Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Personal information

My name is Trevor Hass, and I am a senior Newspaper and Online Journalism major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Below are some of my clips with The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun and the Daily Orange, arranged in that order.

This summer I am interning with MLB.com, covering the Oakland A's as an associate reporter.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, April 13, 2015

MIAA football playoff system still irks some ADs

When the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association implemented its new high school football playoff system in 2013, many people around Eastern Massachusetts had a strong opinion about the changes.

Traditionalists complained that the Thanksgiving games would never carry the same luster or significance. Powerhouse schools rejoiced at the thought of capturing one of six “true” state championships instead of one of 19. Coaches squirmed at the potential of playing the same opponent three times in one season.

Two years later, athletic directors around Eastern Mass. largely have the same outlook they did then. Some ADs praise the system for giving more teams a chance to compete. Others bash it for including sub-.500 teams and meaningless nonplayoff games where almost no one is in attendance.

On Wednesday, the MIAA Football Committee will meet for the first time since the end of the season. One of the agenda items will be a review of a survey taken in the past month to determine feelings about the playoff system. That feedback is one element that will help determine whether the system lives beyond next year, the final season of the trial period, or reverts to some version of the old format.

“I think it has positives and it has negatives,” Braintree AD Michael Denise said. “I think it depends on which end of the spectrum you’re on.”

Initially the system was supposed to be a two-year trial run. ADs were under the impression that after this past season they would have a chance to reconvene, confer, and, if necessary, tweak the system. However, the MIAA did not provide that opportunity.

Some ADs are so infuriated that they have discussed withdrawing from the MIAA system and forming a separate football-governing entity. And the latest news, announced at the MIAA Board of Directors meeting last week, is that last year’s football tournament revenue was down $70,000 from the previous year.

The breakaway option

Dracut AD Tim Woods is heavily involved with the potential withdrawal. He has participated in two discussions with ADs from the Dual County League, Cape Ann League, Northeast Conference, and Merrimack Valley Conference.

Woods anticipates a third discussion in February. At that meeting, Woods expects the group will decide whether withdrawing is viable.

“A lot of ADs are talking about retaliation, in terms of breaking up the very fabric of the MIAA,” Woods said. “People are talking about forming their own tournaments and Super Bowls. In my opinion, [the system] has been a disaster.”

Woods said the format effectively ends the season for many teams after Week 7. Thanksgiving games are “a shadow of what they used to be,” and continuing like this isn’t feasible financially.

Dracut is a relatively small school, and Woods estimated the athletic department lost $6,000-$7,000 each of the past two years. For larger schools such as Billerica and Chelmsford, Woods said, that number is in the tens of thousands.

“Financially, most of us just can’t take it any longer,” Woods said. “The MIAA’s getting more money, but we’re losing thousands of dollars.”

If schools in those leagues were to withdraw, they would do so by simply not registering with the MIAA as a football-playing school. They would devise their own schedule and consider starting the season one week earlier. At the end of the year, there would be a Thanksgiving game and a small tournament to crown a champion.

Woods said he was shocked with the MIAA’s decision to proceed to a third year without their consent. He wanted a chance to tweak what he considers a far-from-perfect setup.

“It was a pilot program,” Woods said. “It wasn’t supposed to be permanent.”

Devaluing Thanksgiving

Tom Gallagher, AD at Ipswich High School, vividly remembers his school’s 2006 Thanksgiving morning matchup against Hamilton-Wenham.

Ipswich blanked the Generals, 7-0. The Tigers advanced in the playoffs and eventually claimed the Super Bowl title.

“To think that that atmosphere isn’t there in the current system is kind of tough,” Gallagher said.

Many ADs around Eastern Mass. feel the new playoff system takes away from the tradition of Thanksgiving football. Beverly AD James Coffey dubbed it a “nonfactor game.” His players and coaches still want to beat Salem, but the game doesn’t have the same pizzazz.

Coffey said Beverly collected $30,000 less in football sales in 2013 than in 2012. The school usually takes in nearly $30,000 on Thanksgiving, but this year that number dipped close to $10,000. Coffey typically uses the extra Thanksgiving money to buy necessities for other sports such as field hockey uniforms, but now that has become more difficult.

“It’s really taken Thanksgiving out of the picture for everyone,” Coffey said.

Les Murray, commissioner of the Cape Ann League who used to serve on the MIAA’s Board of Directors, said it’s “a travesty” that some teams could play each other three times in a season, including on Thanksgiving. For instance, Winchester lost to Woburn by 15-plus points three times this past season. Wakefield lost to Melrose three times.

Lynn English AD Gary Molea calls himself a traditionalist. To him, nothing in high school football is as sweet as waking up on Thanksgiving Day and watching or coaching a meaningful football game.

Now he doesn’t feel the same way.

“It took all the zip out of that,” Molea said.

Finding their way in

Cohasset was the best team in Division 6 this season. That became clear when the Skippers outscored their playoff opponents, 118-44, en route to a Super Bowl title.

But the sixth-seeded Skippers’ playoff run never would have happened without the new playoff system. Under the old format, Cohasset’s 5-2 regular-season record wouldn’t have been good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

“It’s been an awesome experience for us,” Cohasset AD Ron Ford said. “It’s made football really exciting around here in October and November.”

Lexington would not have made the playoffs in either of the past two seasons without the current setup. This year, the 4-3 Minutemen earned the No. 5 seed in Division 1 North and lost a close game to Peabody.

Naomi Martin, AD at Lexington, concedes that the system could be improved, but said it has helped Lexington play in more meaningful games.

BC High wouldn’t have made the playoffs and wouldn’t have upset Brockton and Newton North as a No. 6 seed. Braintree wouldn’t have participated in a playoff game for the first time in 16 years. King Philip beat the Wamps, 34-6, but Denise, Braintree’s AD, was still thrilled that his student-athletes got the opportunity to play in the playoffs.

“Obviously being the 8 seed, having to go up against the No. 1 seed, was a Herculean task, given the success that King Philip has had,” Denise said. “It was a difficult battle, but I think our kids did Braintree High School proud.”

BC High AD and football coach Jon Bartlett was surprised when he heard that 21 teams in Eastern Mass. made the playoffs despite having a losing record.

“Wow,” said Bartlett. “That’s high.”

BC High was one of those teams. The Eagles, who played one of the toughest schedules in the state, finished the regular season 3-4 but ultimately made the state semifinals.

For other teams that got into the playoffs, the opportunity wasn’t quite as worthwhile. Whitman-Hanson, for example, lost to Somerset-Berkley, 51-15.

There was only one first-round upset in all of Division 3.

Some ADs across all divisions, including Braintree’s Denise, favor a four-team playoff instead of eight, allowing for more competitive first-round games.

“I certainly think that our regular season is too short,” Denise said. “I think we should at least have an eight-game season, if not more, to determine who goes to the playoffs.”

Losing proposition

Gallagher has been Ipswich’s athletic director for 11 years. Only twice in that span has the school lost money during a football game — both consolation-bracket matchups in the past two seasons.

