The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Sports Mon, 29 Aug 2016 02:01:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sea Dogs notebook: Team still a good draw despite record Mon, 29 Aug 2016 00:27:03 +0000 When a baseball team is 53-78 and the general manager says, “we feel good about the way the season has gone,” it must be a minor league GM talking.

After a second straight sold-out game at Hadlock Field to end the home schedule on Sunday, Portland Sea Dogs General Manager Geoff Iacuessa looked satisfied.

“A successful season,” Iacuessa said.

With Sunday’s crowd of 7,368 factored in, the Sea Dogs drew 374,746 fans for 70 dates, or a 5,353 average. That is 144 less than last year’s average, but still ranks third in the 12-team Eastern League, behind Reading, Pennsylvania (6,147) and Richmond, Virginia (5,672).

With a week of games left to play, only four Eastern League teams have recorded a gain in average over last year – Reading (103 more), Trenton (32 more), Akron (four more) and Bowie (three more).

Iacuessa was especially pleased because revamped marketing efforts after the 2013 season (a franchise-low 5,096 average) are still working. Pushes for group sales as well as one-time promotions (Star Wars Night, etc.) have helped.

Good weather also benefited the Sea Dogs, with only one rain-out.

Weather can also negatively affect the average. When games in April and May – which feature the poorest attendance because of the weather – are all played, the average crowd is lower.

While a winning team can help attendance (the 2004 division-winning club had a 5,530 average), it is not crucial in the minors.

“It impacts the diehard baseball fan,” Iacuessa said. “This year, we weren’t a contender but we had exciting players to watch, with (Yoan) Moncada, (Andrew) Benintendi and (Mauricio (Dubon).”

NEXT SEASON’S schedule has not yet been announced, but Iacuessa did say the Sea Dogs will be home on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and the season-ending game on Labor Day. Also, because the Eastern League requires every team to open the season at home every other year, the 2017 season opener on April 6 will be at Hadlock.

The schedule will be announced in 2-3 weeks.

THE TEAM AWARDS for the Sea Dogs were announced before Sunday’s game.

Aneury Tavarez, who is leading the league in batting with .331 average, was named Most Valuable Player. The Pitcher of the Year was Keith Couch, who is 9-4 with a 3.34 ERA and three complete games.

Ryan Court, who has played every infield position and left field, received The 10th Man Award. He is batting .277 in 78 games.

And, for the third consecutive year, pitcher Mike McCarthy was named Citizen of the Year for his work in the local and international communities.

BASEBALL CARD sets were given out to the first 1,000 fans at Friday’s game, which produced a line outside Hadlock before the gates opened. The sets were highlighted by Benintendi and Moncada, who joined the team in-season.

Moncada was almost not included.

The cards were sent to the printer in June – without Moncada. When he was promoted to Portland on June 21, Sea Dogs officials called the printer with a “stop the presses” plea.

They were able to include Moncada, the Boston Red Sox top prospect, making the 2016 Sea Dogs card set a must-have for collectors. For those who could not get a free set, they are for sale for $10 in the Sea Dogs gift shop.


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Endwell, N.Y., tops South Korea for Little League World Series title Sun, 28 Aug 2016 23:45:28 +0000 SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Ryan Harlost led Endwell, New York, to the Little League World Series title, striking out eight and limiting South Korea to five hits in six innings in a 2-1 victory Sunday.

Endwell became the first U.S. winner since Huntington Beach, California, in 2011, and gave New York its first title since 1964.

Conner Rush had the New York team’s only RBI to give Endwell a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the bottom of the fourth. Harlost (2-0) scored the deciding run on a passed ball a batter later.

“I was just thinking get it in play any way you can,” Rush said. “Once that happens, you never know what can happen.”

Yoomin Lee homered for the Asia-Pacific champs from Seoul. Minho Choi struck out with runners on first and second to end the game.

Junho Jeong (1-2) gave up two runs on four hits and struck out nine for South Korea (4-2). He threw 31/3 innings of no-hit ball before Jude Abbadessa broke through in the fourth.

Walking to the plate as Endwell fans bellowed “Juuude!” Abbadessa broke up the righty’s no-hit bid with a single to center. Harlost followed with a liner to the same spot and Rush plated the go-ahead run with a hit that fell in behind the shortstop. Harlost raced home on a passed ball to give New York a 2-0 lead one batter later.

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Sea Dogs drop final home game in 11 innings Sun, 28 Aug 2016 20:46:12 +0000 The final Portland Sea Dogs home game of 2017 ended like most of them, with a loss. But the Sea Dogs put up a fight before losing to the Trenton Thunder 4-3 in 11 innings Sunday afternoon, before a sold-out Hadlock Field crowd of 7,368.

Not only did the full house see a cliffhanger, but the fans also watched Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan make a rehab appearance (as the designated hitter). He went 2 for 3 with a walk.

The highlight of Sunday came on the first pitch from Trenton starter Daniel Camarena. It was an 89 mph fastball and Yoan Moncada crushed it.

Moncada’s blast was his 11th home run in 43 Double-A games. It left his bat at 98 mph and traveled an estimated 383 feet. And it’s important to point out that Camarena is a left-hander.

Moncada is a switch hitter, but he is batting .179 against lefties, with seven walks and 19 strikeouts. But since Aug. 11, Moncada is batting .333 (3 for 9, with a double, home run, four walks and five strikeouts) against left-handers.

“The main thing is he hasn’t faced much left-handers,” Portland Manager Carlos Febles said. “Lately he’s been much better. He’s staying on the ball a little longer. It paid off day.”

The homer was Moncada’s only hit Sunday. Overall, he is still batting .286 with a .388 on-base percentage and .554 slugging average (.941 OPS).

Moncada again played at third base, his new position, and looked fine until the 11th inning. Jose Rosario hit a bouncer. Moncada initially backed up and then charged, trying to short-hop it. The ball got by him and Rosario raced to second base for a two-base error.

“He got caught in between,” Febles said.

Francisco Diaz followed with a bunt to pitcher Austin Maddox (3-2), who tried to get the out at third, but Rosario was safe. Michael O’Neill walked and Portland pulled its infield in. Abiatal Avelino singled off the glove of diving second baseman Ryan Court, to drive in two and give Trenton a 4-2 lead.

In the bottom of the 11th, Aneury Tavarez walked and Court was hit by a pitch with no out. The Sea Dogs managed one run on Rainel Rosario’s RBI ground out, but that was all.

Portland’s Jalen Beeks made a quality start, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out five in six innings. His one hiccup was a Mark Payton two-run homer in the third inning.

The Sea Dogs tied the game at 2-2 with a run in the eighth. Tzu-Wei Lin led off with a double to deep center. Tavarez singled him in with a line drive to left field.

With Portland’s bullpen limited after Saturday’s 15-inning game, reliever Jake Drehoff followed Beeks and pitched 32/3 scoreless innings, his longest outing this year.

“He kept us there,” Febles said. “We asked him more than we normally ask out of him.”

The Sea Dogs (53-78) will finish their season on the road, beginning with a game Monday in Reading, Pennsylvania. Trenton (83-51) plays in New Hampshire on Monday.

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Helliwell Jr. wins Oxford 250 Sun, 28 Aug 2016 20:36:32 +0000 OXFORD — Wayne Helliwell Jr. waited for his opening and pounced.

The Dover, New Hampshire, driver passed Travis Benjamin with six laps remaining Sunday night to win the 43rd annual H.P. Hood Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. It was Helliwell’s first 250 win and his third Pro All Stars Series win at the track this season.

Benjamin, the two-time Oxford 250 champion, finished second. D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, New Hampshire, was third.

Helliwell stalked Benjamin for nearly 20 laps following the race’s final restart on lap 227, finally trapping Benjamin behind a lapped car to make the move for the lead.

Ben Rowe of Turner was fourth with Joey Polewarczyk Jr., of Hudson, New Hampshire rounding out the top five.

This story will be updated.

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Cousin of NBA star Dwayne Wade shot to death in Chicago Sun, 28 Aug 2016 16:56:09 +0000 CHICAGO – The fatal shooting of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin in Chicago is part of a sharp uptick in gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city this year. Among the other innocent people caught in crossfire have been young children playing outside and a father paying bills at his kitchen table.

Wade’s cousin, Nykea Aldridge, was shot Friday while pushing her baby in a stroller near a school; two men have been charged. Aldridge was one of nearly 20 people shot between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, police said. Three others were killed.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in Chicago:


There were 441 homicides in the city between the start of the year and Aug. 21, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period last year, police said. That’s also more than 80 percent higher than at the same point in 2014, when the city ended the year with just over 400 homicides – the least in a half-century.

Other cities, such as Los Angeles and Memphis, Tennessee, also have seen homicides rise, according to a midyear survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. But experts say it isn’t enough to suggest a trend, noting numbers are down elsewhere, such as Oakland, California, and Miami.


Much of the increase in Chicago homicides is related to more shootings, which have been climbing since 2013 but have spiked this year to 2,228 as of Aug. 21.

That’s 48 percent more than in the same timeframe last year, and easily surpasses the total recorded in all of 2014, when there were 2,084.


There isn’t a clear cause.

Chicago police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel frequently point to gang violence and the easy availability of guns. The city once had some of the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, but many are no longer on the books. Last year, the police department said it confiscated nearly 7,000 illegal guns.

Others point to a loss of trust between police and the community, a long-standing problem that grew worse after Chicago police released a squad-car video in November that showed a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times. The video of Laquan McDonald’s death set off weeks of protests.

Many of the neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides where the violence is concentrated struggle with gang membership and high unemployment and poverty rates.


Police said Aldridge, a 32-year-old mother of four, was going to register her kids for school Friday when two men walked up and shot at a third man, hitting her in the head and arm.

She is among the many innocent people who have been hit by stray gunfire, including a growing number of young children.

In the first six months of the year, 15 children younger than 10 were shot, none fatally. That’s seven more than in the first half of 2015.

The victims included a 6-year-old girl who was drawing with sidewalk chalk when she was shot in the back with a bullet intended for rival gang members. A bullet pierced the cheek of a 4-year-old boy as walked down a sidewalk, holding his mother’s hand.

Wade, a native of Chicago’s south suburbs who signed with the Chicago Bulls in July, bemoaned what’s happening in some neighborhoods, saying Saturday that “The city of Chicago is hurting.”

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State park island offers access by rental rowboat, if you dare Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:17 +0000 WARREN ISLAND — Back in 1994, Joe Dienes was a single dad in Westbrook looking to give his children a memorable summer vacation. So he let them choose the state park campground they would visit. His 10-year-old daughter chose Maine’s only island state park.

Every year since, Dienes has been coming to Warren Island in Penobscot Bay. After he met his wife, Linda, they visited together while they were dating, then spent their honeymoon on Warren Island.

“It is a hidden gem,” said Dienes, 56.

The 70-acre island, located three miles off Lincolnville, is a wild, remote Downeast ocean adventure that can be accessed by campers in southern Maine in just a few hours. From Lincolnville, the campground is about a 30-minute trip in a motorboat or an hour’s paddle.

But you don’t need to own a boat to get there. The state park rents a row boat for $20 at the town dock on Islesboro, right where the ferry from Lincolnville exits passengers.

From the mainland, the ferry to Islesboro takes 20 minutes. From there, Warren Island is a short paddle away.

It’s just a half-mile crossing, although a rower needs to handle the large rented wooden skiff, and be smart enough to avoid rough seas and dangerous weather.

On a calm day, it’s about a half hour of rowing. It can take longer, depending on how much one has to zigzag around moored boats. It also can be hard to focus on rowing given the views of forested islands: Islesboro, Warren and Spruce.

Carolyn Lyon, 38, and Matteo Lundgren, 33, heard about Warren Island from friends in Maine and came to the state for the first time to camp at the park. But their crossing wasn’t an easy one. Lyon was seven months pregnant.

“We’re not necessarily used to the ocean. We live near a big lake, but we liked the sound of rowing over. It sounded romantic,” said Lundgren, of Ithaca, New York. “When we tried to row over there were big swells and a 25 mph headwind. I was rowing and not going anywhere.”

Lyon and Lundgren waited an hour for the waves to subside and finally were lucky enough to get a tow from an Islesboro sailboat, a gesture that’s not uncommon, said Warren Island ranger Sandie Sabaka.

Once at their campsite, Lyon said the island charmed them.

“It’s just really peaceful here. We want to return when we have our baby. (Warren Island manager) Byron Crosby said he’s seen children grow up here,” she said.

The island has 12 campsites, all with ocean views and privacy galore. There are three group sites in the center of the island, all of them high on a hill.

The chance for solitude is so great here, it draws Ben Dove, 35, and his family from the next island over – Islesboro – every year.

“I grew up on Islesboro 20 years ago. It’s just a short row over. I think other people from (Islesboro) enjoy this spot,” said Jon Dove, 37.

Warren Island also has a rocky beach, a perimeter path that winds through the pine forest, and a field on the hill that’s home to cellar holes.

A century ago, the island was home to an expansive lodge owned by William Folwell, a woolen manufacturer from Philadelphia who purchased it in 1899. The lodge was completed in 1901 by his son, Nathan, with 27 bedrooms, a ballroom, expansive balcony and large stone fireplace. It was destroyed in a fire in 1919, but parts of the foundation remain.

Warren Island, a gift to the state from the town of Islesboro, became a state park in 1967.

Yet after more than 20 years of camping there, Joe Dienes calls it the best-kept secret in Maine.

Every year, Joe and Linda Dienes book the lean-to on the north side of the island close to the mainland. They motor their skiff out from Lincolnville in 30 to 40 minutes and dump their gear before mooring their boat on the island’s protected south side. Then they carry their gear just 50 yards to their lean-to and enjoy ocean views toward Camden right at their doorstep.

“We’ve visited about 10 other state park campgrounds. This one is beautiful. People are not on top of each other. It’s spread out. It’s tranquil,” Linda Dienes said.

After the work of getting their gear to Warren Island, the couple said the park’s tranquility immediately slows them down.

“You’re on island time,” Joe said.

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Outdoors Calendar Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 UPCOMING

Myths About Bats, 7 p.m. Sept. 20 in Wells

There are more than 1,300 known species of bats, comprising nearly a quarter of all mammal species. These unique creatures are at the center of some of today’s most pressing ecological issues. David Yates, the mammal program director at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland, will share some of the research he has done on bats at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. The event is sponsored by York County Audubon. All welcome, no cost.

Ragged Mountain Scuttle, 10 a.m. Sept. 18 in Camden

The third annual Ragged Mountain Scuttle, presented by Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital, will take place at Camden Snow Bowl. The 3.1-mile obstacle challenge features 20 obstacles on a cross-country course. It’s a fundraiser for the Camden Snow Bowl and Go! Malawi, which supports education, health and the well-being of orphans in Malawi. Individuals or teams can compete. Early-bird registration is $45 through Aug. 31, then the cost is $55, or $65 the day of the event. Students up to age 18 pay $30. To learn more, write to or

Appalachian Trail Workday, all day Sept. 18 in Caratunk

The Maine Appalachian Trail Club is looking for volunteers to help on a trail work day. The MATC manages and maintains the 267 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Founded in 1935, MATC is an all-volunteer, donor-supported nonprofit. Volunteers are needed to help bring materials to the trail for the upcoming installation at Pleasant Pond campsite near Caratunk on Sept. 17. Contact, or go to for more information.

– Send event listings to

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Hunting: Cameras are more than a flash in the pan Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s like opening presents on Christmas morning. That’s how some folks describe the feeling of viewing the latest pictures from their trail cameras. These cameras can be an invaluable addition to your hunting arsenal and provide plenty of entertainment because you just never know what might show up.

Trail or game camera technology has come a long way in a relatively short time. The first one I owned, and the only one available at that time, was basically an instamatic film camera and the same type of IR-motion detector used for home driveway lights, mounted inside a waterproof housing. It was powered by eight D-cell batteries and about the size of a dinner plate. The number of exposures was limited by the film roll size – usually 24 or 36. And you had to wait several days to a week to get your pictures back. In warm weather, batteries might last a month.

Today there are dozens of trail camera brands, some with dozens of models. They’re a fraction the size of the originals. Some are small enough to fit in your hand and will run for months, maybe even a year, on six AAA batteries. They can take and hold hundreds, possibly thousands of digital pictures, stored on SD cards, that you can view immediately. Some cameras even have built-in viewing screens. They also have all manner of features allowing you to take photos night or day (with an IR flash that won’t spook game), time-lapse images and even video.

At a bare minimum, cameras will give you an idea what’s out there for game that you might otherwise not know even existed. Just knowing there’s a decent buck in your woodlot might provide the extra incentive you need to be more confident about your prospects.

But cameras also have a digital stamp that superimposes time, date and other information (barometric pressure, moon phase) on the images so you can fine-tune game movement and look for patterns.

For example, say you’re finding a certain buck is entering your food plot, but not until after dark. You can move your camera or set other cameras farther back into the woods to see where the buck might be approaching from and possibly staging before dark.

Game cameras also can be immensely helpful for bear hunters. You can tell when bait is being visited simply by looking, but you can’t tell when or by what without a camera. If it’s a nocturnal bear, a small bear, or a sow and cubs, you might not want to hunt that site until things change. Most hunters sit afternoons only, but if the bear is coming early in the day you could be wasting your time. The camera will tell you.

