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Monday, August 31, 2009

Wood named SL's top pitcher; Francisco, Frazier and Jennings honored

Posted by on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 8:47 PM

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Former Carolina Mudcats southpaw Travis Wood has been named the Southern League's pitcher of the year in a vote by the league's field managers, radio broadcasters and print media.

Wood is joined on the SL's post-season All-Star team by former Mudcats teammates Juan Francisco at third base and Todd Frazier as the top utility man. All three of the former Mudcats are now playing for the Louisville Bats, who are poised to win the International League's West Division.

Montgomery Biscuits center fielder Desmond Jennings, who now plays for the Durham Bulls, was named the circuit's most valuable player while Ever Magallanes, who has skippered the Birmingham Barons to the dominant best record in the league, was named manager of the year.

Matt Young of the Mississippi Braves was named the league's best hustler.

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Yow, Robertson, Newell selected for FIBA Hall of Fame

Posted by on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 6:25 PM

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The late N.C. State women's basketball coach Kay Yow, the late men's coach Pete Newell and legendary guard Oscar Robertson are the three Americans among the inductees to this year's class of the FIBA Hall of Fame.

Yow led the Red, White and Blue to gold medals in the 1986 Goodwill Games, the 1986 World Championship and the 1988 Olympics.

Newell coached Roberston and the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team - generally regarded as one of the top amateur men's teams ever assembled - to an 8-0 record and the gold medal.

Enshrinement ceremonies will be held Sept. 20 in Katowice, Poland, in conjunction with the Finals of EuroBasket, and Sept. 22 at the FIBA Hall of Fame in Alcobendas, Spain.

Yow was a member of nine USA Basketball staffs over a 10-year span. In two major FIBA competitions, Yow's teams went 9-0. Those 1986 victories represented a changing of the guard in international women's basketball, as Team USA beat the once seemingly invincible Soviet Union twice during the year.

At NCSU, Yow was 737-344 with four ACC titles and an appearance in the 1988 Final Four.

Yow, who died Jan. 24 at age 66 after a battle with breast cancer that lasted two decades, is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

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UNC releases depth chart, Davis' Monday tidbits

Posted by on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 6:03 PM

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UNC released its depth chart Monday for the opening game against The Citadel with absolutely zero surprises minus a bit of shuffling behind the entrenched starters.

Two things to note:

  • The depleted offensive line still retains the same five starters as before preseason practice began.
  • Da'Norris Searcy secured a starting role at strong safety -- and also grabbed the punt returner spot ahead of fellow junior defensive back Kendric Burney.  Searcy replaces big holes left by Trimane Goddard at safety and Brandon Tate in the punt return game.

The depth chart can be viewed at www.Tarheelblue.com.

UNC coach Butch Davis, meanwhile, met with the media for his weekly Monday press conference.  Unfortunately, yours truly is stuck in Carroll Hall all day, meaning we must turn to www.InsideCarolina.com for the scoop.

Davis spoke about freshman athlete A.J. Blue, who played both running back and quarterback in high school, and how he has jumped up the depth chart at running back to be on equal standing with Jamal Womble (pictured).

“I don’t know that he’s [Blue] necessarily moved ahead of Jamal, but I think he’s earned the opportunity," Davis said according to Scout.com.  "I can’t tell you how impressed that I’ve been with his work ethic."

Keep an eye out for Blue and Womble Saturday, especially if the game turns ugly (for The Citadel) early.  Womble has long been thought as more of a permanent solution at running back.

Davis also said that senior tight end Ryan Taylor will miss another week or 10 days before they re-examine getting back into action.

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RailHawks and seven other teams and prospective franchises threaten to bolt USL after sale to NuRock

Posted by on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 5:46 PM

UPDATE 6:39 p.m.: Moments ago, the USL announced an executive restructuring. The gist: "NuRock's Rob Hoskins will serve as Chairman with Alec Papadakis being named CEO. USL's Tim Holt has been named President of the organization with founder Francisco Marcos transitioning to the position of President Emeritus and Senior Director of International Development."

