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The Wild West

What the f*** is going on in the National League West?

Major League Baseball is no stranger to surprises and twisting storylines, but the NL West has been turned completely upside down in the year 2021!  Not only have the reigning World Series champions not been in 1st for the majority of the season, but one of the worst teams from the 2020 season has had the best record in the league.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been one of the most dominant forces in the baseball world for the past five years or so.  They have constantly won the NL west title, they have constantly had one of the best records in the Major Leagues and they have constantly been the team to beat.  The Dodgers were the world series champions in 2020, and they absolutely ran through the competition on the way there.  So what could change in the 2021 season?  They brought back all the all star players from the year prior and even added some new additions.  They were the favorites to win it all at the beginning of the season.

The San Francisco Giants did nothing special in their 2020 season.  They finished 2 games below .500 at 29-31.  They didn’t compete for a wild card spot.  They didn’t even finish 2nd in the NL West.  So how with an almost identical team have they managed to not only lead the NL West for the majority of the 2021 season but also hold the best record in baseball?  

The Giant’s success may come down to one stat that not many baseball fans know about.  That stat is The Beane Count.  The Beane Count sums up a team’s  home runs hit, walks drawn, home runs allowed, and walks allowed.  In the statcast era of baseball, this may seem excruciatingly simple, but it works.  When a team performs well in all of these areas, they are proven to be successful.  Last year’s World Series teams, the Dodgers and the Rays, ranked one and two in the Beane Count last season.  The year before that?  The Astros won the world series, and had the best Beane count in the American League.  The Giants are first in home runs hit, fourth in walks taken, second-fewest home runs allowed, and have the fewest walks issued.  This is a taylormade recipe for success. 

The only question left is if the Giants can continue this success.  They most definitely aren’t the most talented team in the league, but you don’t find yourself with the best record in baseball by being lucky.  The team chemistry and development of players have led this team to the tremendous success that they have experienced this season, but will it be enough?

Everyone loves a good underdog story, so those pulling for those bay area bashers better cross their fingers.  As we reach the final stretch of the season, we are going to see what this team is really made of. With competition as tough as the Dodgers and the Padres, we might just have a shootout on our hands.

The Two-way Titans of Piedmont

The talent and play of the Piedmont Lions baseball team is a complete electric factory.  The team constantly has new faces stepping up in big situations to accompany the reliable starters.  While the team is no stranger to success, it may look a little different than it has in past years. 

Carter Ballstadt, younger brother of All-American Brady Ballstadt, has had an immense impact on the team since he first stepped foot on campus.  Ballstadt was the closer for the Lions his freshman year, thanks to his flamethrowing arm.  Since his freshman year, Ballstadt has only improved as a pitcher.  Now, in his senior year, he is leading the Lions offense as the starting center fielder.

Harrison Trawick is another senior stand out player for the Lions.  Trawick started a handful of games at third base for the Lions his freshman year.  His sophomore year, he found himself at the helm of the infield, playing shortstop in every game of that season.  As a senior, Trawick has moved to the outfield and has followed the footsteps of Ballstadt by playing the field and pitching.  

This two way talent is very new to the Lions baseball team.  While they have always had immense talent on both offense and defense, two way players have not been common.  This upcoming season will be a very new feel for the Lions.  Trawick and Ballstadt have two of the best arms out of Piedmont’s bullpen, and they are both offensive juggernauts at the plate.  With the amount of young talent that makes up the rest of the team, the Lions have a lot to look forward to in the 2022 season.  

“It’s not something you see very often, but I’m glad that I can make an impact hitting and pitching.  It isn’t easy, but if I can make the team better I’ll do whatever it takes.”  Ballstadt knows that what he does on the field isn’t a simple task, but easy isn’t what he is worried about.  The success of his team comes first.  

“I’ve seen what an impact Carter has on the team, and I want to give everything I can.  I pitched in highschool, but I never thought that I would be in college.  Coach Scali gave me a chance last year and I guess I was able to shake off the rust.”  Trawick is looking to emulate the impact that Ballstadt has had the past three years.  

Ballstadt and Trawick are roommates, so maybe some of the two-way magic has rubbed off.  This year they will be sharing the outfield and the mound for the first time. The two will look to improve on last season’s disappointing end by winning a conference championship. 
The Lions have come up short the past few seasons to Lagrange College.  Their pitching fell just short last year, but with Trawick’s added talent and a healthy Ballstadt at closer, the Lions may have one of the best bullpens in the conference if not the country.  These additions are looking very hopeful for the Lion’s 2022 season. 