In addition to saving you time by being in the woods when you aren’t, game cameras also reduce the amount of human odor and disturbance in a particular area.

This means game will be less wary and more inclined to continue visiting the area. Depending on how often you need the information, you may only have to visit the camera site once a week or less. And if you really want to keep disturbance to a minimum, there are cameras that will automatically transmit digital images to your smart phone or computer.

Traditionally, trail cameras used motion and heat detectors to trigger the camera when an animal passed by; and they still do. But several years ago, a company called Day6Outdoors came out with the Plotwatcher. It takes time-lapse images at preset intervals that you can play back as a single video clip. This offers several advantages, the biggest being that it doesn’t need to be triggered by an animal passing close by. Place it on a food plot and it will record all the action no matter how far away. In addition to deer, it’s a tremendous tool for patterning turkeys in open areas.

And it’s also just plain fun. The anticipation is high when you pull a card and pop it into a card viewer or laptop, hold your breath and start seeing what came by while you weren’t there. Just seeing the interaction between does and fawns is fun, but when a rack buck shows up on camera, the adrenaline rush is almost as great as seeing it live.

It motivates you to get out there and gives you confidence to remain longer, and anything that does that is simply a plus.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

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On Baseball: Sox should pencil in Buchholz for the ‘pen Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Funny how a season turns out when the Boston Red Sox find themselves with an abundance of starting pitching, and fans actually want Clay Buchholz to make another start. Those same fans demanded Buchholz be banished at the trade deadline, whether Boston got back anything of value or not.

Now, it appears Buchholz, 32, could become a key part of a pennant push …

But not as a starter.

Oh, Buchholz could win Boston some games starting, as his last two starts show (12 innings, two runs).

But Boston has five starters and they are capable – if you discount Steven Wright’s first-inning oops on Friday, and assume Eduardo Rodriguez believes he’s healthy enough to pitch.

Boston’s No. 1 problem is the bullpen – and it’s No. 1 by a huge margin. Shore up the relief pitching and we’re not only talking playoffs, but making plans for late October.

The reasoning for Buchholz as a reliever is fairly obvious.

Boston desperately needs a bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel. Brad Ziegler seems the natural candidate for the eighth-inning role, given his experience. But there’s a hesitancy to use him against left-handed batters or good low-ball hitters (remember when John Farrell opted for the fatigued Junichi Tazawa over Ziegler against the Tigers last week, resulting in another blown save?).

Matt Barnes appeared ready to be the late-inning option but is inconsistent (six walks, five hits and four runs in his last seven innings).

 Buchholz has proven he can adapt to the bullpen (something Rodriguez has never done). In Buchholz’s last five relief outings he’s gone 61/3 innings, allowing one hit and no runs.

 In the past, Buchholz has come through when needed. Throughout a career filled with injuries and inconsistencies, Buchholz has been smeared with a label of undependability. But I can think of two postseason appearances when he came through.

In 2009, Buchholz began the season in Triple-A. He rejoined the Red Sox roster in late July and was OK (7-4, 4.21). In the first round of the playoffs against the Angels, Buchholz started an elimination game. He pitched five innings and left with a 5-2 lead, only to have relievers Billy Wagner and Jonathan Papelbon give it up.

In 2013, Buchholz was having a Cy Young-type season (9-0, 1.71) when he missed three months with neck and shoulder pain. Buchholz came back in September but obviously wasn’t right in the postseason, the sore shoulder reducing his fastball to 90 mph. In Game 4 of the World Series with Boston down two games to one, Buchholz gutted out four innings (one unearned run) to give the Red Sox a chance to win (which they did).

So believe it or not, he could be clutch again for Boston.

Just when people want to give up on him, Buchholz gives a reason to believe. That’s why Boston should pick up his option for 2017 ($13.5 million), but that’s a topic for another day.

THE BULLPEN should also receive a boost when rosters are expanded Thursday, with Joe Kelly moving up from Triple-A. Since coming off the disabled list, Kelly has made 11 appearances for Pawtucket. With his high-90s fastball, Kelly has struck out 23 in 14 innings, allowing one earned run.

Kelly is an apparent replacement for the ineffective Tazawa, and probably should be called up already, except Tazawa has no minor league options (and the Red Sox seem to think he still might contribute).

Another option in Pawtucket is left-hander Robby Scott. He’s has a 2.29 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, with left-handers batting .144 against him, right-handers .228. But Scott isn’t even on the 40-man roster.

MAURICIO DUBON is on a streak with the Sea Dogs. When his numbers were recently compared with those of Mookie Betts’ 2014 statistics in Portland, I got some grief from readers with accusations of hyperbole.

But after Dubon’s 5-for-5 performance Friday, these are the facts. He’s batting .352 with a .946 OPS through 53 games. Betts, in his 54 games with Portland, batted .355/.994.

Dubon’s five-hit effort came the same night Betts went 5 for 5 with Boston.

THE SEA Dogs’ last home game is at 1 p.m. Sunday. Team awards will be announced before the game. No one’s asked me but here are my picks:

MVP: Outfielder Aneury Tavarez (league-leading .335 average). Runner-up: catcher Jake Romanski (.299 average, 50 percent success in throwing out base-stealers).

Pitcher of the year: Mitch Atkins (28 games, league-high 132 strikeouts). Runner-up: Keith Couch (9-4 in 15 starts).

Tenth man: Tzu-Wei Lin (superb fielder while playing three infield positions and some center field). Runner-up: Nate Freiman (.287, 10 home runs as first baseman/DH).

Citizen of the year: Mike McCarthy (the model of community involvement for the third year). Runner-up: Ryan Court (playing catch pregame was a highlight for many kids).


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What’s Up in September: With clear nights and fewer bugs, it’s a great time to stargaze Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 September marks the beginning of fall in the northern hemisphere. This year, that will happen at 10:21 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22. This is a critical point in understanding our orbit around the sun and the relative positions of the earth and the sun on the ecliptic, which is the path that the sun, moon and all of the planets are on as we orbit the sun.

The autumnal equinox and the vernal equinox are the only days each year when the sun rises due east and sets due west for everyone on earth. The very next day after fall starts, the sun will already rise a little farther south, on the way to its lowest point, which will be the winter solstice in three months.

The word equinox means “equal night.” That is always true on the equator, but you will see that the days will not be exactly 12 hours long until about three days after the fall equinox and they are already 12 hours long about three days before the spring equinox. That helps show that the earth orbits in an ellipse and not a perfect circle around the sun.

The sun on the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator on a downward path as fall starts and on an upward path as spring starts. These are imaginary extended planes, but they are important to visualize and better understand how the dynamic inner solar system works and how mathematical it really is.

This is a great month to get out under the night sky, because we tend to have more clear nights and it is less humid with fewer bugs. There are several highlights this month, but it is always well worth it just to get out under a clear sky to keep learning and be surprised, and share the sky that is above all of us with others. A perfect example was the Perseid meteor shower earlier this month. We saw several hundred meteors at its peak after the moon set after midnight. Along with attaining a better sense of the vastness and dynamic nature of the sky above us, we also heard elemental terrestrial sounds like the plaintive hoots of two owls communicating in the woods and the exciting yelps and howls of a pack of coyotes racing through the field.

We will lose Mercury and Jupiter this month, but all of the other planets will still be visible in the evening sky. There will be some nice conjunctions of planets with the moon; another meteor shower from Perseus called the Epsilon Perseids; the Aurigid meteor shower; a faint comet in Cancer the Crab; the third largest asteroid, Pallas, traveling through Equuleus the Little Horse; and even a lunar and a solar eclipse – but those two will not be visible in this country.

As the terrestrial seasons are changing this month on the earth, so are the celestial seasons above us. You will see the Pleiades in Taurus and the top of the Winter Hexagon emerge once more over the eastern horizon only a few hours after sunset as fall begins. You can already see this now if you stay out late, like we did for the Perseids.

Then keep watching Venus and Jupiter after their great conjunction at the end of August. Look low in the southwestern sky half an hour after sunset and you will see Venus getting a little higher each evening, even as Jupiter slowly sinks out of sight. A very slender waxing moon joins the pair on Sept. 2 and 3.

Then travel three constellations to the east along the ecliptic and you will see orange Mars extending its distance from golden Saturn a little more each evening. They still form a nice, changing triangle with the red supergiant Antares in Scorpius. A first-quarter moon will join the trio on Sept. 8 and 9. Last month, it looked like Mars was being sent through the sky by an imaginary slingshot that you could create by connecting Saturn and Antares. All three lined up perfectly on Aug. 23, and then Mars slowly proceeded eastward after that – as it continues to this month. That is a great way to look at this part of the sky to get a better sense of true motions and speeds of those three objects.

Mars takes nearly two years to orbit the sun, and it lines up with the earth at opposition every 26 months. Its average speed around the sun is 15 miles per second, or just a little slower than our own speed of 18.6 miles per second. Saturn travels at 6 miles per second and takes nearly 30 years to orbit the sun once.

The surprise comes with Antares. It is traveling at nearly 500,000 miles per hour around the center of our galaxy, just like our sun. It is about 600 light years away, whereas Saturn is just over one light hour. That places Antares about 5 million times farther away. Shining at first magnitude, its distinct orange color looks only a little less bright than Mars, which is now about zero magnitude, so you gain a better appreciation of how bright and large Antares has to be. It is 700 times larger than our sun, which means that if you could place Antares where our sun is in the sky, the earth and Mars and even the asteroid belt would all be orbiting inside this massive star. Antares is 15 times as massive as our sun, which makes it 50,000 times more luminous, since a star’s luminosity is the fourth power of solar mass. If a star is twice as massive as our sun, it would be only 16 times as bright.

If you missed the Perseid meteor shower, there will be another little shower emanating from Perseus in September. They are called the Epsilon Perseids and they will peak after midnight on Sept. 9. However, they will not be nearly as prolific as the Perseids, producing only about five meteors per hour, which is just above the background rate of three to four meteors per hour that you could see on any clear night.

The Aurigid meteor shower peaks on the 1st, but it will not produce much more activity than the Epsilon Perseids.

If you have access to a good telescope, you can see 12th magnitude comet 43P/Wolf-Harrington glide through Cancer this month. A close approach to Jupiter in three years will alter the path of this comet, so next time around it will probably be twice as far away and four times fainter than it is now.

Since we are in an eclipse season again, the two eclipses this month will be an annular eclipse over Central Africa and Madagascar during the new moon on Sept. 1 and a penumbral lunar eclipse visible in the Eastern Hemisphere over Europe, Africa and Asia on Sept. 16 during the full moon. There will be a brilliant ring of sunshine visible around the moon during the annular eclipse because the moon will be a little too far away to completely cover the sun, and the moon will not even go into the deepest part of the earth’s shadow, called the umbra, during the penumbral lunar eclipse on Sept. 16.


Sept. 1: New moon is at 5:03 a.m.

Sept. 2: Neptune is at opposition in Aquarius. The moon will be very close to Jupiter tonight.

Sept. 3: Viking 2 landed on Mars in 1976. The moon is near Venus tonight.

Sept. 8: The moon is near Saturn tonight and Mars the next night.

Sept. 9: First quarter moon is at 7:49 a.m. Viking 2 was launched in 1975.

Sept. 12: Mercury is at inferior conjunction, or closest to earth, tonight. The transit of Mercury happened on May 9 of this year during the last time our first planet was at inferior conjunction.

Sept. 16: Full moon is at 3:05 p.m. This is the famous Harvest moon near the fall equinox.

Sept. 22: The autumnal equinox is at 10:21 a.m. in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sept. 23: Johann Gottfried Galle discovered Neptune in 1846. It has made just over one orbit since.

Sept. 28: Mercury is at its greatest western elongation and makes its best appearance for the year in our morning sky.

Sept. 30: The second new moon of this month happens at 8:11 p.m.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.

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Season preview: UMaine football may get spark from offense Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 From the start of training camp, University of Maine football players have spoken about a new energy surrounding the team. And that energy hasn’t dissipated during the heat of August practices.

“It is a challenge as camp goes on,” said Joe Harasymiak, the first-year head coach of the Black Bears. “The kids come to work every day. You begin camp all excited, then you have your first scrimmage. Then there’s a little bit of a lull. Then you have your second scrimmage.

“Now, I think the excitement of the first game is helping. There is an energy around here that is still going.”

Maine opens the 2016 season Thursday evening at the University of Connecticut. The Black Bears are coming off a 3-8 season but have a spirited attitude. And the players directly attribute that to Harasymiak, at 30 the youngest NCAA Division I head coach, and his assistant coaches.

“Coach H brings an amazing energy to the program,” said Jaleel Reed, a junior wide receiver from East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. “All our coaches are young. And we have fun.”

Josh Mack, a freshman running back from Rochester, New York, said the youth of the staff is what attracted him to Orono.

“They bond with us,” he said. “I love the energy Coach H brings. They really take care of us.”

Reed said their energy is contagious.

“We can walk into their office at 6 in the morning and they’ll be bouncing off the walls,” he said. “It’s hard for you not to want to work hard when your coaches are up that early.”

But energy can only carry a team so far. Maine’s success will come down to who steps up to become playmakers.

Here are four key questions for Maine this fall:

How will the new offense look?

New offensive coordinator Liam Coen has installed a pro-style offense that features multiple formations and has the potential to put up a lot of points. That’s good news, because the Black Bears averaged only 14.9 points last year, tied for ninth in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association.

Senior quarterback Dan Collins, named the starter last week, has looked very comfortable in the preseason. He has a strong arm and is making good decisions. It appears he has plenty of weapons in receivers Micah Wright (a sophomore who led Maine with 61 catches and 818 receiving yards in 2015), Jordan Dunn (senior, 56 catches last year) and Reed.

The Black Bears averaged only 115.4 yards rushing last year, 10th in the CAA. Junior Nigel Beckford (team-leading 526 yards rushing), transfer Zaire Williams (a junior) and Mack lead a deep group of running backs. They all will be involved in the passing game, as well.

Of course, it all starts with the offensive line, which already has some shifting parts. Left tackle Jamil Demby (junior) is injured and will likely miss the opener. Center Dan Burrows (junior) suffered an ankle injury in the last scrimmage but should be ready.

If the offensive line can keep Collins on his feet and open some holes for the running backs, this could be one of Maine’s most effective offenses since the 2013 team that won the CAA title.

Who’s going to play defensive end?

The position is vital in Maine’s defense. Last year’s starters are gone. Trevor Bates, of Westbrook, and Mike Kozlakowski were among the Black Bears’ top defensive players. Replacing them is critical for a defense that has been the team’s biggest strength the last few seasons.

Several players are competing for playing time at defensive end, including junior Dakota Tarbox of Thornton Academy. Tarbox has played well so far and looks to be the starter on the weak-side – the same position that Bates played. Tarbox is especially strong against the run, which is why sophomore Connor Walsh, a strong pass rusher, will likely come in on passing downs.

The strong-side defensive end will likely be either Alejandro Oregon, a freshman from Brooklyn, New York, or Uchenna Egwuonwu, a sophomore from Union, New Jersey, who normally works inside but has moved recently to end. They’ll both get plenty of snaps early in the season.

How will a young secondary hold up?

Maine’s defense emphasizes pressure on the quarterback – leaving the secondary to face pressure of its own.

The Black Bears ranked 10th in pass defense in the CAA last year, giving up an average of 204.3 yards. They were a young unit last season, but Harasymiak – Maine’s defensive coordinator the last two years – said the experience they gained will be invaluable.

Najee Goode will be at one corner, Tayvon Hall at the other. Both are juniors.

The safety positions are a little less settled, with five players rotating through the two spots to start the season. Jason Matovu is likely to start at strong safety and fellow junior DeAndre Scott appears to be the starting free safety, with sophomores Jeffrey DeVaughn and Sinmisola Demuren getting plenty of reps. Look for junior Darrius Hart, who missed all but one game last year because a knee injury, to play as well.

“Everyone will play at safety,” said Harasymiak. “And then we’ll build from that game.”

How will this team react to adversity?

This is a question Harasymiak posed during a July interview. “Things are not going to be easy,” he said at the time. “Look at how we open up, at Connecticut, then at Toledo, then (James Madison). It’s not going to be an easy stretch for us. There’s going to be some lumps and I want to see how we react.”

And by “we” he means everyone. Players. Coaches.

“We will have some ups and downs,” he said. “But as I’ve told the team, we’ve just got to learn and grow together. We’re learning, literally, every day. Every day I go (into) the office, I learn something.”

This preseason, Harasymiak has learned that his players are competitive. After the defense gave up eight touchdowns in the second scrimmage last Sunday, some of the defensive leaders took it personally.

“The offense really humbled us,” said defensive tackle Pat Ricard, who had 16.5 tackles for a loss last year and is Maine’s top returning defensive player.

Harasymiak said they responded with a couple great practices this past week.

“There’s guys on that side of the ball who know what that (defensive) tradition is,” said Harasymiak. “We should be fine there.”

We’ll find out soon enough.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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Sea Dogs fall in 15 innings on ‘Field of Dreams’ night Sun, 28 Aug 2016 03:50:32 +0000 The Trenton Thunder clinched an Eastern League playoff berth by scoring two runs in the 15th inning to pull out a 4-2 win over the Portland Sea Dogs in the annual “Field of Dreams” game Saturday night at Hadlock Field.

