Category: Tampa News

Tampa Comes From Behind in Big Win

The 2017-18 NHL season has been a very competitive one. There have been several different teams in the league that have shown that they are quite dominant and could do very well when the playoffs start. One team that has continued to be extremely competitive in the NHL is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The first 70 games of the season, the Lightning have won 50 games and have the best record in the Eastern Conference. They also look like a favorite to lock up home ice advantage through the playoffs.

This past week, the team continued to impress people with a very impressive come-from-behind victory that they had. On Wednesday, after falling behind the Toronto Maple Leafs by score of 3-0, Tampa Bay made a courageous come back and ended up winning the game by a score of four goals to three (http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/bruins/2018/03/nhl_roundup_lightning_erase_3_goal_deficit_rally_past_maple_leafs_4_3).

During the game, the Lightning struggled at first to gain the cohesion that they had all year long. While they fell behind early, the team did not give up. Towards the end of the second period, Victor Hedman scored his 13th goal of the year to bring the game closer. While they were still down by 2 goals heading into the third period, the team looked very dominant despite the disadvantage. Within the first four minutes of the period, the team was able to tie the game after Ryan McDonagh and Nikita Kucherov were able to score goals. Then, with about 9 minutes to go in the game, Alex Killorn was able to score the game winning goals.

While the Lightning were able to hold on to the advantage, the end of the game was very exciting. In fact, the Maple Leafs were able to get a power play advantage late in the game, but the defense and goal keeping of Tampa Bay was able to keep Toronto out of the goal.

This ended up being a very big win for Tampa Bay. Not only did they build on their first place lead, but they were able to look tough against a formidable opponent. At this point, Toronto looks as if they will easily make the playoffs and could be seeing Tampa Bay again in the near future if the two get matched up.

The Willie Taggart Era Officially Begins at FSU

At just 41 years of age Willie Taggart has been given the reins to one of the blue-chip programs of college football, Florida State University, and March 21st marks the first time that Taggart can take the field with his players and get out there for a practice. It has been a meteoric rise for Taggart, a native of Bradenton, Florida, spent the previous season at the University of Oregon but was lured back home to coach the Seminoles due to the opening left by Jimbo Fisher bolting for a massive contract at Texas A&M. Previously to that, Taggart helped build the University of South Florida into a respected program and in his last season with the Bulls led the team to a 10-2 record including a conference title. This season will be the largest spotlight Taggart has ever coached under but he is known as a fierce competitor and the roster he was bequeathed is still one of the more talented in the country. Florida State fans are known for their high expectations, and Willie Taggart and this Seminoles team will need to come out to a hot start today at practice if they want to live up to those expectations.

While we won’t likely learn too much from the team’s first practice it is still going to be a welcome sight for FSU fans to see Taggart conducting drills in the Seminoles gold & garnet colors. Last year FSU underperformed, in large part due to injuries at key positions such as Quarterback, but perhaps hearing a new voice leading the team will begin to motivate the team to bounce back in the 2018 season. Every practice will need to count for the Seminoles as they actually open up next season with a matchup against familiar ACC foe Virginia Tech. While the game against Virginia Tech will be at home, FSU will take to the road to take on Syracuse and then Louisville, both respectable programs that could pull off an upset if FSU is not prepared.

The opening practice surely won’t make or break the Florida State football program, but it is the symbolic opening of the Wille Taggart era. And while Taggart’s experienced success at USF and is heralded as an elite recruiter the simple fact remains that he has never been in charge of such a large program before, so the first day of practice will also be a chance for Taggart to shake the nerves off a bit.

Tampa Bay’s New Direction for Day Five Starter:

Jake Odorizzi is with Minnesota and Alex Cobb is still unsigned as a free agent. That’s two of Tampa Bay’s starting pitchers from 2017 no longer with the club. Compounding things is one of the Rays top relievers from last year, Tommy Hunter, is now with the Phillies. Manager Kevin Cash has a lot of work to do this spring getting his pitching staff in order in time for March 29th, when Tampa Bay opens the 2018 season against the defending American League Champion Boston Red Sox.

One possible bright spot for the rotation could have been righty Jose De Leon. A top prospect in the Rays organization, he suffered a serious injury to his right elbow and could be gone for an extended period. Another top prospect who may have helped Tampa Bay later in the year, Brent Honeywell, is also gone for the year. The MVP of last year’s All-Star Futures Game, Honeywell underwent Tommy John surgery in February.