Murray calls them “cricket games” because there are virtually no fans in attendance to make any noise. Lynn Classical once had a total of seven fans at a game.

The attendance is low because the games don’t matter, and it’s not worth paying for business managers, buses, referees, and other expenses. Schools end up losing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on those games.

“What tournament do you continue to play after you lose?” Murray said. “There isn’t one. We’re in a culture that really values winning. When you’re not in the playoffs, those games take on an absolutely meaningless structure.”

ADs are split when it comes to opinions on the system, but the ones in opposition appear much more passionate. Beverly’s Coffey believes the format favors perennially contenders such as Everett, Brockton, and St. John’s Prep.

Four of the six Super Bowls were lopsided this year, as Western Mass. teams struggled to contend with Eastern Mass. teams, and that, too, irked some ADs.

ADs such as Denise simply want the MIAA to take another look at the current format.

“If it’s worked out for you, you’re going to like it,” Molea says. “If not, you’re probably going to be on the other end.”

Ins and outs of the system

One of the goals of the new playoff system was to make football like other MIAA sports, in that all teams with a minimum winning percentage of .500 would be allowed entry into the postseason. But as the lists below show, the new format allowed 21 Eastern Mass. teams with losing records into the playoffs and kept 10 teams with winning records out of the playoffs.

Teams below .500 that made playoffs:

Attleboro, Division 1 South (3-4)

BC High, Division 1 South (3-4)

Beverly, Division 2 Northeast (3-4)

Bishop Feehan, Division 3 Southwest (3-4)

Burlington, Division 3 Northwest (2-5)

Danvers, Division 3 Northeast (3-4)

Hopkinton, Division 3 Southwest (3-4)

Lynn Classical, Division 2 North (3-4)

Nauset, Division 3 Southeast (2-5)

Oliver Ames, Division 3 Southwest (3-4)

Plymouth North, Division 3 Southeast (3-4)

Revere, Division 3 Northeast (2-5)

Sandwich, Division 3 Southeast (3-4)

Scituate, Division 4 South (3-4)

Somerville, Division 3 Northeast (2-5)

Swampscott, Division 4 North (3-4)

Waltham, Division 2 North (3-4)

Westford Academy, Division 2 North (2-5)

Whitman-Hanson, Division 3 Southeast (3-4)

Wilmington, Division 3 Northeast (3-4)

Winchester, Division 3 Northwest (2-5)

Teams above .500 out of playoffs:

Arlington Catholic, Division 4 North (4-3)

Bishop Stang, Division 4 South (4-3)

Bristol-Plymouth, Division 6 South (4-3)

Durfee, Division 2 South (4-3)

Lowell, Division 1 North (4-3)

Lawrence, Division 1 North (4-3)

Marian, Division 6 North (4-3)

Old Colony, Division 6 South (4-3)

Old Rochester, Division 5 South (4-3)

Seekonk, Division 5 South (4-3)

Central Catholic motivated by former teammate’s death

Will Wheeler walked up to his younger brother, Shawn, and gave him a heartfelt hug. Central Catholic had captured the 2013 Division 1 state championship earlier that day and Will wanted nothing more than to cherish the moment with family and friends.

“I love you, Shawn,” he said. “Congratulations, buddy. I’ll see you at home.”

Then the Wheelers and a bunch of Will’s friends watched the replay of the game on TV. They celebrated after each touchdown, reliving the scene.

It was a perfect moment — a player everyone seemed to like, capping off one of the best days of his life.

That was the last competitive football game Will Wheeler ever played. Wheeler, 17, died in his sleep on Aug. 17 of natural causes. Now, every time the Raiders step on the field they have Will on their minds. No. 2 Central Catholic (2-0) will continue their quest for a repeat when they face scrappy No. 4 St. John’s Prep (2-0) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“We want the other ring, but he wanted it more than us,” said Shawn Wheeler, 15. “We’re trying to put that in front of us and get him that other ring.”

Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos thought there was a mistake when he first heard the news. Will died as preseason practices began. The whole week was mentally torturous, and football was the main outlet for Will’s friends.

‘They owe it to themselves to play as hard as they can all the time, like he would.’

Adamopoulos said Wednesday it still hasn’t hit him that one of the team’s most charismatic, popular players has died.

“If he were a country he’d be Switzerland,” Adamopoulos said. “Everyone liked him. No one would ever say a bad word about him.”

Adamopoulos said he never uses Will as a topic for a motivational speech. Someone dying is much bigger than a football game. Using him as motivation wouldn’t be fair to Will or his family.

But although Will isn’t explicitly mentioned much, he’s in the team’s thoughts daily.

“We did talk to the guys about how they’re out here, and obviously Will would love to be here,” Adamopoulos said. “They owe it to themselves to play as hard as they can all the time, like he would.”

When Central Catholic’s captains lined up at midfield before the team’s home opener, they had an honorary captain by their side. Shawn Wheeler.

Captains Michael Balsamo and George Elias miss goofing around with Will every day. From sprinting around the building during winter track to manning the safety position in practice, their memories remain vivid. Shawn misses driving with his brother to New York, just the two of them, joking around and talking football.

Before every practice and every home game, the players pass by a photograph of Will in the locker room. During games they sport a W.W. on their helmets. They don’t have to say anything, but they’re all thinking the same thing. Let’s win this one for Will.

Saturday will be their toughest test yet. Prep’s first-year coach Brian St. Pierre is ensuring his team is ready for Central Catholic.

“We’ve been an underdog in every game we’ve played and that’ll continue onto this week,” St. Pierre said. “We relish the role.”

While St. Pierre’s Eagles are motivated to stage the upset, the Raiders have something — and someone — more to play for, as they look to enact revenge on a team that beat them last season.

“Everyone rallies around him,” Shawn Wheeler said. “They use him as an inspiration.”

.   .   .

No. 6 Natick visits Acton-Boxboro on Friday as Nick Olson looks to continue his strong start . . . Defensive-minded No. 12 Tewksbury will try to slow down No. 5 Everett and contain running back Nick Orekoya on Friday . . . It’s opening weekend for most NEPSAC schools. Belmont Hill faces BB&N in Cambridge and Milton Academy takes on St. Sebastian’s in Needham, two of eight games that highlight the first weekend of Independent School League football. In the Evergreen League, Pingree hosts Portsmouth Abbey and Dexter travels to Connecticut to face Hyde.

Trevor Hass can be reached at trevor.hass@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TrevorHass.

Super Bowl-bound teams weigh injury potential vs. playing rivals

The appeal of an undefeated season was too juicy. The prospect of finishing the year No. 1 too attainable. The history behind the 82-year rivalry with Foxboro too meaningful.

The Thanksgiving game was simply too irresistible for the Mansfield seniors in 2013. When coach Mike Redding asked them if they wanted to play in the game — instead of rest for the Super Bowl against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) — the response was an overwhelming and unanimous yes.

