[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Maybe we misspelled his name when we Googled him"][/caption]There's often not too much to say about 11-2 routs like last night's. The Bulls took an early lead and then systematically enlarged it, unimpeded by a 54-minute rain delay that ended starter Wade Davis's night early. One night after tying the Bulls' Triple-A franchise record for career homers, Chris Richard broke it. Matt Joyce and Elliot Johnson added round-trippers of their own (the Tides have been out-homered 39-6 in their last 30 games!), the Bulls racked up 16 hits off of five Norfolk pitchers, the last of whom was second baseman Brandon Pinckney, and your local news is coming up next, thank you for staying up with us.
It was the Bulls' fifth straight win, which kept them even with Gwinnett (who won at Charlotte) atop the International League South Division. Guess who comes to Durham for a four-game series on Saturday?
So the romp was a mere setup for the showdown we've all been waiting for, and as such was secondary to its surrounding weather, a complex and unpredictable collision of fast-approaching fronts and precipitations that will pass over the DBAP very soon. Details follow.
Luis Montano had his best Double-A start Friday night, but a couple of unearned runs unraveled it in the seventh inning.
And the Montgomery Biscuits scored all three of their runs in the seventh to claim a 3-1 victory over Carolina.
Montano (0-6) was pitching a two-hitter through six innings before the Biscuits put together their good-luck rally.
Carolina got a go-ahead run on base in the ninth before Matt Gorgen closed out the save.
Aneury Rodriguez (9-10) won his fifth straight decision for Montgomery.
Shaun Cumberland (pictured) scored Carolina's only run on a Logan Parker grounder in the second.
Jerry Gil (2-3, 9.39) will start Game 2 of the five-game set for Carolina tonight at 8:05 against Ryan Morse (3-6, 5.26).
The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced its 2009-10 women's basketball schedule, and as usual it has plenty of highlights.
The schedule will include 40 televised games including key in-conference matchups as well as some contests which will certainly match Top 10 teams.
The three Triangle teams all open their schedules on Nov. 13.
That night N.C. State will host Florida International - there doesn't seem to be any controversy with that FIU game - at Reynolds Coliseum in the first regular-season game for new coach Kellie Harper. That will be the nightcap of the first round of the Wolfpack's season opening tournament which also includes Vermont and Western Michigan.
Also on Nov. 13 UNC will entertain the College of Charleston in what is scheduled to be the first regular-season game in the newly remodeled Carmichael Auditorium, while Duke will be on the road at Houston Baptist. Duke's first regular-season home game will be Nov. 19 against Georgia Southern.
There is one other interesting ACC opener for Triangle fans, as N.C. Central will visit Maryland on Nov. 14. That is one of five ACC teams the independent Eagles will play, including trips to Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and a March 14 regular-season finale at UNC after the Tar Heels have already played in the ACC Tournament.
Televised schedule highlights include UNC's Jan. 9 visit to defending national champion Connecticut in a game to be shown on CBS, Connecticut at Duke on Jan. 18 on ESPN2, UNC at Duke on Feb. 8 (ESPN2), Miami at N.C. State on Feb. 14 for "Pink Frenzy" (ESPN2), Duke at Maryland on Jan. 24 on Fox Sports Net (FSN), UNC at N.C. State on Jan. 25(FSN), and Duke at UNC on Feb. 28 (FSN).
Duke will host N.C. Central on Dec. 28 and N.C. State on Feb. 11
The Triangle teams' games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge will all be on Dec. 3, with Ohio State at Duke, Wisconsin at N.C. State and UNC at Michigan State.
The ACC Tournament will be held at Greensboro Coliseum from March 4-7, and Duke has been selected as a site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament March 20 and 22.
There's nothing particularly special about 17; it's just a number; but for whatever reason, it came to represent the ceiling of the Bulls' success in 2009. Try as they might, they just couldn't get there. They seemed doomed to be a 16-games-over team. Given that it's mathematically impossible to finish a 144-game season 17 games over .500---and kids, don't look now but the season is, in terrifying fact, 92.36% finished---maybe there was something appropriately chimerical about the mark.
