Just thought I’d empty out my reporter’s notebook while gearing up to watch this year's Little League World Series. Seeing the player from Tulsa, Oklahoma walk over and hug the pitcher from Pearland, Texas, who was shaken up after beaning the Tulsa kid with a fastball during a regional game this past week, was priceless ...
• The Connecticut Sun wraps up another successful season on Sunday, Aug. 14 with a 1 p.m. tip-off against the Minnesota Lynx at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun will be the No. 3 seed when the playoffs begin this week.
Now in its 26th season, the WNBA revamped its playoff format this year. The top eight teams in winning percentage during the regular season, regardless of their conference, are seeded 1-8 in a bracket-style tournament (teams will not be reseeded after the first round). The first round will be a best-of-three series and the semifinals and finals will both be a best-of-five series.
Since 2017, no team has won more regular season games than the Sun. The Sun are also one of five teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better since the league’s inception in 1997. The other four teams — the Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm, and Phoenix Mercury — have combined to win 14 WNBA championships.
The Sun has zero titles. Could that change in 2022?
Led by reigning league MVP Jonquel Jones, the Sun are as deep and balanced as they’ve ever been. Jones (14.6 ppg), along with Brionna Jones (13.7), DeWanna Bonner (13.6), Alyssa Thomas (13.2), and Courtney Williams (11.4) are also averaging double figures in points. Natisha Hiedeman (9.0) and DiJonai Carrington (6.8) have also made significant contributions.
The Sun have outscored (85.4 to 77.9) and outrebounded (37.0 to 29.1) their opponents while dishing out a team record 20.9 assists per game.
Defense has been a staple during Sun head coach Curt Miller’s tenure and once again the Sun have been one of the league’s top defensive teams this season.
Miller guided the Sun to the WNBA finals in 2019. The Sun also reached the finals in 2004 and 2005.
The playoffs begin August 17-18 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPNU. Could this be the year we finally get to see a championship parade in Uncasville?
• Is the UConn women’s basketball team cursed?
For too long Red Sox fans heard chants of “1918” as year after year the Curse of the Bambino proved to be the real deal (Google 1986 World Series). The Huskies haven’t won an NCAA title since 2016 when Geno Auriemma and Company throttled Syracuse, 82-51, in Indianapolis, winning their fourth straight championship and 11th overall.
Now, their best player, Paige Bueckers, is going to miss the 2022-23 season after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee during a pickup game. UConn’s championship drought has a good chance to reach seven years in April.
Even without Bueckers, it promises to be another fun and great season in Storrs. Among women's coaches, 99.9% would relish having a backcourt of Azzi Fudd, Caroline Ducharme, and Nika Muhl and a frontcourt with Aaliyah Edwards, Dorka Juhasz, Amari DeBerry, Aubrey Griffin, along with freshman newcomers Ayanna Patterson and Isunah “Ice” Brady.
And wouldn’t it be the crowning achievement of Auriemma’s Hall of Fame career if he could guide the Huskies to a national title without a former National Player of the Year in the lineup?
But if the curse is real, it won’t be so fun 20 years from now to see the Huskies roll into enemy arenas and hear the fans chanting “2016.”
• Trivia question: The NBA has retired the No. 6 jersey of Celtics legend Bill Russell, who died at the age of 88 on July 31. Players who wear No. 6 now will be grandfathered in but no player will wear Russell’s number in the NBA again. "This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game," NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement.
Russell, a five-time NBA MVP, 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer, joins two other players to have their jersey numbers retired throughout one of the major American professional sports leagues. Who are they? (answer below).
• Has there ever been a better baseball TV analyst than Dennis Eckersley?
Eckersley, who has been a broadcaster for NESN’s Red Sox telecasts since 2003, announced his retirement from the NESN booth this week. His last broadcast will be the regular-season finale on Oct. 5.
Eck was a joy to listen to. He had a unique verbiage. Eck was the guy who invented the word ‘walk-off.” Listeners needed an ‘Ecktionary’ to understand him. Here’s one example: “The manager has had enough of this salad. He’s going to the bullpen to find someone who can really bring the cheese. He’s looking for someone to bring the gas, a little high cheddar with some hair on it, maybe to buzz this dude’s moss and set it up so he can paint for a punchout.”
In 1978, when Eckersley was traded to the Red Sox, I was 16 years old and working weekends at the parking lot at Charles River Park, a luxury condominium complex right off Storrow Drive. Eckersley lived in one of the apartments. He drove a silver corvette and it was a thrill seeing him leave for Fenway on game days.
Eckersley was a combination of Joe Namath and Derek Sanderson while winning 20 games for the Sox in 1978. So cool. He’s going to be sorely missed.
• Putnam Science Academy big man Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso is joining the University of Kentucky this fall. While at PSA, Kingsley Onyenso was inserted into the starting lineup during last winter’s second semester and helped the Mustangs finish 38-0 en route to winning the National Prep Championship and AAA Power 5 Conference. The Nigeria native averaged 11.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.7 blocks per game.
“Ugonna is a great young man and what a bright future he has,” Putnam Science head coach Tom Espinosa said. "That Kentucky up and down style is going to fit perfect for him. Even though he was at PSA for a short time, he left a huge mark on the program. One of if not the best big man we have ever had. Runs like a deer, phenomenal hands, nice touch. He will only get better and better.”
• Trivia answer: Bill Russell (No. 6), Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and Wayne Gretzky (No. 99) are the only players to have their jersey numbers retired throughout one of the major American professional sports leagues.
• STUCK IN THE ‘70s: On this day - August 14, 1979 - the Boston Red Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins, 12-1, before 32,962 at Fenway Park. Fred Lynn powered the Red Sox’s 19-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs. Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski also homered. The winning pitcher? Dennis Eckersley. Eck allowed just three hits and no earned runs over six innings. He improved to 16-5 with a 2.74 ERA.
Jimmy Zanor can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Bulletin: Connecticut Sun championship hopes, UConn women cursed, other thoughts