“It’s such a good game to win for bragging rights,” Redding said. “It’s so hard to say to the kids, ‘We’re not going to play you.’ ”

They played, and the result, a 14-7 win for the Hornets, was overshadowed by a slew of injuries. Star wide receiver Brendan Hill tore his ACL on a bang-bang collision. Running back Miguel Perez separated his shoulder while blocking a defensive back. Two-way player Kyle Hurley tore cartilage in his knee.

Mansfield ended up winning the Division 2 Super Bowl — Perez and Hurley returned, and the injuries didn’t prove insurmountable — but the situation gave coaches in similar spots something to ponder.

This year, as teams prepare for Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium Dec. 6, nearly all have to play a Thanksgiving game first. Coaches have to decide whether to play their starters, and respect the tradition, or to rest them.

With the new playoff system, teams played state semifinal games Nov. 22. Just five days later, they wake up for a morning Thanksgiving game. Then nine days after that, it’s off to Gillette.

Three games in two weeks is a grueling stretch for any high school athlete. If Redding could do it over again, he’d give more consideration to resting certain starters.

Leading up to the Foxboro game, Mansfield had played all 11 of its games on turf. Frigid temperatures, little rest, and poor footing on grass were a bad combination. In hindsight, Redding might have rested some skill players.

Then again, getting to Gillette is much more difficult than it used to be. It’s a tough balancing act, Redding says. The key is to do what’s best for your specific program.

Despite the risks, Marshfield coach Lou Silva is set on playing his starters against Duxbury on Thanksgiving. The undefeated Rams, who will face Longmeadow in the Division 2 Super Bowl, have prepared for the Dragons like they would any other opponent.

Silva said his players go to the beach with Duxbury players during the summer. There’s a sense of familiarity, and the rivalry means something.

Duxbury leads the all-time Thanksgiving series, 14-13-2, but Marshfield’s senior class hasn’t won a game at Duxbury.

Silva doesn’t want to deprive his seniors of that chance.

While the inevitable buzz of the Super Bowl looms, Silva said the team’s only focus this week is Duxbury. He likes certain aspects of the new playoff system, but believes the quick turnaround between games makes winning on Thanksgiving even tougher.

Three days of preparation isn’t much, but Silva can’t control that at this point.

“It’s a total disadvantage, but hey, what the heck,” Silva said, “we’ll pay the price to go to Gillette.”

For Dartmouth coach Rick White — whose team is fresh off a miraculous 20-16 come-from-behind win over Walpole — the situation is a little bit trickier.

The Indians are one win away from their first championship since White’s heyday at the school in 1984. He doesn’t want to jeopardize their chances by playing his starters the entire game against Fairhaven.

He expects Fairhaven, which leads the all-time Thanksgiving series 42-36-4, to play with passion. It’s Fairhaven’s Super Bowl. White believes it would be disrespectful to rest his starters the entire game.

White’s grandfather played against Fairhaven on one of Dartmouth’s first teams in the 1920s. For years, the home team has hospitably hosted the visitors’ faculty, seniors and cheerleaders for a meal the week of Thanksgiving.

Despite the holiday’s perks, White acknowledges the game itself can be treacherous injury-wise.

He says some players may get limited reps this year. He doesn’t want them to miss out on the chance to play at Gillette.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” White said. “It’s not the greatest situation.”

This year, White is making sure his players remember they have a lot be thankful for. Dartmouth senior Will Kuphal lost his father, a prominent doctor in the town, last week.

White, with many of his players, attended “the biggest wake he’s ever been to,” which spanned from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church. So many people were there that it became “standing room only.”

The wake was Friday, and Dartmouth’s remarkable win came Saturday night.

“It was a lot for these kids,” White said. “It’s life. You’ve got to embrace it, but there’s a lot of adversity you have to overcome. It’s a great lesson for our kids to appreciate what they have.”

.   .   .

For all but the 12 teams playing in the Super Bowl games, Thanksgiving is all about tradition, rivalries, and games that are dated in decades, even centuries. Boston Latin and Boston English will meet for the 128th time in a game played at Harvard Stadium. Last year English beat Latin for the first time since 1997. Medford heads to Malden to play in their 127th game. And in Needham, the Rockets host Wellesley in their 127th matchup.

MIAA considering an 18-team super-conference

FRANKLIN — Plans are in motion to potentially combine the Greater Boston League, Northeastern Conference, Masconomet, and conceivably Chelsea into an 18-team league over the next few years.

Charlie Lyons, superintendent of Shawsheen Valley District, unveiled details of the possible super-conference at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s board of directors meeting Wednesday.

Lyons said the GBL schools — Everett, Malden, Medford, and Somerville — have “presented a yearning” to join a larger league. The GBL used to be a premier league in Massachusetts, featuring schools such as Quincy, Brockton, and Arlington.

“I don’t know if it will have a domino effect,” said Lyons, one of the board members. “I’m just trying to help the poor kids from Medford, Malden, Somerville, and Everett.”

Recently, the GBL has dwindled in size from 10, to five, to four teams. Lyons spearheaded a meeting between GBL superintendents and Northeastern superintendents that took place in Cape Cod in November.

Since that time, Lyons said, he has met with Everett school officials who are interested in the conglomeration. But Lyons made it clear to Crimson Tide football coach John DiBiaso that Everett, a perennial powerhouse in that sport, would maintain an independent schedule. Only teams that want to play Everett would be able to do so with the new alignment.

For Masconomet, the potential switch comes at a time when the school is growing in size and athletic prowess. Masconomet may apply to the Northeastern Conference because the school has more than 2,000 students — a high number for a Cape Ann school.

Lyons said Chelsea athletic director Frank DePatto has made it clear that the Red Devils could not compete with certain schools in specific sports.

Despite the potential complications, Lyons believes an 18-team league would cut down on transportation costs, help students get home earlier, and allow teams to play competition largely at their own level.

“I feel confidently that progress will be made, but it’s really up to the principals, superintendents and ADs of the Northeastern Conference,” Lyons said.

Marilyn Slattery, house principal at Malden High, is hopeful that the switch will happen in the near future. The logistics need ironing out and more parties need to get on board, but she believes progress has been made.

“I think it’s closer to happening than an idea,” Slattery said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Slattery echoed Lyons’s belief that the GBL used to be one of the most vibrant leagues in Massachusetts. Now, she says, “It’s terrible to see the dilution of a league that’s been going on.”

For Malden, a community with many immigrants, Slattery feels that belonging to a league with nearby teams would give her students a sense of community. Many of her kids traveled to Oliver Ames this year without even knowing where Easton is.

MIAA executive director Bill Gaine agrees with Slattery that the new league would give students a sense of belonging.

“There’s no affinity if they’re going from Malden to Marshfield,” he said.

The next step is to spark more dialogue and get leaders at schools involved and in agreement.

“People have been open, and people are considering it seriously,” said Lyons. “I’m really pleased about that.”

.   .   .