LA’s Big Three

Why Does Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers make sense? There are a lot of answers to that question. 

After he averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds last season with the Washington Wizards, leading them to the playoffs with fellow superstar Bradley Beal, Westbrook is being shipped to the Lakers. The package for the superstar included Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a first-round draft pick, which turned out to be Isaiah Jackson. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in four of the last five seasons, dating back to his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

Does “Brodie” have the desire to put his pride and stat line aside to refer to James and Davis this season in hopes of capturing his first NBA Title? I think it is very possible to do, but there are reasons that it may not work out — the biggest being shooting ability. 

LeBron James has always had shooters around him on a championship team — that’s what makes him thrive in an offense. Westbrook is not known for his great shooting ability, if any ability at all. The Lakers finished 21st overall last season in three-point shooting percentage28th overall in free-throw percentage and 12th overall in field goal percentage. Does Westbrook help these stats? Simply put, no. Westbrook shot 43.9% from the field overall, while only shooting 31.5% from three-point range and 65.6% from free-throw range. This is not what the Lakers need, but it’s what they got. James is going to be running the show and Westbrook is there to take the focus off Davis and James, h allowing them to stay healthy. This is especially important for James as he enters is 18th season in the league. 

The Russell Westbrook sign-and-trade allowed the Lakers to acquire different players to surround the three stars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook. These players included future Hall of Famers Dwight Howard, who was a part of the 2020 Lakers Championship team, and Carmelo Anthony who can still play at a high level despite coming off the bench. Veterans like Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, and Kent Bazemore allow James to attack and have the ability to kick out to a very reliable three-point option. Other signings like Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk bring youth, and perimeter defense along with the three-point option. These players are pieces of the Lakers puzzle that can allow them to contend for an NBA Championship next season.  

Westbrook would not be enough by himself alongside James and Davis, simply because he does not shoot the ball well. It would be easy to beat the Lakers with just those three by making them shoot jumpers. That’s not either of their strong suits, so it could be a recipe for disaster in LA.  

With the help of these key additions the Lakers big three of Westbrook, James, and Davis are NBA Title contenders. 

Anthony Jordan: On the right track

Tragedy, heartbreak and hardships. Student-athletes encounter so much more than people think, life is not all joyful and fun because of the way a person may seem on the outside. After losing his father, Piedmont University’s Anthony Jordan encountered such hardship. 

Jordan was recruited during both his junior and senior years of high school by previous head track and field director/coach Jeff Jenkins and assistant BT Pham. “When Coach Pham contacted me regarding Piedmont, I immediately became interested because it was the first school in Georgia to reach out to me,” said Jordan. “When I talked to them, they really made me feel wanted and valuable to the team, which helped my decision.” 

Unfortunately for Jordan, what he did not know is that the passing of his father would make him change his mind. “My dad died a month exactly before I graduated high school, which made me want to quit everything — track, school, etc. That’s how rough that moment was for me,” said Jordan. “My dad always wanted to see me graduate, and he always told me that I was going to be better than him, so getting this degree means so much more.”  

Another rough thing Jordan dealt with came shortly after his commitment to Piedmont. Coach Pham, who had been recruiting Jordan to come and jump for the school, decided it was time to move on. He left Piedmont to take on a new job at a different college before Anthony even got on campus. “Not having him here after recruiting me was a let down because he was the coach that got me here and I really wanted to work with him,” said Jordan. “At the same time, I had the mentality of just coming here to stay focused and make my dad proud of me.” 

Since coming to Piedmont as a freshman in fall 2018, Jordan has done just that, helping lead the Lions to two conference championships while also getting many individual accolades. In the 2019 season, Jordan made two All-Conference teams — second team for the long jump and third team for the triple jump. Jordan also made the USA South All-Sportsmanship Team in 2019.  

“I feel like it would make my dad proud because he was always one of my biggest supporters. When I decided to quit football and focus on track, he was my biggest fan and said he’d love me no matter what sport I wanted to play,” said Jordan, who is a criminal justice major. “He was a great athlete in high school in Miami so I wanted to do the things he couldn’t do collegiately.” 

Although the 2020 season that was cut short due to COVID-19, Jordan broke the school record for indoor long jump with a mark of 6.82 meters. In the 2021 season, Jordan made three All-Conference teams. First team for the long jump, first team for the triple jump, and first team for the 400-meter relay. Once again Jordan made the USA South All-Sportsmanship. 

Jordan has encountered two different coaches since he has been here at Piedmont. Coach Taylor Browning and Coach Remel Williams. 

