Sports – Press Herald Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:24:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fewer commercial breaks? NFL looks to speed up pace of games Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:06:07 +0000 NEW YORK — For all those NFL fans longing for more action, fewer interruptions and a better flow to games, Commissioner Roger Goodell is with you.

The NFL is making plans to speed up the pace of games, including changing how video replays are handled and using a time clock for extra points. The league also is discussing with the TV networks how to make commercial breaks less intrusive.

“I watch a lot of football as a fan and as commissioner,” Goodell told The Associated Press on Wednesday after sending a letter to fans outlining the proposals. “I see when I am watching on TV or at a stadium that there are opportunities to make the game more compelling from a fan standpoint.”

For officiating replays, the referee no longer would go under a hood to watch a play. Instead, a tablet would be brought to him on the field and he would consult with league headquarters in New York. The final call would be made in New York.

Support by 75 percent of the 32 team owners would be needed at next week’s annual meetings for passage of the proposals.

In addition to a time clock for PATs when there is no TV break, the league is considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown.

Also, to improve the flow of games on the field and for television audiences, commercial breaks during the quarters would be reduced from 21 per game to 16 (four per period), although each would last 30 seconds longer. There also is a break at the end of the first quarter and another at the end of the third.

Teams also would not be allowed to make a challenge late in a commercial break, meaning no more scenes of a referee telling the TV audience when it returns that a video review will now take place – and then the network goes to another commercial. If a team decides to challenge a call at that time, the review would be done during the commercials.

The most significant change might be centralizing officiating decisions on replays, a system that has worked well for the NHL. NFL officiating director Dean Blandino and his New York staff have been involved in the process for years, but the referee has always been the final arbiter on such calls.

“We did centralized replay with our office involved for two seasons,” Goodell said, “and this is one step further where we’re going to allow the New York office to make the final determination. We think this is very smart. We still provide for the referee’s input, but instead of going under the hood, he’ll use the tablet to see the play, and speak to Dean and have their voice. We want the referee involved when we look at replays.”

Other proposals, all with the pace of games in mind, would ensure that the clock is restarted at the proper time after a ball carrier goes out of bounds, and would standardize the length of halftimes. Regular-season halftimes are supposed to last 12 minutes, but referees have used their discretion in that area.

A 5-yard delay-of-game penalty would ensue for the offending team.

The number of commercial breaks would be reduced to four per quarter, and they would each last 2 minutes, 20 seconds rather than the previous 1:50. Goodell doesn’t see those extra 30 seconds as intrusive, something league surveys back up. Those studies showed fans preferred fewer commercial interruptions over the course of a game.

“In most cases, fans won’t know the breaks are longer,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “Obviously, there’s a break point there; these won’t be 10 minutes in time.”

After a score, networks often go to commercials, then do so again following the kickoff. The league found that the case after 27 percent of scores last season.

“I find it unattractive when we see doubling-up on commercials,” Goodell said.

What won’t be touched are the natural breaks that are part of the game and that build drama.

“We’re addressing interruptions and just trying to move things along,” Goodell added.

The owners begin their meetings Sunday in Phoenix.

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U.S. routs Puerto Rico to win World Baseball Classic Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:52:43 +0000 LOS ANGELES — The eagle has landed on top.

The United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries on Wednesday night behind six hitless innings from Marcus Stroman.

The Americans planted their eagle statue mascot on the mound in celebration, a blue cap jauntily hanging from one of its large wings.

“It’s a different feeling when the USA is on your chest,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “We wanted to get the U.S. back on top of the baseball world, and we did that.”

For a sport known as America’s pastime, the U.S. had struggled since the WBC began in 2006. Twice, the Americans lost in the second round and they went out in the semifinals in 2009.

This time was different.

“These guys were here to do their best,” Team USA general manager Joe Torre said. “The thing I marveled at was how quickly they came together, and Jimmy (Leyland) deserves a lot of that credit. They’re just a great group who understood what this event is all about.”

Accepting the gleaming silver trophy from baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, manager Leyland told the crowd, “This is for the men and women who serve our country.”

After the final out, the Americans massed on the mound, hugging and high-fiving while fireworks exploded in center field. Some of them grabbed a U.S. flag and circled the warning track, waving it in celebration with fans in the stands.

“There was only one thing on our mind, was to win this thing and to do whatever we can to win,” left fielder Christian Yelich said. “That helped us come together.”

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Puerto Rico’s fans saluted their team with a standing ovation and the players responded by clapping.

“The satisfaction is huge,” manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “It has filled our hearts.”

Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

“They’re loaded with All-Star players. They outpitched us. They outscored us. They outhit us,” Rodriguez said. “We came here to win the championship, but with a record of 7-1, we feel satisfied, pleased with what we were able to achieve.”

Tournament MVP Stroman avenged his shakiness in the Americans’ 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays gave up one hit in six-plus innings, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

“I love pitching in these moments,” he said. “I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I’m able to get up, the more effective I am.”

Stroman allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan’s double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when he departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead with the help of Ian Kinsler’s two-run homer.

In 2013, Stroman tweeted that he was going to play for Puerto Rico, where his mother was born. Instead, he wore the red, white and blue of the U.S.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” he said, “and I’ll be back in four years to defend the title.”

For the tournament, Stroman allowed 12 hits and four runs in 15-1/3 innings, with a 2.35 ERA, nine strikeouts and two walks.

“Marcus set the tone right off the bat and just was dealing,” Yelich said, “and we kind of fed off that and we were just rolling ever since.”

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S. Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting “U-S-A” when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford’s two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton’s RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

The Americans defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.

]]> 0, 23 Mar 2017 09:27:06 +0000
The U.S. Alpine nationals provide Sam Morse with a homecoming opportunity Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 CARRABASSETT VALLEY — It’s been a pretty good year for Sam Morse, including a gold medal in downhill skiing in the junior world championships and his first World Cup race.

He’d like to put an exclamation point on it this weekend. The 20-year-old Morse, who grew up about seven minutes from the main entrance to Sugarloaf Mountain, will be one of the fan favorites when the U.S. Alpine championships are held at Sugarloaf beginning Saturday.

“I love competing in front of the community (that) supported me so much through my career,” Morse said Wednesday after competing in a Nor-Am race at Sugarloaf. “And not all the top guys will be here, but a good part of the (national) A and B guys will be here, so it’s a good chance to mix it up with them on an even playing field.”

This will be the sixth time Sugarloaf hosts the U.S. Alpine championships, the second time in three years. While stars such as Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn and Andrew Weibrecht won’t be competing, it still draws some big names in U.S. skiing – David Chodounsky, Tim Jitloff, Travis Ganong, Stacey Cook, Leanna Smith and Resi Stiegler – as well as top newcomers such as Morse, who is a member of the U.S. national C team.

The competition starts Saturday with the men’s Super G (9:45 a.m.) and the women’s Super G (12:15 p.m.), and continues through Tuesday.

Morse will compete in all three men’s races. And given the year he’s had, he could give the local fans something to cheer about. He’s certainly been working toward it this year.

The 2016-17 season began for Morse, oddly enough, in college. A 2013 graduate of Carrabassett Valley Academy, he attended Dartmouth College for the fall semester after deferring enrollment for two years so he could train with the U.S. ski team. But his deferment was ending and, he said, he needed a break.

“It was really, really important for me, mentally, to take a step away from skiing,” said Morse, who plans to return to school in the spring of 2018. “I had been on the ski team for three years now and was pretty burned (out). I just wasn’t motivated to go work out.

“So to take 10 weeks and not have to think about skiing was really nice.”

He worked out with the Dartmouth team and when his semester was over, was ready to return to the slopes. Not only was he in his best physical shape, but mentally was in a much better place.

“I kind of rededicated myself to skiing when I was at school this fall, dug deep inside and decided this is what I want to do,” said Morse. “School is fun, a couple thousand kids your age, it’s a blast. But to say nope, I’m going to walk away for a year and a half to ski race … I re-entered (skiing) with a renewed passion for it.

“When you make the commitment to do it, then you really start believing that you can do it. If you’re half-in about committing to the dream, then you’re not going to ski to your best.”

Justin Johnson, the head coach of the U.S. development team, had worked with Morse and saw a different skier when Morse returned from college.

“He was very organized, very grown up,” said Johnson. “Going to college was good for him. He came back very happy. He was a little different, a little more mature.”

And it showed on the slopes. Sasha Rearick, head coach of the U.S. men’s Alpine team, devised a training program for the entire C team that concentrated on their weakest disciplines, not their strongest. So Morse, a superior downhill skier, spent most of the winter working on his technical skills for the giant slalom and slalom. “I haven’t trained one day on downhill this year,” said Morse.

He added, “Our focus this year is working on technical aspects of skiing, which really allows you to generate speed through the turns and arc through sections that in the past you might slide a little bit. It was a total radical move to go that direction, to not train your strengths, to focus on your weaknesses, but I would say it paid off.”

After finishing fourth in the world junior championships for downhill a year ago, he won the race this year. Wearing the No. 30 bib on purpose – Morse, who had his choice of bib numbers because he was ranked first, had seen the results of training runs and determined the fastest times were going to come from somewhere in that number – he won the downhill.

He also finished fifth in the Super G and sixth in the Alpine combined at the junior worlds.

“I was proud to see him win the downhill and come back with more fire,” said Johnson.

That led to his first World Cup race, at Aspen on March 15. He finished 21st but just two seconds behind the winner.

“That was unbelievable, that is what every kid dreams of, growing up ski racing, is to race in the World Cup,” said Morse. “Obviously I hope to do many more. But to have that opportunity at this point in my career is incredibly rewarding.”

Johnson said it reflected all the work he put in. “You saw a big shift in him this year in terms of his professionalism,” said Johnson.

So what’s next?

Next year Morse likely will ski a full season on the Europa Cup, a level below the World Cup. From there, who knows? Johnson said Morse’s progress this year has certainly been impressive but Morse said there’s more work to be done. While the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea are only a year away, Morse is looking more at 2022 in Beijing.

“I’m a much better technical skier than I was a year ago,” said Morse, adding he still needs to learn how to ski the terrain better and gain more speed.

For now he’s going to rest a bit after the nationals. After all, it’s been a busy year.

“It’s been a good year,” Morse said. “A good year.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 U.S. Alpine championships this weekend at Sugarloaf mark the end of a sparkling season for Sam Morse, a 20-year-old who grew up near the Sugarloaf entrance and attended Carrabassett Valley Academy. Morse took part in his first World Cup race a week ago at Aspen.Wed, 22 Mar 2017 20:50:18 +0000
Kevin Thomas: Another Walsh hopes to coach hockey Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The NCAA Division I hockey tournament begins Friday. Has it already been 24 years since the University of Maine won its first national championship?

Or 18 years since the second? Then there were the heartbreaking one-goal losses in the 2002 and 2004 title games.

Sean Walsh has watched every game, the championships viewed on old VHS tapes.

“I remember sitting in the basement, probably 6, 7 years old – my dad’s office was in the basement – and there was a VHS player,” Sean said. “And all the tapes were in the closet. It was full of them. Racks on top of racks.

“I would just pop them in and watch them.”

Sean saw in those old tapes what many of us were privileged to watch in person – a Shawn Walsh-coached University of Maine team competing at the highest level.

The one constant, recognizable figure was Walsh, with his salt-and-pepper crop of hair, standing behind the bench, eyes intense. He would be patting a player on the shoulder pad or directing his index finger toward an official. Always in motion.

“I hear he got pretty fired up,” Sean said, smiling. He has heard it a lot.

Sean Michael Walsh, 17, has grown up listening to stories about his dad, William Shawn Walsh.

When Shawn Walsh died of cancer in September 2001 – only six months after coaching his last game – he left a legacy of building a national hockey power and creating an enthralled fan base throughout the state.

Everyone knew who Shawn Walsh was, and everyone had an opinion, whether it was positive about his winning, or negative about his brashness and trouble with NCAA regulations.

But Sean Michael was only 2 years, 3 months old when his dad died. When he was little, everyone wanted to tell him about Shawn.

“People would walk up to me. It was a little weird,” Sean said. “I would think, ‘who is this guy?’ I just wasn’t ready for it.

“As I’ve grown up, I’m absolutely embracing it. I love the fact that he’s my father.”

Sean, a senior at Cheverus High – a captain on the hockey team that reached the Class A South final – has plans after graduation. Sean will attend Canisius College in Buffalo. He may study business but also wants to learn about coaching hockey.

“My brother (Tyler) was the director of hockey operations there and knows the coach pretty well, so I reached out to him,” Sean said. “I said I want to do whatever I can to get my foot in the door.”

The coach, Dave Smith, told Sean to come and be ready to work.

Tyler Walsh, by the way, is now the head coach at North Yarmouth Academy.

Because of his dad and Tyler, did Sean Walsh feel coaching was his only destiny? That’s what Sean’s mother, Lynne Walsh, feared.

“I’ve tried to dissuade him at times … maybe he thinks he has to take this path,” Lynne said. “He has ensured me it is all about his love for the game.”

Sean grew up passionate about hockey. He watched those tapes in his dad’s office. And Shawn’s successor at Maine, Tim Whitehead, welcomed Sean to Alfond Arena any time, and Sean took advantage.

The drama of listening to a coach’s speech in the locker room, then entering a full Alfond Arena, only added to Sean’s passion.

Before the sixth grade, he and Lynne moved to Scarborough. Sean enrolled at Cheverus his freshman year but was cut during hockey tryouts, and there was no junior varsity team that year.

“I was very frustrated but I took it as a learning experience,” said Sean, who never exaggerated opinions of his ability.

“I’ll be honest. I think I was probably in fifth or sixth grade when I realized I’m not going anywhere (as a player). I wasn’t the best hockey player. I’ve always been a hard worker but the skill wasn’t there. I thought maybe playing isn’t going to work out for me, but I love the game and so I want to coach.”

He did make the team the next year and eventually became a leader.

Those leadership skills surfaced elsewhere at Cheverus, where Walsh became active in campus ministry where he was chosen to lead retreats, mentoring freshmen in one, and inspiring his peers in another.

There’s a spiritual side to Sean, a side that also surfaced in his dad in Shawn’s last year. And there’s the obvious trait of a leader, shared by both.

I remember listening to Shawn during the postgame press conference after Maine won the 1999 national championship. Asked what he was going to do next, Shawn simply spoke about going home and being with Lynne, who was expecting.

When Shawn Walsh died two years later, he left a legacy for hockey fans, and he left behind a boy, the youngest of his three sons. The boy is growing up. He can be feisty – a minute or two was spent in the penalty box – but also compassionate. He can be mischievous but also responsible.

Shawn, you should see Sean now. You’d be proud.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

]]> 0 Walsh ... in 2017Thu, 23 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000
NBA roundup: Westbrook, Thunder dominate 76ers Thu, 23 Mar 2017 03:17:31 +0000 OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook recorded his 35th triple-double of the season with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder cruised to a 122-97 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

The Thunder have won 16 straight games against Philadelphia, a run that stretches to the 2008-09 season, the franchise’s first in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook, who made all six of his field-goal attempts and all six of his free throws, has recorded five triple-doubles against Philadelphia, his highest total against any NBA team.

HORNETS 109, MAGIC 102: Kemba Walker scored 22 points and Marco Belinelli came off the bench to add 20 as visiting Charlotte pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback.

Charlotte won its third straight game and keeps its Eastern Conference playoff hopes alive after entering the night three games out of eighth place in the standings.

BULLS 117, PISTONS 95: Nikola Mirotic scored a season-high 28 points as host Chicago won a matchup between struggling teams fighting for a playoff spot.

NUGGETS 126, CAVALIERS 113: Will Barton scored 26 points and Gary Harris added 21 as Denver beat visiting Cleveland.

Kyrie Irving had 33 points and LeBron James 18 for the Cavs.


76ERS: Center Joel Embiid will undergo surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Team spokesman Mike Preston said the 7-footer, who has been plagued with injuries during his professional career, will have the surgery “in the coming days.” Coach Brett Brown said Embiid “took an active role” in making the decision.

Embiid missed his first two NBA seasons with a foot injury.

He played in 31 games this season, averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but hasn’t played since Jan. 27, when he scored 32 points in a loss to the Houston Rockets.

CHICAGO’S ROBIN Lopez and Toronto’s Serge Ibaka have both been suspended one game without pay by the NBA for fighting.

Lopez and Ibaka threw punches at one another during the Bulls-Raptors game Tuesday and were both ejected.

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NHL roundup: Bruins can’t afford a passive Pastrnak Thu, 23 Mar 2017 03:07:08 +0000 David Pastrnak had his 11-game point streak snapped Monday night in Toronto, and Tuesday night the Ottawa Senators held him off the scoresheet as well.

It might be hypercritical to say that he’s hit a slump after just two games, but the Boston Bruins winger has had his troubles in both. Just about every time he’s tried to dangle defensemen, Pastrnak has lost the puck. He fanned on another one-timer attempt in the third period of the 3-2 loss to Ottawa.

Pastrnak has had a terrific third pro season, becoming a 30-goal, 30-assist player at the age of 20. But he did have a 17-game goal drought earlier in the season, with a seven-game pointless streak within that period in December.

The Bruins can ill afford another long skid.

“I don’t know if frustrated is the right word,” interim coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It looks like the puck’s not cooperating with him, and that happens to goalscorers. He’s just got to play through it. He did earlier this year. Clearly we don’t want it to be as extended as it was then. I don’t think it will be. He’s a more mature player and person, but he’ll have to find his way through it. Sometimes you have to score an ugly goal, get a greasy one to get out of those things.

“We’ll see how it plays out, but he’s got to keep pushing. We need him. We’re relying on him to score. He’s not the only one but we’re relying on him.”

Tuesday night, Pastrnak was tagged with three giveaways.

“I’ve got to be better and I’ve got to make more plays,” he said.

As with most skilled players, especially ones like Pastrnak who play with a certain abandon, he has found himself on the receiving end of some physical play. So far he’s responded with a few face washes after the play.

“It’s part of the game, you know?” he said. “The guys are going to hit. I just need to stick with it and not let it frustrate me.”

In his previous two games, Zdeno Chara – a plus-17 in the 17 games he has played under Cassidy – was taken off the ice by opponents who were very glad to see him in the penalty box.

One instance followed a fighting major for a bout against Zack Kassian in Edmonton (the Oilers scored a power-play goal with Chara in the box), and the other came on a third-period matching minor with Matt Martin of Toronto (no harm done).

Cassidy looks at police work as part of Chara’s job.

“I think in Edmonton we were looking to re-establish ourselves,” Cassidy said. “That’s fine. That’s a couple of big bodies. I think they mixed it up the last time they were in here. . . . (In Toronto,) Z might have been protecting his little brother (defense partner Brandon) Carlo.

“So we have no problem with that. You’ve got to look out for one another.”


MAPLE LEAFS 5, BLUE JACKETS 2: William Nylander and Leo Komarov each had a goal and an assist, and Toronto won at Columbus, Ohio.

Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri also scored, and Frederik Andersen had 32 saves as Toronto stayed in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.

ISLANDERS 3, RANGERS 2: Andrew Ladd scored the tiebreaking goal with about 71/2 minutes remaining as the visiting Islanders beat their crosstown-rival rivals at New York.