Gaine said more than 23,000 students participated in 2014 fall tournaments . . . Attendance at Gillette Stadium for the Super Bowls last Saturday was the second-lowest in the eight years of using the venue, a statistic Gaine attributed to the inclement weather . . . Members of the board voted, 18-0, to partner with Special Olympics Unified Sports . . . St. Mary’s and Bishop Fenwick announced Wednesday that they will resume their Thanksgiving football rivalry. The game will be held on Thanksgiving Eve. St. Mary’s played Lynn Tech this year while Fenwick played Pingree.

School football preview: Peabody, Everett renew rivalry

Back when coach Mark Bettencourt played for Peabody, everything was different.

Bettencourt quarterbacked a 1990 Super Bowl champion team that beat Everett, 6-0, during the season in a Greater Boston League clash.

Everett was always the game Bettencourt and his teammates looked forward to. In the past decade, though, that rivalry turned sour when Peabody left the GBL for the Northeastern Conference after the 2006 season. Everett has surged to the pinnacle of Massachusetts high school football while Peabody has struggled.

“We’re at the beginning of the climb, whereas Everett’s in the midst of their dynasty,” Bettencourt said.

The fourth-seeded Tanners take on the top-seeded Crimson Tide Friday at 7 p.m. with a trip to the Division 1 North final at stake.

High school football playoffs Week 2 schedule
Here are the matchups and game times for the second round of the MIAA high school football playoffs.

A win wouldn’t catapult the Tanners back to glory, but it would make Peabody a relevant team once again.

“It’s very easy for us to motivate these kids to be that team,” Bettencourt said. “The team that turned the corner and brought back what was missing the last decade.”

Peabody finished 2012 winless and won just three games last season. The Tanners are 7-1 now, coming off a thrilling 42-38 win over Lexington in the quarterfinals.

Junior running back Doug Santos racked up 255 yards and six touchdowns in that game, boosting his season total to 25 TDs.

After the game, as always, Santos approached Bettencourt. “What did I do wrong here? How can I make myself better here,” he’ll ask. Santos skips through touchdowns when watching film, zeroing in on short gains or losses.

“How do you tell a kid who just ran for 250 yards and four touchdowns he did something wrong?” Bettencourt said. “He wants to know.”

Bettencourt said Santos often disappears for two hours Saturday afternoons. When he’s disappointed with his performance the night before, he runs hills for an extra hour.

He’s a dreamer, Bettencourt said. He visualizes himself being successful, and works to ensure he is.

“Sometimes I feel like not as many people want to be as good as they say they do,” Santos said. “I’m different.”

That’s what this Peabody team hopes it can be — different.

Bettencourt’s objective is to silence the Crimson Tide’s playmakers, though he knows that won’t be easy.

“If you look at the scope, you look at the stats, you look at the numbers, it’s David vs. Goliath,” Bettencourt said. “There’s no easy way of putting that.”

Despite the situation at hand, Bettencourt refuses to view his team as a Cinderella. That’s not Peabody football, he says. But if you look at the recent relevance of Everett, St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic, Peabody lags far behind.

That’s why, for Bettencourt and his staff, this game carries extra meaning. When he, as an alumnus, watched assistant coaches Steve Lomasney and Jimmy Festa play against Everett, he felt as if he was on the field with them.

Now this year’s team embraces the task of putting Peabody back on the map — of guiding a program searching for success in the right direction.

It’s only one game, but it carries so much more meaning for Peabody.

“You come out and you make your own history. You make your own story,” Bettencourt said.

“This is something, if we can win this game, that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, like we remember those games for the rest of our lives.”

.   .   .

In the last weekend of NEPSAC's regular season, Brooks and Lawrence Academy square off Saturday in a battle of 6-1 teams with postseason hopes . . . The oldest prep school rivalry in the country, Phillips Exeter vs. Phillips Andover, continues in Andover Saturday in the 134th meeting . . . St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic play for a trip to the Division 1 North final, one of many state sectional semifinal games.

Personality provides punch for Xaverian’s Noah Sorrento

FOXBOROUGH — Fresh blood splattered onto quarterback Jake Farrell’s face. It soaked his helmet red and changed the color of his chinstrap.

“Everyone was like, ‘I don’t know whose blood this is,’” Farrell said. “Sure enough, it’s Noah’s.”

That would be Noah Sorrento. The same Noah Sorrento whose eye black covers nearly his entire face during post-game interviews. The Noah Sorrento who has referred to his teammates as a “bunch of beauties,” “absolute savages,” and “junkyard dogs” throughout the season. The Noah Sorrento who first got into Pop Warner football as a mechanism to channel his anger.

On the field, Sorrento is one of many playmakers on the most talented team in the state. Off the field, he’s a character. His teammates laugh as he’s asked about his intensity and enthusiasm.

Sorrento will bring his unbridled zest for football and life into Xaverian’s Division 1 Super Bowl matchup with Everett Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.

“Off the field he’s the same as he is on the field,” Farrell said. “He brings the intensity wherever he goes. He’s always fired up.”

In that bloody exchange, in the first game against Everett earlier this season, Sorrento cut his elbow while running the ball. He stayed in the game and scored on the next play. When he got to the end zone, he flung his arms in the air and unleashed the blood sprinkler.

When they realized the blood was Sorrento’s, they weren’t surprised.

“It was out of control,” Sorrento recalls. “It was bad.”

The blood still sits on Farrell’s helmet and chinstrap to this day. He didn’t wash it off for sentimental purposes.

When Sorrento was younger, he admits he had anger issues. His dad — who teammate Joe Gaziano says has the same fiery demeanor — placed him into Pop Warner to harness his rage. Sorrento loved any sport with contact as a kid, including hockey.

Xaverian coach Charlie Stevenson knew Sorrento was a special player right away. He made the team as a freshman and blossomed into one of the state’s best running backs. He uses his shiftiness and brute force to break tackles and score touchdowns.

Sorrento’s gusto carries over to playing video games, notably Call of Duty.

“He gets really fired up,” Farrell says with a laugh.

Sorrento’s always the loudest one on the field. He’s the same before games when he revs up his teammates, during games when he hits hard and celebrates touchdowns, and after games when he cherishes the moment with his “bunch of beauties.”

Sorrento says he loses his cool after the game, even though Xaverian has won every game this season. He gets “jacked up.”

“I just go out there being an intense guy,” Sorrento said. “It feeds off to other guys on the team. I try to get as pumped up as I can.”

Follow Trevor Hass on Twitter @TrevorHass.

For retiring coach Mike Boyages, Wakefield holds a special place

Wakefield football coach Mike Boyages often refers to past and present players as kids, no matter their age.

When he saw members of his 1999 Super Bowl champion team get inducted into the Wakefield Hall of Fame this November, he did just that.

“They were like, ‘Coach, we’re in our 30s now,’” Boyages said with a chuckle.

Boyages, 56, has coached at Wakefield High since 1980 and been head coach since 1997. He holds a 131-60-3 all-time record, and guided that 1999 team to the school’s only Super Bowl title.

Friday was his last game on the sidelines, as he has decided to retire from coaching the Warriors. He said he’ll likely stop serving as athletic director at the end of this school year and may pursue another job.