Last night, they finally broke through. Their fourth straight win, a 3-1 margin delivered by Chris Richard's three-run, ninth-inning home run, pushed the Bulls' record to 75-58, and pulled them dead even for the IL South Division lead with the Gwinnett Braves, who lost their fourth straight to Charlotte.
Given how long it took the Bulls to pass 16 and to reclaim a share of first place (where they haven't been since August 10), the way they crested those humps last night was appropriate.
N.C. Central has canceled its Saturday football scrimmage which was to be part of "Meet the Eagles" day.
With construction still in progress on the new artificial turf for O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium, the event will be held on the practice field in the NCCU track and field facility adjoining the football stadium.
Admission is free to the 11 a.m. event, which will include a meet-and-greet session with the football players, coaches and cheerleaders.
The Eagles have already had two season-ending injuries in preseason. Junior wideout Corey Harris dislocated his left clavicle while senior
offensive lineman Eric Stanley suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee.
NCCU, which finished 4-7 last season in its second year under Mose Rison (pictured), opens its season on Sept. 5 at Hampton with its first home game on Sept. 19 against Morehead State.
UPDATE: News outlets are reporting that the RailHawks organization were part of an ownership group that includes Traffic Sports, the Brazilian company that owns Miami FC, that tried and failed to purchase the USL. We hope to have more soon.
After last night's game between the RailHawks and FC Miami, we spoke to Carolina RailHawks president Brian Wellman about the progress of Nike's long-rumored sale of the entire United Soccer League pyramid. Wellman acknowledged that the league, 98 percent of which is owned by Umbro, was for sale.
"There's a lot of silence right now from the league, which means something's going on, we just aren't sure exactly what's going on. And the bid is for the entire USL."
Today, Atlanta-based NuRock Soccer Holdings announced its purchase of the entire USL pyramid, including USL-1, USL-2, Premier Development League and W-League. Terms were not disclosed, but Nike and its subsidiary Umbro will continue to have a long-term sponsor relationship with the USL.
NuRock is led by Chairman Rob Hoskins and CEO Alec Papadakis. The former is a real estate developer, while the latter is a franchise attorney and veteran player for the Atlanta Chiefs and the Boston Minutemen, both of the old North American Soccer League. NuRock Soccer Holdings also holds USL-1 franchise rights in Atlanta, Ga. and Birmingham, Ala.
The deal promises to address a persistent source of concern among the club owners of the USL, that the league is in urgent need of better, more aggressive marketing and development.
From the press release:
"We are delighted to close this transaction with NIKE and begin a partnership with Nike's leading football brands which will sponsor and support USL, and all of its leagues, for many years to come. Together with USL Management, we are excited about the opportunity to grow the size and visibility of USL, and to help develop and train the future generations of soccer athletes in the United States", said Alec Papadakis, CEO of NuRock Soccer Holdings.
Last night, Wellman agreed that better marketing is a priority.
"We are in favor for a new ownership group to move the league forward, whether it's St. Louis or another group," Wellman said. "We're in favor of dealership to lead the league in a new direction, with corporate sponsorship and TV contracts and raising the level of the league to a much higher standard."
Here's the entire release.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—The 1,597 fans who showed up on the relatively mild evening saw an extraordinary sight: a soccer game with the preposterous score of 9-0.
That's right. 9-0. The RailHawks' match against playoff contender Miami FC Blues wasn't a baseball game, but a soccer game.
But the lopsided result has us reaching for non-soccer comparisons: Perhaps the time the Chicago Bears won the NFL Championship (in pre-Super Bowl days) with a 73-0 win. Or perhaps if one were to go fishing and have fish hit your lure on every single cast.
But if we stick to soccer analogies, the RailHawks' absolute dominance was reminiscent of some of Barcelona's games last season, particularly the first half of their return leg against Real Madrid last May. Like Barça, so dominant were the RailHawks that the goal seemed to be a magnetic field for the ball, and on a couple of occasions the RailHawks nearly walked the ball into the back of the net.