“Coach Browning was a great coach, and his coaching style was something that I was not used to, so I had to get adjusted to being coached that way,” said Jordan. “After getting accustomed to the way Coach Browning was coaching, I saw better results in my jumps and sprints.”  

Coach Williams is heading into her second year as Piedmont’s sprint/ jump coach, so she has the best relationship with Jordan than any other coach on the team does. “Ant is a great student-athlete and such a great leader for the younger people on the team, I know I can count on him to help others when I’m not around or busy with other athletes,” said Williams.  

“Even though he is one of the biggest goofballs I know here, he is also one of the hardest workers and takes accountability for all his actions.”   

Williams has high hopes for Jordan this season because of the dedication that Jordan has to make nationals for both indoor and outdoor long jump events. “I know Anthony can make it to nationals, I just need him to go out there and have fun while doing it. Breathe and stay focused during all his events no matter what,” said Williams. “If Anthony can take everything we work on in practice and translate it to every meet we go to this year, there is no doubt he can make it to nationals this year.”  

Jordan has done better with Williams at the helm of things and continues to do great things ever year. “Remel is a great coach, she really wants us as a team to stay healthy and make good choices, so that’s always good to have a coach that cares,” said Jordan. “I expect big things from not just myself, but from the team as a whole this year.”  

Going into what could be his last year of track and field for Piedmont University, Jordan has high hopes for the season and is happy with the decision he made four years ago. “I really came to Piedmont because it’s a small family-oriented college, and I never been a big University type of guy,” said Jordan. “My parents and grandma also loved the environment. Coming here has allowed me to accomplish goals that I know my father would be proud of so I’m glad I came here.” 

The UCL Recovery Process

One of the toughest injuries in baseball for a pitcher is Tommy John Surgery, in which you tear your UCL — a ligament in your elbow. Junior sports communication major Michael Thomason, who is on the Lions baseball team, tore his UCL last season and is now almost fully recovered from his injury and is ready for the 2022 season to start. 

Thomason has proven to be one of the hardest workers on the team, and his coaches and teammates were devastated to see him go out with this injury last season. He was looking for a big spot in the bullpen last year, but he is now more determined than ever and has learned a lot from his recovery process. 

“It definitely took a lot of work both mentally and physically, but looking back on it I wouldn’t change this journey for the world,” said Thomason. “It’s been a blessing in disguise and I honestly have grown in ways I never would have expected.” 

Thomason has developed a lot of good thoughts even though he had to miss a season. Instead of doubting himself, he worked even harder to fully recover and become a better pitcher than before. He is determined to play a big role for the team this year on the pitching staff. He has not just improved physically, but he has worked harder mentally to overcome this injury and not just shutting down and not working as hard. Coaches have recognized this work. 

“He has been working really hard in his physical therapy and is dedicated to do anything to get out back on that field,” said team graduate assistant Ethan Darrow. “We hope for a bright future for Mike and hope to see him succeed this season for the team. Mike has been a leader for us on and off the field and we hope to see him help lead us to a title this season.” 

The UCL is definitely a major injury to come back from, but as one of the left-handed pitchers on the staff, coaches hope Thomason could be a big factor this upcoming season. Thomason said he’s ready for the challenge.

“Now I am in the final stages of my recovery and it really shows me how powerful God and hard work truly are,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back on a mound again and compete.” 

Playoff Push

With the postseason a month away, the Atlanta Braves look to win their division despite losing their best player and other key players for the rest of the season. The Braves started out the year struggling and were stuck in 3rd place in the NL East for a number of weeks. One of the few bright spots Atlanta was Ronald Acuna Jr., who was having an MVP season. But on July 10, Acuna would suffer a season-ending injury, which seemingly eliminated any hopes for a  playoff push. 

As well as losing their best player, they had lost ace pitcher Mike Soroka, and two big bats in Marcell Ozunaand Travis d’Arnaud before Acuna’s injury. Of the three, only d’Arnaud would return this season. But little did we know some players would step up. Austin Riley has been putting up MVP numbers this year with a .306 batting average, 28 home runs and 83 RBIs. With struggles at the beginning of the year, former MVP Freddie Freeman is back and is in form, dominating the month of July with great stats. In the month of July he would have a batting average of .375 with 36 hits including 9 extra base hits and 15 runs batted in.  Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies have also stepped up late to help this Braves team compete for another division championship.

The Braves pitching has had an up and down year so far. The starting pitching has looked solid for the most part. Leading the way is veteran pitcher Charlie Morton, who was signed in the offseason and leads the staff with 12 wins and 181 strikeouts. Max Fried is in second with 11 wins and 131 strikeouts. Both these guys have looked good and they hope to continue to lead the pitching staff. Although most of the starters have looked good this year, the bullpen has been a struggle for the Braves. They have blown a lot of games, especially earlier in the season. The Braves definitely need the bullpen to do well in the month of September in order to make the playoffs.

