Wong comfortable in role with Cardinals

The Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. — Going into spring training, St. Louis manager Mike Shildt delivered the message second baseman Kolten Wong always wanted to hear.

Wong wouldn’t have to prove himself. He didn’t have to be perfect. The former University of Hawaii standout from Hilo would be the Cardinals’ starting second baseman.

“It’s something I’ve asked for since I got to the big leagues, just a chance to go out there and play every day,” Wong said.

Last year’s midseason managerial change relaxed Wong. And a comfortable Wong proved to be a valuable player.

“Kolten, last year, he may have been the best second baseman in baseball the second half of last season,” said Shildt, who replaced Mike Matheny in mid-July.

A career .255 hitter over six seasons with an above-average glove, the 28-year-old Wong hit no better than .210 in any one of the three months prior to Matheny’s firing and no worse than .280 in any month that followed.

Wong doesn’t believe the improvement is coincidental.

“Shildt came in and it gave me that flexibility to be myself and play my game,” Wong said. “The rest is history, I guess.”

Matheny’s intensity, Wong said, never allowed him to feel comfortable in his role.

“I will just say the leash wasn’t too long for me, that’s just how it went,” Wong said. “It was a very short leash. It’s tough to play when you have that kind of pressure. Obviously, I want to play every day. In order for me to play every day it was a make-or-break situation every single day. It was tough.”

Wong is taking an aggressive approach this spring. Unafraid of making mistakes, he’s looking to take the extra base. At the plate, he’s able to work on his swing or situational hitting without feeling the pressure to produce statistically.

Wong is hitting .269 with a homer, a double and two stolen bases in Grapefruit League play.

“Before I felt like I was kind of getting tested from the very beginning and if I wasn’t doing good it was kind of, shame on me,” Wong said. “It was a tough time for me trying to figure out how to just go out there and play my game without having that pressure — if I don’t do good today, I’m definitely not going to play tomorrow.”

Possessing a nice blend of power and speed, in years past Wong expressed his desire to hit at the top of the order. With Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler healthy, that won’t happen.

Shildt expects Wong to create scoring opportunities from the bottom of the lineup.

“Kolten’s our second baseman,” Shildt said. “I think it’s pretty clear that’s the case. He knows that. He’s had a solid spring across the board. He’s in a good place.”

Rainbow Wahine fall to Aggies in Big West final

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Morgan Bertsch scored 24 points, Cierra Hall added 14 and UC Davis rallied from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat the University of Hawaii women’s basketball team 58-50 on Saturday and win the Big West Conference tournament.

The Aggies (25-6) — who are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 — trailed 45-36 early in the fourth quarter but scored 16 straight points during a 9:12 span. Sophia Song gave UC Davis the lead for good on a 3-pointer with 4:18 remaining.

Bertsch, who is the Big West’s player of the year and was named the tournament’s MVP, scored six points during the run and Hall added four. The Rainbow Wahine missed their last 12 shots from the field and had four turnovers during the run.

UC Davis was 7 of 27 from the field in the first half but went 13 of 25 over the final 20 minutes. Hawaii made nine of its first 18 but was 9 of 40 the rest of the game, including 5 of 25 in the second half.

Tia Kanoa had 15 points and Leah Salanoa scored 14 to lead Hawaii (15-16), which is headed to the WNIT.

“They knew we had the opportunity to win this and a little bit of pressure from Davis in the second half really affected us,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “The basket got really small and the lights got really bright.”

Bertsch scored the Aggies’ first six points and gave them a 6-5 lead before Hawaii went on a 17-4 run the remainder of the quarter to take control. Kanoa had 10 points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave the Rainbow Wahine a 22-10 advantage at the end of the first.

UC Davis missed all six shots from the field during the run and committed four turnovers while Hawaii was 7-of-12 shooting.

Hawaii led 32-18 at halftime and was up by as many as 17 early in the third quarter when the Aggies started to rally. They went on a 14-3 run to close the third as Bertsch scored five points to get within 42-36.