“To do it in my hometown for all these years, where I’ve grown up, where I’ve worked, it’s really been a labor of love,” Boyages said. “I feel so blessed.”

For Boyages, the most rewarding part of his job is seeing his players succeed. His main objective is to make them better people than they were when they arrived at Wakefield High.

Kids with single parents and other difficulties at home frequently found their way to the Wakefield football program. Boyages worked tirelessly to help them thrive.

When they come back years later to thank him and his staff, he knows his effort was worthwhile.

“I feel like a thousand bucks,” he said. “It’s really great to feel that way.”

At the start of the season, Boyages knew it was likely he would retire when the year ended. He did his best to keep the decision a secret. Even amid a disappointing season — including a season-ending torn ACL to star Luke Martin — Boyages focused on his players.

He didn’t want the spotlight on himself in his last game. He never has. His players didn’t know he was retiring until two days before the day-after-Thanksgiving game.

“I held out, and then the cat got out of the bag at the very end,” Boyages said.

Boyages mainly talked to his players about winning the game for Martin. His goal was to give him the game ball, but Wakefield came up just short, losing 15-14.

While Boyages cherishes the off-field memories, he has many on-field accolades to his name as well. Six league titles, four Super Bowl appearances, and more than seven wins per season.

But his most prized on-field triumph came in 1999, when Wakefield captured the Super Bowl title. Though 15 years have passed, Boyages recounts the scene with ease.

On Thanksgiving Day, Wakefield and Melrose battled for a trip to the Super Bowl. Both teams were 9-0, and the winner would face Acton-Boxboro.

The Red Raiders claimed a lead, but the Warriors ripped off 14 points in the fourth quarter — including a touchdown with less than 30 seconds left — to tie the score.

The tiebreaking system was different in the previous millennium — both teams’ fate came down to a highly publicized coin flip the day after the game.

“It’s funny, it was covered by every news station in Boston,” Boyages said. “It was all on TV.”

Boyages and Melrose coach Tim Morris each picked a sealed envelope that signified heads or tails. Melrose picked heads. Wakefield picked tails.

Then it all came down to a silver dollar. “It was fortunate enough to be tails,” Boyages says, and the rest is history. He called his players — who were waiting in the locker room — on his cell phone, and told them the news.

The Warriors beat the Colonials in the Super Bowl and made the 15-year celebratory reunion from two weeks ago possible.

Wakefield honored Boyages in a celebration at halftime last Friday. Naturally, he didn’t want all the attention, but he couldn’t help but appreciate everyone and everything around him as he posed near midfield.

“I feel very privileged to have done it for 18 years as a head coach,” he said.

Follow Trevor Hass on Twitter @TrevorHass.

Xaverian wins Division 1 state golf title

WEST SPRINGFIELD — When Xaverian’s Mark Lallak and his teammates chatted with BC High golfers on the putting green Monday morning, the teams shared a similar mindset.

“Just got to beat the Prep,” Lallak recalls saying.

And later that afternoon, not only did Lallak and Co. dethrone St. John’s Prep – they won the Division 1 state championship. The Hawks shot an overall 299 to second-place Prep’s 301, capturing the school’s first golf team championship since 1993.

St. John’s Prep won the title last year and has 13 championships overall. But Monday, it was Xaverian’s turn to hoist the hardware. After losing to Prep in a tiebreaker last year, the Hawks got the revenge they’ve craved since that day.

“I can’t say enough about how they performed under the grinding pressure,” Xaverian coach Gerry Lambert said. “To play 18 holes with all the money on the table, you just absolutely take your hat off to them. They were wonderful today.”

Lambert remembers the agony of riding home as runners-up rather than as champions last year. The last six times Prep and Xaverian have faced off, each team has won three times.

The Hawks didn’t dominate in the regular season. In fact, they lost five times. Lambert attributes the championship to Xaverian’s tough schedule.

“It paid dividends today,” Lambert said. “Our guys responded to the pressure that they’re used to feeling and used to responding to.”

Breaking 300 wasn’t a specific goal, but Lambert said it was a “really, really strong effort” on the par 72 Springfield Country Club.

No one on the Hawks posted a remarkable score, but their average was enough to claim the championship.

Of the four individual scores Xaverian kept Monday, Lambert said two of them were by different players than last week. New players stepped up and contributed. Xaverian’s team is made up of three seniors (Colin Devin, Mitch Kubik, and Lallak) and three sophomores (Andrew McInerney, Billy Fox, and Jack Boulger).

As the scores trickled in, Lallak thought his team was out of the running. But he was shocked once he saw the results veer in Xaverian’s direction.

When it was over, Devin said it was almost too good to be true.

“These guys got better throughout the year, and when the lights came on today they were able to get it done,” Lambert said.

Lexington’s Jack Lang won the individual championship, shooting a 68.

Lang, who will play at Davidson next year, qualified for the tournament his freshman year but failed to do so his sophomore and junior seasons.

“That makes this much more special,” he said.

Lang had an eagle on the 15th hole and was 4 under through nine holes. He felt the pressure, but just tried to clear his mind and focus on golf.

It worked, and now he’s a state champion.

“It means everything,” Lang said. “High school golf is the best time in my year.”

Mansfield’s Mike Kelleher got a hole in one on his first shot of the day. Ludlow’s Robert Libiszewski hit a shot over parked cars to salvage par on one hole.

Andover girls beat rival North Andover for sectional volleyball title

TEWKSBURY — Andover’s Julia McBride tipped the ball over the net and it fell to the ground. The Golden Warriors shouted, pumped their fists, and rushed together.

This time, it wasn’t a usual post-point huddle. There was a little more yelling and a little more jumping involved. Andover was the Division 1 North champion.

“My excitement level’s an 11 out of 10,” junior Wyllie Boughton said. “So, so excited.”

Andover (16-1) beat rival North Andover, 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-17), Sunday afternoon and will play Natick in the state semifinals Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Canton.

Andover lost the first set but stormed back to take control.

“We’ve been doing this all season,” coach Jane Bergin said. “We’re kind of the comeback kids.”

Andover’s only loss of the season came against North Andover. Andover senior captain Azita Bakhtyari wanted to play North Andover in the sectional final. She got the chance, and she and her teammates delivered.

“Azita Bakhtyari, our leader, wanted to go out a champion,” Bergin said.

North Andover took the first set as juniors Jillian Boyle and Catherine Flaherty controlled the tempo. Boughton acknowledged she was nervous at the start, but those nerves quickly subsided.

The Golden Warriors surged back to win the second set as Bakhtyari tipped the ball to Boughton, who put it away for point No. 25.

Freshman Julia Karim, who elicited a “She’s a freshman!” chant from the North Andover faithful, nearly led her team to a third-set win, but Amy Stankiewicz, Madelyn Reppucci, and Mackenzie Kennedy ensured that didn’t happen.

In the fourth set, Boughton hit the net multiple times early. But she responded, helping her team win three consecutive points.

On the final play, Bakhtyari set the ball to McBride, who put just enough mustard on it.

Andover got the point, and payback.

Said Bakhtyari, “It feels amazing. Our team really came together.”

