandez, the greatest pitcher in Olympic history who won three gold medals.

Fernandez pointed to added respect, evidenced with one of her Olympic teammates, Jessica Mendoza, now working as an analyst for ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

Davis’ baseball days appear numbered. She has said she prefers basketball long-term.

“I’m a little bummed about that,” said Fernandez, an assistant softball coach at UCLA. She has seen women’s high school baseball players transition to softball and play collegiately.

Throwing motions in baseball and fast-pitch softball are completely different — and so are the objects they’re hurling, of course. The Taney Dragons ace could be a shortstop or third baseman in softball. Her overhand arm strength suits those positions.

“There’s nothing to say that she couldn’t [be a softball player],” Fernandez said. “There’s one thing they say you can’t teach, and that’s arm strength and velocity. That’s an impressive gift that she has.”

From CSN Philly: Mo’ne Davis and Taney ready for toughest foe yet

The sport of softball failed in a joint bid with baseball to get back into the Olympics last year, losing an International Olympic Committee vote to wrestling.

The Women’s Softball World Championship is taking place in the Netherlands right now (the U.S. is 5-0 with a 37-3 run differential and three mercy-rule wins).

Fernandez remembers the first U.S. Olympic softball team in 1996. A majority of that roster grew up playing baseball, she guessed, because softball wasn’t as widespread.

Whether it’s baseball, softball or basketball, Fernandez is excited about Davis’ exposure.

“It’s only going to help women’s athletics,” she said.

Mark McGwire remembers baseball’s Olympic boom in 1984

Amanda Kessel ‘dream come true’ in University of Minnesota return

Amanda Kessel
AP
Leave a comment

Olympic silver medalist Amanda Kessel recorded two assists in her first game in nearly two years, coming back from a concussion for the University of Minnesota on Friday night.

“I think I’d regret it if I didn’t get back to this point,” Kessel said after a 3-0 win over North Dakota, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Kessel, 24, last played in the Sochi Olympic gold-medal game and then sat out nearly two years with symptoms from a concussion reportedly suffered before the Winter Games. Coach Brad Frost said in July that Kessel wouldn’t play this season, ending her college career.

But in August, new doctors gave Kessel hope she would play again.

On Friday, she skated on the Golden Gophers’ top line after the school’s medical staff got second and third opinions before clearing her to play, according to the newspaper.

“If I was going to get back to playing, I was going to be 100 percent healthy and be able to get in there,” Kessel said, according to the Pioneer Press. “I felt great being able to get in corners and get hit and stuff like that.”

Kessel, the 2012-13 NCAA Player of the Year for the undefeated national champion, said she wasn’t 100 percent in “game shape” and that she felt like a rookie, but that she’s ready to challenge herself in the final month and a half of her senior season.

“I don’t think I’ve heard it that loud since we won the national championship here [on March 22],” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “So many people were just so excited to see her work her way back to where she is now.”

MORE: How Amanda Kessel became a star for U.S. hockey team

Kjetil Jansrud wins first ski race on 2018 Olympic course

Kjetil Jansrud
AP
Leave a comment

JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Kjetil Jansrud confirmed he’s the skier to beat on the downhill course for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, winning the test event by a comfortable margin Saturday.

The first downhill course in South Korea also won mostly praise from skiers and the International Ski Federation.

“If you want to be the best you have to ski anything,” Jansrud said. “This is more than an acceptable Olympic downhill. The way it’s running now it’s almost a little too fast because the jumps are so big. But that makes it exciting.”

Giving Norway its 17th World Cup win of the season, Jansrud was nearly flawless and clocked 1 minute, 41.38 seconds for a 0.20-second advantage over Dominik Paris of Italy.

Steven Nyman of the United States finished third, 0.41 behind, in perfect conditions with clear skies, cool temperatures and hard snow.

It was Jansrud’s third win of the season and first in downhill after taking the season-long title in the discipline last season.

“This is probably the first run I’ve skied this season without mistakes,” he said.

Jansrud also led both training courses on the newly developed Jeongseon course.

Paris and Nyman each posted their first podium results of the season.

“In the summer I was thinking this is a highlight of the season to come here and to really learn about the culture and learn about what we’re going to experience during the Olympics,” Nyman said.

“I want to feel comfortable and come here with the expectations and I want to do well, too, because I know the Olympics are going to be here in two years,” Nyman added. “I did well and I’m happy. I think the course really suits my skills.”

A super-G is scheduled for Sunday in the first of 28 test events for the next Winter Games.

“Today we put Korea on the map of the international sports world,” Pyeongchang organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho said. “This is just the beginning.”

While the course is not the most challenging of tests for World Cup racers, it features four big jumps, sweeping turns and is designed for small margins.

“It’s a downhill that is really made for the Olympics,” International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper said. “It’s not Kitzbuehel or Wengen — that we don’t need for the Olympics.”

It was only the third World Cup downhill held in Asia, and the first in South Korea.

Todd Brooker of Canada won in Furano, Japan, in 1985 and Peter Mueller of Switzerland won at Furano in 1987.

More than 1,000 fans attended the race, which was preceded by an opening ceremony featuring traditional dancers with skis on their backs.

Most of the spectators had to hike 500 meters (yards) up a steep hill to the finish area, since a planned lift for fans hasn’t been installed yet.

There were also cheerleaders to keep the spectators entertained, and many skiers bowed to the crowd after their runs according to the local custom.

Peter Fill of Italy finished fourth and Beat Feuz of Switzerland was fifth.

Jansrud is fourth in the overall standings, which are led by Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

Aksel Lund Svindal, Jansrud’s teammate who will miss the rest of the season following a crash in Kitzbuehel (video here), Austria, still leads the downhill standings by 71 points ahead of Fill. Jansrud is third, 109 points behind.

VIDEO: Ted Ligety out for season after torn ACL