The month of August was great for the Braves, as they won 18 of 26 games thanks to some key additions before the trade deadline. After Acuna got hurt, they immediately traded for Joc Pederson to play right field. They also traded for former Brave Adam Duvall, who had been hitting well, as well as outfielders Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler. Both have contributed so far to help the team be successful in August. They would then trade for relief pitcher Richard Rodriguez who has had a great year to help with the bullpen struggles. After all these trades, the team has looked good and has given Braves fans hope for another division title.

The Braves can win the division as long as they keep competing and playing Braves baseball. The rest of September looks hopeful as the Braves play teams who are not having good years until our last two series which are against the two contenders in our division, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. Even though we don’t have some of our best players for the rest of the year I can see us being a World Series contender if we put all the pieces together. 

Call Her Coco

Cori Gauff, also known as “Coco” Gauff on the court, is a top-notch player on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour. She started from the top 600 at the age of 15 to now being in the top 25. People may have thought that it was not a good idea for this 17-year-old American to play against the other women on tour because she might get burned out. She wanted to put a name for herself because of two athletes on the tour that inspired her. They are the reason Coco wanted to begin tennis.

Gauff made her debut in Wimbledon of 2019, coming in from qualifying to going all the way to the fourth round. She defeated a former number one player, Venus Williams, to make it to the second round, and she made a comeback, winning the second and third set after being down one match point. Another impressive thing about this run was that Gauff was only 15 years old, making her the youngest in the tournament. During her run at Wimbledon, she made a name for herself, which is where “Call Me Coco” came from.

A Cinderella story is what they called it for this young American. Coming in from winning a junior Grand Slams to qualifying in her first Grand Slam on the WTA tour, Simona Halep defeated the young American and ended up winning the tournament. Although Coco’s Wimbledon run was ended, the career for this young American was just beginning.

She was the youngest single finalist at the Junior US Open. A couple tournaments later, Gauff played in the juniors French Open, and won the tournament, only dropping one set in the finals. Gauff is a great singles player as a junior, but she was also a great doubles player. Gauff won her very first WTA title in 2019 at the Linz Open in Austria by defeating a former Grand Slam Champion and former top five player. Winning the tournament boosted her ranking into the top 75.

Gauff has won two WTA singles title and three WTA doubles titles. Catherine McNally is Gauff’s doubles partner, and they have made a name for themselves in the doubles aspect of the tour. They won their first WTA doubles title in 2019 at the Citi Open. With winning three titles together, there is no telling what this duo will conquer in the doubles tour.

Matt Williams, The New Men’s Tennis Head Coach

The Piedmont men’s tennis team has a new leader at the helm, as Matt Williams goes from being an assistant coach to becoming the head coach this season.

“I am inspired to be a coach because I know that athletics provide a unique environment to acquire essential life skills,” Coach Matt Williams said. “Win-loss records don’t make it to tombstones, but if you’ve impacted their lives, they’ll show up to your funeral.”

Williams received his undergraduate degree from Mercer University in 2012 and received his master’s degree from the University of Georgia in 2016. He started his tennis career at Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina in 2014 as an assistant coach. After leaving Southern Wesleyan, Williams became a graduate manage for women’s tennis in 2014-15 at the University of Georgia. Later in 2015-16, he became a volunteer assistant coach for the women’s team. Williams helped with the University of Georgia’s women tennis from 2014 to 2018, where he helped with recruiting and match day analytics.

With Williams at the helm, the team is hoping to build on its second-place finish in conference last season. In previous years, the team expectations were not as high as most of the players would have liked. But under Williams, that has changed, and players are already recognizing a difference.

“This tennis season is about the discipline and hard work we are going to have to put in,” said Cooper Kework, a senior player on the team. “I know it will pay off in the long run.”

Captain of the team, Kework feels the impact that Coach Williams is making this year. He is not the only one who feels the impact. The whole team can see the difference.

“Matt provides a major emphasis on investing in all of his players not only to become better tennis players, but better people. That says a lot about his character,” Kework said.

Williams wants the team to be closer together rather than being distant with each other. As a team he wants players to respect each other on and off the court. He also wants the team to be each other’s “safe place.” Communication is very big when it comes to teams, Williams said, and he wants the Lions to take it to another level.