College Basketball

Saturday’s Results

MEN

TOURNAMENT

America East Conference

Championship

Vermont 66, UMBC 49

American Athletic Conference

Semifinals

Cincinnati 66, Wichita St. 63

Houston 61, Memphis 58

Atlantic 10 Conference

Semifinals

Saint Louis 67, Davidson 44

St. Bonaventure 68, Rhode Island 51

Atlantic Coast Conference

Championship

Duke 73, Florida St. 60

Big 12 Conference

Championship

Iowa St. 78, Kansas 66

Big East Conference

Championship

Villanova 74, Seton Hall 72

Big Sky Conference

Championship

Montana 68, E. Washington 62

Big Ten Conference

Semifinals

Michigan 76, Minnesota 49

Michigan St. 67, Wisconsin 55

Big West Conference

Championship

UC Irvine 92, Cal St.-Fullerton 64

Conference USA

Championship

Old Dominion 62, W. Kentucky 56

Ivy League

First Round

Harvard 66, Penn 58

Yale 83, Princeton 77

Mid-American Conference

Championship

Buffalo 87, Bowling Green 73

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Championship

NC Central 50, Norfolk St. 47

Mountain West Conference

Championship

Utah St. 64, San Diego St. 57

Pacific-12 Conference

Championship

Oregon 68, Washington 48

Southeastern Conference

Semifinals

Auburn 65, Florida 62

Tennessee 82, Kentucky 78

Southland Conference

Championship

Abilene Christian 77, New Orleans 60

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Championship

Prairie View 92, Texas Southern 86

Sun Belt Conference

Semifinals

Georgia St. 59, Texas St. 46

Texas-Arlington 67, Georgia Southern 58

Western Athletic Conference

Championship

New Mexico St. 89, Grand Canyon 57

WOMEN

TOURNAMENT

Big West Conference

Championship

UC Davis 58, Hawaii 50

Colonial Athletic Association

Championship

Towson 53, Drexel 49

Conference USA

Championship

Rice 69, Middle Tennessee 54

Ivy League

Semifinals

Penn 91, Harvard 62

Princeton 68, Cornell 47

Mid-American Conference

Championship

Buffalo 77, Ohio 61

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Championship

Bethune-Cookman 57, Norfolk St. 45

Missouri Valley Conference

Semifinals

Drake 65, Illinois St. 54

Missouri St. 89, N. Iowa 64

Southland Conference

Semifinals

Abilene Christian 88, Lamar 79

Texas A&M-CC 58, Stephen F. Austin 56

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Championship

Southern U. 45, Jackson St. 41

Sun Belt Conference

Championship

UALR 57, South Alabama 56

Western Athletic Conference

Championship

New Mexico St. 76, Texas Rio Grande Valley 73

Thomas plays matchmaker for newly engaged Wie, West

By DOUG FERGUSON

The Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Calif. — Major champion. FedEx Cup champion. And now Justin Thomas has another title.

Matchmaker for Michelle Wie and Jonnie West.

Wie, a former U.S. Women’s Open champion from Honolulu, revealed on Instagram this week she was engaged to West, the Golden State Warriors’ director of basketball operations and the son of NBA great Jerry West.

And it all started with an exchange of text messages.

“They both asked me about each other,” Thomas said.

Thomas has been close friends with Wie in South Florida, where they both live. She made him a red, white and blue pair of shoes after Thomas won the 2017 PGA Championship that had “major” on the heel of one shoe and “champ” on the heel of the other.

A few years ago, he stayed at the home of Jerry West — in Jonnie’s old room — during the PGA Tour stop at Riviera when the former Lakers star was the tournament’s executive director. Thomas came to know Jonnie West when he went to Warriors games.

“I don’t know Jonnie really, really well, but I know him well enough to know he’s a really good dude and a hard worker, and I know Michelle would appreciate that,” Thomas said. “And I know he’s over 6-foot, which is a necessity for Michelle. And Michelle is the best. She can get along with anybody.”

Thomas is not sure how they first connected. Wie, who has been coping with a wrist injury, graduated from Stanford and spends plenty of time in the Bay Area.

“They both — literally within the hour — asked me about the other one,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘Yeah, she’s great, he’s great. You guys should meet up.’ She goes out west a lot. He’s obviously in San Francisco. She was like, ‘All right, I’m going to meet up with him.’

“I’m not going to lie,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I didn’t think it would turn into that. But I’m glad it did.”

West and Wie did not mention a wedding date in the Instagram post, though Thomas suggested it would be this summer during the PGA Tour’s lucrative FedEx Cup playoff events.

“She wants me to marry them,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to. We were talking about it, and I don’t think the dates are going to work out. She wants me to skip a (FedEx Cup) playoff event.”