Top-seeded Concord-Carlisle claims Div. 2 North title

Concord-Carlisle boys’ soccer captain Mitchell Palmer watched the ball bounce once, rotated his body, and released a winding bicycle kick with enough torque to spin past the goalie and into the net.

“To be honest, I was as surprised as everybody else was when it went in,” Palmer said. “When it went in I was just ecstatic.”

Palmer’s tally in the 14th minute was the first of a barrage of goals as the top-seeded Patriots (19-0-1) surged by No. 15 seed Woburn, 5-2, in the Division 2 North final on Tuesday.

Five players scored for Concord-Carlisle, but there was no goal more impressive than Palmer’s bicycle kick.

“It was great,” coach Ray Pavlik said. “It was a spectacular goal.”

Woburn entered the game as the heavy underdog. After squeaking into the tournament, the Tanners ripped off wins over Masconomet, Boston Latin, and Winchester. Palmer and Co. knew a key was to squelch their momentum early and grab a lead.

“I think they were demoralized,” Palmer said. “I think it took a toll on them.”

Garrett Leahy and Andrew Verrilli added goals for Concord and Michael Haley scored for Woburn as it stood at 3-1 at halftime.

Midfielders Xavier Arroyo and Ben Beyer tacked on goals in the second half for the final margin.

“The past couple seasons we haven’t made it this far,” Palmer said. “We’ve had great seasons but we’ve come up a little short. We’re hoping to go all the way this year.”

Gillette Stadium to host US men’s national soccer team match

Gillette Stadium will host the US men’s national soccer team on Friday, July 10, the New England Revolution announced in a press release Tuesday.

The game will be part of a doubleheader for the group stage of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The last time the US played in Foxborough was June 2011 in a friendly against Spain.

Gillette has hosted the Gold Cup four times since the stadium opened in 2002 — 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 — for a total of 18 matches.

The US is 6-0-2 in eight previous Gold Cup games at Gillette, and 16-2-5 all time in Massachusetts.

Groups and a more detailed schedule will be announced in the coming months. Tickets will be on sale through the Revolution.

Follow Trevor Hass on Twitter @TrevorHass.

Acton-Boxboro edges Nashoba to win Division 1 state title

WORCESTER — The Acton-Boxboro field hockey players huddled on the sideline at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with blue and yellow blankets resting on their shoulders to keep themselves warm. They bounced in place because of the cold and because their team was just 10 seconds away from a state championship.

Five . . . four . . . the clock ticked down and the players looked at one another with wide eyes. Three . . . two . . . one. When the buzzer sounded, they threw their blankets to the ground and jumped in jubilation. Suddenly, the cold wasn’t so unbearable.

The whole team sprinted to goalkeeper Sarah Bentley and they hopped and shouted as one.

“It was such a relief when the clock hit zero,” senior Leah Cardarelli said.

After beating Nashoba, 1-0, Acton-Boxboro (23-0-1) had plenty to celebrate. First, it survived the Chieftains’ bombardment at the end of the game. Second, it avenged last year’s loss to Walpole that ended its chance at a state championship. Third, and most important, it was the Division 1 state champion.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Colonials senior Maggie Bettez said. “Everything you worked for paying off.”

Acton-Boxboro controlled the tempo early, as Cardarelli and junior Meg Barrett had multiple scoring chances. The Colonials attempted seven corners in the first half, including one that eventually was the difference.

Coach Mae Shoemaker called a timeout with 8:12 remaining in the half. She didn’t make any tactical adjustments, but encouraged her team to slow down and relax.

“I was trying to get them not to rush anything because they were playing with a little franticness,” Shoemaker said. “I said, ‘You’ve just got to calm down and do what you do best.’ ”

Barrett sent a corner to Cardarelli, who dropped it to Bettez. Bettez fired a shot that Barrett tipped in to give Acton-Boxboro the lead with 8:05 remaining in the half.

In the second half, the Chieftains (20-2-1) applied more pressure and had multiple chances, but defender Caroline Little and Bentley prevented any Nashoba shots from finding the back of the net.

“Sarah has been a rock,” Shoemaker said. “The defense just works so hard.”

Nashoba had one final chance with just more than a minute remaining. Shoemaker said she flashed back to last season’s semifinal loss to eventual champion Walpole on a late goal.

“I was like, déjà vu,’’ Shoemaker said with a smile.

This year the result went Acton-Boxboro’s way, as the Colonials captured the school’s fifth title.

Cardarelli and Co. can now forget about last season’s loss and cherish this season’s triumph.

“It’s just really exciting,” Cardarelli said. “I love this group of girls and I’m so happy I got to share this moment with them.”

After years of struggles, Maryland is back on the college baseball map

Maryland baseball coach John Szefc paused and looked forward, trying to articulate just how special it was to be part of the Terps' first NCAA tournament team in 43 years.

Szefc was just 4 years old when Maryland lost its first two games in Gastonia, N.C., in the 1971 national tourney.

"It's kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around that," Szefc said.

Since then, the program has endured 27 losing seasons in 43 years, failing to compete with perennial Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouses such as North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Florida State.

This year, though, the Big Ten-bound Terps swept N.C. State in March, took two of three from Georgia Tech in April and shocked Virginia and Florida State in the ACC tournament last week. Maryland (36-21, 15-14) finished with a winning record in the ACC for the first time since 1981 and has won more games overall than ever before. And after reeling off 11 wins in the past 13 games, the Terps earned the No. 2 seed in the Columbia, S.C., regional of the NCAA tournament.

They will face Old Dominion on Friday at 1 p.m. with hopes of capturing the program's first tournament win since 1970. One team emerges from the four-team, double-elimination regional, in which host South Carolina is the top seed.

"It's crazy," senior pitcher and Baltimore native Ben Brewster said. "It's just surreal, watching on TV every year, seeing these playoffs, and now to finally be a part of it."

The current crop of seniors — a group that finished 5-25 in conference play in 2011 — has helped catapult Maryland baseball back into the national landscape. With a revamped, business-like coaching staff in its second year, a mix of young and veteran talent, and a newfound swagger, the vision the players and coaches shared has become a reality.

"It's no longer a long shot or a hope," said Brewster, who starred at Park School. "This thing's actually happening. I'm ready to go do some damage in this tournament."

'Trouble recruiting'

Elton "Jack" Jackson coached the Maryland baseball team from 1961 through 1990. He remembers struggling to lure top local talent to College Park.

It was a tough sell — a program with a track record of inconsistency in an unrelenting conference. The Terps made the NCAA tournament in 1965, 1970 and 1971 but couldn't transform their short-term triumphs into long-term results.

"At Maryland, you've got to be good enough to get a lot of the local kids," Jackson said. "The tough part is that everybody wants to go south."

In 1986, when Maryland basketball star Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose, Jackson saw an effect on his baseball program. Some parents were unsure about the culture in College Park.

Jackson remembered one player in particular who was a top pitcher from Baltimore. The pitcher's plan was to come to Maryland, but the news of Bias' overdose made his family rethink the decision, and he chose to attend UMBC.