The teams were knotted at 2-2 after the Sea Dogs scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth.

In the 15th, though, Thunder leadoff batter Tyler Wade reached on an error by second baseman Ryan Court. He stole second with one out and was trying to steal third when Miguel Andujar sent a ground single into left, driving home Wade with the go-ahead run. Two-out singles by Mark Payton and Billy McKinney produced another run.

Portland put two runners on with nobody out in the bottom half as Cole Sturgeon walked and Mauricio Dubon was hit by a pitch, but J.P. Feyereisen (7-3) struck out the next three batters. Four Trenton relievers combined for 17 strikeouts in 92/3 innings, as the Sea Dogs finished with 21 strikeouts.

The Sea Dogs threatened to end the game in the 12th when Rainel Rosario hit a double to deep center with one out. After Yoan Moncada was walked intentionally, Sturgeon bounced a single into left field, but Rosario had to stop at third. Tyler Jones then got Dubon to hit into a force play at home and retired Aneury Tavarez on another grounder.

Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan, currently on the 15-day disabled list, started behind the plate for the Sea Dogs as he began a rehab assignment. Hanigan was placed on the DL on Aug. 8 because of left ankle tendinitis. He went 0 for 3 with walk and an RBI groundout before leaving the game after seven innings, and is expected to serve as the designated hitter for the Sea Dogs’ final home game of the season Sunday.

The Thunder took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. With two outs, Payton doubled into the gap in right, and McKinney and Abiatal Avelino followed with singles. Trenton made it 2-0 when Sebastian Valle, Wade and Dustin Fowler led off the fifth with singles.

The Sea Dogs pulled even in the bottom of the fifth. Cody Decker capped an 11-pitch at-bat with a leadoff double to left and moved to third on a ground ball by Henry Ramos. Moncada’s single through the right side and Hanigan’s grounder to shortstop produced the runs.

The Sea Dogs wasted a chance to break the tie in the seventh when Ramos led off with a double and moved to third on Rosario’s sacrifice. Moncada was walked intentionally, then was caught stealing, and Hanigan took a called third strike on reliever Matt Wotherspoon’s 3-and-2 slider.

Both teams got strong relief pitching.

Trenton relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Jones struck out eight of the nine Portland hitters in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings.

Ben Taylor, Portland’s workhorse reliever, retired eight of the nine men he faced after coming in with one out in the 10th.

Sea Dogs starter Teddy Stankiewicz allowed seven hits and two runs in five innings.

NOTES: The Sea Dogs drew their 12th sellout crowd of the season – 7,368. About 125 tickets remain for the final home game at 1 p.m. Sunday. … Tavarez, the league’s leading hitter, was selected to the season-ending Eastern League All-Star team. … Moncada, who batted .307 with 36 stolen bases in 61 games for Class A Salem before getting promoted, was named to the Carolina League All-Star team with third-base prospect Rafael Devers.

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Major league roundup: Sanchez powers Yankees again Sun, 28 Aug 2016 03:31:45 +0000 NEW YORK — Rookie Gary Sanchez kept up a most remarkable run, homering for the third straight game Saturday as the New York Yankees routed the Baltimore Orioles, 13-5.

Sanchez hit a drive that bounced off the top of the right-center field wall and over in the fourth inning. He reached 11 career home runs faster than anyone in major league history – 23 games, including two hitless games last year.

Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks also homered as the Yankees won their fourth straight. A day after trouncing the Orioles 14-4, New York moved within 21/2 games of them for the second AL wild-card spot.

Chris Davis homered twice and Mark Trumbo hit his big league-leading 39th home run for Baltimore, which has dropped three straight.

BLUE JAYS 8, TWINS 7: Melvin Upton Jr. hit an RBI triple and continued home on a misplay in the eighth inning, completing Toronto’s rally from a five-run deficit at home.

Edwin Encarnacion homered and drove in three runs as Toronto handed the Twins their ninth straight loss.

WHITE SOX 9, MARINERS 3: Jose Abreu hit the first of four White Sox home runs and Jose Quintana threw 72/3 solid innings to lead Chicago at home.

Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila hit consecutive homers during a four-run fifth, and Tyler Saladino added a two-run shot in the seventh, all off struggling reliever Vidal Nuno.

ASTROS 6, RAYS 2: Rookie Alex Bregman homered and had three RBI to back seven solid innings by Dallas Keuchel and lead Houston at home.

Bregman connected off fellow rookie Blake Snell (4-7) in the third inning to make it 4-0.

ANGELS 3, TIGERS 2: Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez were ejected, along with manager Brad Ausmus and hitting coach Wally Joyner in a series of balls-and-strikes disputes as the Tigers’ five-game winning streak ended at home.

RANGERS 7, INDIANS 0: Mitch Moreland’s grand slam capped a five-run first inning and A.J. Griffin pitched six strong innings as Texas won at Arlington, Texas.


DODGERS 3, CUBS 2: Julio Urias allowed one run over six innings, Corey Seager set a franchise record for a shortstop with his 23rd home run and Los Angeles won at home to even the series between NL division leaders.

ROCKIES 9, NATIONALS 4: Charlie Blackmon hit two home runs, including the go-ahead shot in the 11th inning, as Colorado won at Washington to snap a four-game losing streak.

PADRES 1, MARLINS 0: Ryan Schimpf homered, Clayton Richard pitched seven innings and San Diego won at Miami to snap a four-game losing streak.

METS 12, PHILLIES 1: Yoenis Cespedes clocked a three-run homer, Kelly Johnson had a pinch-hit grand slam and Noah Syndergaard pitched two-hit ball over seven innings as New York won at home.

PIRATES 9, BREWERS 6: Pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco had a tiebreaking three-run double and Pittsburgh rallied from four runs down at Milwaukee.

REDS 13, DIAMONDBACKS 0: Anthony DeSclafani threw a four-hitter and Scott Schebler homered twice to lift Cincinnati at Phoenix.


ATHLETICS 3, CARDINALS 2: Khris Davis hustled home on an infield grounder in the eighth inning and Oakland rallied for two runs at St. Louis.

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Sports Digest: Women’s soccer goalie leaves club team Sun, 28 Aug 2016 02:59:08 +0000 SOCCER

U.S. women’s goalie takes leave from club team

Hope Solo has taken an indefinite leave from the Seattle Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League, less than a week after being suspended for six months by the U.S. national team for disparaging remarks about Sweden.

The Reign said the Olympic goaltender has been granted personal leave but didn’t say how long Solo would be away.

It’s been a rough time for the record-breaking goalkeeper. On Wednesday she was suspended after calling the Swedes “cowards” for their defensive style of play after the U.S. was ousted by Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Rio Games.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Substitute Marcus Rashford scored in the second minute of stoppage time to earn Manchester United a 1-0 victory at Hull and a third straight victory to open the English season.


RECORD BROKEN: Olympic champion Ruth Jebet broke the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase world record by six seconds at the Diamond League meet in Paris.

The 19-year-old Jebet, born in Kenya but running for Bahrain, clocked 8 minutes, 52.78 seconds. The previous record was 8:58.81 by Gulnara Samitova-Galkina of Russia at the 2008 Beijing Games.


CONNECTICUT OPEN: Top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland completed a dominating week, beating Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-1, 7-6 (3) in the final at New Haven.

Radwanska didn’t drop a set during the tournament. She took control of the final from the start, winning 20 of the first 27 points to take a 5-0 lead.

WINSTON-SALEM OPEN: Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain won his first ATP World Tour title, beating countryman Roberto Bautista Agut in 6-7 (8), 7-6 (7), 6-4 in North Carolina.


CRIM FESTIVAL: Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford, Michigan, led the men’s division of the 40th annual road race in Flint,Michigan, with a time of 47 minutes 23 seconds over 10 miles.

Joan Aiyabei of Kenya finished in 55:37, winning the women’s division.


WNBA: Washington guard Bria Hartley will miss the remainder of the season because she’s pregnant with her first child.

Hartley is averaging 6.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. The Mystics signed guard Leilani Mitchell after putting Hartley on the suspended list.


COLLEGE: Davis Webb threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score in a sensational debut for California, leading the Bears to a 51-31 victory against Hawaii in college football’s season opener at Sydney.

Khalfani Muhammad had 94 yards rushing and one touchdown, and Chad Hansen had 14 receptions for 160 yards and two scores to help Cal win the game played Down Under both as a tourism initiative and to increase awareness of American football in the country.


SPANISH VUELTA: Nairo Quintana successfully attacked Chris Froome on the demanding summit finish of the eighth stage to take over the lead of the grand tour at La Camperona.

Sergey Lagutin of Russia won the 113-mile stage from Villalpando finishing at the category-one La Camperona summit in just over four hours. It was Lagutin’s first big win.

– News service report

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Red Sox pound Royals, 8-3 Sun, 28 Aug 2016 02:31:19 +0000 BOSTON — Dustin Pedroia came to the plate in the eighth inning knowing he had some sort of special streak going Saturday night.

He just wasn’t sure how historic it was.

Pedroia had four hits to extend his streak to 11 straight at-bats with a hit before bouncing into a double play with a chance to tie the major-league record, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals, 8-3.

“I heard something,” said Pedroia. “I didn’t know what it was. I was going to the bathroom and heard them say it on TV.”

Pedroia’s streak, which stretched over three games, ended in the eighth inning. The big league mark of hits in 12 straight official at-bats is shared by Walt Dropo for Detroit in 1952, Pinky Higgins of the Red Sox in 1938 and Johnny Kling of the Cubs in 1902.

“Whenever your name is up there with guys in black and white photos, it’s pretty special,” winning pitcher David Price said. “He’s a gamer. He’s a very special teammate. Everybody on this team cherishes what he brings each and every day.”

Xander Bogaerts homered and drove in three runs, and Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez hit consecutive homers for Boston, which snapped a three-game losing streak with its 11th win in 16 games.

Price (13-8) won his fourth straight start, giving up two runs in six innings to lower his ERA to 3.97, the lowest it’s been since after his first start.

Danny Duffy (11-2) gave up three homers and seven runs in five innings, halting a personal 10-game winning streak.

Salvador Perez hit two solo homers for the Royals, who lost for just the fourth time 20 games.

Even Royals Manager Ned Yost could appreciate the run Pedroia was on.

“He’s been hotter than a firecracker, for sure,” he said. “I mean 4 for 4 last night, 4 for 5 tonight. He had a real hot streak and what’s amazing is he keeps his bat in the zone for so long he can handle so many pitches. Just a really good hitter. I’ve always thought that about him.”

Duffy had allowed two or fewer runs in five straight starts – and 6 of 7 – before Boston took care of that string with two each in the first and second innings.

Two batters in, the Red Sox jumped ahead 2-0 on Bogaerts’ 16th homer, a drive that completely left Fenway Park over the Green Monster after Pedroia singled.

In the bottom of the second after the Royals tied it, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Pedroia had consecutive RBI doubles, pushing Boston in front 4-2.

Pedroia collected his 10th consecutive hit with a run-scoring single to make it 5-2 in the fourth. His 11th was a ground single to center in the sixth.

Betts hit his 29th, a solo shot, in the fifth and Ramirez followed with his two pitches later to nearly the same spot, two rows into the Monster seats about three fans apart.

After watching Ramirez’s drive land in the seats, Duffy just smiled in disbelief.

NOTES: David Ortiz played his 2,000 game as a DH (1,721 for Boston, 279 Minnesota), most ever. Harold Baines (1980-2001) is next with 1,643. … Red Sox Manager John Farrell said right-hander Koji Uehara (strained chest muscle) threw 53 pitches with “good intensity” in a bullpen session Friday and is due to throw again Monday.

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Auto racing roundup: Time running out for Biffle Sun, 28 Aug 2016 01:50:29 +0000 BROOKLYN, Mich. — With time running out on his bid to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Greg Biffle is back at the site of his most recent victory.

It was over three years ago.

In June of 2013, Biffle won at Michigan International Speedway – his fourth victory at the track and second in a row. In 116 Cup races since, he’s come up empty. He missed the Chase last year and is in danger of falling short again unless he can pull out a victory in one of the last three races of the regular season.

“This sport is very humbling,” Biffle said. “When you think you’ve got it figured out, for sure you don’t, and it reminds you of that every week.”

Biffle is the active leader in wins at Michigan, but he finished 19th at the track earlier this season. Shortly after that, he ran off a streak of three straight top-10 finishes at Daytona, Kentucky and Loudon, but he’s been outside the top 15 in each of the four races since.

XFINITY: Michael McDowell edged teammate Brendan Gaughan following an overtime restart to earn his first Xfinity Series victory, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

McDowell beat Gaughan by 0.534 seconds on an overcast, sometimes misty afternoon at the sprawling road course. The Richard Childress Racing teammates went bumper-to-bumper midway through the last lap before McDowell held on at the finish line.

TRUCKS: Brett Moffitt passed Timothy Peters and William Byron on the final lap to win the Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

Peters was two laps away from what would have been his first victory of the season, but Byron nosed ahead with a lap to go, and Moffitt was then able to move to the outside and take over the lead.

Peters finished second, giving Red Horse Racing a 1-2 showing.

]]> 0 Sat, 27 Aug 2016 21:51:08 +0000
U.S. Open preview: Serena still reaching for greatness Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:50:37 +0000 Despite everything that Serena Williams has won and done, her sense of self can still fluctuate based on the outcome of a particular match.

Doesn’t always seem to matter that she owns a record-tying 22 major singles titles heading into the U.S. Open, which begins Monday with a retractable roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time.

Not necessarily a big deal to her that she’s spent the past 3½ years entrenched at No. 1 and is the oldest woman ever to top the WTA rankings.

And there are times when the 34-year-old American basically forgets that she transcends her sport and has become a cultural icon away from the tennis court.

Williams is devastated when she is dealt a setback, such as last year’s “Did that really happen?!” loss to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending an attention-grabbing, pressure-piling bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam by anyone in more than a quarter-century.

Williams acknowledges she measures herself constantly.

“Unfortunately, I definitely do, which I don’t think is normal. I definitely feel like when I lose, I don’t feel as good about myself,” she said.

“But then I have to, like, remind myself that: ‘You are Serena Williams!’ You know? Like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Williams continued, laughing and leaning forward. “And it’s those moments that I have to just, like, come off and be like, ‘Serena, do you know what you’ve done? Who you are? What you continue to do, not only in tennis, (but also) off the court? Like, you’re awesome.’ That really just shows the human side of me. I’m not a robot.”

She is at the stage of her career where history is in the offing nearly every time a racket is in her right hand. So while the stakes are different from what they were in 2015, Williams does have something significant to play for yet again.

After equaling Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam titles in the professional era (which dates to 1968) by winning Wimbledon last month, Williams can break that tie with No. 23 in New York. Only Margaret Court owns more major singles trophies (24) but more than half of that total came against amateur competition.

Not that Williams was immediately ready to think about topping Graf after pulling even with her at the All England Club.

“One thing I learned about last year is to enjoy the moment,” Williams said. “I’m definitely going to enjoy this.”

Good thing, too, because not everything has gone smoothly since that most recent triumph. Slowed by a bothersome right shoulder, Williams lost in the third round of singles and first round of doubles at the Rio Olympics – she was a 2012 gold medalist in both events – and then pulled out of a hard-court tuneup event in Ohio.

Williams is assured of remaining at No. 1 until the end of the U.S. Open, which will bring her current streak to 186 weeks in a row, tying another mark held by Graf. Depending on what happens, Williams could be overtaken in the rankings by No. 2 Angelique Kerber (who beat Williams in the Australian Open final in January), No. 3 Garbine Muguruza (who beat Williams in the French Open final in June) or No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska.

“It’s definitely intriguing,” Roger Federer said about tracking the women vying for No. 1. “It’s nice to see this race.”

Federer, who won five of his men’s record 17 Grand Slam titles in New York, will be sitting out the U.S. Open for the first time since 1999 to let his left knee heal. A year ago, Federer lost in the final to Novak Djokovic. In Federer’s mind, the top-ranked Djokovic is the favorite this time, even though No. 2 Andy Murray’s summer has been “phenomenal.”

One reason: Federer thinks the installation of the new $150 million roof at the main arena will limit the wind even when it’s open, which will help Djokovic.

Not too long ago, Djokovic appeared to be close to unbeatable no matter the surface or conditions, and a buzz was building about whether he could chase a true Grand Slam. But he exited Wimbledon in the third round, then the Olympics in the first round, while Murray won both of those titles.

“Novak, obviously, the last two years, really, has played amazing tennis. His consistency – what I’ve done for, like, the last four months, he’s been doing for, like, the whole year,” Murray said.

]]> 0, 27 Aug 2016 20:53:17 +0000
Major League notebook: Giants place Peavy on disabled list Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:49:58 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO — Jake Peavy, who was scheduled to make his first start for the San Francisco Giants since July 30 on Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves, instead was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain.

Peavy, who was placed on the DL retroactive to Aug. 21, was replaced as the starter by Albert Suarez, who was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento.

Peavy, 35, has made eight appearances in relief in August after being removed from the rotation following the trade with Tampa Bay for Matt Moore.

He is 5-9 this season with a 5.55 ERA.

RANGERS: Reliever Jeremy Jeffress was away from the team for a second day as Major League Baseball looked into his arrest on a drunken driving charge.

