BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday Weekly: May 24, 2023.
Well, it has been quite the ascension to the national spotlight. Sting Ray Robb, born in Boise and calling Payette home, will be in the field for this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. It happened last Sunday in Last Chance Qualifying at Indy — four racers competing for the final three spots — and it was an emotional scene when it was over. Robb’s the first Idaho driver to qualify at the Brickyard since Davey Hamilton in 2011. He is only 21 years old — the one-time go-kart racer debuted in the IndyCar Series less than three months ago. This is all so new; the Indy 500 isn’t even on the schedule on Robb’s website yet. And yes, Sting Ray is his real name. His parents are Chevrolet fans, and they named him after the car. It certainly works now.
Robb competed in the INDY NXT Series the past two seasons, registering 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums, two poles and a victory in the Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca. Robb was second in overall INDY NXT standings. His first IndyCar Series race was in March at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he finished 16th. Robb has come a long way since his days driving the Famous Idaho Potato truck.
NBC is televising the Indy 500. Network coverage starts at 9 a.m. MDT and runs through 2 p.m. on KTVB.
ADAM SCHEEL HAS COMPANY
Goaltender Adam Scheel deserves a break. It’s up to Idaho Steelheads coach Everett Sheen when it happens. But Sheen has options now, as another star goalie, Remi Poirier, has been returned to the team by the Texas Stars in time for tonight’s Game 3 of the ECHL Western Conference Finals at Toledo. It’s Scheel who has a league-record three straight playoff shutouts — including the sweep of Games 1 and 2 against the Walleye last weekend — and has made 100 consecutive saves. But you remember Poirier. He won back-to-back ECHL Goaltender of the Month awards in December and January. Poirier went an amazing 19-2-2 with a 2.07 goals-against average before being called up March 1. He went 5-2 in the AHL with Texas. It’s indeed a one-two punch now with Scheel and Poirier.
DEPENDABLE DOMINATION FROM GATLIN BAIR
“Consistency,” chuckled Burley High’s Gatlin Bair when he talked to reporters after the state 4A 100-meter final last Saturday. Bair had just run a 10.15 to win the championship at Mountain View High — the same time he ran in prelims on Friday and at District prelims the previous week, which were already the best ever by an Idaho high schooler. Now Bair has the overall state meet record, and he did it with Boise State offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan and wide receivers coach Matt Miller sitting in the front row at the finish line. “Those are my guys,” Bair told Jordan Kaye of the Idaho Press. “Two of the realist guys I know.” So, you’re tellin’ us there’s still a chance. Bair also set a state meet record in the 200 with his 20.41 second time on Friday, another personal best. He ran a 20.56 to win the final.
Bair broke the previous overall state meet marks in the 100 and 200-meter dashes set 12 years ago by Rocky Mountain star and former Boise State wide receiver Dallas Burroughs — 10.34 seconds in the 100, and 21.06 seconds in the 200. Of course, he’s one of the hottest football recruits in the country right now. And yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk, Bair told Prater & The Ballgame that Boise State is very much alive in the sweepstakes to land him. “BSU honestly will be in the top two pretty much no matter what,” Bair said. “It’s going to be between BSU and one of the other four.” The other four are Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon and TCU. (And that doesn’t even count his offers from Alabama and Georgia.)
PRESEASON FEVER FROM ATHLON
Preseason all-conference teams are trickling out, and one we always look at is from Athlon Sports. You can’t dispute that Boise State has the top running back tandem in the Mountain West. After all, they both made first team — George Holani and Ashton Jeanty. The only other first-teamer on offense was tackle Cade Beresford. And only one Bronco made the defensive first-team, linebacker DJ Schramm. But four Boise State guys are on the second-team offense: quarterback Taylen Green, wide receivers Stefan Cobbs and Latrell Caples, and guard Mason Randolph. It’s defense where the Broncos need to rebuild, and that’s reflected by Athlon. The only second-teamer is EDGE Demitri Washington. Jonah Dalmas was the second-team kicker. (The QB who beat out Green was Chevan Cordeiro of San Jose State.)