This has led Cash to try a different approach for the 2018 season. Instead of the typical five-man rotation, the Rays will have four regular starting pitchers, then on the fifth day, call it the multi-headed starter. Cash stated the fifth turn through the rotation would be reserved for three or four pitchers coming out of the bullpen, pitching to each batter in the opposing line-up once.

One of those relievers who’ll likely get a lot of fifth day action is the newest Ray, Daniel Hudson. Acquired from Pittsburgh in the Corey Dickerson trade, Hudson is an eight-year Major League veteran, the bulk of those years in Arizona, where he was a 16-game winner in 2011. Another key veteran to come out of the bullpen for the Rays on the fifth day is Sergio Romo. Acquired last year from the Dodgers, Romo was an integral part of the Giants bullpen in their world championship years of 2010, 2012, and 2014. Your text to link…

The biggest concern with Cash’s plan has to be what happens should he have to use a lot of relievers for the third or fourth man in the rotation?

USF Women’s Basketball Eagerly Awaiting Seeding

With just four days until the unveiling of the Women’s March Madness bracket the University of South Florida Bulls are ready to celebrate the culmination of a successful regular season and move on to the high-pressure stakes of the postseason. It’s been a heck of a year for the Bulls, finishing with an impressive 26-7 overall record and notching a 13-3 record within the American Conference, good for second in the conference behind perennial women’s power UConn. Indeed, it was the Huskies of UConn who beat USF in the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship to cap off their undefeated regular season. The Huskies have had USF’s number all season long, as they were responsible for 3 of the 7 losses the Bulls suffered this year. Bulls fans everywhere will be hoping that whatever part of the bracket the team ends up on, that it will be far away from UConn.

Speculation abounds over what seed the Bulls will garner themselves, with the common belief being that it will fall somewhere in the 3-5 seed range. Their strength of schedule is not all that impressive, finishing with the 74th most difficult schedule in D1 Women’s hoops, but they are currently ranked #19 in the country and are led by Senior forward Maria Jespersen who has picked up her play significantly down the stretch. This season has been another impressive notch on the belt of Coach who has now been at the helm for 18 seasons, turning the program into a perennial contender. After the tournament selections becomes official on Tuesday, Fernandez will have led his team to March Madness for a school-record 4 seasons in a row.

While the skill necessary to routinely make the tournament can’t be understated, it goes without saying that Fernandez and his team will be wanting to make a deeper run than they have in previous seasons. Despite his rock-solid consistency, Coach Fernandez has yet to lead the Bulls past the second round of the tourney. However, many analysts seem to believe that this USF team is poised to break into the Sweet 16, and maybe even beyond.

As the selections draw nearer and nearer USF’s players, coaches, and fans will be waiting in anticipation to see when and where they will be slotted — and once that’s figured out, the real fun begins!

Rays Pitcher Jose De Leon Out for Season

In another setback in what has been a frustrating offseason for Tampa Bay Rays fans, highly regarded pitching prospect Jose De Leon went down with an injury to his UCL in spring training — an injury which will require him to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entirety of the 2018 MLB season.

De Leon, a 25 year old righty from Puerto Rico, was widely regarded as a potential bright spot on an otherwise depleted Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff. Acquired from the Dodgers in a 2017 trade that sent second baseman Logan Forsythe to Los Angeles, De Leon was expected to crack the opening day lineup and provide valuable innings out of the bullpen for Tampa Bay. Unfortunately this injury is just one in a string of many for De Leon, who missed a large chunk of last season due to elbow tendinitis. Of course, injuries to a pitcher’s arm are considered especially tricky and not so long ago a UCL injury and Tommy John surgery would mark essentially the end of a pitcher’s career. Luckily with advancements in medical technology and more experienced doctors, nowadays a pitcher can return within roughly a year after receiving the surgery and perform at a high level. Another cause for optimism amongst the Rays faithful is that De Leon will be seeking out a second medical opinion from widely regarded doctor James Andrews who has performed surgeries on high-profile pitchers such as: John Smoltz, Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood and Yu Darvish amongst others. If Andrews can once again work his magic then there is no reason to doubt that De Leon will be rested up and ready for spring training this time next year.