Thad Levine, the team’s assistant general manager, said the players’ association was working closely with the commissioner’s office, with Jeffress and his agent, to “determine a best course of action moving forward.”

Levine said he didn’t know the time frame for a resolution.

MARINERS: Seattle placed right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen on the 15-day disabled list with lower back spasms and added depth to its bullpen.

Right-hander Dan Altavilla was selected from Double-A Jackson and Pat Venditte, who throws with either hand, was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.

ORIOLES: With outfielder Adam Jones nursing a tender hamstring, Baltimore selected the contract of Julio Borbon from Double-A Bowie and optioned pitcher Mike Wright to Triple-A Norfolk.

“We had some other center field options,” Manager Buck Showalter said. “Borbon is our best option at this point.”

TIGERS: The team activated shortstop Jose Iglesias from the 15-day disabled list.

Iglesias hasn’t played since Aug. 12 due to a left hamstring strain. To make room on the 25-man roster for Iglesias, the Tigers designated the contract of outfielder Alex Presley for assignment.

In four rehabilitation games with Triple-A Toledo, Iglesias batted .375 with two runs, a double, a home run and an RBI. Iglesias’ return to the lineup meant Erick Aybar is on the bench for now.

Although Aybar has played just one major-league game at third base, he could see some time there because Nick Castellanos is on the DL.

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NFL Notebook: Cowboys lose Romo to back injury Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:09:41 +0000 FRISCO, Texas — Tony Romo is out with yet another back injury and it’s unknown when he will return, although Dallas Coach Jason Garrett says he expects his star quarterback to play this season.

Garrett said Saturday that Romo sustained a broken bone in his back when he was hit from behind by Seattle’s Cliff Avrill and slid awkwardly on the third play of a preseason game.

Romo tried to get back into Thursday’s game and said afterward that he was OK. But Garrett said the 36-year-old woke up Friday with stiffness, and an MRI revealed Romo’s fourth back injury in less than four years. The injury will not require surgery.

Garrett wouldn’t rule out Romo for the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the New York Giants. Rookie Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick who has had a strong preseason, is the presumed starter, although Garrett wouldn’t acknowledge that either.

“If you guys remember, he has played with fractures in his back before,” Garrett said, referring to Romo’s quick return from a small fracture in his back in 2014.

“So that probably more than anything else is what is not giving us a timetable. We’ve heard a wide range of possibilities in terms of when he would be able to play.”

PATRIOTS: Wide receiver Julian Edelman was rusty in his preseason debut Friday night in a 19-17 win against the Panthers.

There was minimal concern over Edelman’s twice-repaired foot last week when he reappeared at practice against the Bears, as he spun through their defense to the tune of eight receptions in team drills during a dominant day.

But Friday, Edelman’s timing was just off. He had one catch for 6 yards on three targets. This was why it was important for the Patriots to get Edelman some game reps with both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener.

Garoppolo and Edelman weren’t in sync with their first attempt on the opening series, as Edelman stopped his route to seemingly reverse course when the quarterback fired the ball as though the receiver were continuing his crossing pattern.

It clanked off linebacker Luke Kuechly’s hands for a near interception on third down.

Edelman was then flagged for holding on the first play of the Patriots’ second series, which negated Tyler Gaffney’s 7-yard run.

And when Brady took over on the fourth offensive series, Edelman dropped the QB’s second pass.

Edelman played a limited amount of reps while rotating with the first-team offense, but this was clearly a necessary exercise to get him up to speed with the two signal-callers.

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton was noticeably stuck on the sideline, and his chances to make the 53-man roster seem to be dwindling.

Afterward, Knighton said he was not told he’d be relegated to the bench against the Panthers.

CHIEFS: Kansas City acquired cornerback Kenneth Acker from the San Francisco 49ers for an undisclosed draft pick.

A sixth-round pick by the 49ers in 2014, Acker missed his rookie season because of a foot injury. He played in 15 games last season and had three interceptions.

RAVENS: Tight end Benjamin Watson tore his right Achilles tendon and is likely lost for the season.

The injury occurred on Baltimore’s first offensive play in a preseason game against Detroit on Saturday.

Watson, 35, appeared to trip while running a pattern and slumped to the turf. After he finally got up, he had to be helped off the field.

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Massachusetts hometown salutes Olympic medalist Raisman Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:09:17 +0000 NEEDHAM, Mass. — Gymnast Aly Raisman has gotten a hero’s welcome following her medal-winning performances at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The 22-year-old’s suburban Boston hometown of Needham hosted a Rally for Aly Saturday morning.

She also threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park on Friday before the Red Sox game.

Raisman won two individual silver medals and a team gold medal in the games that wrapped up earlier this month.

She has the second most Olympic medals by a U.S. gymnast, with six. Former Olympian Shannon Miller has seven.

The town hosted a parade and rally for Raisman when she returned from the 2012 Olympic games in London with two gold medals and a bronze medal.

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Endwell, New York, advances to Little League World Series final Sat, 27 Aug 2016 23:26:33 +0000 SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Michael Mancini led Endwell, New York, to the Little League World Series championship game, striking out 11 in a 4-2 victory Saturday over Goodlettsville, Tennessee, in the U.S. final.

The Mid-Atlantic champs will try to win their first title against international winner South Korea on Sunday.

South Korea beat Panama 7-2 earlier Saturday in the international final.

“I don’t think I can describe it, maybe the boys can,” New York Manager Scott Rush said. “Just an unbelievable feeling.”

New York players Mancini, Billy Dundon, Jack Hopko and Jude Abbadessa appeared in the postgame media room and all used the same word – “Awesome.”

Mancini allowed just one hit through 42/3 innings and his offense came alive in the fourth. Dundon drove in two runs, and Hopko and James Fellows each had an RBI for New York.

“The curveball is usually my biggest pitch because I know if I’m down in the count I can throw that and get back up and maybe get them out with that pitch,” Mancini said. “So you never know what can happen with that pitch.”

Tennessee Manager Joey Hale praised his players’ approach while acknowledging his hitters struggled to find Mancini’s elusive curve ball for much of the game.

Jon Luke Simmons broke up Mancini’s no-hit bid in the top of the fifth.

After Mancini got his 11th strikeout one batter later, Endwell fans along the first-base side gave him a standing ovation as he yielded the mound to Abbadessa.

“He doesn’t make mistakes,” Hale said. “He’s truly polished. Most kids at this age have good breaking balls but they don’t always throw them where they should be thrown. If you watch, man, every ball that crossed the plate was down below the knees. That’s just the mark of a great pitcher.”

Down to his team’s last out, Zach McWilliams gave Tennessee life with a two-run homer off Abbadessa in the top of the sixth.

McWilliams’ blast halved New York’s lead, but Abbadessa struck out Carson Rucker to end the game.


SOUTH KOREA 7, PANAMA 2: Youbin Choi struck out 14 and South Korea beat Panama to reach the final.

Choi gave up six hits in six innings.

Seum Kwon and Jaekyeong Kim hit two-run homers and Wontae Cho also connected for South Korea (4-0).

Carlos Gonzalez had three hits for the Latin American Region champions.

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Golf roundup: Fowler takes lead into final round Sat, 27 Aug 2016 23:25:27 +0000 FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Rickie Fowler kept bogeys off his card for the second straight day Saturday and closed with a 5-foot birdie putt for a 3-under 68, giving him a one-shot lead over Patrick Reed going into the final round of The Barclays.

Fowler has gone 45 holes without a bogey at Bethpage Black, the site of two U.S. Opens and among the toughest courses on the PGA Tour. Along with his three birdies, he made three par-saving putts of at least 10 feet, including one from 25 feet early in his round.

And he needed them all.

Reed overcame three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the front nine and was tied for the lead on the back nine until the final two holes. Reed missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 17th and his 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole missed weakly to the right.

Fowler, who was at 9-under 204, now is in prime position to win for the first time on the PGA Tour in a year and play his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

This is the final tournament for Americans to earn one of the eight automatic spots for the Ryder Cup matches at the end of next month. Fowler was at No. 12 going into the opening Fed-Ex Cup event with its $8.5 million purse and needed at least a third-place finish to earn a spot.

Reed, who is No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, settled into his round and wound up with a 71, putting him in the final group with Fowler. Right behind was Adam Scott, who also saw his share of putts go in, especially a 45-foot birdie on the 15th hole. Scott started out his round by holing a lob wedge from 98 yards for an eagle, and his 65 was the lowest score of the tournament.

LPGA: Ariya Jutanugarn missed a chance to take a big lead into the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, making two late bogeys at Priddis, Alberta.

A week after withdrawing from the Rio Olympics because of a left knee injury, the 20-year-old Thai player bogeyed the par-4 16th and par-5 18th for a 5-under 67. At 17-under 199, she had a two-stroke advantage over In Gee Chun of South Korea.

CHAMPIONS: Gene Sauers took the Boeing Classic lead at Snoqualmie, Washington, two weeks after his victory in the U.S. Senior Open.

Sauers, 54, two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th for a 5-under 67 and a two-stroke lead over Joe Durant. Sauers, a three-time PGA Tour winner, has a 12-under 132 total.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Bradley Dredge’s lead at the Made in Denmark was trimmed to one stroke after he shot a 1-over 72 in the third round at Farso, Denmark.

One of the three players tied for second – with David Lipsky (67) and Adrian Otaegui (68) – was Thomas Pieters of Belgium, who is seeking a victory to push his claim for a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. Darren Clarke names his wild-card selections Tuesday.

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Hanigan begins rehab assignment with Sea Dogs Sat, 27 Aug 2016 22:55:10 +0000 Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan, currently on the 15-day disabled list because of left ankle tendinitis, started behind the plate Saturday for the Portland Sea Dogs against the Trenton Thunder as he began a rehab assignment.

Hanigan was placed on the DL on Aug. 8. He is expected to serve as Portland’s designated hitter in Sunday’s game – the Sea Dogs’ final home game of the season.

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Oxford 250: Holbrook a behind-the-scenes force Sat, 27 Aug 2016 22:39:50 +0000 OXFORD — Mike Rowe, Ben Rowe, Travis Benjamin and Glen Luce have become synonymous with the Oxford 250 and Oxford Plains Speedway. They are names race fans know well.

Chances are that many fans have never heard of Seth Holbrook. Holbrook, though, has had a hand in six Oxford 250 victories, including last year when he served as crew chief for Glen Luce.

Holbrook, of Turner, is again Luce’s crew chief for the 43rd annual Oxford 250, which is expected to start around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Qualifying begins at 1:30 p.m.

“He loves racing. He really loves it,” Ben Rowe said of Holbrook. “He pursued it down south, he worked his butt off and got in with the right bunch of people, and he learned. He’s like a sponge. He learned from all of those people and brought it back here.”

Holbrook has won the Oxford 250 three times as a crew chief. In addition to Luce’s victory, Holbrook was crew chief for Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch’s win in 2011 and Mike Rowe’s record-tying third victory in 2005.

Holbrook was in charge of Rowe’s tires when he won his second Oxford 250 in 1997. He also had a hand in Benjamin’s back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2014, building the shocks for the car that Benjamin maneuvered around the finicky contours of Oxford Plains.

“It’s like they always say, if you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen,” said Holbrook. “But this is our Daytona 500. If you’re in full-bodied racing in the northeast, this is your Daytona 500.”

“He’s like a son to me, he really is,” said Mike Rowe, who has 151 wins at OPS. “He’s really good. He did a lot for me in racing, and we won a lot of races together. He’s a top-notch person, and he’s good at what he does. He’s right at the top of the chart.”

Holbrook, 44, grew up cheering on Mike Rowe from the grandstands in the late 1970s, which he said are his earliest memories of racing. He started helping out at the race shop and in the pit area, and over the years made enough contacts to turn racing into his career. By the late 2000s, he was flying all across the country to work with super late model teams for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Ben Rowe only worked directly with Holbrook for one season, when the two ran the No. 48 out of the Mulkern Racing camp for car owners Scott and Vickie Mulkern of Falmouth in 2010. But the four-time Pro All Stars Series champion still turns to Holbrook whenever he’s stumped by something he sees on the racetrack.

And, he says, he’s not alone.

“He helps us directly or indirectly,” Rowe said. “If I have a question, he’s there to answer it. I bet he has a hand in two dozen cars here this weekend, one way or another, whether it’s a shock (he’s built) or just talking with people. He’s had success and people see that.”

“He’s on the go, and he’ll help anybody out,” Mike Rowe said. “He’ll do anything for anyone if they ask, and that means a lot.”

As much preparation as there is for every team when it comes to the Oxford 250 – Holbrook said the weeks leading into the race should be the busiest of the year for any team serious about winning it – there are myriad variables that must be accounted for. From the qualifying draw to the nearly 10 hours of practice time over the weekend to tire management, there are many things drivers and crew chiefs must wrestle with. Holbrook, though, believes the real racing begins after qualifying.

“The qualifying draw doesn’t mean anything any more,” Holbrook said. “I’ve won with all different pit strategies, all different scenarios. Mike started 38th (in 2005), Kyle started fourth, Glen started 22nd.

“It’s all about reading into what’s going to go on with the track from the day into the night. It’s trying to picture that. Oxford is always changing. It’s trying to get a read on what’s going to happen.”

Holbrook was asked to pick out his favorite 250 win.

“Glen’s win (last year) was the one that meant the most,” Holbrook said. “Glen wasn’t expected to win, our team wasn’t expected to win. You’re supposed to win here with Mike Rowe and Kyle Busch.”

Sunday night could make another memory for Holbrook.

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Kaepernick makes his stand by sitting for national anthem Sat, 27 Aug 2016 17:59:51 +0000 SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Kaepernick sat on the team’s bench Friday night during the anthem before the Niners played host to the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition game. He later explained his reasoning in an interview with NFL Media .

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Saturday that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

The 49ers issued a statement after Pro Football Talk initially reported on Kaepernick’s stand, saying that Americans have the right to protest or support the anthem.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony,” the team said. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Kaepernick, who is biracial, was adopted and raised by white parents. He has been outspoken on his Twitter account on civil rights issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kaepernick is not the first U.S.-based athlete to use the anthem for protest. In 1996, NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the anthem, saying the United States had a history of tyranny and doing so would conflict with his Islamist beliefs. The NBA initially suspended Abdul-Rauf for his stance before it was lifted when he said he would stand and pray silently during the song.

Kaepernick said he is not worried about any potential fallout from his protest.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he told NFL Media. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Kaepernick’s agent did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kaepernick is in competition to win back the starting quarterback job in San Francisco that he lost to Blaine Gabbert last season. He made his first appearance of the preseason on Friday night after missing two games with a tired shoulder. He finished 2 for 6 for 14 yards and added 18 yards on four runs. Green Bay won the game, 21-10.

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Maine’s black bear hunting season set to begin Sat, 27 Aug 2016 17:42:37 +0000 AUGUSTA — After a dry summer that pushed some of Maine’s black bears into residential neighborhoods, the state’s annual hunt for the animals is set to begin.

Maine’s black bear hunt starts Monday and ends Nov. 26. There’s a special day for young hunters Saturday.

The season follows a spring and summer in which there were several reports of bears in dense human areas. Bears can be more aggressive about seeking food from birdfeeders and garbage cans when their natural food sources like nuts and mast aren’t available.

Hunters are hopeful all the activity will lead to a productive harvesting year. They’re allowed to hunt bears with bait until Sept. 24.

Hunters typically harvest about 3,000 bears per year in Maine. The majority of the hunters usually are from out of state.

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Auto racing notebook: Logano hopes for repeat in Michigan Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:46:25 +0000 BROOKLYN, Mich. — Joey Logano won the pole at Michigan International Speedway – and lately at this track, that’s been a pretty good indicator of things to come.

It’s Logano’s third pole in 16 Cup races at MIS, and the previous two times he won the pole, he also went on to win the race. That includes his victory at Michigan in June.

In fact, three of the last four race winners at Michigan also took the pole – Logano this year, Matt Kenseth last August and Jeff Gordon in August 2014.

“Obviously starting up front here is an advantage for sure when you talk about track position and safety on restarts, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package on restarts,” Logano said. “Having the first pit stall is probably the most important of all that.”

Logano won Friday with a lap of 201.698 mph in his No. 22 Ford. Jimmie Johnson was second in qualifying for Sunday’s race, followed by Denny Hamlin.

Logano has won 17 poles in his Cup career and three in 2016.

Johnson won twice early this season but has only two top-10 finishes in his last 10 races, so his strong showing in qualifying was encouraging.

“All signs are pointing toward progress being made and I’m very excited about that. I just want to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for their long hours and all the time they’re putting in to get a little better in all areas,” Johnson said. “It’s not just one thing. We have to look at everything globally and everybody in all departments is finding a way to bring a little bit more, and it’s showing up. I think all four Hendrick cars showed a lot of speed today.”

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen posted the fastest time in the second practice for the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, while another engine penalty ensured Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from the back row.

Hamilton took a 15-place grid penalty in the morning session for having changed too many engine parts, and took another 15-place hit following another component change for the afternoon.

Given the inevitable situation, Mercedes could take the opportunity to make further changes on his engine ahead of qualifying.

Hamilton won’t be the only illustrious name at the back of the class, with two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso handed a 35-place grid penalty for multiple component changes following a water leak in first practice.