"The Len Bias thing really turned everything upside down," Jackson recalled. "From that point on, for a long period of time, we had a lot of trouble recruiting at the University of Maryland."

Since Jackson retired in 1990, four coaches have taken the reins at Maryland. Tom Bradley finished 243-306-4 (.442) in nine seasons. Terry Rupp was 227-271 (.456) in nine of his own. Erik Bakich started 38-74 (.339) in his first two years, Maryland's worst two seasons since 2001.

Bernie Walter, the legendary former Arundel High baseball coach who worked on Maryland's staff under both Bakich and Szefc, said there were 13 players on other ACC and Southeastern Conference schools from the state of Maryland in 2009. If the Terps had been able to land at least some of those top recruits, Walter suspects the team wouldn't have struggled as much.

"I think the key to improving your program is keeping the better players home," said Walter, who is now retired.

Eventually, Bakich started to glean some of that local talent, paving the way for Szefc (pronounced CHEF) to take over a deeper, more talented team when Bakich left for Michigan in 2012.

In Bakich's final season in College Park, the Terps won 32 games and were one of the final teams left out of the NCAA tournament.

The Terps didn't reach their ultimate goal — that year they wore caps with "Omaha," the location of the College World Series, written on the back — but suddenly the state of Maryland baseball was starting to look a little brighter.

'Get away from mediocrity'

The atmosphere was lively as Maryland finished its final practice Tuesday at Shipley Field before heading to South Carolina on Wednesday. Players cheered as 6-foot-8 pitcher Ryan Selmer fell on his back but still threw a runner out at first during a drill. Senior shortstop Blake Schmit playfully gestured toward his teammates as they distracted him from the dugout. Those same dugout dwellers urged a cycle of players filling in as third-base coach to use enthusiasm as they waved runners around to score.

But practice never got more animated than that. That's partially because the team is focused on making sure its season continues as long as possible, but it's also because Szefc was watching like a hawk the entire time.

The stone-faced, stocky coach stood with his arms crossed by third base, monitoring his players as they breezed through drill after drill in the 88-degree heat. Szefc didn't say much. He didn't have to. His presence was felt.

"I'm going to be honest," junior right-hander Bobby Ruse (C. Milton Wright) said as a smile formed underneath his bushy mustache. "The first time I met Coach Szefc, it was a little bit intimidating."

Every once in a while throughout the practice, Szefc offered his two cents. He commended one player for handling a ground ball a certain way. He bashed another for not sliding into home plate. He only swore once, and never raised his voice except to shout out instructions.

Szefc, who led Marist to the NCAA tournament four times and was most recently an assistant at Kansas State, immediately put his stamp on the program after being hired in July 2012.

Between the talent Bakich brought in and the professionalism Szefc demanded, the players knew they could end the 43-year tournament drought.

"The more you get away from mediocrity, maybe something like this can happen," Szefc said. "I never really saw a deal-breaker in [deciding to come to Maryland]. Any coach is going to have some kind of vision. It's not really a matter of if. It's a matter of when."

'Out with a bang'

After Maryland began the season by losing two of three at Florida, players remember reading a Baseball America story saying that they wouldn't be an NCAA tournament team. It added even more motivation for them.

"I think that's when guys realized, 'Alright, we really need to prove something this year,'" said sophomore right-hander Kevin Mooney (North Harford).

The team won its next seven games. Despite a few hiccups — like getting swept at Boston College and losing to James Madison — the Terps qualified for the ACC tournament for the first time since 2005, when every team in the conference was invited.

Starters Jake Stinnett, Jake Drossner and Mike Shawaryn emerged as anchors on the mound. Maryland batted .270 as a team during the regular season, while their opponents batted a measly .232. Few gave the Terps a shot against Virginia and Florida State in the ACC tournament, but the Terps beat both teams and surged into the championship before losing to Georgia Tech.

"They've got that stigma to them," Ruse said of Virginia and Florida State, both top-5 teams at the time Maryland faced them. "They're almost like a big league squad, but when we play, we can beat anybody."

The former coach Jackson suspects recruiting will become easier once Maryland moves to the Big Ten, because it will be one of the conference's southernmost schools, and players prefer to play in warmer weather.

The current players can leave satisfied that they've left their mark on the ACC.

"We kind of struggled in years past," Mooney said, "but I think now we've gone out with a bang. Don't forget who we are."

Patience rewarded

The moment the entire team, coaching staff and fan base waited years for had finally arrived. The ignominy that surrounded the program since 1971 would finally be removed.

Eyes remained glued to a projection screen inside Looney's Pub in College Park as team names were called during Monday's NCAA tournament selection show. Players gasped when Texas and Texas A&M were paired together. They groaned when Louisiana-Lafayette was shown celebrating. They waited anxiously, region by region, as their name still wasn't called.

"Before it, if you had asked me, I would have said 100 percent [we'd make it], but each name got rattled off," Ruse said. "We thought we were going to go to Vanderbilt. We thought we were going to Oregon State. We were like, 'Damn, were we actually going to make it?'"

A program that waited 43 years for their name to be called had to wait a little while longer.

And then it happened, when the final region was revealed.

Players, coaches and fans jumped, celebrating and hugging one another.

The wait was finally over. Maryland baseball is back in the NCAA tournament.



Orioles' Adam Jones surprises two local sports teams at Patterson Park

Members of the Bluford Drew Jemison Rockets baseball team gathered in a group on the third-base line of Utz Twardowicz Field on Tuesday afternoon.

The day was already special. The weather was gorgeous, they were playing baseball and knew they had raised enough money to keep their previously struggling program afloat.

But all of a sudden, their day got even better. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones walked through the third-base gate, waved and strolled down the base path toward the players, many of whose mouths hung open in shock. They had no idea he was coming.

“It’s awesome meeting Adam Jones because he’s an Orioles player,” 14-year-old outfielder Danyelle Dominique-Taylor said. “Watching him play last night was amazing.”

Jones, wearing a pink and black plaid shirt and sporting a pair of snazzy sunglasses, high-fived the Rockets players and members of the Girls on the Run of the Greater Chesapeake track team. The baseball team raised $3,500 and the track team raised $10,500, and Dick’s Sporting Goods matched each of those totals as part of their Sports Matter initiative.

Tuesday was a day to celebrate those accomplishments and promote youth sports in Baltimore.

Jones presented a $7,000 check to the Rockets and a $21,000 check to the track team. He then signed autographs underneath a green canopy to the right of home plate and schmoozed with the young athletes in attendance.

He joked with players as they came up to him one-by-one.

“What position do you play?” he asked a fan.

“Center field,” the fan responded.

“You better than me?” Jones asked, looking up from the glove he was signing and smiling.

“Definitely.”Jones then talked about the importance of programs like this to keep kids involved in sports. Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation has worked to help at least 180 teams across the country to raise a total of more than $4 million.