While this is surely a disappointment for Rays fans and De Leon, what’s most important now is that the pitcher focuses on his physical rehab so that he can be ready to attack the 2019 season. What has been made clear is that when healthy, Jose De Leon is a formidable hurler and the type of young talent the Rays will need during their rebuild; his minor league 25-15 Win/Loss record and 3.32 ERA are proof that if De Leon can stay on the field he can be a major contributor against top-level talent.

Bucs Look For New Backup QB

In 2016, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the best young teams in the NFL. The team ended up finishing with a record above .500 and looked as if they were poised to be great in the future. While there was a lot of promise heading into the 2017 season, the team struggled a lot during the year. This was largely due to injuries as well as clarity that the team was not as strong and some positions as they had bought. While the team ended up finishing with the record of just five wins and 11 losses, there are still reasons to believe they could be good in coming years.

One of the main reasons for optimism in Tampa Bay is due to its quarterback. The team is led by young quarterback Jameis Winston. He was previously a number one overall pick out a Florida State University and has continued to show that he’s very talented and seems to be developing at a good pace. At this point, the team will have a lot of choices to consider when it comes to trying to walk him into a longer-term deal. While this will be a priority for the team in the future, there are other decisions that need to be made at the quarterback position as well (http://www.espn.com/blog/tampa-bay-buccaneers/post/_/id/20178/bucs-qb-plan-secure-backup-before-spending-big-jameis-winston).

As the 2017-18 offseason continues, one of the biggest choices that the team will have to make is about how to handle the backup position. During 2017, the team was able to sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick seemed to be a great fit for the team due to the fact that he was a seasoned veteran that also could play well when necessary. However, now that the season is over, there is a good chance that he could be moving on to another team. If Fitzpatrick is to leave, the team will need to find a backup immediately.

Currently, the team has just one other quarterback on its roster in Ryan Griffin. While he is not a back third option, the team will need to find someone who can reliably play if Winston was to get hurt. The team will likely focus on this in the coming weeks as team look to sign free agents and also prepare for the draft.

Buccaneers Keeping Options Open In Draft

It is hard to believe but we already just over a month out from the 2018 NFL draft which means front offices across the league, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are buzzing with anticipation surrounding the incoming prospects. After a lackluster 2017 campaign in which Tampa Bay finished a disappointing 5-11 the Bucs hold onto the #7 overall pick and could go a number of different ways with the selection.

One area that may need most urgent fortification is the offensive line. The Bucs finished 27th in total rushing yards last season and gave up a total of 40 sacks throughout the season. If the Buccaneers plan to continue building around Quarterback Jameis Winston, and by all indications that is their plan, then perhaps taking a Guard such as Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame. Nelson at 6’5 329 pounds has the type of size that General Manager’s love, and he’s considered to be one of the stronger run blockers in this year’s class. Opening up the running game and therefore some play-action looks may be exactly what the Tampa Bay offense needs to avoid another middling season in 2018.

However another area that needs urgent addressing is the Bucs pass coverage which allowed a league-high 260 Yards Per Game last season, this means the Tampa Bay front office is surely looking into a Defensive Back prospect such as Minkah Fitzpatrick out of Alabama. Fitzpatrick is a player who has an extremely high work ethic in addition to top level size and athleticism and has seen his draft stock rising in recent weeks. While it’s unclear if he’ll be available with the #7 pick, it’s easy to see the Buccaneers taking Fitzpatrick in order to shore up the porous secondary. If Fitzpatrick is off the board, the next highest rated defensive back is Denzel Ward out of Ohio State. Ward is considered a little bit undersized (5’10, 190 lbs.) and that has led some scouts to worry about his ability to lock down bigger receivers, but his elite athleticism and eye for the game will surely lead him to be selected in the first round — it’s just a question if the Bucs will be willing to take a flier on Ward as early as pick #7.

One thing is for sure, Tampa Bay has a lot of decisions to make before the draft begins on April 26th.

Tampa Bay Rays using four-man rotation

While there are more than a few Major League Baseball teams this year that are looking at going to a six-man pitching rotation, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to go in the opposite direction. Manager Kevin Cash announced on Wednesday that he is planning on going with a four-man rotation this season. That is indeed a bit of a surprise because while most teams aren’t looking at expanding the number of pitchers in their rotation, very few are using a four-man turn these days.