Who starts last will be decided by Saturday’s qualifying.

Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg were slower during the afternoon session because they ran on harder medium tires, getting an indication of their durability should they be the main tire on Sunday, which would be so if the scorching weather continues.

The Spa track, nestled in the Ardennes forest, is ordinarily known for its cool climate.

Not this year.

Temperatures hit 95 degrees in the afternoon, having already reached 77 for the first practice at 10 a.m.

The afternoon sun seemed to get to the 18-year-old Verstappen, who was unhappy with Finnish veteran Kimi Raikkonen – twice his age.

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NFL roundup: Chiefs’ Berry ending holdout Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:46:23 +0000 KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All-Pro safety Eric Berry plans to report to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, giving him two weeks and one preseason game to prepare for the start of the regular season.

A person familiar with his plans told The Associated Press that Berry will join the team after its preseason game Saturday in Chicago. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because he was not authorized to discuss Berry’s plans publicly.

Berry was given the franchise tag early in the offseason but has not signed the deal, which means he could skip all of training camp without being fined. Once he signs the one-year contract, he will make just over $10.8 million, making him the league’s highest-paid safety.

Chiefs Coach Andy Reid and General Manager John Dorsey have said all along they expect Berry to report ahead of the regular season, but it was never clear when that might happen.

Kansas City plays its first regular-season game Sept. 11 against San Diego.

“I think it’s important to see what kind of shape he is in and then gradually bring him back into the football speed of things,” Reid said Tuesday when asked what Berry will need to do to get up to speed. “I don’t think it’s the end of the world if he doesn’t play in the last preseason game.

“The most important thing is to put eyes on him and see what kind of shape he is in,” Reid said, “so we don’t put him at risk out there.”

The Chiefs had hoped to sign Berry to a long-term deal in the offseason, but the two sides were never close to reaching an agreement by the July 15 deadline. The Chiefs remain optimistic they can sign him after this season, though Berry will demand a premium on the free-agent market.

FALCONS: Rookie strong safety Keanu Neal, the team’s first-round pick and a projected starter, will miss the beginning of the season because of a knee injury.

Neal will have arthroscopic surgery Monday on his right knee and is expected to miss three to four weeks, according to the Falcons. Coach Dan Quinn said he is encouraged Neal avoided a more serious injury that could have kept him out longer.


BUCCANEERS 30, BROWNS 13: Josh Gordon caught everything thrown his way in his preseason debut, scoring on a 43-yard reception and also hauling in another pass from Robert Griffin III for a 44-yard gain as Cleveland lost at Tampa, Florida.

Jameis Winston threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in one half of work for Tampa Bay. Griffin completed 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards and one TD.

WASHINGTON 21, BILLS 16: Kirk Cousins overcame a rough start to finish 12 of 23 for 188 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, leading Washington a win at home.

STEELERS 27, SAINTS 14: Ben Roethlisberger torched New Orleans’ defense for 148 yards and two touchdown passes on his first two series this preseason, then got the rest of the game off while Pittsburgh rolled to a victory at New Orleans.

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Major league roundup: Sanchez keeps slugging as Yankees roll Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:42:34 +0000 NEW YORK — Rookie Gary Sanchez homered for the eighth time in nine games and drove in four runs as the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-4 Friday night in the opener of their weekend series.

Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley also went deep for the surging Yankees, who moved five games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Yankees broke the game open against Gallardo (4-6) with a six-run second. The right-hander was charged with eight runs over 11/3 innings, the shortest start of his 10-year career.

Manny Machado homered twice for the Orioles.

BLUE JAYS 15, TWINS 8: Russell Martin and Justin Smoak each homered and drove in five runs as host Toronto hammered Minnesota, handing the Twins their eighth straight loss.

Josh Donaldson, who drove in three runs, and Darwin Barney, who had three hits, also homered.

INDIANS 12, RANGERS 1: Corey Kluber pitched six strong innings for a career-best sixth straight victory and Abraham Almonte hit two run-scoring doubles, helping Cleveland win at Arlington, Texas, in a matchup of division leaders.

Kluber (14-8) has a 1.75 ERA over the nine starts covering the winning streak.

TIGERS 4, ANGELS 2: Justin Verlander pitched into the eighth inning and Justin Upton homered for the fourth time in five games as host Detroit beat Los Angeles.

The Tigers have won five straight to move back into contention.

ASTROS 5, RAYS 4: Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis hit back-to-back homers in the ninth inning to lift Houston at home.

Mikie Mahtook’s first homer this season, a towering shot in the ninth, had put the Rays on top.

MARINERS 3, WHITE SOX 1: Chris Sale struck out 14 but got outpitched by Felix Hernandez and the Seattle bullpen, and the Mariners ended a three-game skid with a win at Chicago.


NATIONALS 8, ROCKIES 5: Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy hit solo homers and drove in two runs each, and Gio Gonzalez earned his 100th career victory as Washington won at home.

Gonzalez (9-9) threw six innings and allowed two runs and four hits.

METS 9, PHILLIES 4: Wilmer Flores launched a grand slam, Asdrubal Cabrera homered from both sides of the plate and even Bartolo Colon had two hits while pitching New York to a win at home.

Jose Reyes and Cabrera opened the Mets’ half of the first inning with consecutive home runs, only the second time the franchise has accomplished the feat.

MARLINS 7, PADRES 6: Chris Johnson’s run-scoring ground-rule double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth gave Miami a win at home.


CARDINALS 3, ATHLETICS 1: Jedd Gyorko homered and Luke Weaver pitched six strong innings to earn his first major league win as St. Louis beat visiting Oakland.

Gyorko’s 423-foot shot in the first extended the Cardinals’ home run streak to 15 games, the longest active streak in the majors.

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Sports Digest: Maine wins field hockey opener Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:20:42 +0000 COLLEGE

UMaine beats Providence in field hockey opener

The University of Maine took a 5-1 halftime lead and cruised to a 7-1 victory over Providence in a nonleague field hockey opener Friday at Orono.

Madison Cummings, Libby Riedl and Briana Ricker each scored twice for Maine. Samantha Wagg of Maine also scored.

Kali Kilmer answered for Providence, which managed three shots on goal.


ARENA BOWL: Dan Raudabaugh threw six touchdown passes and the Philadelphia Soul won their second title, beating the Arizona Rattlers 56-42 at Glendale, Arizona.

Raudabaugh was 20 of 36 for 278 yards. Shaun Kauleinamoku led the Soul in receiving with eight catches for 110 yards to go with three touchdowns.


KENYAN ARRESTS: Three officials of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya were arrested in connection with the alleged mismanagement of the country’s team at the Rio de Janeiro Games, police officials said.

The problems for Kenya included a new doping scandal, ineligible athletes, missing plane tickets, and bad blood between the athletics federation and the national Olympic committee.

MEDAL SOLD: Polish discus thrower Piotr Malachowski sold the silver medal he won at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to help pay for the medication of a 3-year-old boy suffering from eye cancer.


WORLD CUP: With goaltender Robin Lehner still not fully healthy, Sweden replaced him on its roster with Jhonas Enroth, a former Portland Pirates goalie.

Enroth, the starting goalie for Buffalo, was bothered by a right ankle injury for much of last season that limited him to 21 NHL games. Lehner underwent surgery in March and had been working to get ready for the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

NHL: The New York Rangers agreed to terms with forward Brandon Pirri on a $1.1 million, one-year deal.


DEMPSEY EVALUATED: Seattle Sounders and U.S. national team forward Clint Dempsey will miss Sunday’s match against Portland as he undergoes evaluations for an irregular heartbeat.

His status beyond that is still to be determined.


SPANISH VUELTA: Jonas Van Genechten of Belgium sprinted to win the seventh stage at Puebla de Sanabria after Alberto Contador crashed near the finish line.

Darwin Atapuma of Colombia holds the overall lead for the fourth straight day.


NBA: Utah traded center Tibor Pleiss to Philadelphia for guard Kendall Marshall in a cost-cutting move. The Jazz then waived Marshall.

Two second-round picks also were sent to the 76ers.


CONNECTICUT OPEN: Top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska breezed through her semifinal, routing two-time defending champion Petra Kvitova, 6-1, 6-1.

She will face Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the final.

WINSTON-SALEM OPEN: Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Cerrano Busta won to advance to the final.

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Brady makes debut, helps Patriots to 19-17 win over Panthers Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:09:54 +0000 CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tom Brady appeared to be in regular season form Friday night.

Unfortunately for the New England Patriots, they may not see that form in a meaningful game until Oct. 9 when they face the Cleveland Browns since the three-time Super Bowl MVP will serve a four-game suspension to start the season.

Brady looked sharp in his preseason debut though, throwing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan in helping the Patriots to a 19-17 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers on Friday night.

Brady relieved Jimmy Garoppolo late in the first quarter and completed a 37-yard pass to Aaron Dobson on his first play from scrimmage, leading to a field goal. On his second drive Brady heaved a perfectly placed over-the-shoulder pass to Hogan down the right sideline for a 9-0 lead. Brady’s other two drives failed to produce points.

Brady made a quick escape after the game and did not talk to reporters.

“We’ve moved ahead in a lot of areas, but we’re certainly not where we need to be,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. “I don’t think any player is, any coach is, I’m sure no team is at this point. We’re all making progress, which is good. We’ve just got to keep our foot on the gas and make it as quickly as we can.”

While Brady was on the mark, league MVP Cam Newton struggled mightily in his most extensive playing time of the preseason. Newton was intercepted twice and the Panthers failed to get any points on his eight first-half possessions. Overall, the Panthers scored just three points in 10 Newton-led drives.

The sixth-year quarterback was high on some passes and didn’t get much help from his receivers, who had problems getting separation and dropped four passes, including one by Brenton Bersin on a fourth-and-2 at midfield.

Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said he was frustrated, but “if we lower our passes and catch the ball, then we are where we need to be.”

Newton called the loss “eye opening.”

“We need better production from everybody including myself,” Newton said. “I have to be more mature and check the ball down and let guys do what they do.

“We will be better from this.”

New England shut down the league’s highest-scoring offense from a year ago, intercepted Derek Anderson and allowed only one passing play of more than 15 yards in the first half.

Garoppolo, expected to start the first four games for the Patriots while Brady serves a suspension for his role in “Deflategate,” returned in the second quarter but couldn’t get anything going.

In the third quarter he rolled out of the pocket while under pressure and missed an open receiver who’d gotten behind the defense. His six drives resulted in no points, although Stephen Gostkowski missed a 30-yard field goal on the New England’s opening possession.

“Overall, there were some good things we did tonight, but we have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt,” Garoppolo said.

Brady finished 3 of 9 for 76 yards with one touchdown, and Garoppolo was 9 of 15 for 57 yards.

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Golf roundup: Reed alone in lead at Barclays Sat, 27 Aug 2016 03:09:33 +0000 FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Patrick Reed’s place in the Ryder Cup is looking better with each round at The Barclays, and so are his prospects of winning.

Even with a careless finish Friday at Bethpage Black, Reed rode a fast start to a 3-under 68 and a two-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo and Rickie Fowler going into the weekend of the opening FedEx Cup playoff event.

The Barclays is the final tournament for Americans to earn one of the eight automatic spots on the Ryder Cup team. Reed, who has gone 55 tournaments worldwide since his last victory, came into the week at No. 8.

At the moment, that’s no longer a concern.

“Really, I’m going into this week trying to win a golf tournament,” Reed said. “If I take care of me and do what I need to do this week, then Ryder Cup will take care of itself. So I’m not going into this week looking at it as, ‘Oh, I need to do this for the Ryder Cup.’ I’m going in this to think, ‘All right, I need to go win a golf tournament.”‘

Reed was at 8-under 134.

Fowler mostly likely needs third place alone to have any chance of qualifying for the Ryder Cup, and he has done his part. He played bogey-free in the sweltering heat, though still missed plenty of birdie chances. Par is never bad on the Black Course, however, and Fowler shot a 69.

He has dropped only one shot all week, missing a 4-foot par putt Thursday that spun out of the back of the cup.

“Any time you can go bogey-free out here at this place, it’s good golf,” Fowler said. “Feel very good about my ball-striking and tee-to-green right now. See if we can get some more putts to go in.”

Grillo also had a 69, opening with a double bogey and finishing with a bogey.

Ryan Moore (68) was three shots behind, while defending champion Jason Day (70) and Jordan Spieth (67) were four back.

LPGA: Ariya Jutanugarn had five birdies in a six-hole stretch and shot an 8-under 64 to take a three-stroke lead in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open at Priddis, Alberta.

A week after withdrawing from the Rio Olympics because of a left knee injury, the 20-year-old Thai star played 20 holes Friday at Priddis Greens. She bogeyed the par-5 18th for a 68 in the completion of the delayed first round, then made eight birdies in her bogey-free second round.

South Korea’s In Gee Chun and Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow were tied for second. Chun closed birdie-eagle for a 67. Meadow had a 69.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: U.S. Senior Open champion Gene Sauers eagled the par-5 18th hole for a 7-under 65 and a share of the Boeing Classic lead with Kirk Triplett.

Coming off his breakthrough victory two weeks ago in Ohio, the 54-year-old Sauers played the four par-5 holes in 5 under with the eagle and three birdies at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge in Snoqualmie, Washington.

Sauers won three times on the PGA Tour.

Triplett had five- and four-hole birdie streaks in his round.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Bradley Dredge hit five birdies in the front nine and finished with a 5-under 66 as he surged to a three-shot lead amid windy conditions at the Made In Denmark tournament.

The Welshman, runner-up in 2014, bogeyed the 13th before finishing the second round with a birdie and four pars.

That left Dredge at 13 under, three clear of Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren, who shot a 70 as the wind picked up at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farsoe.

]]> 0 Fri, 26 Aug 2016 23:28:17 +0000
Royals get off to a fast start to dispatch Red Sox Sat, 27 Aug 2016 02:51:15 +0000 BOSTON — August continues to be kind to the Kansas City Royals.

Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon homered, and Ian Kennedy allowed one run through five innings as the Kansas City Royals continued their monthlong hot streak with a 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

Kansas City has won 11 of its last 12 games and is 18-6 in August.

Hosmer homered for the second time this season off Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright (13-6), who took the loss in his first game back off the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, giving up five runs and seven hits.

“Honestly, you just have to swing hard and hope the ball doesn’t break. But if it does, it breaks into your bat,” Hosmer said.

Kennedy (9-9) had a chance to set a club record by allowing one or fewer runs in six straight outings of at least six innings. But he left with a runner on after 51/3 innings and wound up charged for two earned runs in the game. He finished with nine strikeouts.

Kelvin Herrera earned his 10th save.

Lorenzo Cain added a solo homer in the eighth inning.

Wright lost despite going at least six innings for the 10th time in 15 starts. Before Friday he had not allowed more than one home run in any of his previous 26 starts, which was the fourth-longest active streak in the majors. It also had been the longest by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez did it over 44 starts.

“I had a little bit of a feeling with Steven Wright being on the DL and not pitching, that knuckleball is a feel pitch,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said. “My thought was `Maybe it’s going to take him an inning or two to settle in.’ I was right.”

Mookie Betts had five hits and two RBI for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia added four hits and an RBI.

“That’s just how it goes sometimes,” Betts said. “Sometimes we score the ones we’re not expecting and then when we you need to score, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.”

The Royals jumped on Wright at the outset, taking a 5-0 lead in the first inning on a three-run shot by Hosmer, followed quickly by a two-run blast by Gordon.

Boston had three hits and got one run back in its half of first. It had a chance to add more after loading the bases with one out, but the potential rally stalled when Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley, Jr. both struck out.

NOTES: Rookie LF Andrew Benintendi went through another series of tests Friday that reaffirmed the original diagnosis of no structural damage to his sprained left knee. He was hurt during Boston’s loss to the Rays Wednesday night. Benintendi was walking around the clubhouse with no brace Friday. “Obviously it’s something you don’t plan on,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened and I’m just going to try to get as healthy as possible as quickly as I can.” … RHP Koji Uehara, who has been on the DL since July 20 with right pectoral sprain, threw a bullpen session Friday. …Needham, Massachusetts, native and Olympic medalist Aly Raisman began her homecoming tour Friday by throwing out the first pitch before the game. Raisman won her second Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team in Rio, as well as two silver medals in the women’s individual all-around and floor exercise. Before tossing her pitch, Raisman took off the medals she was wearing and let David Ortiz wear them while he caught for her.

]]> 0, 26 Aug 2016 23:50:36 +0000
Major league notebook: Blue Jays add catching depth Sat, 27 Aug 2016 02:27:25 +0000 TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays added depth at catcher for the stretch run by re-acquiring veteran switch-hitter Dioner Navarro from the Chicago White Sox on Friday.

The Blue Jays sent minor league left-hander Colton Turner to Chicago in the waiver deal. Navarro is likely to be the backup in Toronto behind Russell Martin.

Navarro was texting with a Toronto player when White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn interrupted to tell him of the trade.

“The player was asking him if he had heard anything about them possibly going after him again. When I was explaining to him he had been traded he started typing in, ‘Yeah, I just heard something,”‘ Hahn said.

The 32-year-old Navarro spent two seasons with Toronto before signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the White Sox as a free agent in December. He has struggled this season, hitting .210 with six homers and 32 RBI in 85 games.