]]> 0 Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins has gone two straight games without a point after scoring in 11 straight. Now the team wants him to get a goal – good goal, bad goal, it doesn't matter – before the pressure starts to build.Wed, 22 Mar 2017 23:07:08 +0000
Wednesday’s college roundup: USM wins twice in baseball Thu, 23 Mar 2017 02:46:15 +0000 AUBURNDALE, Fla. — Dylan Hapworth had three hits with three RBI in the opener, Matt Bender drove in two runs in the second game, and Jake Dexter saved both games of a doubleheader for the University of Southern Maine baseball team against Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Wednesday.

The Huskies won each game 6-4 to improve to 4-2, while the Pointers dropped to 4-5.

Hapworth hit an RBI double during a three-run first inning and broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run double in the eighth.

In the second game, Bender drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the third to put the Huskies ahead 4-1, and added an RBI double in the sixth for the final run.

Dexter, who entered the second game with one out and a runner on first in the ninth, struck out the first batter he faced and induced a ground ball to end it. Dexter also pitched the ninth inning of the opener.

COLBY, ST. JOSEPH’S (N.Y.) SPLIT: The Mules (3-4) won the opener 3-1 before falling to the Golden Eagles (6-4) 7-6 in the second game at Fort Myers, Florida.

Ryan Quinn and Andrew Della Volpe hit consecutive doubles, and Keenan Iuilano followed with a single as the Mules scored two runs in the second inning of the first game.

Tyler Mulberry added an RBI single in the sixth.

In the second game, the Golden Eagles scored three runs in the first and four in the fourth.

Ryder Arsenault had three hits, and Mulberry, Quinn and Iuilano each had two hits for Colby. Iuilano had two RBI.

WISCONSIN-OSHKOSH SWEEPS BOWDOIN: Dylan Ott had three hits with five RBI in the 10-0 opener, and Zack Radde and Tyler Kozlowski each had two hits with two RBI in the second game which was a 6-1 win for the Titans (5-4).

Sawyer Billings had two hits in the opener and Evann Dumont-LaPointe added three hits in the second game for the Polar Bears (4-8).


BABSON 1, SOUTHERN MAINE 0: Brooke Stock pitched a three-hitter with five strikeouts and Victoria Casey doubled home the only run in the sixth inning as the Beavers (6-3) shut out the Huskies (4-3) at Clermont, Florida.

Alexis Brown scattered five hits over the first five innings for USM.

SOUTHERN MAINE 3, SUNY-NEW PLATZ 1: Amber Kelly tossed a three-hitter with four strikeouts, and Shelby Obert and Taylor Lux each drove in a run for the Huskies (5-3) against the Hawks (1-7) at Clermont, Florida.

The Huskies scored their runs in the first inning on singles by Obert and Lux, and an error that scored Obert.


BOWDOIN 14, ENDICOTT 5: Hannah Hirschfield and Allison Williams had three goals, and the Polar Bears (4-1) built an 11-2 lead in the first half against the Gulls (3-3) at Brunswick.

Kara Finnerty and Kelsey Gallagher each had two goals for the Polar Bears, who scored the first 10 goals.

Meghan Lennon had three goals for Endicott.

BRIDGEWATER STATE 12, UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND 10: The Bears (3-4) scored four of the final five goals to beat the Nor’easters (3-4) at Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Brooke Kelleher scored with 18:48 left to put UNE ahead, 9-8.

Elizabeth Ettridge tied it less than a minute later, before the Bears went ahead for good on consecutive goals by Gabby Reinold. Ettridge and Reinold each had three goals.

Anna Stowell led UNE with four goals. Korinne Bohunsky and Kelleher had two apiece.


SOUTHERN MAINE 13, BECKER 5: Bryce Randall and Sam Hornblower each had three goals for the Huskies (2-1) against the Hawks (0-6) at Leicester, Massachusetts.

Drew Shane and Paul Leonardo finished with two goals apiece for USM, which outscored Becker 6-1 in the third quarter for an 11-3 lead.


UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND: Sophomore forward Brady Fleurent of Biddeford was named one of the seven finalists for the Sid Watson Award, given annually to the best NCAA Division III men’s hockey player in the country.

Fleurent, who had 18 goals and 35 assists, led the nation with 2.04 points and 1.35 assists per game.

The winner will be announced Thursday night.

]]> 0 Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:46:15 +0000
Sports Digest: Johnson has five birdies in Match Play win at Texas Thu, 23 Mar 2017 02:27:30 +0000 GOLF

Johnson has five birdies in Match Play win at Texas

On a day when other top seeds didn’t fare well, Dustin Johnson made short work in his debut as the No. 1 seed at Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.

Johnson made five birdies in his opening eight holes and never gave Webb Simpson much of a chance in a 5-and-3 victory at the Dell Technologies Match Play.

Of the top five seeds, Rory McIlroy (2) was beaten by four straight birdies from Soren Kjeldsen. Jason Day (3) withdrew to be with his mother as she has surgery Friday for lung cancer. Jordan Spieth (5) lost on the 16th hole to Hideto Tanihara, who was making his Match Play debut.

Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 4 seed, halved his match against Jim Furyk.

McIlroy and Spieth now need some help to advance out of their four-man group into the knockout stage on the weekend at Austin Country Club.


MLB: The Yankees are open to trading for a “short-term” answer at shortstop to replace the injured Didi Gregorious, sources said.

Potentially available shortstops include Jose Iglesias of the Tigers, Zack Cozart of the Reds and Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks, according to a report on

n Minnesota right-hander Trevor May has undergone Tommy John elbow surgery that will keep him off the mound this season.

n Saying his finger finally feels normal, Nationals ace Max Scherzer proclaimed himself healed following his first Grapefruit League start of the spring, a 6-1 loss to St. Louis.

A stress fracture in the knuckle of the ring finger on his pitching hand slowed Scherzer’s development this spring and caused him to grip his fastball with three fingers instead of two to avoid pain.

n Mets pitchers Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler took a step back in a 15-9 loss to the Miami Marlins, a shaky sign for New York with Opening Day less than two weeks away.

Matz gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings, while Wheeler allowed four runs in three innings, including three in his last.


MIAMI OPEN: Ashleigh Barty stretched her winning streak to eight matches, beating former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the first round at Key Biscayne, Florida.


NASCAR: The crew chiefs for Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick were suspended for violations at Phoenix Raceway. Keselowski’s car failed a postrace inspection Sunday and NASCAR suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe for three races.

Wolfe also was fined $65,000, and Team Penske was docked 35 driver and owner points.


GERMANY: In his last international game – the 130th in a 13-year career – Lukas Podolski hit a brilliant winning goal to sign off with a 1-0 win over England in a friendly at Dortmund.

Only 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaeus and all-time top scorer Miroslav Klose have made more appearances for Germany.


U.S. WOMEN: USA Hockey has postponed the start of the women’s national team’s world championship training camp amid an ongoing wage dispute.

The tournament begins March 31. The U.S. is the defending champion and has won six of the past eight world championship gold medals.

– News service report

]]> 0 Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:27:30 +0000
Celtics storm past Pacers, 109-100 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 01:58:47 +0000 BOSTON — The Boston Celtics just needed a little reminder to focus on playing instead of worrying about where they were in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

A loss on Sunday was perfect for that.

Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points, Avery Bradley had 18 with eight rebounds and the Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 109-100 on Wednesday night for their fifth win in six games.

The only loss came on the road against a weaker Philadelphia team.

“I think last week all we did was look at the standings,” Bradley said. “We were losing games. We weren’t focused. We came together as a group and we were like: ‘We can’t worry about where we are. Let’s worry about (that) when the time is right.”’

The Celtics remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Washington for second place in the East. They entered the day two behind top-seeded Cleveland.

Al Horford added 15 points with eight boards and eight assists, and Jae Crowder also scored 15 points for Boston, which won for the 12th time in 13 home games.

Paul George led the Pacers with 37 points and Jeff Teague had 25. Indiana has alternated by winning and losing in its last 15 games.

The Celtics turned a red-hot shooting third quarter into 39 points, pushing a seven-point halftime lead to 14 after three quarters.

“We expected this team to come out the second half more aggressive and raise their play,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We needed to do the same thing. We just weren’t able to do it.”

Boston hit 17 of 25 shots from the field, with Marcus Smart’s last-second bank shot in the lane capping the shooting. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw, giving the Celtics an 88-74 lead entering the final quarter.

“I thought the end of the third, early fourth, some of our ball movement possessions were about as good as we’ve had in a while,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.

Thomas hit two 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the third.

George kept the Pacers in the game, though, scoring 14 in the quarter.

“They started getting away from us and I tried to keep the game as close as possible,” he said.

Trailing by 17 early in the fourth, the Pacers went on a 13-2 run to slice it to 95-89 on Teague’s 3-pointer.

Thomas then sandwiched a couple of breakaway layups around a turnaround by Horford to seal it.

NOTES: Boston Coach Brad Stevens said he enjoyed having his team healthy and playing games with breaks in between. “It’s good to play a game, take a day off and play another game, and still have the same amount of bodies,” he said. “It’s pretty unique.” … With the Pacers in the midst of a tight race for a while for one of the East’s last few playoff spots, Coach Nate McMillan said facing playoff-type games the final couple of weeks will be nothing new. “That mindset really started or should have started after the (All-Star) break,” he said.

]]> 0 Thomas of the Boston Celtics, center, goes up to shoot against Indiana's Myles Turner (33) during the first quarter of Wednesday's game in Boston. (Associated Press/Michael Dwyer)Wed, 22 Mar 2017 23:08:10 +0000
NFL notebook: A Brady jersey is found – is it the real one? Thu, 23 Mar 2017 01:31:01 +0000 BOSTON — Now that authorities believe they have recovered the jersey stolen from Tom Brady’s locker following the Patriots’ Super Bowl win last month, the next step will be determining whether it is in fact the MVP quarterback’s missing grass-stained garment.

So how exactly does that happen?

Old-fashioned detective work.

Experts in the sports memorabilia industry, including one that has worked directly with NFL teams, say it is a tedious process that involves comparing photos and videos that captured degradation to the jersey during the game. They also compare the jersey to team-issued serial numbers and other player-specific customizations that authentic jerseys typically have.

“Every jersey is like a fingerprint. No two jerseys are alike,” said Barry Meisel, president of the MeiGray Group, which has authenticated game-worn sports memorabilia since 1997. “They’re hand-stitched, full of dirt, mud, helmet stains, turf skids and burns. When you look at jersey after a game it’s unique.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined Wednesday to discuss the authentication process due to security reasons, writing in an email only “there are a number of procedures we have been using.” The FBI also has not commented on the methods it is using.

Brady’s jersey went missing from the Patriots’ locker room after their Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons Feb. 5, setting off an investigation that stretched from Boston to the Mexican border.

Working with U.S. investigators, Mexican authorities obtained a warrant to search the property of Martin Mauricio Ortega, a tabloid journalist who colleagues say went to the game with a media credential, but bragged he was there as a fan. Authorities recovered the jersey, along with another Brady jersey that disappeared after the 2015 Super Bowl. A helmet belonging to a Denver Broncos player – possibly Von Miller – was also discovered. Ortega quit his job two days after the search, but has not been charged in the case and has not been located for comment.

MeiGray Group has authenticated jerseys for the NBA, NHL, USA Hockey, as well for Washington and the Los Angeles Chargers of the NFL.

Most of the authentication Meisel’s company is asked to perform involves a jersey coming from the hands of a league official from a player in the locker room. But he said even in those cases, a process called photo matching is used.

In photo matching, an authenticator would utilize all the available photos and videos that captured images of the garment and compare stains, tears, and abrasions the garment undergoes over the course of a game.

His company was once asked by a collector to authenticate a jersey that an auction house was purporting to have been worn by Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr the night the Bruins captured the 1972 Stanley Cup.

Photos of him drinking from the Cup in the locker room after the game were used to prove it was real, based on comparisons of repair marks and stitching on the jersey.

BENGALS: Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones faces three misdemeanor charges, including assault, but no longer is being charged with a felony for a January confrontation with hotel security guards, police and a nurse.

A felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance, for allegedly spitting at a nurse, was dismissed at the prosecuting attorney’s request, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said in a statement Wednesday. The felony charge carries a potential sentence of six to 12 months in jail upon conviction.

Deters said the misdemeanors also include disorderly conduct and obstructing official business.

VIKINGS: New running back Latavius Murray had ankle surgery Wednesday.

Murray left the Raiders as a free agent and signed last week with Minnesota, getting $15 million over three years, with $8.55 million guaranteed.

The Vikings said in a statement that they were “aware of the required surgery prior to signing Latavius on March 16. Latavius is expected to fully recover and be available for training camp.”

Giants: New York signed veteran running back Shaun Draughn, who has played for six teams in six years, most recently the San Francisco 49ers. He has played in 57 career games with seven starts.

JETS: New York signed former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Mike Pennel to a one-year deal.

JAGUARS: Jacksonville signed free agent tight end Mychal Rivera to a two-year contract. Rivera spent the first four years of his NFL career in Oakland, where he caught 146 passes for 1,413 yards and 10 touchdowns in 61 games.

Browns: Former Pro Bowl return specialist and wide receiver Josh Cribbs officially announced his retirement Wednesday, ending a career he began as an undrafted free agent quarterback out of Kent State.

]]> 0 Brady's Super Bowl LI jersey was believed to be recovered by authorities in Mexico City. Brady's jersey went missing from the locker room after the game, and set off an investigation that stretched from Boston to the border.Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:31:01 +0000
Commentary: Why is anyone still listening to Bobby Knight? Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:14:02 +0000 Twelve days ago, shortly after his team pulled out a dramatic overtime win in the semifinals of the inaugural Ivy League basketball tournament, Princeton Coach Mitch Henderson was waiting to be called to the podium when he caught my eye.

I waved and mouthed, “Congratulations.” He nodded, then urgently waved me over. I couldn’t imagine what he wanted, but thought he might want to share something that would help my column. I walked over and we shook hands.

“So what’s the deal with your guy Knight?” he asked.

A little more than 24 hours earlier, Bob Knight had told Dan Patrick during a radio interview that he wished all the people who had been in charge at Indiana when he was fired had died or would die soon.

I’ve been asked the same question countless times.

The first person to tell me about Knight’s remarkably tasteless comment was Dan Dakich, who played for Knight, then coached under him for 16 years. That means he saw him in action for 20 years, which should make him just about impervious to even the most senseless of Knight’s outbursts.

And yet, when I walked toward the media seating for the Big Ten quarterfinals, Dakich almost tackled me.

“Did you hear what Knight said?” Dakich asked.

I rolled my eyes. Honestly, at this point, I’m not sure why anyone cares what Knight says about anything – whether it’s Donald Trump or Indiana basketball or that team from the SEC. He’s a bitter, angry 76-year-old man who has never really enjoyed anything in life other than getting the last word.

Dakich had the interview transcript in his phone. He showed me the relevant passage.

“I wish I could say it’s unbelievable,” I said finally, “but, knowing Knight, it’s not.”

I haven’t been around Knight on a regular basis since the long winter of 1985-86 I spent with him in Bloomington, reporting what would become “A Season on the Brink: A Year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers.” He didn’t speak to me for eight years after that – remarkably because he was upset that I included a tiny fraction of his voluminous profanity.

I owe Knight a debt I can never repay. The access he gave me that season was complete and absolute. He never backed away. The book’s success is largely due to that access and to Knight being such a fascinating, dichotomous figure.

I knew when I sent Knight an advance copy that his response wasn’t going to be, “Hey John, great job.” That’s not who he is: He wants everyone in his life on the defensive, backpedaling, intimidated. As he once said to Steve Alford, “Steve, I’m never going to talk to you about your shooting because I know you can shoot. But your defense (stinks) and that’s what you’re going to hear about from me.”

What’s sad about Knight is he pushes away those close to him. He and Mike Krzyzewski didn’t talk for 10 years – until Krzyzewski called and said, “Coach, I wouldn’t be going into the Hall of Fame if I hadn’t played and coached for you. You’re the only person who should give my induction speech.”

Even Knight couldn’t resist.

But he could resist phone calls from members of his 1976 team, the last team to go undefeated in college basketball. Several called to plead with him to return last year for a 40th anniversary celebration at Indiana. No way, Knight said, was he ever returning. So he didn’t go. Guess who suffered the most? Robert M. Knight.

That was when Dakich decided he finally was done with him. The 1976 team “made him,” he said. “They put him in a unique place, and they put up with all his BS to do it. Forget any grudges against Indiana – which are silly at this point – he owed it to them to be there.”

Knight’s not going back to Indiana. He has gone to Purdue – to again make his point about Indiana – just as he made a point of letting the world know he spent time with Dean Smith in Chapel Hill in the summer of 1992 but never called Krzyzewski because Krzyzewski beat him in the Final Four that spring.

After Knight retired from Texas Tech in mid-season in 2008, he was hired with much fanfare by ESPN. The network wanted him to be a star. Knight wanted to be a star but didn’t want to do the things TV analysts are asked to do: show up for production meetings; go to shoot-arounds; talk to coaches about their teams. It was beneath him. Bob Knight asking a coach for a few minutes of his time?

No way.

And so, ESPN slowly moved him down the announcing ladder before finally giving up and firing him two years ago. Now Knight is back in Lubbock, hunting and fishing, virtually alone.

Every once in a while, someone gives him a chance to show up in public: Trump last summer, Patrick two weeks ago. Knight does it because he’s still trying to get in the last word.

The court at Indiana should have his name on it. He should return to the cheers of the multitudes. He should enjoy everything he accomplished in coaching and revel in the relationships he built.

Instead, he goes on the radio and wishes people dead. He can’t help himself. He’s still trying to have the last word when it came and went years ago.

All of which is almost unbearably sad for anyone whose life he touched – mine among them. Many will say, “It’s just Knight being Knight.”

That’s the saddest thing of all.

]]> 0 Wed, 22 Mar 2017 20:54:57 +0000
U.S. edges Japan 2-1, advances to WBC championship game Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:43:14 +0000 LOS ANGELES – Brandon Crawford scored the tiebreaking run when Nobuhiro Matsuda bobbled Adam Jones’ grounder to third in the eighth inning, and the United States reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic for the first time by beating Japan 2-1 on Tuesday night at rainy Dodger Stadium.

Andrew McCutchen drove in an early run for the U.S., which will play Puerto Rico for the title Wednesday night. Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands 4-3 in 11 innings Monday.

The World Baseball Classic final has been played in the United States in each of its four editions, but the home team had never made it.

The Americans only reached the semifinals once before, in 2009. But this All-Star-laden roster has won two straight elimination games to earn the chance for its first crown.

Ryosuke Kikuchi hit a tying homer off reliever Nate Jones in the sixth inning for Japan, but the two-time WBC champions were twice let down by their normally sturdy defense on a rain-soaked night at Chavez Ravine, where an intermittent downpour kept fans in ponchos.

McCutchen opened the scoring with an RBI single in the fourth inning moments after Kikuchi’s two-base error at second. In the eighth, Crawford likely would have been out at the plate on Jones’ innocent grounder, but Matsuda didn’t field it cleanly and had to throw to first.

