Bookending Saturday evening’s festivities were literal pyrotechnics the home club ponied up — the Khano Smith savings, passed onto the public? — to shoot off after the match and before during the “rockets’ red glare” portion of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In between, there were few of the figurative fireworks typically seen during a RailHawks-Impact fracas. Instead, fans were treated to the sort of workmanlike performance that has become Carolina’s hallmark during their singular season. The end result was a 2-0 victory for the RailHawks (12-1-1), their 10th straight win to go along with a 13-match unbeaten streak.
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls are facing a pretty important game as they host the Gwinnett Braves.
Yes, there are two months left in the season. But the Bulls dropped the opener of their four-game, two-city set 4-1 on Saturday night to fall into second place in the International League’s South Division.
There will be a full house on a hot night in the Bull City as the Independence Day weekend celebration continues.
Brian Baker (5-5, 5.68) will go for the Bulls against Eric Cordier (2-4, 3.65). Earlier in the day Durham gave Chris Bootcheck his release as per the agreement to promote him or give him up by July.
Durham gets a big lead early and holds on, surviving 7-4 before the big fireworks show.
DBAP/DURHAM It’s Game 1 of the annual Collegiate Friendship Series between Team USA and Japan.
This will be the 38th rendition of the annual five-game set, which is played to a fifth game even if one team quickly wins three times.
Japan has taken the series only once when it was held in the United States, that being in 2007 with the deciding game at DBAP.
This time Games 1 and 2 will be played here, with Game 3 in Cary before the set finishes with single games in Kannapolis and Omaha.
The crowd will certainly build during this contest, as there is a single admission for this one and tonight’s Bulls game against the Gwinnett Braves.
Pitcher-infielder Marcus Stroman of Duke is a rare local entry on Team USA, but will not start this game.
Stanford rising junior Mark Appel (0-0, 0.00) will start for the USA on a hot afternoon against Yusuke Nomura.
And the hosts outhit the Japanese in a 7-6 comeback win in which each team commits three errors.
DBAP/DURHAM There’s another first-place showdown starting tonight.
The Durham Bulls come into the opener of their four-game, two-city series with the Gwinnett Braves tied for the top spot in the International League’s South Division.
Tonight the Bulls will send ace Alex Cobb (5-0, 1.35) to the hill against Yohan Flande (3-4, 4.23). There’s a huge crowd on hand — 10,163 — as the Bulls begin their holiday weekend festivities with postgame fireworks.
Former Bull Chris Carter is now with the Braves and in the lineup in the cleanup spot as designated hitter.
In a game that is a stellar pitchers’ duel over the final seven innings, the Braves take an early lead and hold on to win 4-1.
Over the past decade, ticket prices for professional and high-profile college sporting events have skyrocketed. HD television, cable and the advertising opportunities that they allow have become cheaper, more attractive alternatives to watching live sports. Anyone who’s been to a Charlotte Bobcats game lately can attest to the dwindling crowds in the NBA (even if the NFL’s Panthers remain a decent draw). It seems like the traditional notion of going to the game seems as outdated as short shorts or H-shaped goalposts.
Luckily, diehard hoop-heads in the Triangle get to enjoy hard-fought games among the area’s top college and pro players this summer. Beginning last night and continuing on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the next five weeks, area fans can drop in on the S.J.G. Greater NC Pro-Am, which features the best players from UNC, Duke, N.C. State, N.C. Central and other North Carolina colleges.
And frequent visitors are often rewarded by cameo appearances by NBA players.
The league is the brainchild of Jerry Stackhouse, Donyell Bryant and Chuck Jones, native North Carolinians and childhood friends who decided to start a competitive summer recreational basketball league for area players. N.C. Central agreed to host the event, and the idea took off quickly with help from Stackhouse’s NBA notoriety and the bevy of local college and high school talent of the area.
The talent alone makes the Pro-Am well worth attending on a hot, potentially aimless summer night. But the real reason this league is so unique and interesting is that, for all the talent on display, it’s really just a rec league. Admission is free, and the intimate confines of NCCU’s McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium, which seats 3,000, is perfectly suited for the diverse fans who show up. These conditions make for one of the best, most competitive summer leagues in the country.
This year, there are plenty of subplots. Normally, high-profile NBA players would only make appearances here for the last few games, but this year may be different. With the NBA lockout now in effect, it seems likely that the high-profile professionals will seek out these games as a way of staying fit.
Notable area alumni and professional players dot the rosters, including such as Josh Powell, Julius Hodge, Raymond Felton, David Noel, Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving, JamesOn Curry, David West and John Wall.
The college players include four rising freshmen who were 2011 McDonald’s All-Americans (all Duke- or UNC- bound), eight returning UNC players, four returning N.C. State players, nine returning Duke players. There are also incoming transfers, walk-ons, recent graduates and even college club players.
One big change this year: High school players are no longer permitted. The change came at the behest of the NCAA, which was concerned that host school N.C. Central, newly promoted to Division I, would derive a recruiting advantage for star-struck high school players.