Last Thursday, Nike sold the USL to NuRock Soccer Holdings, an Atlanta-based concern. As the days passed, it became increasingly clear that Nike's failure to sell the league to a group of USL club owners caught everyone by surprise.

This afternoon, the Carolina RailHawks released a statement that is something like a thrown-down gauntlet. Titled "Team Owners Association Chills Relations with USL After Nike Sells USL to Non-Team Third Party," the message couldn't be more plain.

Selby Wellman, a member of the RailHawks' ownership group, is listed as the spokesperson for the dissident owners' group.

The bottom line is that five of the 11 currently active USL-1 clubs have not committed to playing in the league for the 2010 season, including Carolina, and that they are aggressively pursuing all alternatives—which presumably include an oft-rumored breakaway league. Clearly, the sale to NuRock displeases these owners and they feel that NuRock will not be the solution to frequently expressed concerns about the leagues' organization and marketing.

The statement was issued on behalf of the Team Owners Association, a group of owners formally established in January 2008. Member clubs include existing USL-1 franchises Carolina, FC Miami, the Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Minnesota Thunder; a former USL-1 franchise, the Atlanta Silverbacks; one 2010 expansion franchise, the Tampa Bay Rowdies; and one prospective future franchise, St. Louis.

Notably absent are USL stalwarts Portland (which, like Vancouver, is joining the MLS in 2011), Rochester and Charleston, along with FC New York (which is slated to begin USL-1 play in 2010).

There are many questions that remain unanswered, and we hope to find out some soon. Following is the text of the statement by the Team Owners Association. Here is our post on the announcement last week that NuRock had bought the USL pyramid.

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Jeremy Hellickson, Durham Bulls blank Gwinnett Braves, extend division lead

Posted by on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

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DBAP/ DURHAM---Yesterday I threatened to need an infinite number of words to describe Durham's surreal, 10-9, 14-inning win over Gwinnett. Today, I could do it in two: Jeremy Hellickson. The 22-year-old Iowan, who has been excellent since his callup from Double-A Montgomery in July, had his best start of the season and led the Bulls to a 4-0 win over the Braves, extending the Bulls' division lead to two games.

In eight sterling innings, Hellickson (pictured) allowed just one hit---a sixth-inning single by Brian Barton---walked Gregor Blanco twice, and struck out 12. On a night when the entire Durham bullpen was exhausted from its 14-inning slog on Saturday, Hellickson not only rested them but put his clamps on the game right from the get-go, serving notice by striking out the side in the first inning.

That was actually the easy part. You've probably seen countless highly touted young flamethrowers blow hitters away for a few innings and then melt down. Truly mature pitchers are steady, and as effective at the end of their night as at the outset. We've seen Hellickson break down a few times right at the end of his starts, allowing late homers just before departing. But last night, when Gwinnett got a two-out baserunner in the eighth inning, Hellickson's last, he marooned the man there. (Not a single Brave reached second base.) That was a sign of maturation from a kid who seems already well beyond his years. His equanimity, his poker-faced ease, and his quiet resolve are as much the reasons for his success as his raw material.

Details on the best pitching performance by a Bull this year follow.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mudcats postponed, play two at Montgomery tonight

Posted by on Sun, Aug 30, 2009 at 9:10 PM

The Carolina Mudcats' scheduled game against the Montgomery Biscuits, the third of a five-game set, has been postponed and will be made up as part of a doubleheader Monday night at 7:05 (EDT).

The Mudcats had two transactions on Sunday, both involving right-handed pitchers.

Greg Atencio had been promoted to Louisville, while Durham native Chris Kelly is back from Sarasota.

Carolina's final homestand of the season, another five-game set, begins on Thursday with the Mississippi Braves providing the opposition.

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Durham Bulls rally for amazing, 14-inning win over Gwinnett Braves: infinite monkeys, infinite improbability

Posted by on Sun, Aug 30, 2009 at 6:00 AM

DBAP/ DURHAM---You've probably heard of the Infinite Monkey Theorem, which "states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare."