Japan, unbeaten coming into the game, won the first two WBC tournaments before losing in the semifinals in 2013.

Tanner Roark pitched four scoreless innings of two-hit ball before U.S. manager Jim Leyland went to his bullpen early and liberally. His sixth reliever, Luke Gregerson, pitched a perfect ninth inning after Pat Neshek escaped a two-on jam in the eighth.

Although the crowd of 33,462 strongly favored the team with five California natives in the starting lineup, thousands of Japanese fans showed up early and chanted throughout the game, accompanied by the brass band in the left-field bleachers.

A light, misting rain started falling several hours before game time, forcing the teams to take batting practice indoors while a tarp covered the infield. The wet weather, unusual for Los Angeles, eventually soaked the playing field and forced grounds crews to tend to the infield dirt between innings.

But the WBC couldn’t really afford a rainout day, given its tight schedule in the final weeks of big league spring training.

Leyland kept a lineup with eight All-Stars, making only one change from the team that beat the Dominican Republic on Saturday to avoid elimination. Buster Posey was behind the plate, continuing his alternation with Jonathan Lucroy, apparently in accordance with their major league teams’ wishes.

Tomoyuki Sugano, the Yomiuri Giants ace with a seven-pitch repertoire, tossed six innings of three-hit ball for Japan, striking out six and yielding only one unearned run.

“He’s a big league pitcher,” Leyland said before the game.

But Sugano was matched by Roark, who had given up three runs over 1 1/3 innings in his only previous WBC appearance. The Washington Nationals right-hander was largely outstanding against Japan, giving up just two singles and a walk and hitting a batter with a pitch. After Christian Yelich reached second in the fourth inning when his hard-hit grounder was mishandled by Kikuchi, the standout defensive second baseman, Eric Hosmer worked out of an 0-2 count to draw a two-out walk.

McCutchen had just two hits in his first 14 at-bats in the WBC, but he drove in Yelich with a sharp single to left.

Kikuchi atoned for his mistake in the sixth, driving Jones’ fastball barely over the reach of McCutchen in right field for his first homer of the tournament.

Japan reliever Kodai Senga struck out the first four batters he faced with a 96 mph fastball and exceptional off-speed stuff, but Crawford then delivered a sharp single before Ian Kinsler doubled to deep left-center.

Neshek got cleanup hitter Yoshimoto Tsutsugoh on a fly to right to end the eighth.

]]> 0 Wed, 22 Mar 2017 09:59:14 +0000
Scheduling games is a challenging process for UMaine Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 ORONO — Mike Coutts wanted to do something different than just go down to Florida for the opening games of the University of Maine’s softball season this year.

The Black Bears’ senior class was the first that Coutts and his wife Lynn, now a senior associate director of athletes at the university, had recruited. “We wanted to do something special,” he said.

So the Black Bears went west instead of south. Maine’s opening 20-game trip started in Arizona on March 3, then moved on to Colorado, Utah and Montana before ending Sunday.

“This was a lot of work compared to the ones we’ve had in the past,” said Mike Coutts, in his second year as head coach of the Black Bears. “Because in order to make it work, we had to get guarantees.”

For football and basketball teams, that usually involves a cash guarantee. For Coutts and the softball team, it involved hotel rooms.

“Of the 18 days we will be gone, we’ve got 13 nights in a hotel paid for,” he said before the trip, estimating a savings of $15,000. “So even though we’re going through four states, it’s costing us less money than if we were to go to Florida and stay there for two weeks.”

That’s because Florida schools won’t provide guarantees, he said. He added it took a lot of phone calls and emails to pull the schedule together. But that’s typical of most college athletic schedules.

“It’s ongoing,” said Red Gendron, the Maine men’s hockey coach, of putting together his team’s schedule. “Hours and hours. Always.”

“It’s like recruiting,” said Richard Barron, the Black Bears’ women’s basketball coach, before he took a medical leave of absence in early January. “You’re always doing it. You look at it every day.”

Maine’s schedule-makers have a challenge that many others don’t. As the northernmost NCAA Division I school on the East Coast, it’s not easy to find teams willing to travel to Orono or Bangor (where the men’s and women’s basketball teams play home games).

“It’s obviously a challenge for us here to schedule certain teams nonleague,” said Gendron, whose team recently finished an 11-24-4 season. “They’re happy if you’re willing to come to them but less enthralled for them to come back. If they don’t want to come back, then the conversation ends.”

Gendron said he tries to work on his schedule at least two seasons out. And it’s not easy. Sometimes teams pull out of contracts. Sometimes Hockey East changes the number of games it plays, such as the next two seasons when conference games will expand from 22 to 24.

“Building a schedule is a great challenge,” said Gendron.

Bob Walsh, the men’s basketball coach at UMaine, discovered that almost as soon as he was named head coach in 2014. He came from Rhode Island College and immediately reached out to a friend, Mike Martin at Brown. “Mike said he’d think about it,” Walsh said of playing at Maine. “But he said, ‘To tell you the truth, I’m closer to Rider in New Jersey than I am to you.’ ”

The schools agreed on a home-and-home series, and Brown played in Bangor during the 2015-16 season. But that’s how UMaine’s location can impact a school’s decision to go there. “When you look at a school like Brown, or Bryant, or Sacred Heart or teams in central Connecticut, or a Holy Cross, they have a number of options to pick from of teams within an hour-and-a-half of them,” said Walsh.

Most coaches consider many factors when looking for nonleague teams to add to their schedule – including whether they can win. As Walsh said, “You want to find some games where you can be successful … You don’t build a championship culture through losing games.”

For smaller Division I programs like Maine, there’s also a financial component. As Coutts looked for ways to cut his budget on the softball team’s opening trip, basketball and football coaches look to bring in money to supplement their budgets.

The men’s basketball team, which recently ended a 7-25 season, received $325,000 in guaranteed money from four opponents: Duke, Buffalo and Virginia Tech (each $85,000) and Providence ($70,000). Buffalo and Providence also provided hotel rooms.

The women’s basketball team, which played in the America East championship game, received $48,000 for five games/tournaments, including the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge (which also included 15 hotel rooms for two nights).

Maine’s baseball team received $5,000 from Miami for a two-game series March 14-15, concluding its annual Florida trip.

Football is the big winner in guaranteed money. The Black Bears fill their non-Colonial Athletic Association schedule with at least two road games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, the larger Division I schools that provide more scholarships and have larger budgets.

Last fall, Maine received $325,000 to play Connecticut and $375,000 to play Toledo. This year Maine will receive $350,000 to play at Central Florida on Sept. 30 and $250,000 to play Massachusetts on Nov. 11 at Fenway Park.

Barron said the biggest part of scheduling is simply “finding people who will play you. And that’s a struggle. There’s always excuses – you’re too far, you’re not good enough, you’re too good … We just want to play the best teams we can and get as many home games as we can and we have to do it within a restricted budget. So you just try to make all the pieces fit as best you can. It’s a very inexact science.”

Some of it is luck.

Coutts put together his spring trip because he knew he wanted to play in Arizona. In talking to the coach at Grand Canyon University, he discovered the coach at Arizona State was looking for a game. When he contacted Brigham Young to play there, the coach there said Utah Valley was looking for games. “The power of email,” said Coutts. “And it’s about connections and people knowing people.”

Walsh said the same thing. “The coaches in New England, we all know each other,” he said. “We’re always talking.”

Assistant coach Matt O’Brien actually handles most of the men’s basketball scheduling. He uses a couple of websites, including, to search for games. It’s a message board where coaches can note what openings they have. But even then, dates have to line up, arenas have to be available and travel costs have to be kept at a minimum.

The women’s basketball team has done a good job drawing good teams to Maine. This year Barron convinced Villanova, Mississippi State and Purdue to travel to Bangor for Maine’s Tip-Off Tournament.

How? “A lot of it is just being friends with people,” said Barron.

Then there’s lobsters. After Mississippi State agreed to come, Barron sent Coach Vic Schaefer six live Maine lobsters.

“He called me and asked what to do with them,” said Barron. “I told him to cook them and eat them.”

]]> 0 Mike Coutts took his softball team west this spring, relying more on accommodations than cash guarantees. Opponents paid for 13 of the 18 overnights.Wed, 22 Mar 2017 09:58:54 +0000
For UMaine football, filling out the schedule requires a little help Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 ORONO — Dave Brown worked at ESPN for three decades as one of the network’s college football programming executives.

Unknown to many, he was the guy who helped set up many of the early-season games between national powers. When he decided to get out a couple of years ago, he wasn’t about to let all that experience go to waste. So Brown wrote a software package called Gridiron, which is now used by colleges to help fill out their schedules.

Among his clients is the University of Maine. Will Biberstein, the senior associate athletic director for internal operations at Maine, said Brown’s help is invaluable.

“He’s kind of like a subcontractor,” said Biberstein, who works on Maine’s football schedule. “What Dave does is keep a database of upcoming schedules for every game contract … Someone who does the scheduling can go in and look and say, ‘Hey Dave, I need a game on Week 3 of 2019.’

“You do a search and it will tell you who is available, if it’s an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) or FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), and you try to figure out who fits in my scheduling. It really streamlines the process.”

And Maine uses it as much as anyone. Next fall, for the third consecutive year, Maine will play two FBS teams – Central Florida on Sept. 30 and UMass on Nov. 11 at Fenway Park.

FBS schools provide more scholarships (85 full scholarships to 63 for FCS schools), have larger rosters and often larger players than FCS teams. Their willingness to provide guaranteed paydays to FCS schools to fill out their schedules is a boon to schools like Maine. While challenging, Coach Joe Harasymiak knows it’s essential financially.

“We’re at a point in time where we need to do things financially,” he said. “People know why we do it.”

Maine will receive $350,000 to play Central Florida and $250,000 from Massachusetts. The Black Bears also recently announced a game with Georgia Southern in 2019 and will receive $325,000 to play it.

Brown said his program makes the matchmaking process easier.

“What could have taken hours now takes seconds,” he said. But, he added, dates have to line up and in the end the schools have to sign the contracts.

Maine pays $5,000 for the service, which is used currently just for football. Brown, who said 120 FBS and 92 FCS schools use his program, hopes to add basketball.

“I’m really just trying to help (schools) find what they’re looking for and give them options to chose from,” said Brown.

Biberstein said Brown is more than that.

“He’s the man behind the curtain, making the magic happen,” he said. “It’s a crazy business right now.”

Brown helped Maine secure its game with Central Florida.

“I knew from talking to (Biberstein) that they were looking for an FBS game,” said Brown. “There were not a ton of options so I honed in on Central Florida quickly. They liked it and they got it done. I’m glad they got it done.”

He added that it’s more of a challenge to find games for Maine. While the Black Bears are looking for two FBS opponents, they would like one to be within a bus ride.

That limits options to Massachusetts, Connecticut and Boston College. Maybe Syracuse and maybe Buffalo. “But those are a long way from Maine,” said Brown.

And with power conferences such as the Big Ten saying they’re going to stop playing FCS schools, the options will be limited even more.

Harasymiak said the Black Bears will look to play more teams in the America Athletic Conference (of which Connecticut and Central Florida are members) and the Mid-American Conference (which includes last year’s opponent Toledo and schools such as Central Michigan and Buffalo).

“It’s not like there’s a menu of 25 teams out there looking for games,” said Harasymiak.

Maine was the only Colonial Athletic Association team to play two FBS games last year. The Black Bears lost both and finished 6-5.

Harasymiak said he realizes that playing two FBS teams puts Maine at a disadvantage with other CAA teams. But, he added it also has benefits.

“It helps me evaluate where we are at,” he said. “When we play well in the FBS games, we usually have a good year.”

]]> 0 Coach Joe Harasymiak knows it's not ideal to play schools with larger players and more scholarships, but accepts that financially it's a fact of life for teams like the Black Bears.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:35:39 +0000
NHL roundup: Capitals cool off Calgary Wed, 22 Mar 2017 03:28:07 +0000 WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists, T.J. Oshie scored his 30th of the season and the NHL-leading Washington Capitals defeated the surging Calgary Flames 4-2 on Tuesday night.

The top line of Ovechkin, Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom dominated all game. Ovechkin led all players with a season-high 11 shots, finally beating Flames goaltender Brian Elliott late in the third period for his 29th goal.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Kevin Shattenkirk also scored, and Backstrom had three assists as the Capitals snapped Elliott’s franchise-record winning streak at 11 games. Elliott kept his team in it by stopping 36 shots as Calgary lost for just the fifth time in 22 games.

PENGUINS 3, SABRES 1: Nick Bonino scored the go-ahead goal with 5:29 left and Pittsburgh clinched its 11th straight playoff berth with a win at Buffalo, N.Y.

Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary also scored, and Matt Murray made 29 saves. The Penguins improved to 8-1-1 in their past 10 and are in the hunt to finish with the NHL’s best record.

Sam Reinhart scored for the Sabres.

RED WINGS 2, CANADIENS 1: Anthony Mantha scored at 4:10 of overtime to lift Detroit to win at Montreal.

Mantha scored his 15th of the season on a wrist shot from close range to give the Red Wings their third win in four games.

Justin Abdelkader scored in the first period for Detroit while Artturi Lehkonen tied it for Montreal late in the third.

DEVILS 3, RANGERS 2: Joseph Blandisi scored on an odd-man rush with 54.6 seconds left in overtime and New Jersey handed New York a rare road loss.

John Quenneville set up Blandisi’s third goal of the season, and Quenneville and Taylor Hall also scored for the Devils. New Jersey got just its second win in 14 games behind 38 saves by Cory Schneider.

Oscar Lindberg and Rick Nash scored for the Rangers, who lead the NHL with 26 road wins.

COYOTES 5, LIGHTNING 3: Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a goal and an assist during Arizona’s three-goal third period, Louis Domingue stopped 36 shots and the Coyotes damaged Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes with a win at Tampa, Florida.

Arizona, with the NHL’s second-worst record, also got goals from Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak, Radim Vrbata and Connor Murphy.

Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov scored for the Lightning, who remained four points behind Toronto for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

JETS 3, FLYERS 2: Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and two assists and host Winnipeg earned its third straight victory.

Linemate Mathieu Perreault picked up a goal and one assist in the Jets reached second three-game win streak of the season.

The teams were tied 1-1 until Wheeler put a high shot on Steve Mason’s glove side into the net at 7:02 of the third period.

HURRICANES 4, PANTHERS 3: Jeff Skinner scored two goals, including the winner with 3:55 left, to lead Carolina at Sunrise, Florida.

Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist for Carolina, and Teuvo Teravainen also scored. Cam Ward stopped 33 shots.

]]> 0 forward Sidney Crosby comes to a stop behind the net during the second period against Buffalo on Tuesday. Crosby scored a one-handed goal in Pittsburgh's 3-1 road win.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:43:01 +0000
NBA roundup: Raptors defeat Bulls in overtime following fight Wed, 22 Mar 2017 03:18:32 +0000 TORONTO – DeMar DeRozan had 42 points Tuesday night and the Toronto Raptors snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Chicago Bulls by rallying for a wild 122-120 overtime victory.

DeRozan shot 17 of 38 from the floor and also collected eight assists. Cory Joseph had 19 points for the Raptors, and Serge Ibaka scored 16 before he was ejected for his role in a memorable fight with Robin Lopez during the third quarter.

Jimmy Butler had 37 points for the Bulls, and Rajon Rondo finished with 24. It was Chicago’s first loss to Toronto since Dec. 31, 2013.

Following a Butler 3-pointer with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter, giving Chicago a 16-point lead, Lopez swatted the ball out Ibaka’s hands. The two squared up in the middle of a crowd, and Lopez swung and missed Ibaka, who returned in kind, barely connecting with Lopez’s head.

Lopez and Ibaka were ejected following a long review period. Chicago forward Nikola Mirotic and Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire received offsetting technical fouls after getting into a shoving match following the melee.

NETS 98, PISTONS 96: Brook Lopez made a jumper as time expired to give Brooklyn a victory at New York.

The Pistons, competing for a playoff spot, wiped out a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to make it 96-96 on Tobias Harris’ follow shot with 2.4 seconds left.

HEAT 112, SUNS 97: Hassan Whiteside had 23 points and 14 rebounds before leaving late with blood on his right hand, and Miami won at home.

Tyler Johnson scored 17 for the Heat (35-36), who had seven players in double figures. Goran Dragic scored 16, Josh Richardson had 14 and Willie Reed added 12 for Miami.

PELICANS 95, GRIZZLIES 82: DeMarcus Cousins enjoyed his most prolific performance yet with the Pelicans with 41 points and 17 rebounds, and New Orleans won at home.

Cousins hit five 3-pointers, tying a career high. He also made five shots in the paint while being fouled, converting for three-point plays.

WARRIORS 112, MAVERICKS 87: Klay Thompson had 23 points with five 3-pointers and Golden State earned its 28th road win this season.

Stephen Curry had 17 points and nine assists for the Warriors.


JERRY KRAUSE, the Chicago Bulls’ general manager during their 1990s dynasty that saw them capture six NBA championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way, died at age 77.

A Chicago native, Krause took over as GM in 1985 and was responsible for surrounding Jordan with the pieces that would propel the team to two championship three-peats in the 1990s. He also hired Phil Jackson from the Continental Basketball Association as an assistant to Doug Collins and fired Collins in favor of Jackson following a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 1989.

LAKERS: Los Angeles signed David Nwaba to a multiyear deal after the rookie guard impressed on a pair of 10-day contracts.

Nwaba was promoted Feb. 28 from the Lakers’ D-League affiliate and immediately caught on with standout defense and steady play. He is averaging 3.6 points and 2.0 rebounds in 10 games for the Lakers, including two starts.

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:23:08 +0000
Major league roundup: Price’s sore elbow improves Wed, 22 Mar 2017 03:11:31 +0000 TAMPA, Fla. — Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell said left-hander David Price has increased strength in his sore pitching elbow but isn’t ready for a “full-blown throwing program.”

Price was re-evaluated Tuesday.

“Strength gains have been had, but we’re going to continue to stay in the strength and conditioning phase of this,” Farrell said. “He’ll continue to get his arm moving in the cage, in the workout room and the training room. We’re getting closer.”

Farrell didn’t rule out Price increasing his throwing later this week.

Starting the second season of a $217 million, seven-year contract, Price hasn’t appeared in an exhibition game and is expected to begin the season on the disabled list.

Chris Sale struck out 10 batters in six innings, giving him 20 strikeouts with one walk in 16 innings this spring as the Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees 4-2 at Tampa, Florida.

Sale allowed four hits, including Matt Holliday’s fourth homer, a two-run shot that came in Sale’s last inning.

Mike Miller hit his first homer and Sam Travis added an RBI single off New York starter Bryan Mitchell, who allowed seven hits and struck out seven in 41/3 innings. Aroldis Chapman strick out two of the three batters he faced.

YANKEES: Shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to miss the first month of the regular season because of a strained right shoulder.

General Manager Brian Cashman said Gregorius is likely to be sidelined six weeks. Opening Day for the Yankees is April 2 at Tampa Bay.