“There is so much pressure on you especially if you are the last person on court and when you have that support from your team, which will help push you through the match,” Williams said. “We want the energy from our team to help encourage each other and push each other through the match.”

Wilson’s Goal? Stopping Yours.

Not even two weeks into the season, goalkeeper Madi Wilson for the Piedmont women’s soccer team, has proven she is ready to play by being recognized as defensive player of the week from USA South.

“It was definitely a well-deserved win,” says former Piedmont goalkeeper Miranda McNalley. “I look forward to seeing more shutouts from her and more awards given this season.” 

A lot of pressure has been put on Wilson’s shoulders this season, as McNalley played her final season last spring in 2021. McNalley played a total of 14 games and 1,174 minutes last season with giving up only 17 goals after having 114 shots taken on her. After having a conference winning season, Wilson is expected to have just as good, if not better season than McNalley. Wilson is a sophomore this year and with two freshman goalkeepers joining the team, she is expected to be a leader, which she has already proved she is ready to do.

McNalley has returned to Piedmont after graduating to help the team and specifically help the goalkeepers. McNalley’s knowledge and experience from playing on this team could be extremely helpful to the team this season. Wilson and McNalley already have a strong relationship from being teammates last season, so a good chemistry of working together has already been created.

“Getting the opportunity to help out the goalkeepers is really great,” McNalley said. “After playing in goal and being able to share my experiences is an awesome opportunity that [head coach] Timmy has given me.”

Last season, Wilson appeared in five games, which four of these she started in. She totaled 270 minutes and only gave up three goals. Already this season, Wilson has played over 200 minutes and hasn’t given up a single goal. In the lady lions’ conference, for goalkeepers, Wilson currently holds first place for goals against, save percentage and losses against.

Wilson has already shown to her coaches and teammates that she means business this season. With an incredible start to the season with not only amazing stats, but being recognized so early on from their conference, is a major step in the right direction, not only for Wilson herself, but for her entire team.

“She sees the field very well and has a great relationship with her back line,” says assistant Coach Stephanie Lamm. “Sometimes she doubts herself when she shouldn’t because she absolutely has the skill to win.” 

This is Lamm’s first season with the lady lions and she already expects big things from Wilson this year. Lamm said, “I see her being a leader since she’s already seen a whole college season, not to mention under COVID, so she knows what to expect but also understands anything can happen.” Not only are her coaches expecting to see big results from her, but she will have younger eyes on her this season as the incoming freshman keepers expect to see big results from her as well.

“Being the oldest [goalkeeper] makes me feel like I have a responsibility to take the freshman [goalkeepers] under my wing and fill that leadership role,” says Wilson. “But receiving defensive player of the week was a really good confidence booster which makes me excited to compete for another conference championship this season and hopefully take the team to nationals.”

After 16 Years, Lloyd is Ready to Say Goodbye

Tokyo Olympics: Carli Lloyd gets the exit she deserves with brilliant  bronze-medal game| Politi -

Carli Lloyd is one of the best players to join the field for the United States Women’s National soccer team. Although her parents wanted her to be a ballerina, at age 5 she knew that was not the path she wanted to purse. I bet all the U.S soccer fans out there can agree that even at such a young age, Lloyd was already making the right decisions for herself and her future by deciding to kick a ball around the yard rather than twirl around in a tutu on some stage.

Lloyd not only plays for the  USWNT but also plays for Gotham FC for the National Women’s Soccer League. She has super powers if you ask me. Lloyd recently turned 39 in July of 2021 yet still can show up some of the youngsters who have fresh legs and who are “more agile.” If you ask me, I’d be quite embarrassed being outran by someone who is almost twice my age. She is by far one of the hardest working players the USWNT or the NWSL has seen in a while, of course alongside past soccer legends like Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.

This girl is a beast and truly has deserved everything she has ever won or been recognized for. Lloyd has appeared and played in four World Cups, which two of those she has walked away as a world champion. Not to mention she also had won the golden ball as best player in 2015 when in the World cup Final, she shot from half field sealing her hat trick. The list of her achievements continues as she has not only played in four world cups, but also four Olympics, winning gold in 2008 and 2012 and recently a bronze medal this summer in 2021. 

Lloyd is a true leader and a loyal teammate. She stands for what she believes in…literally, unlike others on her team. She wants to win and compete. She has grinded for decades to achieve the things she has in her lifetime. Lloyd will forever be remembered for her hard work and dedication to this sport. After hanging her boots, whatever she decides to do next, I know she will continue to compete and be the best. That’s an athlete and that’s someone we all should be looking up to.

Lloyd will play her last ever professional game on Oct. 26 against South Korea at Allianz Field.