If you apply the Infinite Monkey Theorem to baseball, you'll get something like the Durham Bulls' 10-9, 14-inning win over Gwinnett last night. It's unlikely that a monkey will type Hamlet, but it's also inevitable, in infinite time. And it's also unlikely that last night's game should ever happen, but last night's game did happen. You could look it up.

"No, I've never seen anything like it," was the first sentence out of Charlie Montoyo's mouth afterward, before anyone had even asked him a question.

It would take me an infinite number of words to describe everything noteworthy about the doings at the DBAP on Saturday night (and, in fact, a bit of Sunday morning; the five-hour game ended at about ten past midnight). Although I don't mind claiming that I am not a sportswriter who would ever, ever succumb to fatigue---I am a veritable dog with a bone, or better yet a monkey with an infinite number of bananas (and if you read that last clause carefully, you found the syntactical giveaway: I'm not a sportswriter)---as I say, although I don't mind claiming indefatigability, which is an eight-syllable word, the Bulls have another game fairly soon, and at some point between now and then I have to sleep, eat, exercise, and, uh, type. Like a monkey.

And in case you need more monkey stuff, consider that last night's ballgame featured mascot antics from something called Reggy the Purple Party Dude (he looks like a Sesame Street character who has somehow started growing french fries out of the top of his head). He monkeyed around in the first inning with a fake first-base coach, later with the umpire and Wool E. Bull, and then with "his inflatable nine-foot monkey," which was both exactly what it sounds like and also inhabited somewhere in its recesses by a person. During one mid-inning caper, a banana figured heavily, along with spray cans of that fake shaving cream stuff that is actually string; and although I know that this is a family Web site, the fact is that the whole Reggy act, including the "his inflatable monkey" scenes and (especially) the fake-first-base-coach antics, played uncomfortably like the preparatory scenes of very, very, very specialized pornography targeted at an extremely specific fetish market I would prefer not to know anything about.

And also, the game was full of monkey wrenches.

I'll give you all I've got if you click

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Perry, Montgomery keep Mudcats in doldrums

Posted by on Sat, Aug 29, 2009 at 11:53 PM

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The Carolina Mudcats' road doldrums continued at Montgomery, as the Biscuits rolled to an 8-1 win in Game 2 of their five-game set.

Jason Perry (pictured) hit a three-run homer while Matt Spring added a three-run double for the winners.

Ryan Morse (4-6) was the winning pitcher while Jerry Gil (2-4) took the loss as the Mudcats dropped their third straight.

Carolina got its only run on a bases-loaded walk to Zack Cozart in the third inning. Jose Castro singled twice in the Mudcats' five-hit attack.

The series continues Sunday at 3:05 p.m., with Camilo Vazquez (5-4, 5.29) going for Carolina against southpaw Brandon Mann (6-8, 4.30).

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Durham Bulls extend affiliation with Tampa Bay Rays, release 2010 schedule (with goodies!)

Posted by on Sat, Aug 29, 2009 at 3:46 PM

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DBAP/ DURHAM---Old-school friends of mine will sometimes show their age by betraying surprise at discovering that the Durham Bulls are no longer an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. I can sort of forgive them that outdated conception; after all, the Bulls-Braves partnership lasted 18 years.

But this afternoon at the DBAP, right under the "Hit Bull Win Steak/Hit Grass Win Salad" Bull, a beaming General Manager Mike Birling announced that the Bulls and the Tampa Bay Rays have extended their working agreement, which was set to expire after 2010. The four-year extension will take them through 2014, for a 17-year total---the Rays will have been here almost as long as the Braves were.

With Birling were Chaim Bloom, who is the Rays' Assistant Director of Minor League Operations, Durham Bulls Vice President George Habel and Durham Athletic Park Manager for Minor League Baseball Jill Rusinko.