Rainbow Wahine edge Matadors, secure No. 2 seed

The Maui News

The University of Hawaii women’s basketball team held off Cal State Northidge for a 69-68 win in Northridge, Calif., on Saturday, securing the No. 2 seed for this week’s Big West Conference tournament.

The Rainbow Wahine (14-15, 10-6 Big West) ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak.

Amy Atwell led UH with 18 points and six rebounds, while Leah Salanoa scored 16 points, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Tia Kanoa added 10 assists, falling two shy of Tricia Stringham’s school record set in 1992.

The Rainbow Wahine led 36-30 at halftime and 67-60 going into the last five minutes of the game. Cal State Northridge (16-14, 10-6) went on an 8-2 run that started with back-to-back layups by Serafina Maulupe. With 15 seconds left, the Matadors call a timeout. After the team break, Channon Fluker attempted a game-winning 3-pointer but barely missed, giving the Rainbow Wahine the win they needed for a double-bye in the conference tournament.

Maulupe finished with 24 points. Fluker added 20 points and 15 rebounds.

UH is set to play in the Big West semifinals on Friday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., at 11:30 a.m. HST.

Stepteau leads UH to win over Fullerton

FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — Brocke Stepteau had 21 points to lead the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team to a 71-59 win over Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

Zigmars Raimo had 12 points, while Drew Buggs added seven rebounds for the Rainbow Warriors (18-12, 9-7 Big West Conference), who entered the game already locked into the fourth seed for this week’s Big West tournament.

Hawaii headed to the locker room at halftime trailing narrowly, 34-33, but the Rainbow Warriors were able to outscore the Titans 38-25 in the second half to roll to the 12-point victory. The Titans’ 25 points in the second half were a season low for the team.

Jackson Rowe had 16 points for Cal State Fullerton (14-16, 10-6). Khalil Ahmad added 11 points and Kyle Allman Jr. scored 10.

The Rainbow Warriors will take on No. 5 Long Beach State in the quarterfinals of the Big West tournament on Thursday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. HST

Rainbow Warriors rally past Aggies

DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — Brocke Stepteau scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team exploded for 51-second half points to beat UC Davis 76-69 on Thursday to end a three-game losing streak. UC Davis led 36-25 at intermission and extended the margin to 42-28 on TJ Shorts II’s jumper with 18:41 remaining. The Rainbow Warriors then went on a 19-2 run for a 47-44 lead when Eddie Stansberry buried a 3-pointer six minutes later and Hawaii (17-12, 8-7 Big West Conference) never trailed again. UH finished 15-of-28 shooting (53.6 percent) and made five of their eight 3s after the break. Hawaii made 18 of 20 overall from the foul line. Stansberry finished with 12 points, Drew Buggs scored 11 and Leland Green 10. Shorts led the Aggies (11-18, 7-8) with 26 points as he made half his 14 shot attempts and missed just one of 12 foul shots. Matt Neufeld scored 12, Joe Mooney 11 and Siler Schneider 10. The Aggies now have lost four of their last five. The Rainbow Warriors, who took sole possession of fourth place in the Big West standings, close the regular season at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

Northridge spoils UH’s Senior Night, 84-73

The Maui News

Terrell Gomez scored 32 points as Cal State Northridge spoiled Senior Night for the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team by defeating the Rainbow Warriors 84-73 on Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

Jack Purchase led UH (16-12, 7-7 Big West Conference) with 20 points and seven rebounds, but the Rainbow Warriors were unable to match the hot-shooting Matadors.

Northridge shot 50.8 percent (32 of 63) from the field, including 43.8 percent (7 of 16) from the 3-point line. Gomez hit five 3-pointers.

Lamine Diane added 25 points for the Matadors (13-17, 7-7). Drew Buggs had 11 points, and Zigmars Raimo, Eddie Stansberry and Brocke Stepteau each scored 10 for Hawaii.

The Rainbow Warriors finish the regular season on the road against UC Davis on Thursday and Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

Rainbow Wahine rout Titans in home finale

The Maui News

Courtney Middap scored 14 points to lead the University of Hawaii women’s basketball team to a 70-55 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

Leah Salanoa added 11 points and Amy Atwell had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Rainbow Wahine (12-15, 8-6 Big West Conference) in their home finale.

UH outscored the Titans 22-9 in the second quarter, taking a 35-23 lead into halftime. Fullerton slowly chipped away, eventually closing within four points twice in the fourth quarter before Middap and Salanoa each hit back-to-back 3s to put Hawaii ahead 63-47 with 4 minutes, 37 seconds remaining.

