Orlando Sentinel

We will all eventually die in the end

My grandfather has lived through the deaths of nearly everybody he’e ever known over the years. He turns 80 years old this July.

We often chat about this very topic over vodka and tonic each time he makes his annual trip south to pay me a visit. I’ve come to terms with the reality that I’ll be sitting in his seat decades from now sharing similar stories.

If it’s not the recent passing of pop culture figures I’ve grown up with in some form or fashion, such as David Bowie or Prince, it’s the moms and dads of friends who’ve been laying to rest for the final time over the past few months.


Joe Skinner continues courageous fight against leukemia

How cruel of a world do we live when people are subject to the kind of torture that comes as a result of cancerous diseases?

Makes you question everything you’ve ever believed in, right down to the battle between good and evil and why bad things happen to good people.

Cancer affects people of all ages and chips at the very spirit of helpless bystanders each and every day.

Earlier this month I wrote a story about 17-year old Joe Skinner, a Bishop Moore senior and UCF baseball signee, and his sudden battle with a rare form of leukemia.

Just a couple of days after it was published Skinner was put in the intensive care unit after going into septic shock. An infection was discovered, then more than a week later he was flown by air ambulance to Dallas in hopes of undergoing a previously planned experimental treatment.


It’s been an eventful three months since we last met

My life changed drastically three months ago.

After years of grinding my way through freelance writing assignments and radio shows, I finally latched on full-time as a multimedia sports reporter at the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. There, the grind carries on.

I’ve been busy since the end of July on the high school and local sports beat at the Sentinel, which encompasses much more than you’d care to read about at this point.

The exciting part has been the high school football coverage we’ve been doing for the 76 area programs (yes, 76 high school football teams) through print and online video features.


Brazilian icons Kaká and Oscar Schmidt share Orlando City moment

SANFORD, Fla. – When it comes to sports in Brazil there’s no bigger name in soccer than Ricardo Kaká and no bigger basketball icon than Oscar Schmidt.

On Tuesday at the Orlando City Soccer Club’s training facility the two friends took a moment to chat while Schmidt was in town with family just as Kaká was preparing to head out for a U.S. Open Cup match in Chicago.

Kaká presented the Naismith Memorial Basketball and FIBA hall of famer with a personalized No. 14 OCSC jersey before the two shared stories of how they met many years ago.

( – Click here for J.C.’s story on Orlando City SC for Orlando Sentinel – )

Kaká, a former FIFA World Player of the Year, is in his first season in Major League Soccer. He’ll captain the MLS All-Stars against Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur next Wednesday.


Harold Hitt talks first baseball state title at Oviedo High School

Oviedo High School’s baseball team had made four trips to the state final four before this season but were never able to advance past the semifinals to play in a title game.

That all changed last week as the Lions pounded Plant City Durant 12-0 in a Class 7A semifinal Wednesday before claiming their first championship with a 9-5 triumph of Sarasota a day later.

I covered the Lions in a region title game for the Orlando Sentinel a week earlier as they hosted Tallahassee Chiles, a team they lost to in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Oviedo coach Harold Hitt joined me on Carnahan Chronicles on AM 740 The Game Saturday morning to talk about the championship run by the Lions, the standouts on the team that helped make it happen, and the amount of quality baseball Central Florida has produced over the years.

( – Click here to listen to Coach Hitt and J.C. on AM 740 The Game – )

Oviedo, led this year by pitchers Cooper Bradford and Cameron Peppiatt, previously reached the state final four in 1986, 1992, 2001 and 2002.

Bernard Morris morphing into Arena Football League Ironman

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bernard Morris is evolving into a throwback for the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators.

In a league that once placed value on “Ironman” football – players who excelled offensively and defensively – the Jones High School product is willing to line up anywhere on the field.

The starting quarterback in Orlando last season, Morris won’t be behind center Saturday when the Predators (3-2) host the Cleveland Gladiators (3-2) at Amway Center at 7 p.m.

The Preds lost 56-46 at Cleveland in the American Conference title game in August, the outcome ultimately decided when Morris fumbled for the second time as Orlando trailed by nine points with nearly a minute left. It was his third-straight conference final loss after spending the previous two seasons with the Jacksonville Sharks.

(Click here to read revised story on Bernard Morris at Orlando Sentinel)

Morris will contribute in different ways in the rematch as former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard gets the starting nod again for the sixth time this season.


Apopka knocks off nation’s No. 1 high school baseball team

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – The No. 1 high school baseball team in the nation fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Friday as Orlando Olympia was crushed 8-4 by Apopka in the Class 8A, District 3 title game.

The loss means the Titans (25-1-1) go on the road in the opening round of the region playoffs. Apopka, which lost two games to Olympia each by 2-0 margins, starts the postseason at home with a potential rematch looming in the second round.

Olympia went 29-0 in 2012 before losing in the region championship game.

On Friday Apopka right-hander Nick Barber pieced together an impressive game on the mound until Olympia began rallying in the final inning while down 8-1. A double by Kirk Sidwell, single by Drenis Ozuna and 2-RBI triple by Juan Hillman was not enough though as Barber finished with eight strikeouts against six hits.

(Read more about Apopka’s 8-4 win over Olympia at Orlando Sentinel)

Barber yielded three singles in the fourth inning after working three up and three down over the first three innings. He also finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and RBI.


National No. 1 Olympia High School turns in unbeaten regular season

ORLANDO, Fla. – A come-from-behind win on the final day of the regular season kept Orlando’s Olympia High School atop the MaxPreps national high school baseball rankings this week.

The No. 1 Titans became just the second team in Central Florida history to make it through the regular season without a blemish on its record. But it’s an elusive trip to the state final four that would be most satisfying as playoff qualifiers get underway this week.