When asked what it was about the Durham Bulls that especially appealed to the Rays' front office, Bloom mentioned the fans and the community. But the first thing out of his mouth was "the playing surface." It's a credit to the DBAP grounds crew that they've maintained the field so well, despite the meteorological challenges of 2009.

The 2010 schedule was released. As usual, both the beginning and end of the season will pit the Bulls exclusively against the other three teams in the International League South Division. This clustering is done deliberately, and the weather is again a factor: April being the cruelest month, it's better to stay close to home. And the pennant drive in late summer forces the issue by matching up teams from the same division.

The 2010 home stretch, however, is an extreme version: From August 10 until the last day of the season, September 6, the Bulls play 28 games in a row against Charlotte, Gwinnett and Norfolk, without a single day off. That includes an 11-game road swing to all three cities from August 13-23. The Bulls also have an 11-game roadie June 14-24, when they visit Gwinnett, Louisville and Indianapolis. Their big stand at home runs from June 25-July 5, when they play 11 straight games at the DBAP versus Lehigh Valley, Louisville and Gwinnett. In July, the Bulls play 17 of 28 games at home.

Two red-letter days. On April 2 or 3 (exact date TBD), the Bulls will play an exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That's not only a chance to see major-league talent, but also to watch former Bulls who have gone on to stardom, like Carl Crawford (if he hasn't been traded) and Evan Longoria.

Then, on Monday, May 10, the Bulls will play a home game at another Durham ballyard: the old Durham Athletic Park, which officially reopened this year. The Bulls last played at the DAP in 1994. The game was scheduled for May 10 for a very deliberate reason, said Mike Birling: "When people think of the most famous minor-league teams, they think of the Durham Bulls, obviously because of [the film] Bull Durham, and they think of the Toledo Mud Hens, because of M*A*S*H*." (To our younger readers: M*A*S*H* was a television series that ran in the 1970s and 1980s. It was set during the Korean War, and one of the characters, a Toledan named Klinger, was trying to get his discharge from service by cross-dressing---oh, just read this.) Bulls versus Hens at the old farmyard!

It's easy to take the Bulls-Rays affiliation for granted. But it's important to appreciate how active and forward-thinking the Tampa brass is when it comes to their player development. We see that in the results. The Bulls are bidding to make the playoffs for the third straight year and the sixth of the last eight. Almost every season brings exciting, big-league-bound talent to the team. Look for more of it next year. And don't miss the Bulls' current charge, which resumes in just a few hours at the DBAP.

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Eagles high on defense, QB and freshman kicker

Posted by on Sat, Aug 29, 2009 at 1:00 PM

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N.C. Central football coach Mose Rison came up with a bit of a surprise when he spoke with the media on "Meet the Eagles" day.

"I'm really happy with our special teams," said Rison, whose team opens its season on Sept. 5 on the road against MEAC power Hampton. "The good news is that most of the kids are back. My biggest concern was replacing Brandon Gilbert (the best placekicker in school history who at points in his career also handled punting duties."

Rison said he has found Gilbert's replacement in true freshman Frankie Cardelle out of Salisbury High, who will handle the punting duties.

Earlier in the week Rison, who also serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, named sophomore Michael Johnson, the transfer from Tulsa out of Hillside High, as the starting signal-caller for the Hampton game. Johnson, who played in four games last season, completed 32 of 62 passes for 517 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions.

"I had to compete hard with Keon (Williams) every day in practice," Johnson said. "Make a mistake, and Keon will come back and make you look bad."

Johnson said, though, that he doesn't see the offense as the team's strongest suit at the moment.

"The strength of our team is going to be the defense," he said. "They're going lights out and full speed."

Junior linebacker Donald Laster, the Eagles' defensive captain, said having nine starters back on that side of the ball instead of the one his team had last season is making a big difference.

"You can see it in practice," Laster said. "If the offense has a big run, we can come right back and get a sack."

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Doesn't the same ownership group own both the LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo? Seems like a double standard.

by Rob Swenson on Deadline in US Soccer Pro League Standards emerges as motive for sale of NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers (Sports)

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