WHITE SOX: Shortstop Tim Anderson agreed to a $25 million, six-year contract.

Anderson will receive $850,000 in 2017, $1 million in 2018, $1.4 million in 2019, $4 million in 2020, $7.25 million in 2021 and $9.5 million in 2022. The deal also includes club options of $12.5 million for 2023 and $14 million for 2024. If either is declined, Anderson gets $1 million.

RANGERS: Catcher Robinson Chirinos signed a new contract through 2018 that also includes a club option for 2019.

Chirinos, already signed for this season, was the Rangers’ catcher for Opening Day in both 2015 and 2016. He is now a backup to Jonathan Lucroy, who was acquired in a non-waiver trade deadline deal last season.

GIANTS: Barry Bonds is returning as a special adviser.

The team said Bonds, the home run king, will attend a few days of spring training, starting Wednesday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He’ll also visit the Giants’ minor league teams.

NATIONALS: Gio Gonzalez gave up one run on three hits and one walk over 41/3 innings in a 3-1 victory over Atlanta at West Palm Beach,. Florida.

ASTROS: Mike Fiers struck out five over four scoreless innings for Houston in a 2-1 win over Miami at Juper, Florida.

PHILLIES: Aaron Altherr led off a six-run ninth inning with a homer as Philadelphia beat Minnesota 9-5 at Fort Myers, Florida.

PIRATES: John Jaso and Jacob Stallings homered for Pittsburgh in a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay at Bradenton, Florida.

BLUE JAYS: Aaron Sanchez walked four and gave up one run over 31/3 innings for Toronto in a 5-2 victory against Baltimore at Sarasota, Florida.

]]> 0 Sale has had an ace-like spring training for the Boston Red Sox, including 20 strikeouts with one walk in 16 innings. He helped the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory against the New York Yankees on Tuesday.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:19:54 +0000
Senators beat Bruins 3-2 to end four-game skid Wed, 22 Mar 2017 02:13:26 +0000 BOSTON — Kyle Turris scored twice and Craig Anderson made 33 saves as the Ottawa Senators beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Tuesday night to end a four-game losing streak.

Mike Hoffman had two assists for the Senators, who moved six points ahead of Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division with their first win since March 11.

Tom Pyatt also scored for Ottawa, which never trailed and went up for good on Turris’ goal 4:04 into the third period.

Torey Krug had a goal and an assist, and David Krejci also scored in Boston’s third straight defeat. The Bruins were coming off a 4-2 loss at Toronto on Monday night and never recovered from a flat start back at home Tuesday.

Tuukka Rask made 19 saves for Boston.

The Bruins remained in playoff position, third in the division with nine games to play, but missed out on another chance to widen their lead over the pack of teams pushing for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Both teams were physical all night, with several hits after the whistle and some more pushing and shoving after the final horn. The officials separated the players before the postgame scrum turned into anything more.

After facing just eight shots in the first period, Anderson frustrated the Bruins with 18 saves in the second as the Senators held onto a 2-1 lead after two.

Krug tied it 17 seconds into the third, taking the puck end-to-end and skating through a pair of Senators before beating Anderson for an unassisted power-play goal. The Bruins opened the period with the man advantage after Dion Phaneuf was called for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of the second following scrums among several players on the ice.

Phaneuf made up for the mistake later in the third with an assist on Turris’ game-winner. Turris tipped a shot by Phaneuf and the puck changed direction again when it hit Boston captain Zdeno Chara on its way to the back of the net.

Pyatt tipped in a shot by Cody Cici to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead 4:09 into the game.

The Bruins tied it at 8:57 on a power-play goal by Krejci, who beat Anderson with a slap shot from the blue line with an assist from Krug.

Turris scored a power-play goal 1:34 into the second period, putting the Senators back up 2-1 with Boston’s Adam McQuaid serving a tripping penalty.

]]> 0 Senators left wing Tom Pyatt, second from left, is congratulated by Mike Hoffman (68) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) after his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Boston, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. At right skating past is Bruins defenseman Colin Miller. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:23:05 +0000
Tuesday’s college roundup: Southern Maine collects two wins in softball Wed, 22 Mar 2017 01:46:00 +0000 CLERMONT, Fla. — The University of Southern Maine took an early lead in one game and rallied late in another Tuesday to win twice in softball, defeating Oberlin 9-3 and Hamilton, 9-6.

In the opener against Oberlin, USM (4-2) grabbed a 5-0 lead in the second inning and held off the Yeomen (3-7).

Mary Caron lined a three-run, one-out double to left-center in the second, and after a Courtney Davis single, Shelby Obert added a two-run triple.

Caron added her fourth RBI of the game with a triple in the seventh.

Amber Kelly finished with a pair of hits for Southern Maine.

In the second game, USM trailed 5-2 after five innings, then scored five runs in the sixth to upend the Continentals (6-7).

The Huskies had 10 batters in the sixth, with Caron lining a two-run single to left-center.

Caron and Allison Pillar were both 2 for 4, and Erin Martin added a pair of hits.

BOWDOIN 5, HOPE 1: The Polar Bears (6-5) scored five cosecutive runs and handled the Flying Dutch (5-2) at Clermont, Florida.

Bowdoin opened its scoring with a pair of runs with a two-run third inning, including an RBI single by Jordan Gowdy, and extended the lead to 5-0 in the third. Ali Miller hit a sacrifice fly and Gowdy followed with a two-run single.

BOWDOIN 12, CALVIN 4: Trailing 4-2 in the third inning, the Polar Bears (7-5) scored 10 straight runs to beat the Knights (6-4) at Clermont, Florida.

Marissa O’Toole went 4 for 4 with a solo homer and drove in five runs, and Claire McCarthy was 3 for 4 and scored twice.

BUENA VISTA 6, COLBY 0: Moriah Guyett allowed two singles as the Beavers (6-3) shut out the Mules (2-3) at Clermont, Florida.

Katie McLaughlin and Grace Farnkoff were the only players for Colby had the singles.

COLBY 7, OBERLIN 2: The Mules (3-3) gave up a solo home run in the top of second inning but answered with seven runs in the bottom half to beat the Yeomen (3-5) at Clermont, Florida.

Colby sent 12 batters to the plate in the second. Katie McLauglin hit a three-run triple and Ella Hommeyer added a pair of singles.


BOWDOIN 16, EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE 6: The Polar Bears (2-2) scored the first six goals, led 8-1 in the first quarter and rolled past the Warriors (2-5) at Mansfield, Connecticut.

Jeff Powers scored three of his game-high four goals in the first half for Bowdoin. Shawn Daly finished with two goals and three assists, and Jimmy Young chipped in with two goals and a pair of assists for Bowdoin.

VASSAR 10, COLBY 8: The Brewers (6-1) opened a 6-4 halftime lead and held off the Mules (1-4) at Hartford, Connecticut.

Colton Michel finished with three goals for the Mules. Austin Sayre added two goals.

NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE 10, UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND 7: Sean Largay had all five of his goals in the first half as the Pilgrims (3-4) opened an 8-3 lead and held off the Nor’easters (5-2) at Henniker, New Hampshire.

Dan Auger, Tom Lutrell and Andrew Curro each scored twice for UNE.


SALISBURY 6, COLBY 5: The 19th-ranked Mules (2-3) grabbed a 5-1 halftime lead but surrendered five unanswered goal and fell to the 10th-ranked Gulls (6-2) at Sparks, Maryland.

Lexie Perticone had a pair of goals and added an assist as Colby had a 16-4 margin in shots in the first half. Kendall Smith, Cassie Rodgers and Emilie Klein also scored for the Mules built their lead.

SOUTHERN MAINE 20, UMAINE-FARMINGTON 5: Sam Campobasso had six goals as the Huskies (2-1) beat the Beavers (0-1) at Gorham.

Aliza Jordan had three goals and an assist for Southern Maine, Lauren Lessard added two goals and five assists, and Heather Everett finished with a pair of goals.

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:03:20 +0000
Sports Digest: Cheverus field hockey player commits to UMaine Wed, 22 Mar 2017 01:28:04 +0000 COLLEGES

Cheverus junior commits to Maine for field hockey

Hannah Abbott of Portland, a junior at Cheverus, has committed to join the University of Maine field hockey team in the fall of 2018, the Coastal Field Hockey Club announced Tuesday.

Abbott, the granddaughter of former UMaine football coach Walter Abbott, has scored more than 40 goals in her three high school seasons. She was selected to the Maine All-State team in 2016 and to the All-SMAA first team.

Walter Abbott worked more than 50 years on the UMaine campus as a coach, administrator and professor.


NFL: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will undergo surgery on March 30 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder.

The team said Newton will miss minicamp and OTAs, but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in July.

Newton injured his shoulder in Week 14 last season against the San Diego Chargers. He finished the game – and the season – without missing a snap. The Panthers hoped rest and rehabilitation would solve the problem, but ultimately it was determined the 2015 MVP needed surgery.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso signed a contract extension with Miami through 2020.

The Dolphins had placed a $3.9 million first-round tender on Alonso earlier, making it likely he would remain with the team in 2017. Alonso started 15 games in 2016 and led them with 115 tackles.

The Vikings finalized their three-year contract extension with wide receiver Adam Thielen, the former undrafted practice squad player who led the team with 967 yards receiving last season.

The deal, agreed to last week, is worth as much as $27 million with $11 million guaranteed.

 A person familiar with the situation says linebacker Manti Te’o has agreed to a two-year contract with the Saints.

The former Notre Dame star, has played 38 games in four NFL seasons, all with San Diego

 The Falcons announced a five-year contract extension for team president Rich McKay.

 The Giants re-signed linebackers Keenan Robinson and Mark Herzlich.


BIDS: The Paris bid team is fine with an unprecedented double vote on Olympic hosts, as long as the French capital is awarded the 2024 Games.

With Paris and Los Angeles the remaining 2024 bidders, IOC President Thomas Bach has raised the prospect of one city getting 2024 and the other taking 2028. But Paris bid co-chairman Tony Estanguet says “we can’t accept ’28. It’s not possible.”


MLS: World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger is leaving Manchester United to join the Chicago Fire.

The former Germany midfielder has struggled for playing opportunities since joining United in 2015.

United says the 32-year-old Schweinsteiger still needs to pass a medical examination and obtain a visa before moving to Major League Soccer.


DAVIS CUP: Citing security concerns, Hong Kong is forfeiting its matches against Pakistan, scheduled for next month in Islamabad.

The International Tennis Federation said it “regrets and respectfully disagrees” with Hong Kong’s decision.

– Staff and news service report

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:04:39 +0000
College basketball follows NBA’s footsteps Wed, 22 Mar 2017 01:10:11 +0000 INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino watched in amazement as Michigan made 11 second-half 3-pointers, many from well beyond the arc.

The first comparison that came to mind was the Golden State Warriors.

“The amazing thing to me is you look at the size of the players that Michigan has, and they shoot it like backcourt players. That’s what’s really coming on,” Pitino said last weekend in Indianapolis, where the Cardinals were eliminated by Michigan. “I made a concentrated effort this past year in our recruiting to recruit bigs who could shoot because we don’t have bigs who can shoot now.”

Pitino can find the NBA’s influence on just about any college game.

The shot clock has been shortened, the 3-pointer has been embraced and everyone from 5-foot-6 Keon Johnson of Winthrop to 6-foot-10 Moe Wagner of Michigan seems comfortable shooting from long range. Scoring is up, defenses are being stretched thin and coaches are trying to adapt to change by recruiting bigger, better shooters and fewer true centers.

College basketball has its own version of small ball going these days.

The Wolverines are not small by any means, but all five starters and each of their top six scorers are capable 3-point shooters.

Disbelievers can rewind Friday’s 92-91, first-round victory over Oklahoma State, the game that caught Pitino’s attention. The Cardinals did a solid job in Sunday’s second-round game giving up only six 3s, though Wagner’s deep shot helped send Michigan to the Sweet 16 for a Midwest Regional showdown Thursday against Oregon.

Style is only part of the ongoing change. Two years ago the NCAA approved a 30-second shot clock and followed the NBA’s lead by using timeouts called within close proximity of a media timeout as the scheduled stop. It also stripped a second-half timeout from teams.

The numbers reveal just how much and how fast things have changed.

Through the first two rounds of this year’s tournament, teams are averaging 74.22 points per game. If that average is maintained through the next four rounds, it would be the highest tourney scoring average since 1993 (74.31) and a 6.45-point per team increase over the 2015 average (67.77 ppg).

Last year, the first with the new shot clock, teams averaged 71.85 points in tourney play.

“I like it,” said Michigan Coach John Beilein, whose head coaching career began before the shot clock or the 3-point line existed in college. “I think it would be very hard to play if you didn’t have shooters, though, because everybody would plug in there, and you wouldn’t have anybody open.”

Pitino believes defenses are starting to add NBA staples, too. Instead of using traps and pressure to force turnovers, he said, many teams are simply trying to take precious seconds off the shot clock with “soft pressure,” a notion he advocated during two stints as an NBA coach.

Analytics, which Brad Stevens used heavily during his coaching tenure at Butler, has become a bigger part of the college game, too, and other changes could be on the horizon. Women’s teams already play four quarters rather than two halves, and the NIT is experimenting this year with resetting team fouls after each 10-minute segment of the game.

One thing Beilein and Pitino don’t want is the 24-second shot clock. But it’s become clear to many at all levels that today’s players are putting a pro-style stamp on the college game.

“There’s a trickle-down,” said Utah Jazz Coach Quin Snider, a former college coach and player. “I think some of it has to do with the fact the NBA is so widely covered now. There’s so much NBA basketball on television – younger players see it.”

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:05:52 +0000
College basketball notebook: Notre Dame women lose Turner Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:53:00 +0000 SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame junior forward Brianna Turner will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, a major blow to the NCAA Tournament hopes of the top-seeded Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame said Tuesday that Turner tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee Sunday night during a second-round win over Purdue. She leads the team this season with 15.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and also has 86 blocks – sixth-best for a single season in Notre Dame history.

The Fighting Irish (32-3) face fifth-seeded Ohio State (28-6) on Friday night in the Sweet 16 in Lexington, Kentucky.

It’s the eighth straight time Notre Dame has advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, doing so after downing ninth-seeded Purdue in overtime.

“We completely fell apart offensively,” Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw said after the close win. “It’s just so different without (Turner) when you’re in the ball screen, because they have to worry about her.”

Turner has been one of the best players for the Fighting Irish for all three of her seasons, starting all but one of her 65 games over her first two years.


TEXAS A&M: Freshman standout Robert Williams says he is returning for another season in college.

The 6-foot-9 Williams, projected by many to be a lottery pick in June’s NBA draft, averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season for the Aggies (16-15).

Williams said the decision will give him “more time to mature and develop my game before moving on to the NBA.”

VCU: Rice Coach Mike Rhoades is returning to VCU to become the Rams’ head coach.

The 44-year-old Rhoades spent five years as an assistant to Shaka Smart at VCU. He replaces Will Wade, who resigned Monday night to take the same position at LSU.

Rhoades told Fox 26 TV in Houston on Tuesday the VCU job is a “dream come true.” VCU has not officially announced the hire, but scheduled a news conference for Wednesday.

Rhoades had a 47-52 record in three seasons with the Owls.

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:37:16 +0000
Blake Swihart poised for next opportunity Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:25:29 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — It must be on Blake Swihart’s mind constantly that his inevitable trip from the comfortable confines of the major league clubhouse back to the minor leagues is nearing in less than two weeks.

But Swihart, the only one of the three Red Sox catchers who still has minor league options, insists it’s nothing he thinks about.

“I don’t need to worry about that,” he said. “I wouldn’t be playing well if I was worrying about that, you know?”

Is he telling the truth? He must be, because Swihart is playing quite well. He’s hitting .357 this spring, swinging fluidly from both sides of the plate. Always known for his bat, he has a solid .271 average in 103 games in the majors.

And on the ultra-important defensive side? Swihart, long considered a work in progress, is finally looking like a major league receiver.

“He had to get settled back into being a catcher,” said Red Sox bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. “He hadn’t done it for a while.”

The first step for Swihart was to abandon his cat-like stance behind the plate. He can move around like an infielder – he used to be one – and the way he would set up, with his left leg in front of his body in a more narrow position, prepared him to scramble for loose balls and make quick throws to second base.

But it didn’t look great from the mound. Instead, Swihart is now squatting in a square position, opening his body up and presenting a more visible target.

“It’s more of a confidence-type thing when a pitcher looks in,” LeVangie said. “He still (puts one leg slightly in front), but not so that it looks sometimes like, if you’re a pitcher, ‘Where is my target?'”

Swihart said it’s a much more comfortable stance.

Some might say, it’s just a stance, right?

Folks in the Red Sox organization have long had mixed feelings about which position Swihart was best suited for. Clearly, Manager John Farrell wasn’t sold last year when he named Swihart the Opening Day catcher and then shipped him back to the minors for Christian Vazquez just six games into the season.

A new stance could do wonders for Swihart as he attempts to earn back trust from the pitching staff – and manager – and prove he’s capable of providing more than a spark with the bat.

“He’s done an outstanding job,” Farrell said. “Thought he handled (knuckleballer) Steven Wright clean and that’s not always been the case in that pairing. He’s made some adjustments with his footwork behind the plate. He looks more comfortable behind the plate. (Saturday), in the first inning, that ball that led to a run, that ball typically is blocked. But he’s played pretty free of mind.”

On the passed ball that Farrell said Swihart should have scooped, LeVangie disagreed.

“For me, that’s a wild pitch,” LeVangie said. “A spiked fastball in the dirt, it hit the dirt first so it’s a wild pitch. There are not too many guys in the major leagues expected to block fastballs. Rick (Porcello) would probably say, ‘I have to do better with my fastball command.'”

Porcello said he has just as much trust in Swihart as he does in Vazquez or Sandy Leon, the two catchers likely to begin the season on the big league roster.

“It’s just communication, and (Swihart) picks up on stuff really quickly and he ends up doing it on his own,” last year’s Cy Young winner said. “I can’t say enough good things about how far he’s come just from two years ago to now.”

And if either Vazquez or Leon gets hurt or underperforms, Swihart will get another chance.

]]> 0 Sox catcher Blake Swihart hits a two-run home run in the eighth inning Tuesday night as Boston puts the game out of reach.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:40:54 +0000
There once was a time UConn had a women’s basketball losing streak Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:57:25 +0000 NEW YORK — Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies are on an unbelievable run.

No, not the 109 straight wins. Or the four consecutive national championships.

Try this: They haven’t lost back-to-back games in almost a quarter-century. That’s 883 straight games without consecutive losses.

Think about that for a minute. No current UConn player was even born the last time this program had a losing streak. And that mark is safe for at least another year, which has Rebecca Lobo thinking about popping the champagne with her former teammates – the ones who actually lost two straight.

Lobo was a sophomore on the 1992-93 team that suffered consecutive defeats. The Huskies actually had a three-game and two-game losing skid that season, dropping the final two games of the season.

“They should trot us out at halftime at one of the games and recognize us,” Lobo joked. “That’s what it comes to. The only thing they can honor that’s new and different. Maybe that team is the black sheep of the UConn family.”