RANGERS: Reliever Jeremy Jeffress, twice suspended in the minors for violating drug rules, was away from the team Friday following his overnight arrest in Dallas on a drunken driving charge.

The club placed Jeffress on the restricted list before a game against Cleveland, but General Manager Jon Daniels said he expected the former Milwaukee closer acquired in a trade Aug. 1 to be back with the team Saturday.

Daniels said the team was exploring the matter while Dallas police and Major League Baseball also conducted investigations.

A Dallas police spokesman said an officer made a traffic stop at 2:24 a.m. Friday and arrested the 28-year-old Jeffress after “detecting a sign of intoxication.”

Online records for the Dallas County jail show he was booked around 5:15 a.m. on a driving while intoxicated charge and that he was released on $500 bond.

METS: Trying to make a push in the crowded NL playoff race, the team plans to skip struggling right-hander Jacob deGrom the next time through the rotation.

The Mets say they haven’t decided who will start in his place Monday night against Miami, another club in the wild-card hunt.

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Oxford 250 notebook: Theriault has big goals, but hasn’t forgotten his roots Sat, 27 Aug 2016 02:11:39 +0000 OXFORD — Austin Theriault spent his free time this year building himself a race car. That car debuts this weekend in the 43rd annual H.P. Hood Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

It’s a fitting debut for Theriault’s shiny new black No. 57 car. Theriault has made four career starts in the Oxford 250, finishing in the top five in each time, including a runner-up finish in 2014.

“It’s somewhere I want to win really bad,” Theriault said. “The amount of work we had to do to get this thing done is probably the most I’ve ever had to do in my career.”

Theriault, a Fort Kent native who lives in North Carolina, is a full-time driver for Hattori Racing Enterprises in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, a feeder division for NASCAR’s national series. He is third in the points standings with six top-five finishes in 11 starts. He spent last season driving part time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing.

Theriault scrambled to get the new car finished in time for this weekend’s race, and now that he’s at OPS, he’s trying to enjoy the experience.

“The only unfortunate part is that it was sort of a last-minute (decision),” said Theriault, 22. “I don’t think I really took the time to enjoy putting it together. Hopefully, we can enjoy our time at the track.”

Theriault was one of 54 drivers to participate in a three-hour practice Friday afternoon.

He has two career Pro All Stars Series wins, including one at Oxford in 2012. Between that win, a number of American-Canadian Tour starts and other races at Oxford, Theriault has plenty of experience on the flat .375-mile track.

He did not come to the Oxford 250 last year.

“The track has a little bit less grip, but I still think you can make one go pretty good around here,” Theriault said. “We’ve got plenty of time to make that happen. At the end of the day, we should be having fun; if we’re not having fun, we should be doing something else.”

There’s another extended practice session Saturday, and qualifying rounds begin at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

DEFENDING CHAMP Glen Luce of Turner was third on Friday’s speed charts, but he was more happy about how his car – the same car that won the 250 last August – was handling in the extreme midday heat.

“We’re getting closer. We just need a little bit more tweaking,” Luce said. “Obviously, Sunday is going to be cooler, and that’s what we’re focusing on.

Luce was among the fastest cars in practice last year, and he believed there was plenty that could be gained from a long practice two days ahead of the event.

“You just want to get in, get the car under you and get a good drive off (the corners),” Luce said. “Usually, you lose that on these hot slick days here. So, we learned a lot about that today.”

ANDY SAUNDERS of Ellsworth has a busy weekend ahead of him.

Saunders spent Friday practicing at Oxford and plans to practice again Saturday. Then he’ll drive to Wiscasset Speedway for Saturday night’s program, and return Sunday for the Oxford 250.

Saunders is the points leader in the Pro Stock division at Wiscasset. He won the track championship in 2015.

TWO-TIME Oxford 250 champion Travis Benjamin of Morrill posted the best practice time Friday afternoon with a 15.583-second lap (86.633 mph), which he posted late in the session.

Benjamin, who won consecutive 250s in 2013-14, was the only driver under 15.6 seconds.

Justin Drake of Burnham, who has a win at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway this season, finished with the second-best time. He spent most of the afternoon at the top of the list with a 15.636-second lap (86.336 mph).

]]> 0, 26 Aug 2016 22:56:37 +0000
Dubon, Tavarez spark Sea Dogs Sat, 27 Aug 2016 01:59:29 +0000 Starting pitcher Keith Couch turned in a solid performance and the top of the lineup came through in a big way as the Portland Sea Dogs rolled to a 9-6 win against the Trenton Thunder in an Eastern League baseball game at Hadlock Field on Friday night.

Couch allowed one run while scattering three hits in six innings to run his record to a team-best 9-4.

“He mixes pitches well and kept the defense engaged the entire outing,” Portland Manager Carlos Febles said.

Couch, who left the game with an 8-1 lead, got all the support he needed from the first three hitters in the Portland lineup.

Between them, Yoan Moncada, Mauricio Dubon and Aneury Tavarez collected 10 of the team’s 15 hits and scored all but one of its runs.

“Tavarez and Dubon have been great for the last two months, so it’s no surprise what they did tonight,” Febles said.

Dubon hit three doubles and two singles and scored three runs, while Tavarez drove in three runs with a single, double and triple. Moncada, who singled twice and walked, scored three runs.

“If Moncada can get on base in front of those two guys you feel you feel you’ve got a shot,” Febles said.

Tavarez is hitting a league-leading .335. Dubon, who started the season in Class A Salem, leads the Sea Dogs with a .352 average, but he won’t have enough at bats to qualify for the batting title.

“You always want to have speed in the top of the lineup and having three guys who can run is huge,” Febles said. “That creates a lot of opportunities for the middle of the lineup.”

Nate Freiman, who batted cleanup, drove in two runs with a double and single. Cody Decker, Ryan Court and Jake Romanski each hit sacrifice flies.

Brandon Workman, who played a key role for the Red Sox in the 2013 playoffs, continued his comeback from Tommy John surgery by making his third relief appearance for the Sea Dogs. He allowed five runs and six hits, including two home runs, in 21/3 innings.

“He had 55-60 pitches to work with,” Febles said. Workman threw 38 of 58 pitches for strikes.

“He got tired after a long eighth inning and the ball was not coming out of his hand the same way in the ninth,” Febles said.

NOTES: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Brandon Moss and former Portland manager Todd Claus are the 2016 inductees into the Sea Dogs Hall of Fame. Both were part of the 2006 team that won the Eastern League title. Claus is now in the Red Sox scouting department.

]]> 0 Fri, 26 Aug 2016 23:29:39 +0000
U.S. Open: Top seeds not quite in top form Sat, 27 Aug 2016 01:24:08 +0000 NEW YORK — Serena Williams is “starting to feel a little better.” Novak Djokovic is “getting there.”

The U.S. Open’s top seeds are coming off injuries, and neither has played since an early loss at the Olympics. Friday was the first time either had discussed the health problems that stymied them in Rio de Janeiro and forced them to withdraw from the hard-court warmup at Cincinnati.

For Williams, it’s a sore right shoulder that she revealed started bothering her almost immediately after her Wimbledon victory. She said she practiced for just two days before the Olympics and has spent little time on court since as she undergoes physical therapy.

For Djokovic, it’s a sore left wrist that he revealed he hurt in Rio a few days before his first-round Olympic loss to Juan Martin del Potro, a player who knows plenty about how that injury hinders a righty’s two-handed backhand.

“I’m just hoping that Monday when the tournament starts I’ll be able to get as close to the maximum of executing my backhand shot as possible,” said Djokovic, who sounded a bit more optimistic than Williams on Friday.

Williams acknowledged she’d prefer to have played more coming into the Open – she’s had just three singles matches since Wimbledon – and needs to practice more.

“I’m just now starting to feel a little better,” she said. “Hopefully just every day I will keep going higher.”

It wasn’t a physical problem that burdened Djokovic during his third-round Wimbledon loss to 41st-ranked Sam Querrey, he acknowledged. Asked that day if he was 100 percent healthy, the 12-time major champ replied: “Not really. But it’s not the place and time to talk about it.”

On Friday, Djokovic conceded “it was some other things that I was going through privately.” He wouldn’t elaborate other than to say that now “everything is fine.”

Speaking of left wrist injuries, Rafael Nadal said his keeps getting better but still isn’t 100 percent. Because the 14-time Grand Slam champ is a lefty, his issue is the forehand.

When he first came back, he recalled, “you try to find movements to avoid the pain.” Now he can start to hit his normal forehand again, but it “still needs time to feel that I am more confident in my wrist.”

Both Djokovic and Williams face a former Grand Slam semifinalist in the first round. Williams opens her bid for a record-breaking 23rd major title against Ekaterina Makarova, who’s coming off an Olympic doubles gold medal.

The Russian made two straight major semis – at the 2014 U.S. Open, losing to Williams 6-1, 6-3, and the 2015 Australian Open. With her ranking slipping to 36th, she just missed a seed at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic’s first match is against Jerzy Janowicz, a 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist who’s been ranked as high as 14th. After struggling in recent years and missing much of this season because of injuries, Janowicz is No. 228 in the world and used a protected ranking to get into the U.S. Open.

Nadal is a potential semifinal opponent for Djokovic, the defending champ, while Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are in the other half of the bracket.

Williams could face fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis, which is also when she could potentially meet her sister, Venus. Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber and French Open winner Garbine Muguruza are on the other side of the draw.

Earlier in the tournament, Williams could run into opponents who have eliminated her at past majors. In the third round, she could meet Ana Ivanovic, who beat her at the 2014 Australian Open. And in the fourth round, she could face Sam Stosur, who stunned her in the 2011 U.S. Open final.

Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champ, is ranked just 142nd after three left wrist surgeries. Last week, Steve Johnson, the highest-ranked U.S. men’s player, questioned whether the U.S. Tennis Association should award del Potro the wild card he’d need to get in because the Argentine could possibly defeat an American in the first round. That scenario won’t occur – del Petro meets countryman Diego Schwartzman in his opener. But the 19th-seeded Johnson could face the Olympic silver medalist in the second round.

]]> 0, 26 Aug 2016 21:58:28 +0000
Commentary: Harbaugh loves tactics, and not just on the field Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:42:55 +0000 PARAMUS, N.J. — When the president of Paramus Catholic High in a northeastern corner of New Jersey decided to hold a football recruiting camp, he didn’t expect it to be a particularly complex endeavor.

But Jim Vail made one significant oversight: He didn’t realize that having Jim Harbaugh there, and also inviting Michigan’s football coach to deliver the school’s commencement address the next day, would spark commotion beyond his imagination.

Tumult seems to follow Harbaugh and it often works for him. What happened in New Jersey a few months ago provided a glimpse into how his bombastic style can court controversy, attract a national audience and dominate a sports news cycle.

The reaction to his appearance at Paramus Catholic began before he even showed up. Rutgers, a Big Ten Conference rival, viewed Michigan’s invitational into its backyard as a betrayal, a way to steal local recruits. Ohio State, Michigan’s archrival, teamed up with Rutgers for a competing camp nearby.

It didn’t matter. Harbaugh and Michigan was the big draw. Hundreds of youngsters signed up for the Paramus camp, more than the school was expecting.

Then, Vail recalled, “We had that incident the night before.”

A Rutgers secret society vandalized Paramus Catholic’s fields, then released a statement declaring “war” on Harbaugh and Michigan.

Who knew that chaos could be great for business?

Journalists from 30 to 40 media outlets, including the New York Times and ESPN, covered the event. Some 650 campers and coaches from about 45 schools attended.

If not for the swirl ignited by Harbaugh and Michigan, Vail concluded, “we might have had a couple hundred.”

This is the most well-known of Harbaugh’s recruiting tactics, in which he or assistants swarm the country, invading other schools’ territories. They are called “satellite camps,” possibly a misnomer, implying that Harbaugh is orbiting the college football world when in fact it’s been the other way around.

Among recruits, Michigan has “become kind of the cool, hip school,” said Brandon Huffman, national director of recruiting for “And that’s almost 100 percent attributed to Harbaugh.”

Harbaugh is considered among the best football minds in college or the NFL – Michigan had a record of 10-3 in his first season, up from 5-7 the year before – but his approach to coaching tends to the conservative.

His rebellious side comes out in recruiting, and he has changed the way college programs operate. Harbaugh’s innovations come at a rapid speed, and some explore the boundaries of NCAA rules, but they all share the same aim: to stay in the news and therefore in the consciousness of top recruits.

That approach, Huffman said, has made Michigan a recruiting powerhouse.

Harbaugh was among the first to employ a football creative director, devoted to targeting recruits with slick, shareable social media graphics. (Michigan did, however, lose a recruit this week over a mistakenly sent thank-you card.) Michigan’s satellite camps dominate offseason discussions and have blown up the recruiting calendar.

A season that once extended from mid-April to the end of May has now metastasized to June, with multiple camps each day spanning the country. Assistant coaches are effectively compelled to attend.

“This is where Harbaugh has rankled some folks because he’s making people work, and not just his own coaches,” Huffman said.

Harbaugh’s tactics feed a sports media machine that in many regions depends on college football for revenue. During the barren offseason, Harbaugh delivers. An abbreviated list of Harbaugh’s extracurricular activities include:

 A Twitter beef with Ohio State’s athletic director (among others).

• Slumber parties at recruits’ houses.

• Naming Michael Jordan an honorary captain for Michigan’s season opener.

• Throwing a signing-day gala, live streamed on Derek Jeter’s the Players’ Tribune, that featured guests such as Jeter, Tom Brady, former WWE wrestler Ric Flair, NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard and ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay.

Recently he starred in a rap video.

“My default is usually ‘yes.’ Action,” Harbaugh said at last month’s Big Ten Media Days, explaining the rap video. “Why not? And the reaction has been very good. I’ve gotten multiple texts, phone calls, comments from people that really liked it. And I think the cool people liked it.”

Paul Finebaum, the Southern radio personality, has called Harbaugh “the Donald Trump of college football.”

Harbaugh’s antics are calculated. Paramus Catholic has been a fruitful recruiting target for Michigan, producing three current Wolverine players, including two of the program’s best recruits in recent years.

To keep the pipeline pumping, Michigan added Paramus Catholic Coach Chris Partridge to its staff. Paramus also was invited to play its season opener at Michigan Stadium – legal under NCAA rules, though Harbaugh is not allowed to attend.

And then there was the camp and speech in June.

Harbaugh has all but dared the NCAA to change its rules. Responding to Finebaum’s Trump comparison, Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press, “The thing I like about Donald Trump is he’s not afraid to fight the establishment.”

One day, Vail told Harbaugh, “If the speed limit is 50 miles an hour and you’re driving 50 miles an hour consistently, are you complying with the law or pushing the law?

“He kind of liked that,” Vail said.

So far, governance has failed to rein in the coach. An April vote of conference commissioners to ban satellite camps was overturned by the NCAA board of governors, after USA Today reported the U.S. Department of Justice had begun an informal inquiry into the ban.

Other coaches have adopted some of Harbaugh’s tactics. Teams have beefed up their social media and graphics departments. Satellite camps have flourished.

Rutgers Coach Chris Ash admitted that he wished he was the one giving Paramus Catholic’s graduation speech.

After Harbaugh delivered the address, a large scrum of reporters asked Vail why he went through all the trouble.

“You’re all here,” he said. “Doesn’t this prove my point?”

It later was suggested to Vail that he sounded a lot like Harbaugh.

He did not disagree.

]]> 0, 26 Aug 2016 21:22:45 +0000
Major league roundup: Scherzer silences Orioles for Nationals Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:11:55 +0000 WASHINGTON — Max Scherzer allowed two hits over eight innings and Bryce Harper’s two-run double Thursday night helped the Washington Nationals avoid a four-game home-and-home sweep with a 4-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles.

Scherzer (14-7) struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter. He retired 12 straight after Adam Jones’s fourth-inning double and 21 of 22 before Mark Trumbo’s leadoff single in the eighth.

Jayson Werth’s solo home run staked Washington to a 1-0 lead. Daniel Murphy’s RBI double in the eighth came before Harper’s second hit helped the Nationals pull away.

The Nationals had lost four straight, including three in a row to the Orioles, who won twice in Baltimore before the teams shifted to Washington.

ROYALS 5, MARLINS 2: Alcides Escobar homered and drove in two runs to lead Kansas City at Miami.

Salvador Perez and Kendrys Morales also drove in runs for the Royals, who have won 15 of 18 to pull within four games of the second AL wild-card spot.


TIGERS 8, TWINS 5: James McCann had a three-run homer among his four hits, Daniel Norris pitched into the seventh inning and Detroit completed a sweep at Minneapolis for the Twins’ seventh straight defeat.

Norris (2-2) struck out five in 61/3 innings, allowing six hits without a walk in his longest and strongest start this season. He took a shutout in the sixth, surrendering RBI singles by Robbie Grossman and Eduardo Escobar over his last two innings.

ANGELS 6, BLUE JAYS 3: Albert Pujols reached the 100-RBI mark for the 13th time, the fifth player in history to achieve the feat, Mike Trout had three hits and drove in four runs, and Los Angeles won at Toronto.

Jered Weaver pitched 52/3 innings to snap a three-start losing streak as the Angels won consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 2-3 and prevented J.A. Happ from becoming the first 18-game winner in the majors.