Joseph Kabwe led all scorers (there's a basketball construction) with three goals, while Sallieu Bundu chipped in a late brace. Also scoring: Daniel Paladini, John Cunliffe, Andriy Budnyy and Gregory Richardson.
Jeff Bennett's arrival in Durham a couple of weeks ago has drawn relatively little attention. Akinori Iwamura and Fernando Perez are getting most of the attention on their rehab assignments, and Tampa had already recently demoted another struggling major-league reliever, Joe Nelson. Bennett doesn't even appear on the Bulls' roster list on the team's web site.
But a Bull he is, and although Bennett (pictured), who is primarily a reliever, has been far from perfect in two starts---he has walked five in 9 1/3 innings, a habit that suits him well to the Bulls' walk-happy staff---he has also done a serviceable job filling in for injured lefty starter Carlos Hernandez. Pitching last night against Norfolk, Bennett lasted 5 1/3 innings, and his only significant mistake was surrendering a two-run homer to---you ready for this?---former Bull Rhyne Hughes. (Yes, okay, Rhyne, we're sorry we traded you. Now that's enough of that.)
Other than that, Norfolk failed to score, thanks in no small part to some wiggling out of jams by Julio DePaula and Joe Bateman---although granted that they brought the pectin to the mound with them. Bennett got his first victory as a Bull and Durham beat Norfolk, 4-2. The lineup wasn't especially potent, but they scored the runs they needed to score, all of them by the fifth inning. The win gave the Bulls their first three-game winning streak in about a month, and it pushed their lead over the Tides to six games in the wild-card race with 12 left to play. Syracuse beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to remain 3.5 games back. (Don't look now, but the revivified Chiefs trail the Yankees by just 2.5 games in the IL North Division.)
More intriguingly, Charlotte rallied to beat Gwinnett in 11 innings, 10-7, pulling Durham to within just a single game of the Braves for the South Division lead. (Who knew that Reid Gorecki, called up to the majors a week ago, was the team's glue? His departure snapped a five-game winning streak, and Gwinnett is just 3-4 since.) Things are getting quite interesting, to say the least, as the season races to its close.
A few notes follow.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It's the finale of the Carolina Mudcats' five-game homestand against the Tennessee Smokies and there's no reason for the Mudcats not to relax.
Earlier today a West Tenn Diamond Jaxx victory made the inevitable official. The Mudcats, who came within one game of the first-half North Division title, are not going to be in the Southern League playoffs.
For Tennessee it's a very big game, as there is still a three-way race among the Volunteer State teams for the division title.
Carolina continues to feed its best players to Triple-A Louisville, with veteran southpaw Tom Cochran the latest to head for a probable Governors' Cup Playoff team.
There's a college night promotion going on, and fans and Mudcats employees are wearing logo clothing for either their alma mater or the school they root for.
The players get in on the action, too, as the college alumni are greeted by their school's fight songs when they come to bat and everybody who didn't go to college gets assigned one.
Let's get some chicken tenders and start this pitchers' duel, which finishes in a 2-1 comeback victory for the visitors.
It's a good one from the start, with the World Cup-bound Dutchman Alexander Smit (pictured) on the mound for Carolina against Casey Coleman.
N.C. Central football coach Mose Rison has given Michael Johnson the Eagles' starting quarterback job on the same day he announced the team's captains.
Senior fullback Saeed Abdul-Azeez, a graduate of Southern Durham, will be NCCU's offensive captain. Junior linebacker Donald Laster is the defensive captain, while junior linebacker and East Chapel Hill alum Anthony Sharp is the special teams captain.
The captains were selected in a vote of their teammates.
Johnson, a transfer from Tulsa who is now a redshirt sophomore, completed 32 of 62 passes for 517 yards and six touchdowns last season. Sophomore Keon Williams, who like Johnson started three games last season, is the backup.