Maybe without that failure, the success UConn has had since wouldn’t have been so great.

“That loss helped fuel us for the future,” said Jen Rizzotti, who was a freshman on the team. “I remember all offseason wanting to make sure that never happened again.”

It hasn’t. In fact, UConn has lost only 57 games since that year.

That team went 18-11 – the last UConn squad not to win 20 games – and was in danger of missing the NCAA tournament, unheard of for a program that has since won 11 national championships. The players planned to watch the selection show together, but a blizzard hit the area that night, so they couldn’t even watch as a group.

“I was nervous,” recalled Jamelle Elliott, who was a freshman. “You either get in or get on a train for an eight-hour trip to D.C. the next day to spend a week at home with your family, as it was spring break.”

Kathy Ferrier, the lone senior, remembers watching the show with her boyfriend and feeling relief when the Huskies’ name popped onto the screen.

“I knew as a senior this could be it, the season could be over,” said Ferrier, who lives in Connecticut now. “As soon as the name appeared we started calling each other.”

Ferrier was one of the only links to the team’s first Final Four appearance when she was a sophomore. There wasn’t the rich history yet on campus for the players to fall back on when coach was yelling at them in practice.

“He treated us as the same way he did that first Final Four team and the way he treats all his teams today,” Ferrier said. “It helped make us better players.”

The three-game losing streak in the middle of the season included a visit from Stanford that was believed to be the first sellout at Gampel Pavilion. The season ended with consecutive defeats to Miami in the Big East tournament semifinals and Louisville in the first round of the NCAAs.

“We just couldn’t handle it. We were not good enough,” Auriemma said of the 1992-93 team. “That was the bottom line. Louisville was way better than us. Providence was better than us. We just weren’t good enough. We were lucky to make the tournament. We just had too many freshmen and sophomores playing too many key roles. We just weren’t ready. Then obviously, the next two years. … well you know.”

The Huskies won the first of their 11 titles two years later, going undefeated for the first time.

As far as the ’92-93 team, Auriemma said that he always gets an earful from Elliott.

“To this day, if you call her or text her, Jamelle Elliott will tell you there is one reason and one reason only: You didn’t start me,” he said laughing.

“You didn’t play me enough and that’s why we lost. And she says that to me every time this subject comes up. And since then, I’ve tried to never have the wrong guys in the starting lineup or the wrong guys out on the floor. So, thank you Jamelle.”

]]> 0 Lobo was celebrating a national title for Connecticut in 1995 with teammates Kara Wolters, 52, and Pam Weber. But two years earlier she was a sophomore on a team that wasn't sure it would make the NCAAs.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 20:36:06 +0000
Suspect in Brady jersey theft sought memorabilia Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:26:20 +0000 MEXICO CITY — The Mexican media executive suspected of stealing Tom Brady’s jersey went to the Super Bowl as a working journalist but spent the week collecting selfies and autographs from football greats and boasting to colleagues that he was there as a fan.

Mexican journalists who were in Houston for the game and interacted with Martin Mauricio Ortega, former director of the tabloid La Prensa, told The Associated Press that he brought multiple NFL memorabilia items, including a Kurt Warner jersey he hoped to sell to the former quarterback for thousands of dollars.

“When I met him he was carrying a football helmet and he was bragging about having the signatures of former Super Bowl MVPs, and he was a little disappointed that Marshall Faulk refused to sign it,” said Ariel Velazquez, who covered the game for the Mexican daily El Universal. “He also said that he was not there to work: ‘There are people here to do that.’ ”

Brady’s jersey went missing from the Patriots’ locker room after the game, setting off an investigation that stretched from Boston to the border. Working with U.S. investigators, Mexican authorities obtained a search warrant and recovered the jersey March 12, along with another Brady jersey that disappeared after the 2015 Super Bowl.

“I am happy my jerseys from SB 49 and SB 51 have been recovered, and I want to thank all of the law enforcement agencies involved,” said Brady in a statement released by his agent, Don Yee. “I know they worked hard on this case – and it is very much appreciated. Hopefully when I get the jerseys back I can make something very positive come from this experience.”

A helmet belonging to a Denver Broncos player was also discovered, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Broncos spokesman Patrick Smyth said the team was in touch with NFL security because the helmet may belong to Von Miller, MVP at the 2016 Super Bowl. Ortega may have tried to sell it: A memorabilia dealer told the AP Tuesday that Ortega once asked him how much the helmet would be worth.

A Mexican government official confirmed that the person targeted in the search warrant was Ortega. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, the official said Ortega was not detained because there were no charges against him.

Ortega did not respond to multiple calls and text messages to his personal phone seeking comment.

An official at OEM, the publishing company that owns La Prensa, said Ortega was not part of its Super Bowl coverage.

“He was accredited on behalf of La Prensa, but he took vacations,” said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 19:33:51 +0000
Maine Special Olympians collect tales and medals at the Winter World Games Tue, 21 Mar 2017 23:21:30 +0000 Lucas Houk likes to tell other people about his life. He’ll come into work, whether it’s at Fleet Feet Sports on Marginal Way or eco-kids in Portland, and let everyone know what he’s been doing.

Next time they get together he’ll have some tales to tell.

Houk, a 25-year-old from Portland, won a gold medal in cross-country skiing on Monday in the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria, when he finished first in the men’s 5-kilometer freestyle race.

Those who know Houk well are not surprised by his performance because he’s a pretty good runner as well. Houk holds the state record for the Special Olympics mile (5 minutes, 51 seconds).

“He’s pretty incredible,” said Kip Weeks, the owner at eco-kids, where Houk works five days a week. “He’s just a great guy.”

And Houk isn’t the only Mainer doing well in Austria. On Tuesday, 38-year-old Anna McDougal of Wiscasset won a bronze medal in the Alpine novice giant slalom with a time of 1:22.48.

“I knew she could do it,” said Connie French Smith, McDougal’s coach for the last five years. “She’s goal-oriented, she’s enthusiastic. Skiing is all she can talk about.”

Both have two more races. Houk will compete in the 4-by-1K relay Wednesday and the 2.5-kilometer freestyle Friday. McDougal will compete in the slalom and the Super-G.

The Special Olympics Winter World Games began March 14 and are scheduled to end Friday. They are being held at three locations in Austria, and include figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey, floor ball, stick shooting, cross-country, snowshoeing, Alpine skiing and snowboarding.

Houk moved to Maine from Maryland in 2012 to attend STRIVE U in Portland, a post-secondary school that provides training to young adults with developmental disabilities, giving them skills to live independently. He was diagnosed with PDD/NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) when he was 4 and placed in the autism spectrum by his doctors. His father, George W. Houk, is in Austria with Lucas. He said his son’s biggest challenge is processing language – understanding what someone is asking him and then trying to respond “in his own words,” George Houk said in a Facebook message.

Lucas Houk won his race with a time of 33:02.2. The medal ceremony was extremely emotional for his family.

“When your son steps up to the highest part of that platform and accepts his gold medal, it fills your heart,” wrote George Houk. “When he then turns to his fellow competitors and congratulates them, then holds their hands aloft in his, it fills your eyes.”

Lucas Houk’s co-workers are looking forward to hearing new stories from him. Weeks said Lucas Houk will always tell people about his weekend, or his latest events.

“But he doesn’t boast about it,” said Weeks. “I’ll ask him how fast he ran a mile and he’ll tell me. I’ll say that’s pretty impressive and he just (shrugs).”

Weeks said Houk has been a valuable member of his staff for three years, helping produce all-natural children’s art supplies. “He dials in when he gets to work,” said Weeks. “He does things his own way, which we all do. He likes perfection, which is nice.”

Erin Flatley, the communications director for Fleet Feet, said Lucas Houk brings a needed social element to his job. “He is very social and he loves to talk to anyone who will talk with him,” she said. “He likes to share his experiences about the movies he’s seen or maybe his drawings. He is so excited with life, and we love it when he comes in and shares his stories.”

Flatley added that Lucas Houk is a regular member of the store’s running group. “He is a phenomenal runner,” she said.

George Houk said Fleet Feet and eco-kids share in his son’s achievements.

“This really is about the place in a community that a person with intellectual disabilities has built, with the help of that community,” he said.

McDougal, who has Down Syndrome, has been with the Maine Special Olympics for nine years. She is a published author and an artist. She works at the Spindle Works Art Center in Brunswick.

Smith, her coach, said McDougal has progressed incredibly in the five years they have been together.

“When she started out she was very timid,” said Smith, who lives on Bailey Island. “She was afraid because of her last experience. That came when she was in middle school, some 20 years earlier, and she skied into a pond. So she was very afraid.

“But she fell in love with (skiing) again.”

And it shows in her results. McDougal has struggled with some health issues the last couple of years, including surgery last year that included pins being inserted into a foot. But she wasn’t going to miss the chance to ski in Austria.

“That was her motivation,” said Smith. “For every injury she suffered she would tell the doctor, I want to ski in Austria.”

UPDATE: This file was updated on March 22 at 1:55 p.m. to correct Lucas Houk’s age.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 Houk of Portland is a darn good runner, holding the state record for the Special Olympics mile, timed in 5 minutes, 51 seconds. He's also a gold medalist at the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria, capturing the men's 5-kilometer freestyle skiing event.Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:54:41 +0000
Las Vegas casino owner eyeing $1 million March Madness victory Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:37:22 +0000 ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – This is March Madness on a whole different level.

A bet between two Las Vegas casino owners will cost one of them $1 million if Michigan wins the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Derek Stevens, who owns The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate casinos, plunked down $12,500 on the Wolverines at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, which was offering 80-to-1 odds before the tournament started.

“It’s a little scary, because they’re only putting up twelve-five, and you’re putting up a million,” said Tilman Fertitta, the Texas billionaire who owns the Golden Nugget. “But that’s the nature of the business we’re in. It’s OK, ’cause he’s a good customer.”

Stevens, a Michigan native and University of Michigan alumnus, bet $11,000 each on all 32 first-round games, but got off to a rocky start, down $109,000 after the opening round. But it’s his wager on the seventh-seeded Wolverines that could turn that tide.

Michigan has advanced to the Sweet 16, bringing Fertitta closer to making a payout 10 times larger than any his casino’s sports book has ever made. Michigan plays No 3 seed Oregon Thursday and still needs four wins to win the national championship.

“Michigan seems to be kind of a darling right now,” Fertitta said. “It’s giving us a good sweat.”

The Golden Nugget could have rejected the bet, but Fertitta personally approved it.

Stevens posted a copy of his betting slip from the Golden Nugget on Twitter.

Fertitta himself is tied for second place in a nationwide charity brackets pool, the Bloomberg Brackets for a Cause March Madness challenge. Picking his own alma mater North Carolina to win it all, he promises to give the $380,000 prize to the Houston Police Foundation if he wins.

Fertitta also owns Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget casino, which he bought from President Donald Trump’s former company, and Landry’s Inc., one of the nation’s largest restaurant companies. He also stars on the reality TV show “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC.

]]> 0 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:16:26 +0000
With Sea Dogs opener coming soon at Hadlock Field, the snow had to go Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:52 +0000 When a blizzard hit Maine last Tuesday, the outlook for early April baseball in Portland looked bleak.

“We measured the snow at home plate Wednesday and it was 11 inches,” said Chris Cameron, the Portland Sea Dogs’ vice president.

But by Monday afternoon, mostly puddles remained at Hadlock, with an occasional streak of snow, as the April 6 season opener approaches in Portland.

Credit the black sand.

The Sea Dogs have incorporated an approach used by others – including the Boston Red Sox – by accelerating the snow-melting process with sand treated with a black dye.

The purpose of the darkened sand is to absorb sunlight, as opposed to lighter colors reflecting the sunlight.

“It’s the first time we’ve used it,” Cameron said. “The field was too soft to get heavy equipment out there, so this was the best course of action.”

The Sea Dogs, who pay for all field maintenance at the city-owned ballpark, contracted Sports Turf Specialties of Wrentham, Massachusetts. The company, which does contract work at Fenway Park, has applied black sand treatment at other facilities, including the New England Patriots’ practice fields, the Lowell Spinners’ ballpark and various college fields.

“This has become a viable resource. It’s less invasive on the turf,” said Ben Leach of Sports Turf Specialties.

“It’s one millimeter of top dressing material. The sand heats up and the dye helps melt the snow.”

The black sand was applied Saturday morning, using a lightweight spreader. On Monday morning, Cameron said there was only a coating of snow left. By the afternoon – with the help of temperatures near 50 degrees – only patches remained.

Granted, the field is still soaked. But “we’ve been in worse shape,” Cameron said.

The Sea Dogs have had four openers postponed by snow at Hadlock – 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2015. All of those featured multiple games being postponed, from two to four games.

The Eastern League, which has teams from Richmond, Virginia, to Portland, is infamous for suffering difficult weather in April and early May.

Each team opens at home every other year.

In 2001, the Sea Dogs tried to use a helicopter to dry the field, to little avail. Three games were postponed.

The 2003 opener was much anticipated because it was the first season affiliated with the Red Sox. But alas, the four-game opening series was snowed out.

In 2007, the first four games again were postponed as the Sea Dogs – including future Red Sox players Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie – worked out at the University of Southern Maine field house.

In 2015, the Sea Dogs “guaranteed” to play their scheduled opener, offering two tickets for one if the game was postponed. It was postponed, as was the next day’s game.

Despite the usually gloomy weather, only 1,400 tickets remain for this year’s season opener at the 7,368-seat ballpark.

“It’s for the love of baseball,” said season-ticket holder Rick Tomazin, 72, of Portland. “It gets us through the winter. You start to look at the calendar, looking forward to it.

“The first few games, we’ll be all bundled up.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

]]> 0 McGillivray of Sports Turf Specialties spreads black sand over Hadlock Field on Saturday. The black sand absorbs the heat from the sun and helps to melt the snow faster. It's working.Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:34:51 +0000
New year, new rules: High school pitch limits to safeguard young arms force teams to adjust Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 FALMOUTH — Falmouth High School senior Reece Armitage knows this season’s new baseball pitch count rules could force him to adjust his hard-throwing approach.

The left-hander also knows why limiting the pitches thrown by high schoolers is important.

“I think my sophomore year in regional finals I got up to 120 (pitches) and so I had elbow problems and it was kind of tough thing to go through,” said Armitage, who will pitch in college for Division I Marist University. “I think the pitch count is for the safety of the players. I’ll have to limit (throwing) balls this year so I can go deep into games.”

Under the new rule, Maine’s varsity pitchers will have to leave a game if they reach 110 pitches. And if they throw more than 95 pitches, they must have four days off before returning to the mound – an extra day compared with Maine’s previous innings-based rules.

That’s why Cam Guarino, Falmouth’s co-ace who will pitch in college for the University of New Haven, said he’ll focus on staying under 95 pitches in each start.

“My goal is to go all seven innings and not be a burden on the team and not leave it to a reliever,” Guarino said.

The new rules are in response to a mandate by the National Federation of State High School Associations requiring all states to implement pitch counts for the 2017 season. Each state was allowed to set its own rules.

Monday was the first day for Maine high school pitchers and catchers to begin throwing, and the new rules already were having an impact.

“Last year I pitched three guys to get us through the entire high school season,” said Portland coach Mike Rutherford. “This year I have 21 kids coming in this week.”

Driving the change is a concern for player safety, specifically a documented rise among high school players of ligament-replacement elbow surgery – known as Tommy John surgery for the big-leaguer who first had it done in 1974.

A 2015 study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found 57 percent of the 790 Tommy John surgeries performed from 2007 to 2011 were on high school pitchers age 15 to 19, with an average 9 percent increase per year in that age group.

“What we’re trying to do is generate awareness, that you’ve got to pay attention to these arms and not let them throw forever,” Dr. William Heinz, a Portland-based orthopedist, told the Press Herald last summer. Heinz is a past chair of the high school federation’s medical advisory board and serves on the sports medicine committee of the Maine Principals’ Association.

In November, the MPA adopted its new pitch count standards: 0 to 20 pitches, no rest day required; 21-39 pitches, one rest day; 40-65 pitches, two rest days; 66-95 pitches, three rest days; 96-110 pitches, four rest days.

A pitcher who reaches 110 pitches during an at-bat will be allowed to complete the at-bat before being removed.

Pitch counts will be kept by both teams and checked after each half-inning. At the conclusion of games, each head coach will sign an MPA form and retain a copy to be made available upon request of the MPA. A violation of the rule would be considered using an ineligible player and result in a forfeit.

Sub-varsity pitchers have similar breakdowns, with 90 pitches set as the maximum.

Maine’s rules are the strictest among the New England states.

Massachusetts, which does not abide by the high school federation’s rules, has no limits for either pitches thrown or days of rest. Vermont and New Hampshire established 120 pitches as the maximum and three days of rest for more than 75 pitches.

Rhode Island will use 110 as the maximum with three days of rest for over 75 pitches. Connecticut has no maximum but mandated days of rest, including five days for over 110 pitches.

Nationally, Maine is one of 21 states (among 46 that sanction baseball) that will use four days of rest for pitchers who reach the upper limit.

In the major leagues, where pitchers are under much more pressure, throw much harder and usually take the mound every fifth day, starters threw an average of 93 pitches in 2016, lasting 5.6 innings per game.

In previous years in Maine, the most rest days required was three, when a pitcher worked four or more innings.

Teams often play three games in a week. High school games are seven innings.

“It goes from being able to pretty much roll with a two-man rotation with a spot starter, to now, most teams, if not all, are going to need three and four starters,” said Mike D’Andrea, the Scarborough High baseball coach. “It’s going to change the game a lot. But the good thing about it is, the intention of the rule, we all agree with that. And we all have to follow the same rules so nobody’s at a disadvantage.”

Falmouth coach Kevin Winship said he expects “more gamesmanship,” with teams purposely taking more pitches – particularly when facing a team’s ace.

“So now do we just attack the batter? Do you want to waste a pitch on an 0-2 count?” Winship said. “Obviously it changes your strategy.”

Portland’s Rutherford foresees other changes.

“You’re going to see some high-scoring games, late in games especially, because teams will be bringing in relievers,” he said.

The pitch count rules likely will have their greatest impact in the playoffs.

Last season, Sacopee Valley senior Roderick Maynard needed 138 pitches to finish off a 17-strikeout Class C regional semifinal win. Bangor’s Trevor DeLaite hit 110 pitches in his 5-0 shutout win over Falmouth in the state final.

“We lost to Falmouth 5-0 in the regional semifinal and we were facing Armitage, a strikeout pitcher,” Rutherford said. “If we’d had the pitch count I would have had my batters really work the count and try to get to their bullpen.”

When that situation arises this year, Winship said, “Then we just have to make sure we have a reliever who can come in and throw strikes.”

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

Twitter: SteveCCraig

]]> 0 High School's Max Fortier winds up for a pitch during the first baseball practice of the season Monday. The new rules on pitch counts are likely to force teams to carry more pitchers.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:18:41 +0000
NBA roundup: Pacers beat Jazz despite career-high 38 for Gordon Hayward Tue, 21 Mar 2017 03:32:00 +0000  

Jeff Teague scored 21 points and Paul George added 19 in Indiana’s win at home.

Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with a career-high 38 points.

MAGIC 112, 76ERS 109: Nikola Vucevic had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Evan Fournier scored 19 points and Orlando won in overtime at home.

HORNETS 105, HAWKS 90: Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker each had 16 points as host Charlotte handed slumping Atlanta its fourth straight loss. Frank Kaminsky provided more strong play off the bench for Charlotte with 14 points.

WARRIORS 111, THUNDER 95: Klay Thompson scored 34 points to help Golden State win at Oklahoma City in a heated matchup filled with trash talking, physical play and technical fouls.

Stephen Curry exchanged shoves with Oklahoma City’s Semaj Christon just before halftime, and both were issued technical fouls. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Golden State’s Draymond Green also got technicals for their roles in the skirmish.

ROCKETS 125, NUGGETS 124: James Harden drove the length of the floor for a layup with 2.4 seconds left to lift Houston to a win at home.

Harden had 39 points, 11 assists and was three rebounds shy of his 20th triple-double of the season. Houston outlasted Denver in a duel between the second- and third-highest scoring teams in the NBA.

]]> 0's Isaiah Thomas, right, avoids the defense of Washington's Ian Mahinmi as he drives to the basket curing the Celtics' 110-102 win Monday at Boston. Thomas had 25 points in his return after missing two games with a knee injury.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:32:17 +0000
NHL roundup: Predators still hot, beating Coyotes, 3-1 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 03:24:42 +0000 NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ryan Ellis scored twice, Pekka Rinne made 25 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Monday night.

Viktor Arvidsson also scored for the Predators, who have won four of five. Craig Smith added two assists.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson had the lone goal and Mike Smith stopped 28 shots for Arizona, which has lost three straight.

Rinne was lightly tested in the first period, making just five saves, but the action picked up after that as the Finn made 11 saves in the second and nine in the third. His best sequence came midway through the second, when he denied two attempts by Josh Jooris and one by Jamie McGinn in an 11-second span.

SABRES 2, RED WINGS 1: Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson each scored a power-play goal in the first two periods, and Buffalo held on for a win at Detroit.

Robin Lehner made 34 saves for the Sabres.

Tomas Tatar scored in his third straight game, pulling Detroit within a goal midway through the second.

The Red Wings had power plays early and late in the third period but failed to take advantage of their opportunities to tie the game, falling to 0 for 4 with an extra skater.

Buffalo, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, has won two straight for the first time in more than a month. The Sabres have an opportunity to pass sixth-place Florida in the Atlantic Division to end a three-year string of finishing in seventh or eighth.


FLAMES: Rookie Matthew Tkachuk has been suspended two games for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in the face.

Tkachuk will miss the Flames’ upcoming games Tuesday at the Washington Capitals and Thursday at the Nashville Predators. The NHL’s department of player safety announced the suspension Monday night.

The 19-year-old forward hit Doughty in the face with his left elbow during the Flames’ game against the Kings on Sunday.

]]> 0 Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:26:37 +0000
Maple Leafs close in on Bruins with 4-2 win Tue, 21 Mar 2017 02:47:32 +0000 TORONTO — Tyler Bozak scored the go-ahead power-play goal with less than two minutes left and the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

The win pulled the Leafs (81 points) within one point of the Bruins (82 points) for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Toronto, holding the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference, also has a game in hand.

Morgan Rielly, William Nylander and Nazem Kadri also scored for the Leafs, who swept the season series with Boston. Frederik Andersen was sharp with 32 saves, James van Riemsdyk added two assists.

David Backes and Dominic Moore scored for the Bruins, Tuukka Rask allowed two goals on 27 shots.

A malfunctioning clock briefly delayed the start of the game and wasn’t used until the start of the third period.

Game time was announced at stoppages by the public address announcer and displayed in a corner of the videoboard – issues that were most apparent during power plays with no time counting down penalties.

The opening 20 minutes were choppy as a result of the malfunctions but also entertaining. The two teams traded chances with playoff positioning on the line.

The Bruins opened the scoring though just over seven minutes in.

Emerging Hart Trophy candidate Brad Marchand set up Backes for the goal, one he fired as two Leafs defenders – Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev – converged without effect.

Marchand earned his 80th point of the season on the play, duking it out with Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane, among others, for MVP as well as the Art Ross Trophy for the league’s top scorer.

Marchand was selected as the first star for last week by the NHL after getting five goals and nine points in three games. Backes, meanwhile, was questionable to even play after missing the morning skate with an illness.

There was a playoff-like vibe to the evening with intensity and scrappy play to match.

Connor Carrick, who was returning from an 11-game absence because of an injury, traded feisty blows at one point with David Pastrnak. The Bruins were perturbed a short while later when Nikita Soshnikov hit Patrice Bergeron from behind in the corner of the Boston zone.

Bergeron leaped up after the hit and grabbed Soshnikov with both players drawing minor penalties.

The Leafs gained energy as the period went on.

After nearly scoring on a pass from van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner dished to Rielly for the game-tying goal with less than six minutes remaining in the first. Rielly’s initial attempt was stopped by Rask, but the defender’s momentum carried him and the puck (off his leg) into the goal.

It was the sixth goal of the season for Rielly and third in the past five games.

Toronto had a two-man advantage for more than a minute late in the first, but failed to score. Brian Boyle’s tip of a point shot was stopped as was Auston Matthews’ shot on a drop feed from Kadri.

Marchand’s pesky ways were apparent early in the second, the Bruin goading Zaitsev into a cross-checking penalty. The Russian defenseman, noticeably frustrated, first hacked Marchand’s leg after the whistle and then shoved him into the sideboards.

The Leafs nearly went ahead in the opening minutes of the third – seconds on the clock successfully ticking down on the scoreboard – Zach Hyman’s shot from in tight was stopped by Rask with Matthews unable to get his stick on a rebound. A few minutes later, Marner spun around and dished a one-time feed to van Riemsdyk, who whistled a shot wide.

Then Boston proceeded to nearly score when Andersen bobbled a shot off the rush, the Bruins circling for the rebound.

Bergeron drew the ire of the Leafs when he bumped Andersen – with help from a shove from Leo Komarov. Komarov and Bergeron traded chirps and shoves between whistles.

The Leafs got a power play with less than three minutes to go in the third when Moore was whistled for interfering with Soshnikov. A day after his 31st birthday, Bozak beat Rask from the slot for the go-ahead goal – his 17th of the season.

Nylander extended his point streak to eight games by scoring his 19th of the season into an empty net.

]]> 0 Leafs right wing Connor Brown dives for the puck as Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (47), goalie Tuukka Rask and defenseman Adam McQuaid watch during the second period Monday night in Toronto. The Maples Leafs went on to a 4-2 winMon, 20 Mar 2017 23:59:15 +0000
Celtics pick up important win over Wizards, 110-102 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 02:26:24 +0000 BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points after missing the previous two games with a bruised right knee, leading the Boston Celtics to a 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards in another testy matchup Monday night between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Avery Bradley added 20 points and nine rebounds for Boston, which moved 2½ games ahead of the Wizards for second place in the East. The Celtics trail first-place Cleveland by two games.

Jae Crowder and Al Horford each scored 16 with nine boards.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and John Wall had 16 points with eight assists.

Behind Thomas’ 12 third-quarter points, Boston pushed an 11-point halftime lead to 92-75 after three.

The Wizards trailed by 15 with just more than four minutes left, but closed to 106-100 on Kelly Oubre Jr.’s steal and breakaway dunk with 2:05 to play.

Marcus Smart had a basket and two free throws to seal it.

The bad feelings built up between the teams this season resurfaced briefly midway into the second quarter. Washington’s Brandon Jennings bumped into Terry Rozier a few times under the basket before Rozier pushed him to the floor near midcourt. Both got technical fouls.

In the last meeting at TD Garden, in early January, Crowder and Wall had words at the end of the game. Crowder pointed his finger in Wall’s face, and Wall slapped at him.

When they met in Washington on Jan. 25, the Wizards wore what they called “funeral black” to the game before picking up the win.

The Celtics used a 16-5 run midway into the second to help them build a 58-47 halftime edge.

]]> 0 guard Avery Bradley sets to drive to the basket against Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the first quarter of Monday night's game in Boston.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 22:48:26 +0000
Monday’s Maine colleges: USM will name field after veteran baseball coach Tue, 21 Mar 2017 02:18:36 +0000 GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine will name its baseball field after veteran coach Ed Flaherty in an April 30 ceremony.

Flaherty, who is in his 31st season as the Huskies’ coach, has 941 career wins. The Huskies have played in the NCAA Division III World Series eight times, and won titles in 1991 and 1997.

Flaherty’s career record is 941-423-4 and includes 15 seasons with 30 or more wins. USM made 15 consecutive appearances in the Division III tournament from 1987-2001.

USM also will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 1997 title. The team will be honored April 29 at an invitation-only event.

WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER 5, SOUTHERN MAINE 4: The Warhawks (7-1) built a three-run lead and held off the Huskies (2-2) at Auburndale, Florida.

Wisconsin-Whitewater took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a two-run single by Jordan Kuczynski. Southern Maine answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Matt Bender, but the Warhawks added a run in the top of the second.

USM got a sacrifice fly by Sam Stauble in the fifth, but the Warhawks answered again with single runs in the sixth and seventh. Stauble and Kyle O’Connor added RBI singles for USM.

JohnS Hopkins sweeps COLBy: The Blue Jays (10-2) scored four times in the bottom of the sixth inning to beat the Mules (2-3) 7-4 in the second game of a doubleheader at Fort Myers, Florida.

Johns Hopkins won the opener, 13-3.

In the first game, Chris Festa had four hits, including a home run, and seven RBI for Johns Hopkins.

In the second game, Colby starting pitcher Sean McCracken allowed three runs on 11 hits in five innings.

Hamilton sweeps Bowdoin: The Polar Bears (4-6) managed just eight hits and were swept by the Continentals 3-0 and 6-0 at Auburndale, Florida.

Brandon Lopez had a double in the first game for Bowdoin.

In the second game, Dan DePaoli pitched a shutout, allowing four hits, striking out 10 and walking three.


BOWDOIN 3, MASSACHUSETTS COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS 2: Melissa O’Toole hit a two-run homer in the second inning and the Polar Bears (5-4) held off the Trailblazers (0-9) at Clermont, Florida.

Allison Rutz singled in a run for Bowdoin in the fourth. MCLA scored in the fourth and seventh.

In a later game, Bowdoin lost to Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 8-7.

COLBY, ST. LAWRENCE SPLIT: Colby (2-2) built a five-run lead in the first game before holding on for a 7-5 victory, then St. Lawrence (5-1) went on to win the second game in five innings, 14-2.

In the opener, Kathleen Mason went 2 for 4 for Colby, including a two-run double, and Katie McLaughlin went 3 for 4.

In the second game, St. Lawrence scored in each of its four at-bats, including seven runs in the fourth.


BATES 17, ST. JOSEPH’S 4: Sydney Cowles, Melanie Mait and Avery MacMullen scored three goals apiece as Bates (4-3) defeated Saint Joseph’s (1-2) at Lewiston.

The game was moved up from Wednesday to avoid expected cold weather.

Kara Kelly had two goals and an assist, and Jackie Wilson and Elyse Caiazzo also scored for the Monks.

]]> 0 Mon, 20 Mar 2017 22:34:02 +0000
Sports Digest: Portland’s Terion Moss named Gatorade player of year Tue, 21 Mar 2017 02:08:36 +0000 HIGH SCHOOLS

Portland High School senior Terion Moss, who helped his team win its second straight Class AA state championship in February, has been named the Gatorade Maine Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior led Portland to a 19-2 record. He averaged 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 3.6 assists per game.

The award recognizes athletic excellence as well as academic achievement and character on and off the court.

Moss has volunteered locally on behalf of youth basketball programs and has a B average.


WTA: Angelique Kerber is back at No. 1 in the WTA rankings, reclaiming that spot from Serena Williams.

Kerber moves atop the rankings on Monday. That’s about six months after she originally ascended to No. 1 for the first time, overtaking Williams by winning the U.S. Open.

That ended Williams’ run of 186 consecutive weeks at the top.

Williams reclaimed No. 1 in late January when she won the Australian Open for her 23rd Grand Slam title.


TOKYO 2020: The Tokyo course that will host the 2020 Olympic golf tournament has decided to change its membership policy to include women.

The Kasumigaseki Country Club said its executive board decided on the change after discussions among its members. The membership policy came under scrutiny when Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged it to admit women as full members.


U.S. MEN: United States forward Bobby Wood has pulled out of World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama due to back problems.

ENGLAND: Manchester United is heading back to the United States for its preseason tour.

The team will play in five cities across the country on a two-week tour in July, with matches in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Santa Clara and Washington. United has yet to announce the fifth city for the games or the opposition.


TOUR OF CATALONIA: Davide Cimolai of Italy won the opening stage at Calella, Spain, by less than a wheel. The FDJ rider pushed his wheel just in front of Nacer Bouhanni as the two broke away in the final meters of the 111-mile mountainous stage starting and ending in Calella.


U.S. WOMEN: The U.S. women’s national team says discussions with USA Hockey over an ongoing wage dispute were productive and will continue this week. Players announced last week they’d boycott the upcoming world championships in Plymouth, Michigan, unless significant progress was made toward a labor agreement.


MATCH PLAY: Dustin Johnson is facing a trio of major champions in his group at Austin, Texas.

Johnson is the No. 1 seed for the first time in Match Play, which starts Wednesday at Austin Country Club. The three players assigned to his round-robin group are PGA champion Jimmy Walker, two-time major champion Martin Kaymer and former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

Defending champion Jason Day, the No. 3 seed, has Bay Hill winner Marc Leishman in his group.

Rory McIlroy has Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland and Soren Kjeldsen,

]]> 0 Mon, 20 Mar 2017 22:16:18 +0000
Major league roundup: Injury sidelines Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius Tue, 21 Mar 2017 01:55:18 +0000 New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has a bruised right shoulder, ending his time at the World Baseball Classic and leaving his status for opening day in doubt.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi didn’t put on a timetable on a return, only saying, “He’s going to be sidelined for a bit.” The Yankees start the regular season April 2 at Tampa Bay.

It is not certain how or when Gregorius got hurt while helping the Netherlands reach the semifinals of the WBC. He hit .348, driving in eight runs and scoring five in the tournament.

Gregorius had an MRI in Los Angeles on Sunday. He was returning to the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Florida, and will be re-evaluated by team doctors.

Gregorius is among a handful of major league players to leave their WBC team because of injuries.

Miami third baseman Martin Prado strained his hamstring while playing for Venezuela and returned to the Marlins over the weekend. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez of the Royals injured his knee in a home plate collision and also left the Venezuelan team.

RED SOX: Kyle Kendrick continued his bid for a spot in the depleted Boston rotation by working five innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out four in a 7-4 spring training win over the Orioles.

Baltimore has expressed an interest in stretching Vidal Nuno out as a starting pitcher, but the veteran – just back from playing for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic – did not make it out of the second inning, allowing three earned runs in 12/3 innings.

BLUE JAYS: Star slugger Josh Donaldson made his spring training debut, going 0 for 2 with a walk in his first game since injuring his right calf more than a month ago. The 2015 Al MVP was the designated hitter, and is scheduled to play at his normal third base spot Wednesday.

Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano struck out 10 in 42/3 innings.

Byung Ho Park and Miguel Sano homered for Minnesota.

 The Twins’ Max Kepler singled in three at-bats, two days after a scary-looking hand injury. The right fielder was cut on his right little finger Saturday when Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval inadvertently stepped on him while Kepler was diving back to the bag.

ROYALS: Nathan Karns has won the crowded competition for the lone vacancy in the Kansas City’ rotation, getting the nod Monday from Manager Ned Yost. He beat out holdover Chris Young and left-hander Travis Wood for the fifth spot. Karns was acquired Jan. 6 from Seattle for outfielder Jarrod Dyson.

METS: Tim Tebow’s next team on his baseball journey is the Columbia Fireflies. The former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback will start the regular season with the New York Mets’ Class A club in South Carolina.

Tebow, 29, is hitting .235 with four hits in 17 at-bats for the Mets this spring. The outfielder will wear his football number, No. 15, with the Fireflies.

]]> 0's Josh Donaldson takes a pitch Monday against Minnesota at Dunedin, Fla., as the Blue Jays slugger appeared in his first spring training game. He was 0 for 2 with a walk.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 22:06:10 +0000
NFL notebook: Former 49er Dwight Clark suspects football may be at fault for his ALS Tue, 21 Mar 2017 01:17:01 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO — Dwight Clark revealed Sunday that he has Lou Gehrig’s disease and suspects playing football might have caused the illness.

Clark announced on Twitter that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that attacks cells that control muscles. The former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver linked to a post on his personal blog detailing his ALS diagnosis, but the site crashed Sunday night, apparently from an overflow of traffic.

“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this,” Clark said in the post. “I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did.”

The 60-year-old Clark wrote that he began experiencing symptoms in September 2015.

RELATIVES OF Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers say the Chicago Bears legend has been diagnosed with dementia.

His wife, Ardythe Sayers, told The Kansas City Star that her 73-year-old husband was diagnosed four years ago and she blames Sayers’ football career. He played for the Bears from seven seasons starting in 1965 after setting records at the University of Kansas.

JETS: New York signed veteran free-agent quarterback Josh McCown to a one-year deal.

Agent Mike McCartney announced Monday on Twitter that the contract is for one season.

McCown met with the Jets over the weekend, but left Sunday without a deal. The sides agreed to a contract a day later.

McCown, who’ll turn 38 on July 4, played the past two seasons with Cleveland.

GIANTS: The team is giving former New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith a chance to learn from veteran Eli Manning.

The Giants on Monday announced they had signed Smith and cornerback Valentino Blake, who also excels on special teams.

A second-round draft choice out of West Virginia in 2013, Smith has been a bust after a good rookie season.

He missed most of last season after surgery for an ACL injury in October.

BEARS: Chicago re-signed safety Chris Prosinski to a one-year contract.

Prosinski played in 16 games and had 15 tackles and one pass breakup last season – his second in Chicago. He also finished third on the team with seven special teams tackles.

Prosinski has 120 tackles and 43 special teams tackles for Jacksonville (2011-14), Philadelphia (2014) and Chicago (2015-16).

COWBOYS: Dallas re-signed backup quarterback Kellen Moore. Before Moore broke his right ankle during the first week of training camp last year and missed the entire season, he had been expected to back up Tony Romo.

When Moore was hurt, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott got his chance after Romo got hurt in his first preseason game. Prescott, the fourth-round draft pick, became the starter and helped lead the Cowboys to the NFC East title.

RAIDERS: Oakland signed former first-round pick EJ Manuel as a backup quarterback and linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh signed free agent running back Knile Davis and free agent cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, regrouping after missing out on coveted linebacker Dont’a Hightower by finding depth at two areas of need heading into 2017.

BENGALS: Cincinnati signed linebacker Kevin Minter to a one-year deal, filling the opening from Karlos Dansby’s departure for Arizona as a free agent.

Minter is entering his fifth season.

THE NFL IS ramping up its educating and training for women interested in working in football operations.