RANGERS 9, INDIANS 0: Cole Hamels allowed two singles over eight innings for his 14th victory as the AL-best Rangers won at Arlington, Texas, in the opener of a four-game series matching division leaders.

Hamels (14-4) retired 19 straight batters after Francisco Lindor’s solid two-out single to left in the first. The only other baserunner for the Indians was Carlos Santana after a leadoff hit in the eighth, though he was stranded at second after advancing on a passed ball.

WHITE SOX 7, MARINERS 6: Todd Frazier tied it with an RBI single in the seventh inning and won it with a line drive down the left-field line in the ninth to lift Chicago at home.

Adam Eaton led off the ninth with a bloop single off Nick Vincent (3-4) and went to second on Tim Anderson’s sacrifice. Jose Abreu was walked intentionally before Frazier’s liner over third scored Eaton, leading to a pileup of players behind the pitcher’s mound.


METS 10, CARDINALS 6: Alejandro De Aza homered and drove in five runs to lead New York at St. Louis.

PIRATES 3, BREWERS 2: Andrew McCutchen hit a home run and a pair of RBI singles, including the tiebreaker in the 10th inning as Pittsburgh stopped a nine-game skid at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

]]> 0, 26 Aug 2016 00:14:09 +0000
Golf roundup: Reed, Laird lead at Barclays Fri, 26 Aug 2016 03:54:03 +0000 FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Patrick Reed didn’t break anything Thursday except par.

Two days after Reed broke the gavel during the ceremonial closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, the American kept a clean card and shot 5-under 66 to share the lead with Martin Laird at The Barclays.

Reed was dressed in a blue blazer with an American flag tie when he was asked to bang the gavel three times at the stock exchange closing on Tuesday. On the third hit, the top of the gavel flew off into the crowd.

Reed later made a joke at his own expense on Twitter.

“They told me to give it 3 good hits, so I did!” he tweeted.

He was much better with a golf club in hand at Bethpage Black, running off three birdies and an eagle on the front nine to close out his 66.

The start of the FedEx Cup playoffs, with a $10 million bonus waiting at the end, was more about a cup that doesn’t pay a dime. A dozen or so Americans are still in the mix to make the Ryder Cup team. Qualifying ends after this week for the top eight, and then Davis Love III has four captain’s picks over the next month.

Reed is winless this year and holding down the No. 8 position in the Ryder Cup standings.

“Of course it’s on my mind,” Reed said. “But really at the end of the day, it’s just trying to get better and play this tournament. Because if I play well, that means those other guys are going to have to play even better to try to catch me.”

Reed and Laird, who also played bogey-free, were one shot ahead of three other Ryder Cup hopefuls – Rickie Fowler, Kevin Chappell and J.B. Holmes, whose 67 was the best score among those who played in stronger wind in the afternoon. Defending champion Jason Day, the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, was among those at 68.

Of the 18 players who broke 70, five played late.

Chappell likely would have to win The Barclays to make the Ryder Cup team, while Fowler needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to have a mathematical chance. Fowler went from Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics to North Carolina for the Wyndham Championship to help his cause, but only tied for 22nd.

“That’s the No. 1 priority coming into the year,” Fowler said. “I’d say that’s always one of the main goals coming into a Ryder Cup year. Even in the off year, you’re thinking about it. That was the whole reason playing last week, trying to get more points. It would be nice to have a chance to make that team without having to get picked.”

Holmes dropped to No. 9 last week. He has made his points mainly through the majors – a tie for fourth at the Masters, third at the British Open – but as he got closer to making the team, the pressure has increased. He has missed the cut in his last three events, and he couldn’t afford another one.

LPGA: Three-time champion Lydia Ko was back on the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open leaderboard with a a 5-under 67 at Priddis (Alberta) Greens in the round delayed for nearly three hours because of lightning, leaving her two strokes behind leader Chella Choi.

Choi was 7 under with four holes left. Celebrating her 26th birthday, the South Korean player made consecutive birdies on the par-5 18th and first holes, and also birdied the par-4 second and fourth.

Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland was a stroke back after a 66.

France’s Karine Icher – playing alongside Choi – was 6 under with four holes left.

Ko has won the event three of the last four years, the first two as an amateur. The 19-year-old New Zealander has four LPGA Tour victories this season, winning the ANA Inspiration for her second major title.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Tom Lewis flirted with the first 59 in tour history, then made three late bogeys and settled for a 9-under 62 and a share of the Made In Denmark lead.

Lewis made a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fourth hole to reach 12 under through 13 holes at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farso. He needed to play even par over the last five holes for a 59.

He bogeyed the next hole and closed with two more bogeys to drop into a tie for the lead with Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren.

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Sports Digest: Federer, Nadal to team up in new tournament Fri, 26 Aug 2016 02:55:22 +0000 TENNIS

Federer, Nadal to challenge the world – as a team

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have played against each other 34 times, including in 21 tournament finals. But for the first time, though, the rivals are set to play with each other, as doubles teammates in a tournament pitting Europe against the world.

The inaugural Laver Cup, named for Australian great Rod Laver, is planned for September 2017 in Prague, with a format similar to golf’s Ryder Cup.

The tournament will have 12 matches, nine singles and three doubles, played over three days. Each side will have six players, four based on the world rankings after Wimbledon, and two captain’s picks, announced after the U.S. Open.

CONNECTICUT OPEN: Defending champion Petra Kvitova needed just an hour Thursday night to beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-1 and move into the semifinals at New Haven, despite suffering from a cold.

Agnieszka Radwanska, Elina Svitolina and Johanna Larsson also advanced.

WINSTON-SALEM OPEN: John Millman upset top-seeded Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-3 in North Carolina to reach his first ATP World Tour semifinal.

Pablo Carreno Busta, Roberto Bautista Agut and Viktor Troicki also advanced.


WOMEN’S SOCCER: Kaitlyn Ball, Nicole Bailey and Theresa Gosch each scored a goal to lead the University of Maine to a 3-0 win over Holy Cross at Orono.

Ball also had two assists for the Black Bears (3-0).

Annalena Kriebisch made seven saves against the Crusaders (1-2) to record her second shutout of the season.


SHARPER SENTENCING: A Louisiana judge formally imposed a 20-year prison sentence on former NFL star Darren Sharper, who last week was sentenced by a federal judge to 18 years and four months in a drug and rape case with victims in four states.

Defense attorney Billy Gibbens said that the two sentences are essentially the same, when credit for time served and other factors are considered.


LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES: Zach McWilliams hit a go-ahead grand slam in the fourth inning, RJ Moore struck out five in two relief innings and Goodlettsville, Tennessee, beat Bowling Green, Kentucky 8-4 for a spot in the U.S. championship game.

Seum Kwon had two home runs and three RBI, Sangheon Park struck out nine and South Korea beat Mexico 7-0 to reach the international final.


NHL: The Colorado Avalanche hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach, replacing Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship last season as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ affiliate.

The Arizona Coyotes acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and injured veteran Dave Bolland – and his hefty contract –from Florida for two draft picks. The Panthers will receive a 2017 third-rounder and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third.


DIAMOND LEAGUE: Olympic 100-meter champion Elaine Thompson took center stage in the absence of her Jamaican teammate Usain Bolt in the first meet after the Olympics.

Thompson timed 10.78 seconds with a slight tailwind at Lausanne, Switzerland – just .07 shy of her time in Rio.


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Sea Dogs down Trenton, 4-3 Fri, 26 Aug 2016 02:05:35 +0000 The comparison is entirely unfair, but Mauricio Dubon is putting up Mookie Betts-type numbers with the Portland Sea Dogs.

Dubon, 22, went 3 for 4 with a home run, RBI double and single Thursday night to lead Portland to a 4-3 win over the Trenton Thunder at Hadlock Field.

Betts was 21 when he began the 2014 season in Portland. He batted .355 with 18 doubles, three triples and six home runs in 54 games before his promotion to Triple-A.

Dubon, in 52 games with the Sea Dogs since his promotion from Class A Salem, is batting .337 with 17 doubles, six triples and five home runs.

“He’s been money since Day 1,” said Manager Carlos Febles, who also managed Dubon in Salem last year. “He’s a thousand-times better hitter than what I saw last year (.274).

“He stays back (with the bat) and his hands are working pretty good. The ball jumps off his bat. He’s been impressive.”

Dubon doesn’t receive much hype, playing in the shadow of Boston’s stellar young players (including Betts), but he’s having a breakout year.

“I’m just keeping things simple,” Dubon said. “Last year I tried (quick fixes) when I struggled. Now when I go 0 for 4 I try to learn from it … And I’m definitely stronger from last year. I worked out a lot in the offseason and it’s paying off.”

Dubon’s double off reliever Caleb Smith (2-5) scored Tzu-Wei Lin to break a 3-3 tie in the seventh. Earlier he swatted a curveball over the left-field wall off Trenton starter Ronald Herrera.

Sea Dogs starter Mitch Atkins (5-7) struck out 10 and took over the Eastern League lead with 132, allowing three runs on seven hits over seven innings.

Luis Ysla allowed a walk and single in the ninth but escaped for his third save.

Nate Freiman had two RBI for Portland (52-76), both on groundouts.

Yoan Moncada (1 for 4) singled in the first and scored, also striking out twice.

Mark Payton’s two-run homer and Dustin Fowler’s RBI triple produced the runs for Trenton (81-50).

NOTES: Lin, normally a middle infielder, played the outfield for only the second time. … The announced paid attendance was 5,072. … One of those fans was Mike Davis of Falmouth, who was the Sea Dogs’ 9-millionth fan in the team’s 23rd season. … The Sea Dogs will announce their Hall of Fame inductees before Friday’s game. … Also, the first 1,000 fans will receive a Sea Dogs baseball card set. … The annual and popular Field of Dreams game is at 6 p.m. Saturday. Only 90 tickets remain. … Almost 600 tickets remain for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game, the final home game of the season.

In Eastern League news, league president Joe McEacharn announced that Hartford could lose its franchise if its stadium isn’t completed soon. The Hartford Yard Goats, formerly the New Britain Rock Cats, had to play on the road all year because of stadium construction delays and legal issues. McEacharn didn’t give an exact deadline for the stadium to be completed, nor specify where the Yard Goats would move if the stadium wasn’t ready.

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Major league notebook: Former All-Star catcher heads to Dodgers Fri, 26 Aug 2016 01:21:48 +0000 LOS ANGELES — The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Carlos Ruiz from Philadelphia in a trade of backup catchers Thursday, getting a popular player with a world of postseason experience.

The Phillies also sent $1 million to the Dodgers for A.J. Ellis, minor league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named or cash.

Ruiz, 37, was hitting .261 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 48 games, playing behind Cameron Rupp. Ruiz has done well lately, batting .340 (16 for 47) since the All-Star break.

Ruiz was an All-Star in 2012 and Phillies fans loved to call out his nickname – “Chooch” – when he delivered big hits. He got many of them for Philadelphia, batting .353 with two homers and five RBI in 11 World Series games.

Overall, Ruiz played 46 games in the postseason with the Phillies, and helped them win five NL East titles.

DODGER STADIUM will host the championship game of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, with Marlins Park and Petco Park also holding games leading up to the final on March 22.

Brazil, Britain, Israel and Pakistan will play qualifiers Sept. 22-25 at the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league team.

NATIONALS-ATHLETICS: Washington acquired left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski from Oakland for minor league infielder Max Schrock.

The A’s also sent cash to Washington.

MARINERS: Seattle activated left-hander James Paxton following a stint on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised elbow.

The Mariners opened a roster position for Paxton by designating left-hander Wade LeBlanc for assignment.

RANGERS: Carlos Gomez, a former All-Star outfielder, joined Texas five days after signing a minor league deal with the AL West leader.

Outfielder Drew Stubbs was designated for assignment to make room on the roster.

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Putin denounces Paralympic ban Fri, 26 Aug 2016 01:01:26 +0000 MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked the ban on his country from the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics as immoral and inhumane on Thursday, while six Russian athletes launched a bid to compete at next month’s games as individuals.

Russia was suspended on Aug. 7 over what International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven called a “medals over morals” culture with evidence of state-sponsored doping. The ban was confirmed Tuesday when the Court of Arbitration of Sport rejected a Russian appeal.

“The decision to disqualify our Paralympians is outside the bounds of law, morality and humanity,” Putin said at an award ceremony for Olympic athletes at the Kremlin. He called the ruling against Russia “cynical” and claimed that “it even humiliates those who take such decisions.”

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the ban “collective responsibility for an unproven crime.” While Russia has accepted there were some shortcomings in its anti-doping system, it insists drug use was not systemic or supported by the government.

The Paralympics start Sept. 7. On Thursday, six Russian athletes, including three gold medalists, wrote to IPC president Craven asking for a route into the games as individuals.

“I strongly believe that real perpetrators of the dirty system must be punished and banned from sport. I do not want to lose to cheaters and I don’t want to compete with cheaters, even Russians,” says the letter, which was provided to The Associated Press by Andrei Mitkov, an agent representing the six. “However even more strongly I believe that innocent people should not suffer for actions of cheaters that tried to deceive clean athletes of the world.”

The athletes, who say they have been repeatedly tested outside Russia and found clean, asked for the IPC to provide criteria that could allow some Russians to compete if they can show they are clean. The approach is similar to the one that allowed U.S.-based Russian long jumper Darya Klishina to compete at the Rio Olympics when the Russian team was banned.

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Commentary: U.S. goalkeeper was undone by one too many incidents Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:55:15 +0000 On Wednesday night, U.S. Soccer made the call to suspend goalie Hope Solo, the anchor of so many of America’s successful women’s World Cup and Olympic teams, for six months for the ugly and unsportsmanlike move of calling Sweden’s players “a bunch of cowards” after their upset of the U.S. team in Rio de Janeiro.

It was an easy move, one convenient as well as appropriate. More significant is that the federation’s decision to terminate her contract, which may well signal that Solo has played her final game for the U.S.

In announcing the federation’s decision, the U.S. Soccer president, Sunil Gulati, noted that Solo’s history, which includes other controversial statements – as well as a pending case of alleged domestic violence involving two of her relatives – and a previous suspension by U.S. Soccer for an incident involving the team’s van, played a part in the decision.

“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national team players,” Gulati’s statement said. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.

“Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action.”

Solo tweeted that her contract was terminated, too, but aside from the embarrassment for someone who is one of the country’s loftiest women’s soccer stars, there isn’t much teeth to the suspension, as Julie Foudy – with whom Solo has tangled – pointed out. With the World Cup and Olympic revenue streams behind, the women’s team has only two friendlies on its schedule for 2016.

“Solo essentially missing nothing w #USWNT & allowed to play w @SeattleReignFC, which US Soccer pays for,” Foudy, a star on the national team from 1988-2004 and now an ESPN commentator, tweeted. “More symbolic than substantive.”

While Solo has compiled staggering career statistics, the Rio Olympics showed that her skills or dedication may be waning and by the time of the 2019 World Cup, her 38th birthday will be fast approaching and there’s a sense it may be time for the women’s team to find its next great goalkeeper.

If Solo isn’t the world’s best female goalkeeper any more, keeping her on the national team isn’t worth the headache for U.S. Soccer.

“This was a no-brainer PR move involving a 35-year-old who had likely already played her final Olympic and World Cup match,” Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times wrote, referring to her as “the wart that keeps growing back.”

“If character came before championships, we would have seen reprimands that actually jeopardized the USWNT’s chances on the field. That was always too much to ask.”

Like U.S. Soccer, her teammates have to be weary of being left to speak for her and find the delicate balance between supporting a teammate while refusing to condone her behavior. Solo’s preferred means of communication is emails to reporters so teammates, such as Alex Morgan, were left to speak about the “cowards” comment.

“I saw her comments but I feel like those are opinions I don’t share,” Morgan told USA Today. Megan Rapinoe, in an NBC interview, said she was “really disappointed” to learn of Solo’s remarks.

For Solo, poor decision-making always seems to come after she takes a step toward rehabbing her reputation. During the 2007 World Cup, for instance, she ripped Greg Ryan, the national team’s coach then, for replacing her in goal with Briana Scurry and said he was living in the past. During the London Olympics in 2012, she went after Brandi Chastain, one of the team’s iconic stars, for her commentary, tweeting she felt “bad 4 our fans that have 2 press mute” when she speaks.

At times Solo has shown signs of maturity and an awareness that she’s more than just an athlete. But those moments have been trumped by troubling off-the-pitch troubles. U.S. Soccer suspended her for 30 days in January 2015 after she was a passenger in a team van driven by her husband, Jerramy Stevens, when he was cited for driving under the influence during training in Los Angeles. That was during the lead-up to the World Cup, when Solo’s skills were unquestioned.

“Hope made a poor decision that has resulted in a negative impact on U.S. Soccer and her teammates,” Ellis said in a statement at that time. “We feel at this time it is best for her to step away from the team.”

That pales, though, next to an alleged domestic violence incident that resulted in fourth-degree assault charges involving her half-sister and nephew in June 2014 and remains pending in Washington state courts.

Among the ugly details of that incident, ESPN reported that an intoxicated Solo, when asked to remove a necklace by police, told an officer that her necklace cost more than his annual salary. Solo has described the incident as “traumatic and embarrassing,” and called herself a victim in a February 2015 interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I’m not going to go into all of the details but it was a scary night,” she said then. “I was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of my 17-year-old nephew, who is 6-foot-9, 280 pounds. I was struck over the head and concussed pretty severely. It was a very scary night.”

