FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who happen to be in last place in the Carolina League.
All of that doesn’t mean much, as through 18 games the league’s hottest teams are a scant two games ahead of the coldest. The Mudcats lead the league with a .277 batting average.
Tonight they’ll try for their third win in as many tries against the Potomac Nationals. Southpaw Shawn Morimando (1-1, 1.29) will go for the Mudcats against Blake Schwartz who is making his Carolina League debut.
One swing of the bat makes all the difference, as the Nats get in a lick with a 2-0 victory.
It was also the fourth straight, and fifth out of the last six, games between Carolina and Fort Lauderdale at WakeMed Park that a Railhawk notched a brace. Coming on Latin Fest night, it’s oddly coincidental that Brian Shriver, the only Spanish-speaking RailHawk who took the field, scored those two goals. Of course, the fact that that lone Spanish speaker is also Anglo bespeaks the bedeviling conundrum of trying to attract soccer-mad Hispanics (legal status utterly irrelevant and insulting, Internet trolling notwithstanding) to lower-division American games. Yes, the RailHawks set a club attendance record last month when Pumas de la UNAM came to Cary and Latino fans came out in droves, mostly to cheer the visiting Liga MX club. Of course, one would expect the same fervor from Americans in Paris if, say, the Los Angeles Lakers came to scrimmage Paris-Levallois Basket.
Coming off a lackluster performance during a road draw against Tampa Bay last weekend, the RailHawks was clearly looking forward to the roomy, well-manicured confines of home. Ty Shipalane made his 2013 return to the starting XI, and the attention he drew opened up the rest of the field for his teammates.
Don’t worry. It will end someday. I lived in ACC country for the entire Wooden era.
Blue Devils primed for a run
Duke may very well be preseason No. 2 heading into next season. No more Brittney Griner to worry about, no more Skylar Diggins.
Duke has that No. 1 recruiting class now rising seniors and a No. 2 class coming in as freshmen, and with not one but two national player-of-the-year candidates in rising junior center Elizabeth Williams and rising senior guard Chelsea Gray.
The Blue Devils (33-3 and ACC champions) would seem to have what it takes to go all the way if they can avoid being mesmerized by the UConn jerseys.
During Joanne P. McCallie’s six years at the helm the Blue Devils have finished their season in a very appropriate spot except once, that in her second season when they were a No. 1 seed and famously got sent to Michigan State where she had previously been head coach — and with team leader Abby Waner struggling through a leg injury were upset by the No. 9 seed Spartans in front of a nasty crowd.
(To her credit, McCallie never complained publicly about the assignment.)But let’s take a look at the three Triangle schools and assess the immediate past and future.
PNC ARENA—The Canes were able to say that they accomplished all the points of their game plan Tuesday night. They got goals from the bottom two lines and from their defense. They didn’t flag in the second period, as has been their pattern of late. And they matched their opponent’s physicality in all three zones.
But they still lost.
Blueliners Joe Corvo and Bobby Sanguinetti both tallied in the first period off faceoffs won in the Penguins’ zone, flinging wrist shots over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove. The Staal brothers must have had flashbacks to Canes practice in the faceoff circle. Former Canes Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen, who was traded to Pittsburgh just a week ago, took 29 of the 59 draws in the game.
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH N.C. State held its press conference to introduce Wes Moore as its new head women’s basketball coach on Monday.
He was an assistant coach at State under the late Kay Yow, for whom the Reynolds Coliseum court is named, from 1993-95.
Moore has 558 career wins (with 169 losses) including 29 this season. The former Francis Marion (Division II) and Maryville (Division III) coach is the only one to lead women’s basketball teams to NCAA Tournament berths at all three levels.
He is replacing Kellie Harper (70-64 at State), who was fired after four years at the helm following a 17-17 season. In a coincidence, Harper was a Moore assistant at Chattanooga before becoming head coach at Western Carolina in 2004.
They’ve won the first two of the series against the Winston-Salem Dash — the first in a rout and the second with an eighth-inning comeback — and will look for the sweep on a proverbial perfect spring afternoon for baseball. The Dash was not swept last year.
Southpaw Shawn Morimando (7-6, 3.59 at Lake County last season) will take on the Dash’s Chris Beck (4-3, 4.69 at Great Falls).
Things remain so far, so good for the Mudcats, who get six runs out of six hits in their 6-2 win to complete the sweep.
PNC ARENA—In the space of 31 seconds Saturday night, the Carolina Hurricanes' season officially ended.
Just like that, a competitive game between two teams fighting for a playoff berth became a laugher. On their way to an almost casual 4-1 win, the Rangers moved to seventh in the Eastern Conference. And on a night when Winnipeg and Washington both won to put more distance between themselves and Carolina, the Canes dropped their franchise record-tying seventh straight home game.
Mathematically, the playoffs are still possible for Carolina. But ostensibly, after a nightmarish March and first week of April, this season is now in the books, and it's time to start taking stock of a team that once again teased fans with promise but came up lacking talent, fight and focus in the moments it needed them most.
After unveiling their 2012 NASL Championship placard and with former NASL Best XI goalkeeper Jeff Attinella (now with Real Salt Lake) in attendance, the Rowdies totally controlled play throughout the game, outshooting the RailHawks 17-6. An apparent Jay Needham goal in the 16th minute was nullified due to offsides. An on-target free kick by Luke Mulholland in the 30th minute was saved by a leaping Akira Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald proved solid in goal for Carolina throughout the game and earned seven saves, including a diving fingertip deflection of an Amani Walker header in the 38th minute.
The RailHawks opened the match with a midfield of Floyd Franks, Austin Da Luz and Nick Millington, leaving Ty Shipalane on the bench until he came on in the 72nd minute. Shipalane got loose in the box in the 84th minute, but he was knocked off the ball before unleashing a shot.
Along with Fitzgerald, the most impressive RailHawks performance was defender Paul Hamilton in his club debut. Hamilton made a terrific slide tackle from behind to save of a goal-scoring opportunity in the 26th minute and was a force in the air throughout. However, two yellow cards in the final 10 minutes sent off the 25-year-old Canadian, who will now be unavailable for next Saturday’s home opener against FC Edmonton, Hamilton’s former team.
While the RailHawks’ performance was subpar, the team nevertheless earned a point during their lone visit to St. Petersburg during the league’s Spring Season. With the other two NASL opening weekend games also ending in draws, every team will enter the second weekend’s competition on equal footing.
“After a slow start in the first half, I thought we responded well in the second and worked hard for the point,” said RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke in a team statement. “To come away with a point on the road moves us forward and our defense was a big part of that tonight. Akira (Fitzgerald) and Paul (Hamilton) had great performances in the back for us tonight.”
The RailHawks hosts FC Edmonton next Saturday, April 13 at WakeMed Soccer Park. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
At least for April, there aren’t much better nights for baseball around here, as the rain is gone and there is no wind and it’s 62 degrees at first pitch.
The Mudcats start the season with a three-game series against the Winston-Salem Dash, and the Carolina roster looks to be a lot stronger than the one that wasn’t really competitive in either half last season.
The Mudcats have a pair of first-round draft picks on their roster in shortstop Francisco Lindor (2011) and center fielder Tyler Naquin (2012).
Cody Anderson (4-7, 3.20 at Lake County) will start for the Mudcats tonight against Bryan Blough (2-0, 3.93). Blough’s two wins last season were against the Mudcats.
Carolina has the hot bats tonight, banging out 14 hits to the in-state rivals’ four in a 10-1 romp.