The league’s second women’s career development symposium will be held Friday and Saturday in Phoenix, just before the owners’ annual meetings. More than 40 women from across the NFL will learn about football administration, operations, coaching and scouting through presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking opportunities with club and league executives.

]]> 0 Mon, 20 Mar 2017 21:24:34 +0000
NCAA women’s basketball: Oregon posts upset against Duke Tue, 21 Mar 2017 01:11:11 +0000 DURHAM, N.C. – Ruthy Hebard had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Oregon earned its first Sweet 16 berth by upsetting Duke 74-65 in the second round of the NCAA tournament Monday night.

Maite Cazorla added 17 points and Lexi Bando finished with 14 points to help Oregon (22-13) become the first No. 10 seed in a decade to reach the Round of 16.

The Ducks, in their first tournament since 2005, never had advanced past the second round in their 12 previous appearances. Now they’re on to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to take on third-seeded Maryland (32-2) in a regional semifinal.

Lexie Brown scored 25 points for the second-seeded Blue Devils (28-6) – coached by Joanne P. McCallie, a former Maine coach – who have been upset at home in the tournament’s second round twice since 2014. They played without guard Kyra Lambert, who tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in the first round against Hampton.

CONNECTICUT 94, SYRACUSE 64: Kia Nurse scored 29 points and tied an NCAA tournament record with nine 3-pointers to lead UConn (34-0) over Syracuse (22-11) at Storrs, Connecticut, in a second-round rematch of last year’s national championship game.

Nurse hit 10 of her 13 shots, missing three attempts from behind the arc for the Huskies, who won their 109th straight game and 26th consecutive NCAA tournament game. That streak includes last April’s 82-51 win over the Orange that gave the Huskies their fourth consecutive title.

STANFORD 69, KANSAS STATE 48: Brittany McPhee had 21 points, Alanna Smith added 19 and second-seeded Stanford (30-5) routed seventh-seeded Kansas State (23-11) at Manhattan, Kansas, to advance to the Cardinal’s 10th straight Sweet 16.

The Cardinal had no problem dealing with the Wildcats or their home crowd, which spent much of the game sitting in silence. Stanford roared to a 39-21 halftime lead and advanced to face third-seeded Texas on Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky.

LOUISVILLE 75, TENNESSEE 64: Asia Durr scored 23 points, Mariya Moore made all five 3-pointers for 19 points and Louisville (29-7) beat visiting Tennessee (20-12) in the second round.

Moore’s perimeter shooting provided a lift on a night that fourth-seeded Louisville had to work hard late to finish 44 percent from the field. She scored the Cardinals’ first eight points of the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3s for a 54-47 lead before Durr followed with seven of their next eight points to make it 62-51 with 4:07 remaining. Durr also became the 28th Louisville player to reach 1,000 career points.

BAYLOR 86, CALIFORNIA 46: Alexis Prince and Nina Davis each scored 16 points, and Baylor (32-3) is going to the Sweet 16 for the ninth straight year after beating California (20-14) at Waco, Texas.

Davis, one of the four Baylor seniors, also had six rebounds and five assists in her last game at the Ferrell Center, where the top-seeded Bears have won 12 consecutive NCAA tournament games. Prince added five rebounds and six assists, and Kristy Wallace had 10 points and nine assists.

WASHINGTON 108, OKLAHOMA 82: Kelsey Plum scored 38 points, adding another record to her career resume, and Washington (29-5) raced past Oklahoma (23-10) at Seattle to earn a berth in the regional semifinals.

The Huskies are going to the Sweet 16 in consecutive years for the first time in school history, thanks to an offensive showcase against the Sooners.

]]> 0's Lexi Bando, center, jumps into the arms of Mallory McGwire as Sierra Campisano and Justine Hall (3) celebrate following a second-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Durham, N.C., Monday, March 20, 2017. Oregon won 74-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:44:49 +0000
Time to catch your breath in a whirlwind NCAA tournament Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:35:57 +0000 GREENVILLE, S.C. — The Atlantic Coast Conference’s strong regular season only stood to set up a first-weekend flameout in the NCAA tournament.

The league had a record nine bids, but North Carolina – the No. 1 seed in the South – is the only one alive in the Sweet 16. And it was fortunate to survive a second-round game against Arkansas.

Top seeds Gonzaga, Kansas and UNC headline a regional round featuring 12 of the top 16 seeds, two more than last year.

The rest of the top conferences fared much better than the ACC. The Pac-12 is 8-1 and the Southeastern Conference is 7-2, joining the Big 12 (8-3) and Big Ten (8-4) with three Sweet 16 teams each.

Here’s a look at the updated Final Four paths for the top remaining teams:


This is the only bracket with the top four seeds still alive, so the Tar Heels’ path looks the same as on Selection Sunday.

UNC (29-7) needed a game-closing 12-0 run to rally past the eighth-seeded Razorbacks. Now the Tar Heels meet fourth-seeded Butler (25-8), which beat No. 1 seed Villanova twice this season.

That game is the undercard to Friday’s matchup of second-seeded Kentucky (31-5) and third-seeded UCLA (31-4) in Memphis, Tennessee. The Wildcats survived a tough game with Wichita State, and the Bruins beat Cincinnati to set up a rematch of a December game won by UCLA.

“I don’t know if all the other regions went chalk, but it’s 1, 2, 3, 4 in the South,” Bruins Coach Steve Alford said. “So that South Region and bracket is going to be a lot of fun.”


This is the only other region to have its No. 1 and No. 2 seeds make the Sweet 16.

Top-seeded Gonzaga (34-1) faces fourth-seeded West Virginia (28-8) on Thursday in San Jose, California; No. 2 seed Arizona (32-4) meets 11-seeded Xavier (23-13) — the lowest-seeded team still in the field after its rout of third-seeded Florida State.

If seeds hold, that would set up a rematch of a December game won by Gonzaga, 69-62. But Arizona didn’t have Allonzo Trier, who was suspended for the first 19 games for performance-enhancing drugs.

The matchup still would offer a Final Four breakthrough chance for the two coaches, Mark Few of Gonzaga or Sean Miller of Arizona, who have yet to get there despite a combined five Elite Eight appearances.

“I know this (team) certainly is right there, should be considered with any that’s ever played” at Gonzaga, Few said. “There’s probably two or three of them that should be in that mix. Ultimately we’re going to have to accomplish that Final Four to kind of put it to rest and all that.”


The Midwest also had three of its top four seeds reach the Sweet 16. But it’s the bottom half of the bracket commanding the most attention with seventh-seeded Michigan, possibly the hottest team in the field.

The Wolverines (26-11) had a scary moment before the Big Ten tournament when the plane set to carry them to Washington slid off a runway during an aborted takeoff. They played the first game in practice jerseys but ended up winning the title, and now have beaten Oklahoma State and second-seeded Louisville for their first NCAA wins since 2014.

Michigan made 16 3-pointers against the Cowboys and hit 33 of 52 shots (63.4 percent) after halftime in those two wins.

“That’s been our identity in the last month and a half, finding different ways to win,” leading scorer Derrick Walton Jr. said. “Whether it’s the 3-ball or not, it’s finding multiple different ways to win.”

Michigan faces No. 3 seed Oregon (31-5) in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday. The Jayhawks (30-4) get fourth-seeded Purdue (27-7), the Big Ten regular-season champion.


Welcome to the lone topsy-turvy bracket after losses by No. 1 overall seed Villanova and No. 2 seed Duke.

Now third-seeded Baylor (27-7) is the highest remaining seed entering a matchup with seventh-seeded South Carolina (24-10), which is in the Sweet 16 for the first time after hanging 65 second-half points on the preseason No. 1-ranked Blue Devils in Sunday’s 88-81 upset.

The other half of Friday’s bracket in New York features fourth-seeded Florida (26-8) against No. 8 seed Wisconsin (27-9), which upset the reigning champion Wildcats on Saturday. The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in seven years behind Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes – two holdovers from a run to the national title game in 2015.

“You have all types of your ranking systems, statistic, analytics guys that they put,” Hayes said. “The thing is with all those algorithms, they can’t calculate heart, will to win, toughness, desire. They can’t put that into a formula to come out with a percentage chance to win, and that’s the things that we have.”

]]> 0 jacket went flying in the first half and before the night was over, the entire season was out the window as Coach Mike Krzyzewski watched his Duke team, seeded second in the East, fall Sunday to South Carolina, 88-81.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 21:31:58 +0000
Tom Caron: Suddenly, Red Sox rotation appears vulnerable Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:22:51 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Earl Weaver, the Hall of Fame manager with the Baltimore Orioles during the 1970s, used to say a team needs “deep depth” to make it through a season.

The 2017 season hasn’t even begun yet, but the Boston Red Sox are already realizing how quickly depth can dissipate.

Spring training began with the David Price scare, when the former Cy Young winner left camp to consult elbow specialists to see if he needed Tommy John surgery.

He doesn’t, but has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game.

Then came Tyler Thornburg, a key bullpen addition during the offseason. He had trouble with Boston’s shoulder-strengthening program, and hasn’t appeared in a spring training game since March 1. With less than two weeks remaining until Opening Day, Thornburg has to get going soon if he’s going to begin the season as the team’s eighth-inning reliever.

On Sunday, pitcher Drew Pomeranz left his start after only two innings against the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park with tightness in his left triceps. It was only his second start of the spring, and he was expected to go deeper than that. During the offseason he received a stem-cell injection in his left elbow. He’s thrown a total of four innings in exhibition games this spring.

Pomeranz and the team were quick to say they were not worried about the tightness. Back in Boston, there was plenty of worry. The Sox came into camp with six starting pitchers. Suddenly, one of them (Price) is out and another (Pomeranz) hasn’t gone deeper than two innings in a spring training game.

The good news is that Kyle Kendrick, the 32-year old veteran signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason, has been terrific this spring. He allowed two runs on five hits in five innings Monday. Kendrick, who hasn’t pitched a major league game since 2015, would be the pitcher the Red Sox would turn to if Pomeranz misses any time.

Kendrick pitched for the Phillies from 2007-14. Philadelphia is now the home of Clay Buchholz, who was traded away for minor leaguer Josh Tobias in December. The move was made to get the Red Sox under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold, the so-called luxury tax that teams must pay if they payroll is too large.

Buchholz was a frustrating figure in Boston for the past 10 years, but he is exactly the type of pitcher the Sox could use if Pomeranz and Price aren’t ready for the start of the season. The type of pitcher that gives a rotation “deep depth.”

In 2006, the year before Buchholz made his debut for Boston, the Sox traded away Bronson Arroyo because they had too many starters. General Manager Theo Epstein figured Arroyo wasn’t going to be in the starting rotation after the team acquired Josh Beckett in the offseason. He traded the righty away for slugger Wily Mo Pena, who was supposed to be a big-time power hitter for Boston.

Pena hit all of 16 homers in parts of two seasons for the Red Sox, who used 14 different starting pitchers in that injury-filled 2006 season.

It’s far too early to assume these spring training injuries will last deep into the season. It is a reminder that you never really have enough depth. And that even the best teams will rely on the talent of their reserves to make it through the marathon of a major league season.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

]]> 0 Price of the Red Sox pitches in the first inning of Boston's split-squad game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Price pitched well in his final preseason tune-up.Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:59:32 +0000
Portland man wins gold medal at Special Olympics in Austria Mon, 20 Mar 2017 22:17:43 +0000 A Portland man won a gold medal in cross-country skiing at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria on Monday.

Lucas Houk won a men’s 5-kilometer freestyle race, finishing in 33 minutes, 2.2 seconds in his first event at the games. Lisa Bird, a spokeswoman for Special Olympics Maine, confirmed Houk’s victory at the competition that brings together more than 2,600 athletes and 1,000 coaches representing 106 countries.

“Lucas is amazing. I just can’t explain to you what a great athlete he is,” she said.

Houk, who also runs and kayaks, has been involved with Special Olympics for six years, winning two gold medals at events in Maine. One was for cross-country skiing at Sugarloaf and the other was for winning a mile run during a competition in Orono, Bird said.

He trains with his father, George W. Houk, who accompanied his son to Austria, along with his mother, Pat Bailey, and family.

George Houk is the founder and coach of the Portland All Stars, a team of Special Olympians from the Portland area. Bird said that Lucas Houk is on the autism spectrum.

The games began March 14 and are scheduled to end Friday. They are being held at three locations in Austria – Graz, Schladming-Rohrmoos and Ramsau – and will include figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey, floor ball, stick shooting, cross-country, snowshoeing, alpine skiing and snowboarding.

Anna McDougal of Wiscasset also is participating in the games, competing in alpine skiing. She has been skiing for four years. McDougal works at Spindle Works Art Center in Brunswick, doing ceramics and artwork.

Duane Hall of Brewer is serving as the U.S. Special Olympics team coach for snowshoeing. Bird said that Bridgton police officer Phil Jones also traveled to Austria, running in the law enforcement torch run’s final leg.

Jones was among several police officers from around the world who carried the Special Olympics torch across Austria before the games began.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

]]> 0, 21 Mar 2017 00:23:35 +0000
Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jersey found in Mexico Mon, 20 Mar 2017 14:33:01 +0000 BOSTON — The mystery of Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jersey led police to Mexico, and authorities were investigating a former tabloid newspaper executive’s possible role in the theft.

Police and the NFL announced Monday that Brady’s jersey, which disappeared from the locker room after the Patriots’ 34–28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons last month, had been found in Mexico. The NFL said the jersey was in “possession of a credentialed member of the international media.”

U.S. and Mexican officials haven’t identified the suspect, but the name of a former newspaper director circulated widely in Mexican news media and on social networks.

The newspaper’s owner, Organizacion Editorial Mexicana, issued a statement saying the director had resigned March 14 from La Prensa for “personal reasons.” The company learned only Monday of his possible involvement in the jersey case, it said.

The paper said that if the accusations are true, it “strongly condemns” that the employee used his position “to obtain a media accreditation to be able to access the field of play, news conferences and probably other areas of NRG Stadium.”

The company apologized and said that its leaders had been unaware of “the regrettable and reprehensible actions (he) presumably committed,” and said that it had not been contacted by Mexican authorities about the case.

No arrests had been made as of late Monday. The Associated Press is not identifying the director because he has not been charged.

The missing jersey – and the subsequent investigation – captivated Patriots fans and social media for several days after the Super Bowl.

“If it shows up on eBay or something, somebody let me know,” Brady said after the game.

Houston police investigators relied on a tip from an informant to trace the jersey, estimated to be worth about $500,000, to Mexico.

It wasn’t the only piece of memorabilia recovered. Police also located a Brady jersey that had gone missing after the Patriots’ 2015 Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks.

A Super Bowl helmet belonging to a Denver Broncos player also was found, said an NFL spokesman.

Houston police chief Art Acevedo congratulated his team on finding the jersey, but was equally quick to say it wasn’t a “top priority” in a city with violent crime.

He described the theft as the only blemish on an otherwise successful Super Bowl.

“You don’t come to Texas and embarrass us here on our home turf,” Acevedo said.

Brady’s agent did not immediately respond to emails. A Patriots spokeswoman said the team had no comment.

The jerseys are in the possession of the NFL and FBI in Boston, and law enforcement was working to authenticate them, the chief said.

“We are highly confident that these are the jerseys,” Acevedo said.

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2017 20:02:41 +0000
Sunday’s Maine college roundup: USM baseball wins in extras Mon, 20 Mar 2017 02:55:09 +0000 AUBURNDALE, Fla. — The University of Southern Maine baseball team scored three runs in the top of the 11th inning to beat St. Thomas 4-1 on Sunday in a non-conference game.

After seven scoreless innings, Southern Maine (2-1) broke through with a single run in the top of the eighth on Kip Richards sacrifice fly.

St. Thomas tied it in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring fielder’s choice.

In the 11th, Paul McDonough and Jake Dexter each singled with two outs and Andrew Olszak gave the Huskies the lead with an RBI single. Quintal added a two-run single.

Matt Bender and Sam Stauble each went 2 for 5 for Southern Maine.

Matt Correale earned the win, pitching 32/3 scoreless innings of relief.

COLBY SPLITS PAIR OF GAMES: Trailing by four runs heading to the bottom of the fifth, the Mules used a seven-run inning to take the lead and hold off Western Connecticut State 9-8 in the first game of a doubleheader at Fort Myers, Florida.

In the fifth, the first five Colby batters reached to cut the deficit to one.

Della Volpe added an RBI single, Will Phillips had an RBI on a fielder’s choice and the Mules (2-1) added a run on an error to take a 9-6 lead.

The Colonials (7-7) grabbed an early 5-0 lead and held off a late rally to win the second game, 5-3.


WORCESTER STATE 6, SOUTHERN MAINE 0: Mary McKeown scattered six hit in seven innings as Lancers (1-0) shut out the Huskies (1-1) in their first game of the day in Clermont, Florida.

Worcester State scored three two-out runs in the second inning and added to its lead with three runs in the fourth inning.

Erin Martin led Southern Maine with a pair of hits.

SOUTHERN MAINE 3, ELMHURST 2: Shelby Obert drove a two-run single to center to give the Huskies (2-2) an early lead and they held off the Bluejays (1-3) in non-conference play in Clermont, Florida.

Amber Kelly went the distance for the Huskies, giving up a pair of unearned runs on six hits, striking out four while walking one batter.

MONTANA 5, MAINE 2: The Grizzlies (13-15) jumped out to a 4-0 lead and cruised by the Black Bears (3-17) in Missoula, Montana.

Meghan Royle got Maine on the board with a line single to center to drive in in Rachel Harvey, and Alyssa Derrick plated Rachel Carson with a single in the sixth to cut the deficit in half, but the Black Bear could get no closer.

PLYMOUTH STATE 4, COLBY 2: The Mules grabbed an early lead on a bases-loaded walk but surrended four unanswered runs to fall to the Panthers (3-2) in their season opener at Clermont, Florida.

Ella Hommeyer’s RBI in the top of the third inning gave Colby the short-lived lead but Plymouth State countered with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning on an Emma Rhodes run-scoring single.

COLBY 9, D’YOUVILLE 1: The Mules opened an early 5-0 lead and cruised to a five-inning victory against the Spartans (1-2) in Clermont, Florida.

Katie McLaughlin hit a two-run single, Robin Spofford an RBI single and Skylar Labbe an RBI double as Colby scored five times in the second. Labbe added a three-run single in the fifth.

WISCONSIN-OSHKOSH 2, BOWDOIN 0: Claire Petrus allowed just six singles as the Titans (9-3) shut out the Polar Bears (3-4) in their first game of the day in Clermont, Florida.

Emily Griffin suffered the complete game loss for the Polar Bears, allowing six hits while striking out six batters and walking a pair.

Bowdoin beat Plymouth State 9-1 in its second game Sunday.

]]> 0 Sun, 19 Mar 2017 22:58:53 +0000
Men’s basketball roundup: South Carolina ousts Duke Mon, 20 Mar 2017 02:15:41 +0000 GREENVILLE, S.C. — Sindarius Thornwell scored 24 points, Chris Silva got 13 of his 17 points in the second half and seventh-seeded South Carolina stunned No. 2 seed Duke 88-81 on Sunday night to advance to its first Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament’s expanded bracket.