Of late Solo has sought to speak as a soccer statesman, only to trip herself up afterward. She and other women’s players filed a lawsuit against the soccer federation, alleging that they were paid nearly four times less than male national team members but generated more revenue. Solo (along with her teammates) also has spoken out forcefully about inferior field conditions that women face.

Then she managed to insult Brazilians over the Zika crisis, saying she would go to Brazil but would not leave her hotel room. She compounded her message by tweeting photos of herself armed to the teeth against mosquitoes.

Was it any wonder she was overwhelmed with “Zika” chants by irked Brazilians?

Solo, who will receive three months’ severance pay, now will spend the next few months playing for the Seattle Reign in the NWSL; neither the team nor the league has responded to inquiries about her status. And she awaits resolution of her court case.

In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s suspension, she shows a determination to remain true to herself no matter the cost.

“For 17 years I dedicated my life to the U.S. Women’s National Team and did the job of a pro athlete the only way I knew how – with passion, tenacity, an unrelenting commitment to be the best goalkeeper in the world, not just for my country, but to elevate the sport for the next generation of female athletes,” she tweeted. “In those commitments, I have never wavered. And with so much more to give, I am saddened by the Federation’s decision to terminate my contract.

“I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things. My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women’s game and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game.”

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NFL notebook: Newton expected to play extensively Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:38:18 +0000 Quarterback Cam Newton, last season’s most valuable player in the NFL, will see his most extensive playing time of the preseason Friday night for the Carolina Panthers against the New England Patriots.

Coach Ron Rivera said Newton and the rest of the starters from last year’s NFC championship team will play into the third quarter. Newton has played sparingly in the first two exhibition games, leading five drives culminating in one touchdown and two field goals.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick hasn’t disclosed his plans but it’s expected Jimmy Garoppolo will start at quarterback and see most of the reps to get ready for the regular season. Tom Brady, the first-string quarterback, is suspended for the first four games for his role in Deflategate.

PITTSBURGH LINEBACKER James Harrison and Green Bay defensive players Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers met this week with NFL investigators looking into allegations linking them to performance-enhancing drugs, the players’ union said.

Matthews and Peppers met with league representatives Wednesday and Harrison did so Thursday.

CHARGERS: A day after the taking its contract dispute with rookie defensive end Joey Bosa public, San Diego Coach Mike McCoy had nice things to say about the former Ohio State star.

“I think everybody understands the business side to this,” McCoy said Thursday. “He loves the game, he plays with passion. … We all want him here.”

Bosa, the only first-rounder who has not signed with his team, has missed all of training camp as his agents and the team wrangle over how much of his $17 million signing bonus he’ll get up front, as well as offset language in case he gets cut.

The Chargers said Wednesday they pulled their contract offer and said they would restructure a new deal that would reflect him playing less than a full season.

LIONS: Detroit cut running back Stevan Ridley, who it signed in April, hoping he would bolster its depth in the backfield after releasing Joique Bell.

Ridley started in one game and played in eight more for the New York Jets last season and ran for just 90 yards.

He had 1,263 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns in 2012 with the New England Patriots.

A Miami federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by New York Giants lineman Jason Pierre-Paul against ESPN over disclosure of his medical records from a 2015 fireworks accident.

The case is set for an August 2017 trial. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized in Miami after the Fourth of July accident, which caused serious injury to his right hand. The lawsuit claims ESPN and a network reporter violated his privacy and Florida medical confidentiality laws by posting the records on social media.

The network argued the records merely bolstered a news report.

BRONCOS: Julie Brooks, a spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, told The Denver Post a “brazen” thief carrying a bright orange cowboy hat stole a team helmet worth $400 during a crowded autograph session after practice July 31.

The man was in a group of people interacting with the player when he stole the helmet and passed it off to a second man wearing a No. 18 jersey.

The player, who hasn’t been identified, had set the helmet on the ground next to him.

JOHN ELWAY, Bruce Arians and Tom Coughlin were added to the powerful competition committee.

RAIDERS: Backers of a proposed NFL stadium said they’ve whittled their list to two sites just west of the Las Vegas Strip and refuse to accept any less than $750 million in public funding toward the project, which they hope will soon be home to the Raiders.

“Not to be difficult, but we’re not negotiable,” said the Sands president, Rob Goldstein, who spoke on behalf of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family.

“If we can’t get 750, we respectfully thank you but we’re going to move on.”

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Hawaiian eyes a spot as Patriots linebacker Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:26:14 +0000 FOXBOROUGH Mass. — Five-thousand miles, six time zones and one lofty goal separate Kamu Grugier-Hill from family and friends in his native Hawaii.

When the rookie linebacker arrives at Gillette Stadium – 5:30 a.m. most days – he sometimes thinks about how his buddies might still be out on the town or his relatives are getting ready to call it a night. He misses Honolulu but is focused and committed to the task at hand.

That would be to go from being a sixth-round draft choice in May to making the Patriots’ 53-man roster in September.

“I’ll have the rest of my life to go back,” Grugier-Hill said earlier this week. “I have to take care of business right now so it’s not on my mind, to be honest.”

Based on his play in training camp and the preseason, Grugier-Hill has positioned himself to close the deal.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Eastern Illinois alum – he was a college teammate of Jimmy Garoppolo for two years – was a two-year starter and four-year contributor. The playmaking linebacker ranked 16th in the nation with 161/2 tackles for a loss and second on the team with 61/2 sacks as a senior.

The Patriots liked Grugier-Hill’s certified productivity and potential versatility to draft him with the 208th overall selection. They haven’t been disappointed even as he’s been thrust into a new, hybrid role.

Grugier-Hill is listed on the roster and has lined up as a linebacker. But he’s also been deployed as an in-the-box safety along with contributing on all four special teams units.

“So it’s different than what he did in college,” Coach Bill Belichick said. “But he’s a smart kid, he’s athletic, he’s got a good work ethic, he’s been a very dependable player for us on a daily basis.

“(Just) coming in, knowing what to do, being prepared, working hard to do it, correcting his mistakes, moving on to the next day. All those kinds of things that are good qualities to have. And he’s making a lot of progress, so we’ll see where it goes.”

Grugier-Hill combined for three tackles on defense and three tackles on special teams in the first two exhibition games. He also batted down a pass and served as the defensive signal-caller for a spell.

In the process, he’s gone from being a definite long shot to a likely sure shot to make the team. Not that he’s given much thought to remaining employed in New England after this month.

“I don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff,” Grugier-Hill said. “The way I am, the way my confidence is and my mentality is, I’m going to come in here every day and work. Put my best foot forward and most of the time, you just have to work hard, and it just kind of ends up being OK.”

Grugier-Hill, 22, has come a long way, in terms of distance and development, in a short time.

Soccer was his sport before he lost interest as a teen. Then, prior to his junior year of high school, a friend suggested he try football.

Grugier-Hill made the Kamehameha High varsity but only played in a couple of games before having a breakout senior season. From there it was on to Eastern Illinois and now New England, where he has started to feel more at ease.

“I feel a lot more comfortable when it’s all said and done, but there’s really no time for comfortable,” Grugier-Hill said. “I just have to go out there every day and prove what I can do and keep working.”

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Commentary: Awkward situation for Patriots quarterbacks Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:25:51 +0000 Tom Brady is lobbying for reps in a preseason game that’ll be a dusty memory by the time he plays in a for-real game on Oct. 9 in Cleveland.

Is this a preview of coming attractions – when The Greatest Quarterback of All Time finally, inevitably, starts limping around like David Ortiz?

It’s a delicate topic. Brady is 39 years old, but he looks younger – and plays younger. He takes care of himself, from the weight training and cardio to the avocado ice cream and getting into bed before Jimmy Fallon is on.

Patriots fans want Brady to keep on keeping on, except that he won’t, and that’s something nobody wants to hear – including the man himself, if recent events are any indication.

Consider what’s going on these days in Foxborough, with Brady getting ever closer to the day when he must answer Roger Goodell’s decree that he clean out his locker for four games … with Jimmy Garoppolo getting ever closer to the day when, for those four games, he will be the team’s No. 1 quarterback.

Brady was ready to play in last week’s preseason game against Chicago despite suffering a small cut to his right thumb that has been thoroughly examined by thousands of make-believe doctors ever since close-up photos of the injured digit were posted on the internet. He missed two practice days for what was termed an “excused absence” but then bounded into the interview room Tuesday like Michael Douglas in “The American President” for an unannounced press conference. Brady never did come right out and say, “This is a time for serious people, Jimmy, and your 15 minutes are up. My name is Tom Brady, and I am the quarterback of the New England Patriots,” but …

When asked if he’d like to play in tomorrow night’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Brady said: “Absolutely. I like to be out there every time I get a chance to play. You only get so many opportunities a year. I’m getting (only) so many opportunities left in my life, so I’d like to take advantage of any and all of them if possible.”

That’s what Brady is thinking?


That he has only so opportunities left – in his life – to play football?

The problem here is that Jimmy Garoppolo has only so many opportunities to prepare himself for a one-month trial run as the Patriots quarterback. And it can’t be easy. Though unfailingly diplomatic (“He’s been nothing but helpful,” Garoppolo said of Brady), the third-year man did make a somewhat revealing comment when asked how he manages to show leadership as the No. 1 quarterback while being “deferential” to the reality that Brady will return as top dog come Week 5.

“It’s a tough situation at times, but you can’t worry about that too much,” he said. “It’s one of those things where if you start worrying about that, then you can’t focus on whatever it is – your reads, your checks, whatever it may be. You just have to go about your business the same way you always have.

“I’m not trying to do something crazy and do something I’ve never done before. I’m trying to be myself and do what I do.”

Should Brady be getting reps tomorrow night when the first-stringers are on the field? Let’s begin here: If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Bill Belichick through the years, it’s that the only game that matters is the next game.

Belichick doesn’t trifle with putting money away for a rainy day. He’s not about global warming, or running out of oil, or worrying how his favorite original Netflix series is going to turn out when he’s still watching Episode 1.

He’s been beating his players over the head with this for 16 years, and, hence, his players have been beating up us – fans, media, everyone – about it.

Back when Rosevelt Colvin was playing for the Pats, I wanted to do a big Sunday story on what it was going to be like to play in an upcoming game against the Colts in Indianapolis, his hometown. The problem was that the game was a couple of weeks away, and as Colvin told me, “We’re only focusing on the next game.” So I waited a week, at which time Colvin happily told me his old war stories about selling popcorn at the RCA Dome.

The next game on the schedule for the 2016 Patriots is Friday against Carolina. That’s the game the Patriots are preparing for, not Oct. 9 against the Browns, and that’s why Jimmy Garoppolo needs to be on the field.

This shouldn’t be complicated. Yet it is.

And you have to wonder if we’ll be revisiting this topic in a year or two, or three, or …

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Olympic notebook: Lochte officially charged by Rio police Thu, 25 Aug 2016 23:55:04 +0000 RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police charged American swimmer Ryan Lochte with filing a false robbery report over an incident during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A police statement Thursday said Lochte will be informed in the United States so he can decide whether to introduce a defense in Brazil. The indictment will be sent to the International Olympic Committee’s ethics commission.

Lochte initially said he and fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with a police badge as they returned to the Olympic Village from a party. But security video suggested the four actually faced security guards after vandalizing a gas station restroom.

Lochte has since acknowledged he was highly intoxicated and his behavior led to the confrontation.

Rio police began questioning two of Ireland’s top Olympic executives in a Summer Games ticket-scalping probe that has already ensnared the highest official.

Olympic Council of Ireland’s team leader, Kevin Kilty, and chief executive, Stephen Martin, arrived at police headquarters wearing the Ireland team uniform.

“We are here to fully cooperate. That’s all I can say at the moment,” Kilty said.

Secretary General Dermot Henihan spoke to investigators Tuesday but they ruled out his involvement in the scheme, saying there was no evidence that indicated wrongdoing on his part.

But Rio police suspect that the highest-ranking members of the OCI plotted with businessmen to help transfer tickets to an unauthorized vendor who would sell them for high fees disguised as hospitality services.

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya was disbanded by the government amid investigations into alleged mismanagement of the country’s team at the Rio Olympics.

Those problems included a new doping scandal, ineligible athletes, missing plane tickets, and bad blood between the track and field federation and the national Olympic committee.

Despite the problems, Kenya had its best Olympic performance in Rio, winning six golds, six silvers and a bronze medal, and finishing 15th overall in the gold medal table.

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Westbrook grandmother makes history, conquers jellyfish in 21-mile swim Thu, 25 Aug 2016 23:34:05 +0000 Pat Gallant-Charette, a 65-year-old grandmother from Westbrook, has become the oldest woman to swim across the North Channel from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

She is only the 41st person to complete the 21-mile swim, according to records compiled by the Irish Long Distance Swim Association.

Gallant-Charette took up open-water distance swimming in her early 40s, competing first in the 2.4-mile Peaks to Portland race in 1997. Since then, she has conquered the English Channel, Catalina Channel, Strait of Gibraltar and Tsugaru Channel in Japan. Those marathon swims, along with her accomplishment Wednesday, are part of her quest to complete the Oceans Seven Challenge, which involves crossing a channel from each of the seven continents.

On Wednesday, while battling nausea, jellyfish stings and water temperatures that averaged 55 degrees, she made the North Channel crossing in 14 hours, 22 minutes.

“It’s generally considered the most difficult swim in the world,” Gallant-Charette said by phone Thursday afternoon from Donaghadee, Northern Ireland. “Water temperatures are almost 10 degrees colder than the English Channel, and they won’t even look at you (for a crossing attempt) unless you’ve had a successful English Channel swim.”


Wednesday was her third attempt at the North Channel, where official crossing rules prohibit the use of wetsuits. Two years ago, she swam within half a mile of the Scottish shore before the tide turned and pulled her back out to sea. Last year, during her assigned two-week window, high winds prevented her from beginning the swim.

“So I was bound and determined to get this,” she said. “It was an exciting finish because there’s a small lighthouse (in Portpatrick, Scotland) and if you go past that, the swim is (impossible to finish). I made it just before the start of the increased tides.”

A month earlier, Gallant-Charette failed in her attempt to set a record as the oldest woman to swim the English Channel. More than 10 hours into the effort, she aborted the swim in large part because of nausea. On Wednesday, she wore a patch behind her ear with prescription medication.

“Instead of vomiting 400 times like I did in the English Channel,” she said, “I got sick maybe 10 times.”

When conditions are calm in the Irish Sea – as they were Wednesday – large Lion’s Mane jellyfish are everywhere. Gallant-Charette said her first encounter came in the first minute of her pre-dawn departure from Donaghadee and continued until she reached Portpatrick at dusk.

“There’s so many, you just plow right through them,” she said. “I got stung over every inch of my body.”

About halfway through the day, a jellyfish attached itself to her goggles. She could clearly see the dome, which she compared in size to a dinner plate. Shaking her head failed to dislodge the creature, so Gallant-Charette brushed away the brown tentacles, grabbed the dome and yanked it off her face.

“Last year there was a swimmer in the hospital for three days because of toxic effects from the stings,” she said.

She said one of two men who attempted the crossing Thursday gave up because of jellyfish stings. Gallant-Charette took some Benadryl during her swim because her lips began to swell.

Pat Gallant-Charette holds an American flag on the shore of Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, Thursday to celebrate her crossing of the North Channel of the Irish Sea the previous day. She left from Donaghadee and swam to Scotland. Photo by Tom Charette

Pat Gallant-Charette holds an American flag on the shore of Donaghadee, Northern Ireland, Thursday to celebrate her crossing of the North Channel of the Irish Sea the previous day. She left from Donaghadee and swam to Scotland. Photo by Tom Charette

“It does sting, but I can usually tolerate a lot of discomfort,” she said. “It was interesting to see the bottom part of that dome, just to see the tentacles coming out and knowing they were all over my face.”

Several gulls also followed her progress, with one paddling behind her for nearly five hours. She took nourishment every hour in the form of instant cream of wheat (maple flavor) mixed with warm water and a nutritional powder rich in complex carbohydrates.

Because of strong currents, she wound up swimming 26 miles – a distance second only to her 33-mile swim in Japan. As for the chilly temperatures, training off Pine Point in Scarborough beginning in early May gets her acclimated.


Gallant-Charette, who retired from her job as a nurse last November, started the Oceans Seven Challenge about three years ago. Each attempt is expensive – “This one probably cost me about $11,000,” she said – so she can afford only one or two per year. After aborting her English Channel crossing last month, she started a Facebook group for open-water swimmers called Disappointed but not Defeated.

“She’s a perfect witness to never giving up,” said Annie Smith, 25, of Freeport, a training partner who made it halfway across the English Channel in July. “She’s an absolute inspiration.”

The two remaining crossings in her Oceans Seven Challenge are the Cook Strait in New Zealand and the Molokai Channel in Hawaii. She’s already been to New Zealand twice, the first time waiting two weeks in vain for high winds to subside, and the second swimming for 10 hours – including three in an eddy while making no progress – before being pulled out of the water.

On Thursday, she sent an email to the organizers of the New Zealand crossing. She plans to save Molokai for last, perhaps next October.

“They have sharks,” she said.


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