WAITING ON THE MAY 3 MYSTERY GUY
Boise State coach Andy Avalos tweeted out a “BlueBlood23” on Wednesday, May 3, meaning another commitment for this year’s recruiting class. Sources suggested the player coming out of the transfer portal was offensive tackle Ethan Carde, a massive 6-8, 325-pounder from Texas Tech. But nothing has come of that…yet. It’s been 2½ weeks, and we still wonder. Could it be Virginia Tech center Nikolai Bujnowski, a 6-1, 310-pounder who tweeted his commitment to the Broncos on Friday? Word is that Bujnowski is a walk-on, and Avalos doesn’t typically send out a “Blue Blood” bulletin in those cases. Plus, Bujnowski had been committed to Rutgers and didn’t open his recruitment back up until May 10. So it’s probably not him. Oh well. We’ve got 101 days ‘til the start of the season. The guy will turn up.
PRIME TIME ON LABOR DAY WEEKEND?
The Athletic is predicting what the national TV landscape will look like early in the college football season, and they ponder this about Week 1: “What will ABC show in its prime-time window? One possibility is North Carolina-South Carolina in Charlotte, with Tar Heels star Drake Maye as the selling point. But it’s unlikely either team will be ranked higher than No. 20 in the preseason, if at all, whereas Washington, led by Michael Penix Jr., should be in the top 10. So, we put the Huskies’ matchup with Boise State in prime time.” We would take it.
WE’VE SEEN WORSE LISTS
While joking that “I'm sure you will not disagree with a single one of the picks below!” ESPN.com’s Billy Connelly unveiled a list of the 75 best quarterbacks of the 2000s yesterday (the whole century to date). Connelly has Boise State great Kellen Moore at No. 14, writing, “50-3. Fifty and three! That was Boise State's record with Moore behind center. The Broncos went 6-0 against power conference teams, and two of their three losses were to teams with QBs on this list (Colin Kaepernick's Nevada, Andy Dalton's TCU). Ruthlessly efficient for four straight years.” Of course, everyone in blue and orange glasses thinks Kellen should be No. 1. To be fair, though, Connelly did try to separate NFL prowess from college excellence. No. 1 on his list is Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. No. 75 is Boston College’s Matt Ryan.
BULLDOGS WELLNESS CHECK
Just as Fresno State tries to paint a robust picture of its athletic program for Big 12 candidacy purposes comes a Fresno Bee story about possible budget cuts. University support for Bulldogs athletics dropped 22 percent after the first year of COVID and has not recovered. One big problem now is its undersold naming rights deal with Valley Children’s Hospital for Bulldog Stadium. Because other healthcare entities are shut out of sponsorships and most advertising at not only the stadium but other facilities now, Learfield trimmed its multimedia rights with Fresno State by almost 19 percent. Boise State’s multi-media rights are owned by Learfield, too, but nothing like this has happened to the Broncos. Fresno State says the revenue crunch does not affect the massive master facilities plan it just unveiled. it’s not forward progress.
NICE NIGHT, NOT-SO-NICE RESULT
‘Twas a mild, comfortable evening at Memorial Stadium for Boise Hawks Opening Night last night. And the crowd saw typical Pioneer League offense, as the Idaho Falls Chukars outlasted the Hawks 8-6. Boise had roared back from an early deficit to tie the Chukars at 5-5 in the fourth inning, but I.F. kept the home team at arm’s length from there. The first four batters in the Hawks lineup all had multi-hit nights, led by leadoff man Raymond Gil’s 3-for-4 with two runs scored. The Hawks are trying to bounce back from the worst season in franchise history, with a 30-66 record. But there’s an asterisk: it was one of the Hawks’ best years at the gate, as they finished second in the league in attendance. At this level, fans go to the ballpark to have fun, and they sure do here. One game down — 95 to go.
TROY BACK ON THE TRAIL
Troy Merritt resumes his search for a slump-busting weekend when he tees off Thursday in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Merritt, who was off last week during the PGA Championship, is still looking for his first money in a traditional format since January (he and playing partner Robert Streb did tie for 13th in team play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last month). Just too many bogeys.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…May 24, 1935:
The first-ever night game in Major League Baseball history, as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. The game drew 25,000 fans, who stood by as President Franklin D. Roosevelt symbolically switched on the lights from Washington, D.C. Most teams soon followed suit, installing lights throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Chicago’s Wrigley Field was the final holdout. The Cubs didn’t play a night game there until August 1988.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)
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