Urban: Scouts high on newest Giant Keppinger


Urban: Scouts high on newest Giant Keppinger

July 20, 2011


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Mychael Urban

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Keppinger didn't arrive at the Home of the Ring on King until about 1:50 p.m. Wednesday, delaying his highly anticipated first start in orange and black.No matter. That merely provided more time to do a little digging on the guy who, at the very least, will be keeping second base warm until Freddy Sanchez makes a triumphant return to the Giants' lineup. At worst, in this case represented by potential complications from a potential Sanchez shoulder surgery, he's your starting second baseman for the start of 2012.
URBAN: Giants' Keppinger deal solid if unspectacular
This was no archeological dig in an exotic locale, mind you. For hours before every game at AT&T Park, you'll find three or four big-league scouts lounging in the press box, prepping their paperwork, swapping stories and generally solving every problem from Questec to the draft slotting system to the baffling selection of random hosts on the once-great The View.

They're more than happy to entertain any questions an industrious media type might have of a player on whom they have an opinion, and that covers pretty much every player who's strapped it on.Urban Shocker, for instance? Yeah, flexible guy, the scouts will tell you. Plus command. Nice little slide-piece. Character issues early but matured into plus makeup. Don't ask 'em how they know. Shocker's last season was in 1928. They just do. They're scouts. Come on.They know about Keppinger, too, and it would have been nice to record their thoughts on the guy for all Giants fans to hear. Alas, as much as scouts love to talk about any and all players, when it comes to being identified, they're downright Hughsian. Everything has to be anonymous.Not off-the-record. Anonymous. And here's what they had to say about Keppinger on Thursday before Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum locked horns in one of those rare pitching matchups that actually lived up to the hype.
RECAP: Kershaw outduels Lincecum in 1-0 Giants loss
Scout 1: "Kepp's a nice little player; I call him Kepp. Saw him at Georgia when I was a cross-checker. Liked him then, like him now."Scout 2: "I like him more now. He's filled out real nice."Scout 1: "Filled out, yeah. Still can't hit one out of my kid's Legion ball yard, though."Scout 3: "That's not the type of hitter he is, anyway. He's a slash and burn guy. Real aggressive. Doesn't even look to hit for power, it seems."Scout 2: "It's in there, though. He'll jump up and bite you here and there if you try to sneak 3-1 past his belt."Scout 3: "Has he even worked a 3-1 count? I haven't seen many of those with him. He's up there to hit. Look at his on-base. Not a big walker."Scout 1: "Not a big strikeout guy, either. Hardest guy to strike out in the league, I read today in one of the papers here."Scout 2: "You can read?"Scout 1: "I can read your mind. You're thinking about your next meal. I suggest a salad, porky."Scout 3: "Look at Mr. Universe giving dietary advice."Guys, guys. Can we re-focus here? Keppinger, remember? How's his D?Scout 2: "Better than most people think. He'll make the routines. Solid fundamentally. Won't hurt you. Almost never."Scout 1: "Won't be on Plays of the Week very often, though, either. He's what I like to call a base defender; athletic enough to make the plays you need to win and move around the diamond a little bit, but not athletic enough to save your ass very often."Scout 3: "Make enough routines and you're saving enough asses as it is."Scout 2: "Especially with this pitching staff. The Giants don't need highlight plays. They need plays, period. Freddy Sanchez isn't a highlight machine, either."Scout 1: "But Kepp's no Freddy Sanchez."Scout 2: "No, but he's similar in that he's solid, scrappy, hard-nosed like Sanchez."Scout 3: "Not as good a hitter as Sanchez, either."Scout 2: "Yeah, but he's not that far off. He can handle the two-hole like Sanchez, and he's gonna get you a bunch of hits."Scout 1: "Or at least hits in bunches."Scout 3: "Yeah. A little streaky. But aren't we all?"Scout 2: "Still waiting for you to get hot, actually. When's that gonna happen, anyway?"Scout 1: "Same time Kepp hits his 25th homer -- never. Nice little player, though. Giants did well on this."

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final


Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

HOUSTON — For the second straight season, Stanford found itself depending on penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.

Like last season, the Cardinal came out on top. After each team converted its first nine attempts in the tiebreaker, Amir Bashti made it 10-for-10 for Stanford. Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia then sent his try over the crossbar to end it, giving Stanford a 10-9 win.

"They had just as many good chances as us, and it could have been a 1-0 game either way," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said.

Stanford (14-3-5) will face Wake Forest in the College Cup final on Sunday in search of its second straight national championship.

"It's not his fault. We could have done things in the game to have his back," North Carolina defender Colton Storm said of Comsia's miss. "It could have been any of us."

"It's the nature of the game," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's moments you seize the moments, and sometimes it runs away from you."

North Carolina (14-3-4) had the two best chances of the game. Late in the second half, forward Alan Winn was denied by goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who made a nice save with his legs.

Later, Epstein made the best save of the match in the final seconds of the second overtime on a shot from forward Tucker Hume. After gaining possession in the right side of the 18-yard box, Hume unleashed a shot that Epstein deflected wide with his legs.

"He made the plays to keep the game at 0, and he deserves credit," Somoano said.

After a flurry of corner kicks and a free kick in an attacking area, Stanford had the best opportunity to score in the first overtime on a header from Drew Skundrich, but he put if over goalkeeper James Pyle, who had six saves. Foster Langsdorf, the Stanford goal leader who scored in the team's first three tournament games and has 15 on the season, had three shots and two on goal but was unable to break the deadlock before the game went to penalty kicks.

"Any result like that is going to be tough to swallow," Storm said. "Stanford's a really good team. We each had our chances. National semifinal, it's going to be tough to swallow no matter what."

While Epstein was unable to stop any of North Carolina's penalties in the shootout, his saves late in the game enabled Stanford to continue its quest for a repeat.

"Andy's never really attracted much attention, but when you're his coach you appreciate him," Gunn said. "You can depend on him."

Stanford has won 15 of its last 18 games after starting the season with three ties and a loss. The Cardinal have yet to concede a goal through four tournament games, while North Carolina's season ends after a third consecutive tournament shutout.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, Gunn praised his team for continuing to push forward this season.

"It's incredible," Gunn said. "You've always got to be optimistic. There's no point in being anything else. We started the year so well in January. I thought, 'These players are so hungry.'"

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."