The Titans face Ocoee on Wednesday in their Class 8A, District 3 opener, just four days after local rival Dr. Phillips had their backs against the wall late in the season finale.

Olympia scored seven runs in the final three innings to win 9-5 (in eight innings) and improve to 100-12-1 since 2012, which happens to be the last time Olympia went unbeaten before losing in the region title game to finish 29-1.

(Read more about Olympia’s win over Dr. Phillips at Orlando Sentinel)

“They just believe they’re going to win,” Olympia coach Chuck Schall said. “Even at the end there when we’re down, there’s not a guy on that bench that doesn’t think we’re going to come back.”


Orlando Sentinel prep editor talks rise of Montverde Academy basketball & No. 1 Olympia baseball

Buddy Collings of the Orlando Sentinel joined me Saturday to talk about the emergence of Montverde Academy as a national high school basketball powerhouse and the odds of Orlando’s Olympia High School, the No. 1 baseball team in the nation, at winning the state title this year.

Montverde Academy, led by LSU commit Ben Simmons, won its third national title in a row on Saturday. Collings also talked about how Simmons, named national player of the year by numerous organizations, lost out on the Mr. Basketball award in Florida to fellow LSU commit Antonio Blakeney of Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School.

( – Click here to listen to Buddy Collings of Orlando Sentinel on Carnahan Chronicles – )

Top high school baseball team in nation remains unbeaten

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – When you’re the No. 1 high school baseball team in the nation, in both the USA Today and MaxPreps rankings, each game feels like so much is on the line.

Olympia baseball

Olympia won the Florida League High School Invitational on Saturday to improve to 17-0-1.

Orlando’s Olympia High School improved to 17-0-1 on the season Saturday while defending its Florida League High School Invitational title with a 2-0 win over Pembroke Pines Charter at Lake Brantley High School.

The national attention will continue to follow the Titans as they near postseason play.

“We try not to focus on that,” Olympia coach Chuck Schall said. “The rankings and all that, it’s always there, but we try not to let those expectations dictate how we play.

“Every time we win these close ballgames it just makes us tougher.”

Olympia is winning close games thanks to a stable of quality pitchers and equally impressive efforts defensively.

(Read more about Olympia’s recent win at Orlando Sentinel and 740 The Game)


Carnahan Coverage: No. 22 UCF baseball pushing for first postseason trip since 2012

The UCF baseball team reached a regional championship game in 2012, capping a back-to-back run in the postseason with one of the strongest squads in recent memory.

A year ago the Knights lineup featured a majority of players new to the program, yet they barely missed out on being selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Entering this season UCF has just five players on roster from that 2012 team. But the experience this group garnered a year ago has them ranked No. 22 in the Baseball America preseason rankings.

I spoke with senior JoMarcos Woods and head coach Terry Rooney for the Orlando Sentinel this week about how valuable that experience will be this year. The Knights will face five teams this season that open ranked in the Top 25.

Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Super Bowl Sunday trouble, new football league, angry high school soccer dad and National Signing Day hype

I found myself caught up in a couple of crazy circumstances a week ago and decided to share those stories on the show this past Saturday.

For starters, my carelessness while running late to a Super Bowl party resulted in banging up the car of Mike Bianchi, columnist at the Orlando Sentinel and host of AM 740 The Game’s “Open Mike,” while in the parking lot at Ker’s WingHouse. We capped the opening segment by also talking about a new football league forming in 2016 that’s looking to bring yet another minor league team to Orlando next spring.

Then on Friday, while on assignment to cover a prep soccer game at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, I was nearly attacked by an angry Warriors dad in the press box. We finished the show talking about that wild encounter while giving props to the local high school state tournament teams and touching on the disturbing hype that surrounds National Signing Day on a yearly basis.


Carnahan Coverage: Kasey Rakauskas scores hat trick for Lake Brantley in upset of West Orange

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Kasey Rakauskas netted a hat trick for the fifth time this season to help keep the postseason run alive for the girls soccer team at Lake Brantley High School.

The three most recent goals for the senior came at the most opportune time as the Patriots (13-8-2) went on the road Thursday for a Class 5A region quarterfinal and won 3-0 over West Orange (13-3-4), the No. 3 team in the Orlando Sentinel Super Six rankings.

Rakauskas also scored three goals in a game this season against Seminole (Oct. 28), Lake Howell (Nov. 14), Hagerty (Jan. 13) and Lake Mary (Jan. 14).

“She’s a star, she knows how to play and she reads the game so well,” Lake Brantley coach JC Garzon said.


Carnahan Coverage: Linebacker Withney Simon still awaiting first scholarship offer

ORLANDO, Fla. – He’s done all that’s been asked of him yet Orlando Jones High School’s Withney Simon, the No. 2-rated linebacker in Central Florida, is unsure of his football future.

I caught up with Simon following the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl earlier this month at the Florida Citrus Bowl and asked him about his college options. He said that although he’s got the grades to qualify for football at the next level, he’s a bit surprised at how little interest he’s garnered from college programs.

( – Click here to read J.C.’s feature on Withney Simon for Orlando Sentinel – )


Carnahan Coverage: Justin McBride tallies career-high in points & rebounds in UCF win

Justin McBride broke out in a big way for the UCF Knights on Sunday in Orlando during a 75-67 win over undersized Bethune-Cookman.

The sophomore center came off the bench seven minutes into the game and had his way in the low post before going on to finish with a career-high 31 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes of work.

“My teammates really made an effort to throw me the ball,” McBride said. “They just found me and I started scoring a little bit, and the basket got bigger and bigger.”

( – Click here to read J.C.’s recap of UCF vs. Bethune-Cookman for the Orlando Sentinel – )