30 years ago, the rotation with just four starters was something that was seen quite a bit more often. Cash appears to be a bit of a throwback to that time. Cash was clear to point out that doesn’t mean there won’t be a strict four-man rotation. The one caveat is that there might be a bit of a change after the first six weeks of the season. As Spring training started, Cash talked about how he wanted to use the four starting pitcher method for the first six weeks. He added at the time there might be some days that would be considered a “bullpen day.” This would likely be a day where a reliever would actually start the game but only go two or three innings, then give way to yet another reliever.

That approach has been used more than once in the last few years by other teams. The big difference is that usually the bullpen day is used alongside a five-man rotation as a way to give everyone in the regular rotation a little bit of extra rest. Cash is one of the first managers in quite a while to move to a smaller rotation rather than a larger one.

Among the teams that have been looking for at a six-man rotation, the Texas Rangers had been contemplating making the move. It turned out the team scrapped those plans when veteran pitcher Cliff Lee made it clear it was not something he was going to abide by. The Giants and Chicago Cubs have both talked about going to a six-man rotation as well but at this point, both teams are going to be using a regular five-man rotation at the start of the 2018 season at the least.

Tampa Bay Rays using four-man rotation

While there are more than a few Major League Baseball teams this year that are looking at going to a six-man pitching rotation, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to go in the opposite direction. Manager Kevin Cash announced on Wednesday that he is planning on going with a four-man rotation this season. That is indeed a bit of a surprise because while most teams aren’t looking at expanding the number of pitchers in their rotation, very few are using a four-man turn these days.

30 years ago, the rotation with just four starters was something that was seen quite a bit more often. Cash appears to be a bit of a throwback to that time. Cash was clear to point out that doesn’t mean there won’t be a strict four-man rotation. The one caveat is that there might be a bit of a change after the first six weeks of the season. As Spring training started, Cash talked about how he wanted to use the four starting pitcher method for the first six weeks. He added at the time there might be some days that would be considered a “bullpen day.” This would likely be a day where a reliever would actually start the game but only go two or three innings, then give way to yet another reliever.

That approach has been used more than once in the last few years by other teams. The big difference is that usually the bullpen day is used alongside a five-man rotation as a way to give everyone in the regular rotation a little bit of extra rest. Cash is one of the first managers in quite a while to move to a smaller rotation rather than a larger one.

Among the teams that have been looking for at a six-man rotation, the Texas Rangers had been contemplating making the move. It turned out the team scrapped those plans when veteran pitcher Cliff Lee made it clear it was not something he was going to abide by. The Giants and Chicago Cubs have both talked about going to a six-man rotation as well but at this point, both teams are going to be using a regular five-man rotation at the start of the 2018 season at the least.

Gun Violence Action Demands in the Capitol of Florida

Florida’s capital became the center of the historic gun violence debate this week as a growing movement famously known as “Never Again” grabbed attention at the national platform. The demonstrators were demanding for action just seven days after the mass shooting in Parkland. Thousands of people assembled for a two-hour rally outside the state capital of Florida. Most of the demonstrators were students who forcibly agitated demands to American legislators to take action on gun violence. The students warned that if the lawmakers took no action at Capitol Hill, they would be risking losing their seats in the forthcoming mid-term elections scheduled for November this year.

The demonstrators were in deep grief morning their fellow students who were brutally killed at the Stoneman Douglas High School. One of the students at the demo, Sheryl Acquaroli said that the coaches, teachers, and students in Stoneman High School died because the people who had been entrusted to make laws that protected Americans had failed terribly. Acquaroli added that the students who had passed on will be remembered fondly and that they are bigger heroes than any of the member of Congress would ever be. Many of the demonstrators at the rally were not of legal age to cast a vote. However, they chanted slogans that told the Trump administration that enough is enough and urged the legislators to pass laws and regulations that would keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.

These demonstrations come at a time while legislators in the Halls of Washington pass a law that will require American learning institutions to display the motto ‘In God We Trust’. In just a few days, the largest demonstration had been staged in Tampa which broke the record that had remained for two decades. Just seven days after the horrific attack that left 17 people dead, survivors have made demands to Congress to pass measures of gun violence control. The proposed gun control measures include banning automatic assault rifles in the United States. Such a change has in the past faced opposition from members of Congress hailing from the Republican Party. Just a day before Valentine’s Day attack, the House of Representatives had blocked a motion that was presented to the House on the regulation of assault rifles by Democratic lawmakers.