T-Bones sign two, including former major league infielder

The Kansas City T-Bones have announced the signings of Danny Richar and Stephen Rodgers for the 2014 season.

Richar is a 6-foot-1 and 205-pound infielder from La Romana, Dominican Republic.  Originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, Richar played in 56 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2007. He batted .230 with 43 hits, including nine doubles and six home runs.  The White Sox traded Richar to Cincinnati in 2008 as part of the deal that sent Ken Griffey Jr. to Chicago. Richar appeared in 23 Major League games for Cincinnati during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He spent the 2010 season at the triple-A level with Miami before playing in the Atlantic League in 2011. Richar missed the 2012 and ’13 seasons because of a knee injury. In 10 professional seasons, Richar is a .282 hitter with 1,164 hits, including 221 doubles and 88 home runs, with 484 RBIs and 95 stolen bases.

“Richar should provide a solid bat in middle of lineup and solid glove defensively,” said T-Bones manager John Massarelli. “He is 100 percent healthy and wanted to play here because he feels it gives him a chance to make it back to the big leagues.”

Rodgers is a 6-foot and 175-pound infielder from Sandy, Utah. After playing collegiately at Sterling College (Kan.), Rodgers spent his first professional season, 2013, with White Sands of the independent Pecos League.  He batted .276 with 27 hits and nine RBIs in 38 games. As a senior at Sterling, Rodgers was a Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference gold glove winner with a .988 fielding percentage after committing three errors during the season.

“I haven’t seen (Rodgers) play, but I’ve received a lot of great reports on him,” Massarelli said.

The T-Bones open the 2014 regular season at home on May 15 against Lincoln.

Piper girls to compete in state basketball semifinals Friday

The Piper High School girls basketball team advanced to the state semifinals with a 77-70 victory over Coffeyville March 12. Here they pose with a trophy following the substate victory. (Piper file photo)

by Mary Rupert

The Piper High School girls basketball team made the final four, advancing to the state semifinals with a 77-70 victory March 12 over Coffeyville.

The Lady Pirates advanced to the semifinal game, which will be at 6:30 p.m. March 14 in Salina, Kan., vs. No. 1 seed, Wamego. Both teams have won at least 20 games this season.

Doug Key, Piper athletic director, said Wamego has a 23-0 record this season with a 39-game winning streak. Piper this year is 20-3.

Key noted that Wednesday night’s victory over Coffeyville was probably the most points scored all year by the Lady Pirates.

He said Piper players who led in Wednesday’s scoring included Haley White, Megan Woolley and Jessica Wayne.

“Everybody that played really contributed last night,” he said. “It was a great team victory.”

In other high school basketball action, Washington High School lost 73-47 to Highland Park on Wednesday in Class 5A boys competition.

Sumner Academy (10-12) takes on McPherson (20-1) in Class 4A boys basketball competition at 6:30 p.m. March 13.

Newton eyes ‘worst to first’ KCKCC cage scenario for 2014-2015

by Alan Hoskins

From worst to first? “I don’t think that’s unrealistic depending on how recruiting finishes up,” said Kansas City Kansas Community College first year men’s basketball coach Kelley Newton.

“I think the future is bright. I love the foundation we’ve laid, the direction the program is going and see us just getting better and better and better,” Newton said.

While a 7-25 overall record and winless Jayhawk Division II season was not what Newton had envisioned when he was named head coach July 8, 2013, the record belies the improvement made by the Blue Devils by season’s end.

Although down to just seven healthy players the last 11 games due to injuries and suspensions for team policy violations, the Blue Devils took four of the last five regular season games right to the wire – losing two by one point and two by two points – before avenging two earlier losses with a 69-57 upset win at Johnson County in the first round of the Region VI playoffs.

The big finish came without a sophomore on the squad – or a player taller than 6-foot, 4 inches. Lucas Smith, a 6-3 forward from Omaha, led the regular season in both scoring (11.0) and rebounding (7.4) although 6-4 Marcus Allen, a Sumner Academy grad who joined the team at the semester break, had the best average of 12.4 points in 15 games along with 5.3 rebounds.

Clay Young, a 6-4 forward from Lansing, was second in scoring (10.0) and rebounding (5.6) while 5-8 point guard Anthony Ridley of Hogan Prep led in assists (4.4) while averaging 8.9 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Stephen Leimbach of St. James Academy led in 3-point goals with 70 while averaging 8.4 points; guard Nate Collins of Pembroke Hill was second in assists with 2.7 and averaged 3.8 points; and Collin Adney of Oklahoma City averaged 4.2 points.

“Throughout the course of the season, I think we grew up and when you grow up you get better,” Kelley said. “I think Clay Young really matured and became a better player and Anthony Ridley became a better basketball player just to name a couple.”

But the Blue Devils were without their one returning starter from a year ago, guard Antonio Winn who suffered a season-ending leg injury in the second game of the season, and lost a 21.8-point guard in Brandon Ward to academics at the semester break.

The Blue Devils also played a gargantuan road schedule with 12 of their first 15 games on the road against top notch opponents.

“We never make excuses,” Newton said. “I never allow a team to make excuses. You start making excuses, you’ve already lost or are looking for a way out. That’s a topic for someone else. As a team, they’re told that no matter what hand they are dealt, to never give up and through the course of the season they put us in position to win basketball games.”

The Blue Devils played six two-game classics, five on the road. That won’t happen this coming season as some former opponents return to the schedule.

Labette has joined Johnson County, Fort Scott, Highland, Hesston, Brown Mackie and KCKCC in a seven-team Division II conference while the Blue Devils will resume Jayhawk Conference play with Division I teams Cowley, Neosho County and Allen County at home and Independence and Coffeyville on the road.

“We played hard this year but we need to get better in a lot of different areas and we can through recruiting,” Newton said. “One of my goals is to get the school and community behind us and pack the Field House every night. I want this program to be known nationally, not just conference-wide.”