The Gamecocks (24-10) trailed by 10 points early in the second half after one of its coldest shooting stretches of the season. But behind Thornwell’s outside shooting and Silva’s dominance underneath, South Carolina rallied to win two NCAA games for the first time in 44 years.

The Gamecocks rushed to their fans when things were over, celebrating one of the biggest wins in program history.

Next up is the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, where the Gamecocks will face third-seeded Baylor, an 82-78 winner over USC.

Duke (28-9) was attempting to reach the round of 16 for the sixth time in eight seasons. The Blue Devils led 30-23 after a sloppy first half in which they committed 13 turnovers, but they could not surmount South Carolina’s stifling defense. Leading scorer Luke Kennard had his second straight subpar shooting game, finishing 1 of 6 for 11 points before fouling out.

Duane Notice also scored 17 points and Rakym Felder had 15 for the Gamecocks.

Grayson Allen led Duke with 20 points.

BAYLOR 82, USC 78: Johnathan Motley had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 3 seed Baylor (27-7) defeated No. 11 seed USC (26-10) in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Terry Maston also scored 19 points, King McClure added 17 and Manu Lecomte got all 12 of his points in the final five minutes for the Bears.


KENTUCKY 65, WICHITA STATE 62: Bam Adebayo had a double-double and swatted away the final shot as No. 2 seed Kentucky (31-5) sent No. 10 Wichita State (31-5) to yet another second-round heartbreak, edging the Shockers in Indianapolis.

Adebayo had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox scored 14 points, including a late steal and dunk, and Malik Monk blocked a shot and made a pair of free throws in the final 13 seconds. Adebayo clinched it by blocking Landry Shamet’s 3-pointer shot at the buzzer.

UCLA 79, CINCINNATI 67: Lonzo Ball scored 19 points and ignited UCLA’s rally from a poor start with nine assists, lifting the third-seeded Bruins (31-4) to a win over No. 6 Cincinnati (30-6) in Sacramento, California.

UCLA had a hard time solving Cincinnati’s active defense in the first half, unable to get shots to drop or get out in transition. But the Bruins found a new gear in the second half, breaking out for dunks and dropping in strings of 3-pointers to quickly push the lead to double digits.

Now UCLA is headed to its third Sweet 16 appearance in four seasons under Coach Steve Alford.

The Bruins will face No. 2 seed Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis.


OREGON 75, RHODE ISLAND 72: Tyler Dorsey hit a contested go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 38.4 seconds to play, and third-seeded Oregon (31-5) rallied in the second half to beat No. 11 Rhode Island in Sacramento, California.

Dorsey also tied the game with a 3 with 1:45 remaining on the way to 27 points. He made 9 of 10 shots, with four 3-pointers.

Rhode Island nearly scrapped and hustled its way into the regional semifinals, with Stanford Robinson matching his career high of 21 points, but the Rams (25-10) had their nine-game winning streak snapped.

KANSAS 90, MICHIGAN STATE 70: Josh Jackson scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half to help top-seeded Kansas (30-4) pull away late and reach the Sweet 16 with a victory in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Frank Mason III added 20 points and Devonte Graham scored 18 for the Jayhawks (30-4).

Miles Bridges scored 22 points to lead ninth-seeded Michigan State (20-15) despite leaving briefly in the first half because of an injury.

Nick Ward also finished in double figures with 13 points and Joshua Langford had 10 for the Spartans.

]]> 0 the second time in four years, Wichita State's basketball season ended with a heartbreaking, second-round loss to Kentucky, as Shaquille Morris and the Shockers suffered a 65-62 defeat Sunday in Indianapolis.Sun, 19 Mar 2017 23:57:29 +0000
NCAA men’s basketball: North Carolina rallies past Arkansas Mon, 20 Mar 2017 01:48:43 +0000 GREENVILLE, S.C. — North Carolina’s players talked all year about their run to last year’s NCAA championship game – that, as painful as the loss was, it prepared them for another Final Four push.

On Sunday, down to a handful of possessions with their season suddenly in peril, the Tar Heels’ experience saved them from a stunningly early exit.

Kennedy Meeks scored 16 points and made a huge tip-in with 44.2 seconds left, helping top-seeded UNC barely avoid a upset by rallying late to beat Arkansas 72-65 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“I don’t mind saying I feel a little lucky,” UNC Coach Roy Williams said. “Every now and then, I knock in a long putt, too.”

The team with three returnees who were on the court for Villanova’s title-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last year had enough composure to shake off everything on a day rapidly going wrong.

A blown 17-point first-half lead.

 Arkansas’ aggressive and harassing defense.

 Even a 65-60 deficit in the final 3 minutes, which threatened to turn the game into the kind of March Madness moment that had befallen Villanova only a day earlier.

Instead, UNC closed on a 12-0 run to give Williams his 18th trip to the Sweet 16, including his time at Kansas.

“We could’ve easily laid down those three or four minutes and gave in,” junior point guard Joel Berry II said, “but like I said, we’ve got dreams and goals we want to reach. And we just didn’t want to go home.”

Justin Jackson added 15 points for the Tar Heels (29-7), including a win-capping dunk with 3.5 seconds left. Senior Isaiah Hicks came up big, too, with a dunk and four free throws in the final two minutes after being a no-show much of the way.

Daryl Macon scored 19 points before battling leg cramps for the eighth-seeded Razorbacks (26-10).

“We came to dance and we didn’t come to do the one-step,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “We wanted to bust up some brackets here today.”

The Razorbacks had UNC wobbling with their aggressive, mistake-forcing defense, harassing the Tar Heels all over the court. When Jaylen Barford scored in transition off a turnover, Arkansas led 65-60 with 3:28 left.

But the Tar Heels responded in a huge way.

Arkansas rallied from 30-13 down to take its first lead midway through the second half. In the end, though, Arkansas fell to 0-9 against No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament and couldn’t reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.

“They’re a great team,” guard Manuale Watkins said of North Carolina. “And their backs were against the wall. They made the plays to win the game. They’re a 1-seed. They showed it.”

After Barford’s layup, the Tar Heels scored on six of their final seven possessions, while the Razorbacks came up empty on their last seven.

“We know not to panic,” Berry said. “Coach always tells us, ‘Keep playing, keep playing, play better.’ That experience came into play. There were plays that we called, we executed them and that’s what you’ve got to do.”

The biggest play of all came from Meeks. With UNC leading by one and the shot clock winding down, Berry drove and collided with Adrio Bailey. There was no whistle – no charge, no blocking foul, no travel – so Berry threw the ball against the backboard.

Meeks got inside position on Moses Kingsley to tap the ball with his left hand, sending it off the backboard and in for a 68-65 lead.

“I did what Coach always said: that’s get in front of the defender when the shot goes up, and it fell on my hands,” Meeks said.

]]> 0 tip-in by Kennedy Meeks in the final minute helped top-seeded North Carolina turn back an upset bid by Arkansas, as the Tar Heels finished with a 12-0 run to earn a 72-65 win Sunday in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.Sun, 19 Mar 2017 23:17:15 +0000
Golf roundup: Leishman gets win fit for The King Mon, 20 Mar 2017 01:38:48 +0000 ORLANDO, Fla. — Marc Leishman holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole to take the lead Sunday, and he stayed there with two tough pars at the end to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational and earn a trip to the Masters.

In a final hour that featured four players having at least a share of the lead, Leishman is the only one who didn’t blink.

His final act was a pitch-and-run from 45 yards away on the closing hole at Bay Hill that ran out to 3 feet. He calmly made the par putt for a 3-under 69 and one-shot victory over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman.

The only thing missing was a handshake from the King. This was the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the September death of the beloved tournament host.

“You see guys win and he’s waiting there on the back of the green,” Leishman said. “And to not have that is obviously very sad, but to win here is just a dream come true.”

Rory McIlroy had as good a chance as anyone, storming into a share of the lead by hooking a wedge around a tree, over the water and over the green on the 16th, then nearly holing the eagle chip.

He had a 30-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead on the 18th, and after seeing that Leishman had made eagle on the 16th, gave it a good run. The putt went 8 feet by and three-putt for a 69 to finish two shots back.

Kisner and Hoffman also squandered away their chances.

Kisner had a three-shot lead at the turn, but failed to make another birdie the rest of the way. His lead began slipping away when Kisner missed the green on the par-5 12th with a sand wedge, pitched over the other side of the green and took bogey. He closed with a 73.

Hoffman rallied from a 39 on the front nine to catch Kisner for the lead, only to three-putt for par on the 16th and then drop another shot from the bunker on the 17th. He made birdie on the 18th that gave him a tie for second.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Tom Lehman took advantage of senior newcomer Steve Stricker’s late mistakes to win the Tucson Conquistadores Classic in Tuscon, Arizona for his 10th PGA Tour Champions victory.

Two strokes behind Stricker with three holes to play, Lehman closed with two birdies and a par for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over playing partner Stricker.

LPGA TOUR: Anna Nordqvist shot a 4-under 68 to hold off Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis and In Gee Chun by two strokes in 96-degree heat at Desert Ridge.

Nordqvist finished at 25-under 263, two strokes off the LPGA Tour record that Sei Young Kim matched last year at Desert Ridge.

]]> 0 Sun, 19 Mar 2017 21:42:11 +0000
NBA roundup: Spurs snap losing streak Mon, 20 Mar 2017 01:35:36 +0000 SAN ANTONIO — Pau Gasol scored 22 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 and the San Antonio Spurs rolled to a 118-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night, snapping a two-game skid.

Kawhi Leonard had 12 points in 27 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter after the Spurs led by as many as 28 points.

San Antonio (53-16) moved within two games of idle Golden State (55-14) for the league’s best record.

Buddy Hield had 18 points for Sacramento, matching his high with the Kings since being acquired Feb. 20 in a trade that sent All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

RAPTORS 116, PACERS 91: DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points in three quarters, and all five Toronto starters were in double figures as the Raptors beat Indiana in Toronto.

DeRozan added four assists and three rebounds and was able to rest the entire fourth quarter as the Raptors cruised to their second straight victory. Serge Ibaka had 16 points, while Jonas Valanciunas finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 41-29.

TRAIL BLAZERS 115, HEAT 104: Damian Lillard scored a season-high 49 points, 28 of them coming after halftime and Portland continued its playoff push by winning in Miami.

Lillard tied a career high with nine 3-pointers, giving him 1,002 for his career. He shot 14 for 21 from the field, 9 for 12 from 3-point range and made all 12 of his free throws.

Jusef Nurkic added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Portland (32-37), which moved within a game of idle Denver for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

MAVERICKS 111, NETS 104: Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and nine rebounds, J.J. Barea scored 20 and Dallas beat Brooklyn in New York.

Harrison Barnes added 19 points for the Mavericks.

Brook Lopez scored 27 points and Spencer Dinwiddie had 18 for the Nets. Randy Foye and Quincy Acy each had 11.

PISTONS 112, SUNS 95: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 23 points and Detroit overcame a sluggish performance for the much of the game, finally pulling away from short-handed Phoenix in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

The Suns were without several top players, but they still led the playoff-chasing Pistons 65-53 in the third quarter. Detroit finished strong in that period and then built a double-digit lead of its own in the fourth.

PELICANS 123, TIMBERWOLVES 109: Anthony Davis had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and New Orleans won at home.

DeMarcus Cousins added 15 points and 11 rebounds in his return from a one-game absence because of left knee and rib soreness.

]]> 0 Sun, 19 Mar 2017 21:38:21 +0000
Pomeranz exits early, feels injury not serious Mon, 20 Mar 2017 00:33:30 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz exited Sunday’s start after two innings because of tightness in his left triceps, the latest setback for Boston’s staff in spring training.

The Red Sox said Pomeranz, in competition for a spot in the rotation, was pulled against Minnesota as a precaution.

“I don’t think it’s anything serious,” the lefty said.

The AL East champions had been counting on Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, David Price and newcomer Chris Sale to be their big three in the rotation, with Pomeranz, knuckleballer Steven Wright and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez vying for the remaining two spots.

But Price is out indefinitely, likely to start the season on the disabled list with a strained left elbow. Manager John Farrell said it was “too early to determine” if Pomeranz might not be ready when Boston opens at home on April 3 against Pittsburgh.

“I don’t think this is going to affect opening day,” Pomeranz said. “I was just one inning away from having a normal outing. I’ve had little tweak in my triceps before. It gets tight and I come in the next day and it’s fine.”

Pomeranz has had issues with his left arm since the Red Sox acquired him in a trade last July with San Diego. He received a stem cell injection during the offseason and was delayed earlier in spring training, making his first Grapefruit League start on March 14.

The 28-year-old Pomeranz was an All-Star with the Padres last year, then was dealt to Boston and went 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA for his new club.

Pomeranz gave up three runs on two hits and three walks in the Red Sox’ 13-8 loss to the Twins. He was expected to go three innings.

“My triceps got tight toward the end of the first inning,” he said. “Talked to the trainers in between innings and went back out and it stayed tight the whole time. Nothing crazy.”

“I think just my workload has been a lot more than usual this week. In the second inning, it didn’t loosen up so we decided to call it quits. I could have thrown one more but it’s only my second start so might as well give it rest,” he said.

Pomeranz said this discomfort was in a different spot than the injection.

“Back of the arm, triceps. Probably as a result of getting back into the swing of things,” he said. “Like I said, I could have gone out there and thrown another one. I’ll come in tomorrow and hopefully everything will be fine. I don’t think it’s too serious,” he said. “I never thought I was going to be perfect from the beginning and be ready to go. I started to feel better this week. I increased the workload and intensity so maybe it just tightened up on me a little bit. Before that I felt really good, best my arm had felt to this point. It’s just part of early season, preseason.”

Said Farrell: “We would always act on the side of caution in that situation where a pitcher has stiffness or tightness in his shoulder.

“He said he could go out for one more inning, but we didn’t see any reason to do that. Hopefully he can get his work between starts and stay on schedule.”

Boston has several other pitching candidates beyond the main contenders, although not all of them are having solid springs.

Veteran right-hander Kyle Kendrick, in camp as a non-roster invitee, has been perhaps the most promising of the group. In 18 innings of five Grapefruit League appearances, including four starts, he has allowed three runs on 12 hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts.

Lefty Roenis Elias is less than halfway through a three-week shutdown with an intercostal strain. Left-handers Henry Owens and Brian Johnson struggled this spring and were among the first round of roster moves.

]]> 0 PomeranzSun, 19 Mar 2017 21:16:18 +0000
Major League roundup: Bunting practice doesn’t go well for Blue Jays’ Pillar Mon, 20 Mar 2017 00:33:08 +0000 The Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar spent Sunday switching from a Triple-A exhibition game to a Double-A contest on adjacent fields, attempting to reach on bunt singles in all seven at-bats.

Pillar might need a little more practice – he went 0 for 7.

“It’s something that I want to have as a tool, something in my back pocket,” he said. “Find another way to get on base. To be confident enough to get my bunt down, place it where I want to place it. A perfectly executed bunt is tough to defend, even if they know it’s coming.”

Pillar has worked on bunting off a pitching machine and said it almost has become easy to place the ball.

INDIANS: Right-hander Cody Anderson will undergo reconstructive elbow surgery and miss the 2017 season.

The AL champions said Anderson has elected to have the operation after being diagnosed with a ligament sprain. The 26-year-old made nine starts for Cleveland last season and was expected to begin this year at Triple-A Buffalo. His loss hurts Cleveland’s pitching depth.

Also, second baseman Jason Kipnis is still four to five weeks away from playing in a game as he deals with shoulder inflammation. Kipnis received a second opinion on his shoulder and has been cleared to resume a strengthening program in a week.

MARLINS: Third baseman Martin Prado is expected to miss the start of the regular season after straining his right hamstring at the World Baseball Classic.

Playing for Team Venezuela, Prado injured his hamstring running out a ground ball in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s loss to Team USA.


YANKEES 6, ASTROS 4: Former Yankees catcher Brian McCann went 3 for 3 against his former team, and Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. allowed two earned runs in 32/3 innings.

Chase Headley had two hits for New York, including a two-run double.

CARDINALS 5, BRAVES 2: St. Louis starter Lance Lynn worked five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and lowering his spring ERA to 1.29. Matt Adams homered and Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk and Jedd Gyorko all doubled.

NATIONALS 10, MARLINS 4: Working on ways to prevent tipping his pitches, Stephen Strasburg worked 41/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits while striking out three. Ryan Zimmerman hit his first spring home run in the sixth.

BLUE JAYS 11, PIRATES 11: Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole made his second Grapefruit League start and first since March 3, working five strong innings. He gave up five hits, including a home run by Ezequiel Carrera, and struck out five. David Freese doubled and singled for Pittsburgh, raising his average to .360.

MARLINS 7, METS 5: Miami starter Jose Urena did not give up a run in his 41/3 innings, working around four hits and four walks.

Matt den Dekker hit two home runs, including one off Jacob deGrom.

]]> 0 Sun, 19 Mar 2017 21:18:08 +0000
Newman gambles, ends Cup series drought Sun, 19 Mar 2017 23:28:20 +0000 AVONDALE, Ariz. — A big gamble in the desert heat ended a long victory drought for Ryan Newman.

When just about everybody else decided to take a tire-changing pit stop in the final few laps Sunday, Newman figured he’d be going into the pits with them.

His crew chief, Luke Lambert, thought otherwise.

It was a decision that earned Newman a victory in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, ending his 127-race winless streak.

“Just a heck of a gutsy call by Luke Lambert,” Newman said. “It’s his first win as a crew chief in the Cup Series, and I think making a gutsy call like that makes it that much more special for him.”

While the leaders were in the pits, Newman moved from seventh to first. Over the final two laps, he held off Kyle Larson, the second-place finisher for the third straight race.

Kyle Busch, the leader for nearly all of the final stage of the race, finished third on a day when the temperature soared to 97 degrees.

Larson and Busch went to the pits during the late caution caused when Joey Logano’s car blew a right tire and slammed into the wall six laps from the finish.

Newman got his 18th Cup win, but his first since the 2013 Brickyard 400. He gave Chevrolet its first victory of the season and ended a 112-race losing streak for Richard Childress Racing.

“I can’t say enough about what it means,” Newman said.

When the caution ended, two laps separated him from the win.

“You’re on old tires. It’s really easy to screw it up,” Newman said. “You’ve got to get your tires cleaned off right, you’ve to get a good launch, you’ve got to run through the gear box right, and then you’ve got to hold everybody off.”

Larson, with two new tires on his Chevrolet, came out of the pit stop ahead of Busch’s Toyota.

“I thought he was going to be all over me,” Newman said of Larson. “I don’t think he could get going as good as he wanted to.”

Logano won the first stage and Chase Elliott won the second in NASCAR’s new three-stage system.

Elliott dominated the second stage but lost the lead after Matt Kenseth blew a right front tire and slammed into the wall on the 193rd lap of the 314-lap race. In the ensuing pit stop, Busch got out quicker than Elliott to take the lead.

]]> 0 Newman takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway, Sunday, March. 19, 2017, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)Sun, 19 Mar 2017 23:11:08 +0000