Daeja Smith scored 22 points and Raina Perez added 11 to lead the Titans (13-14, 5-9). UH next plays at UC Riverside on Thursday.

NCAA proposes replay tweak to targeting, 2-pt OT shootouts

By RALPH D. RUSSO

The Associated Press

The NCAA football rules committee announced several proposed changes Friday, including giving replay officials more leeway to overturn targeting penalties and requiring games reaching a fifth overtime to be decided by alternating 2-point conversion tries.

The committee met in Indianapolis this week, and the proposed changes also include tweaks to kickoff and blind-side block rules. The proposals must be approved by the football oversight committee in April. They would go into effect next season.

Two changes to targeting were proposed.

The first would allow replay officials to examine all aspects of the play and confirm the foul when all elements of targeting are present. If targeting cannot be confirmed, the call would be overturned, eliminating the option for the call on the field to stand. Targeting would still result in a 15-yard penalty and ejection of the player who committed the foul. Players ejected in the second half would still be required to sit out the first half of the following game.

The goal of the proposal is to call targeting more accurately and have fewer players ejected for borderline calls. LSU lost All-America linebacker Devin White for the first half of a game last season against No. 1 Alabama after he was ejected on a questionable targeting call in the second half of the previous game against Mississippi State.

The American Football Coaches Association had endorsed changing targeting to a two-tiered foul, with only the most egregious and intentional hits to the head being penalized with an ejection.

Steve Shaw, the NCAA’s national coordinator of football officials, said the replay change will be a “surrogate for Targeting 1, Targeting 2.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, the rules committee chairman, said he didn’t see the proposal as a compromise, but as “another way to get the same goal.”

“We want the discipline to be severe for helmet-to-helmet contact, but we also want it to be right,” David Shaw said. “That was kind of the idea of the two-tiered system. What we’re saying with this rule is we’re going to make sure of the ejection to make sure that it’s right. The goal is the same, to make sure we are ejecting players properly for the right reasons and if they don’t commit the foul then we’re not going to eject them. I don’t see it as necessarily backing down.”

Under the second proposal, players who receive a second targeting foul during the season would be suspended for the entire next game, not just the first half. Steve Shaw said in the two conferences he oversees as coordinator of officials — the Southeastern Conference and Sun Belt — he can recall only one player in each league receiving multiple targeting penalties in a season.

The overtime rule change was proposed after LSU and Texas A&M matched a record by playing seven overtimes in their regular-season finale last year. The Tigers and Aggies combined to run 207 offensive plays.

On average, 37 Bowl Subdivision games have gone to overtime over the past four seasons. Most end after one round of possessions. Only six games per season have gone past two overtimes, but the concern was those rare marathons came with increased injury risk for players.

“We wanted to have something where we don’t change the integrity of our system, which we all love,” David Shaw said. “You pass four overtimes, you pass five overtimes and now you’re worried about player safety.”

Current overtime rules give teams alternating possessions starting at the opponent’s 25-yard line. If still tied after each team has two possessions, teams must attempt a 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown instead of kicking an extra point.

If the proposal passes, after the fourth possession, games would come down to a 2-point play shootout, with the first team to get a score and a stop winning.

“It still feels like football,” David Shaw said.

The committee also proposed eliminating the two-man wedge formation on kickoffs that result in sprinting players running into double-team blocks. A proposal regarding blind-side blocks would make it illegal to attack an opponent with forcible contact from the blind side.

Rainbow Wahine fall to Big West Conference-leading Aggies, 72-46

The Maui News

The University of Hawaii women’s basketball took a 72-46 defeat from UC Davis on Saturday in Davis, Calif.

Almost from the start, the Big West Conference-leading Aggies (19-6, 11-1) kept a big lead over the Rainbow Wahine. UH recorded 21 turnovers during the game.

Tia Kanoa and Myrrah Joseph led Hawaii (11-15, 7-6) with nine points each. Kanoa also had six rebounds.

Despite the final score, the overall field goal average between both teams were close. UH with 43 percent and UCD only slightly higher with 45 percent.

The Eaton sisters proved to be game changers for the Aggies. Karley and Kourtey were 5-for-5 and 4-for-5 from the 3-point line, respectively, boosting the team’s total to 62 percent (13-of-21).

UH is fifth in the conference with three regular-season games remaining. Up next, the Rainbow Wahine will face Cal State Fullerton on Saturday in their last home game of the regular season.