The SHARP Center predicts that 27 percent of United States public high schools will not have sports by the year 2020. The goal of fundraisers like this one, Dick’s community marketing manager Bobbie Bardzik said, is to ensure that children across the country have a chance to continue doing what they love and have someone to look up to like Jones.

“When I was 5 to 16 or 17 [years old], everything was free or a very low cost,” Jones said. “Nowadays it’s $100 or more for the summer. Programs like this give the kids an opportunity.”

As soon as Girls on the Run executive director Lara Mish submitted her grant to Dick's, she started freaking out. “Oh my god, how are we going to do this?” she thought.

But once she got hefty donations from Charm City Run and orthodontist Mairead O’Reilly in Annapolis, among other organizations, the goal didn’t seem so daunting.

When her sister, Jen Bornemann, was married May 10, she didn’t ask for any gifts. Instead, she and her partner asked for donations for Girls on the Run. They raised $1,900, and are still collecting money to this day.“It actually seemed impossible to me at the beginning,” Mish said. “It really did.”

But they did it. They reached the goal they set out to achieve of $10,500, and Dick’s matched that amount.

For baseball coach John Merrill, Tuesday was a chance to see his kids soak in the moment and meet one of their heroes. As soon as Danyelle saw a chance to jump in a picture with Jones, she darted over and snuck into the shot.

A team that nearly didn’t have enough funding to remain in existence is now flourishing, thanks to the fundraising campaign orchestrated by the Parks and People Foundation.

“It gives them sort of a goal to look at,” Merrill said. “He’s a hero and is a good role model for them to look up to.”

One player who looks up to Jones -- and loved watching his two-run home run Monday night -- is Dujuan Heckstall. Heckstall’s favorite player is Wei-Yin Chen, but he was still star struck when he met Jones on Tuesday.

As Dujuan and his teammates posed for a picture, he pointed to his right sleeve. There was Adam Jones’ signature.

“I’m never washing this shirt!” he exclaimed.



'Track record' is difference between Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson, Buck Showalter says

When Jim Johnson blew a save in the past two seasons, Orioles manager Buck Showalter continued to stick with him as the club’s closer because of his experience in the role.

This year, though, closer Tommy Hunter’s leash seems to be a bit tighter.

After giving up four runs in the ninth inning Tuesday, Hunter didn’t get a chance to redeem himself Wednesday in the Orioles’ 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards. Hunter still appears to be the closer, but there seems to be a small level of uncertainty after he blew his second consecutive save Tuesday night.

“The difference between Tommy and Jimmy is that Jimmy had a track record,” Showalter said. “Tommy does, too, with certain other things, so there’s some unknown about where this will go with Tommy.”

Johnson converted 51 of 54 save opportunities in 2012, tops in the American League.

Showalter continued to stick Johnson in the closer’s role last year, even though he wasn’t as unhittable as the previous season and led the major leagues with nine blown saves. He went on to save 50 games again.

That might not be the case for Hunter, who had flirted with disaster for most of the early season before it finally caught up to him with the back-to-back blown saves.

After allowing just three earned runs in 112/3 innings to start the season, Hunter has given up at least one run in his past four appearances. He has a 21.60 ERA in 31/3 innings in that span, making his season ERA climb to 6.60.

Showalter has never been a fan of a closer-by-committee approach, but he said he’s considering it.

“I consider everything,” Showalter said. “Which time of the night? Midnight, 1, 2, 3 of 4 [a.m.]?”

Showalter objects to call reversal

Showalter said he disagrees with the decision made by baseball’s replay officials to overturn the call when Tigers pinch-runner Rajai Davis slid into second base in the ninth inning Tuesday night.

Davis was initially called out by second base umpire Paul Nauert, but the call was reversed after the officials examined the play more closely at the request of Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

“I finally saw the replay that they used to overturn it,” Showalter said Wednesday. “I’m glad I didn’t see that last night before we talked. That’s what they overturned it with?”

After Don Kelly and Ian Kinsler lined out and Torii Hunter walked, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run home run to give Detroit a 3-1 lead. Victor Martinez followed with a solo home run.

Though the call at second base didn’t directly lead to the Orioles’ downfall, Showalter said he thinks the crew made the incorrect decision. He said part of Davis’ guard protruded and helped him reach second base. The longer the extension is, Showalter said, the quicker the runner gets to second base.

“They have a thing now, it can only be X amount of inches,” Showalter said. “Otherwise you could take a lead at first, take one step and carry a 10-foot pole and reach and touch second base.”

Johnson back on minor league DL

Right-hander Steve Johnson had right shoulder discomfort once again Tuesday night, Showalter said.

The Orioles considered promoting Johnson this week, according to Showalter, but they didn’t do so because Johnson hadn’t pitched enough since coming off the disabled list May 3.

Johnson, who was placed on the disabled list again Wednesday, is coming to Baltimore to be examined by team doctors, according to an industry source. He has faced continued discomfort in his shoulder this year.

Johnson gave up three runs, three hits and two walks in two innings for Norfolk on Tuesday in his third start after missing three weeks because of the inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

Guilmet impresses in two games

Showalter praised relief pitcher Preston Guilmet for his performance Monday night and said he has liked what he saw from the right-hander in his brief stint with the Orioles.

Guilmet, 26, replaced Bud Norris after the starter was ejected in the eighth inning Monday for hitting Torii Hunter and retired all four batters he faced. Guilmet then recorded the final out in Tuesday’s loss before he was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.

Showalter said he and his staff are still searching for a weakness from Guilmet.

“What am I missing?” Showalter said. “What did Cleveland know that we didn’t know?”

Around the horn

Orioles director of player development Brian Graham and minor league infield instructor Dave Anderson are candidates to fill in for third base coach Bobby Dickerson during Tuesday’s game on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Showalter said. Dickerson will miss the game to attend his daughter’s graduation. … Showalter will miss Saturday’s game in Kansas City to attend his daughter’s law school graduation. Graham will fill in as an extra coach for that game. … Right-hander Chris Tillman will start Friday against the Kansas City Royals. Tillman said his groin has felt much better in the past couple days, and he has “no worries” about the injury. … With a single in the first inning Wednesday, center fielder Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to nine games. He recorded his 12th multihit game and American League-leading 11th infield hit of the season. … Frederick Keys catcher Steel Russell, who is the son of Orioles bench coach John Russell, suffered a hand injury that the club fears could be a broken finger. … The Orioles are 5-10 in day games this season. … Double-A Bowie outfielder Dariel Alvarez and right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson were named the Orioles’ Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for April, respectively.



Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.

C.J. Fair has put in the work to hear his name called at NBA draft

Like many 12 year olds, C.J. Fair dabbled in many different sports. He played some baseball, a little football and anything his friends were into at the time.

Then he started "growing like a weed," as his father Carl put it, and Carl asked him to pick one sport. C.J. chose basketball, and he and his friends — Antonio and Will Barton, Josh Selby and Nick Faust — began dominating anyone who stood in their way. They formed a super team, as the lanky lefty C.J. continued to sharpen his game at the John Eager Howard Community Center and around Baltimore playgrounds."That's when I knew he had it in him," Carl Fair said. "And I knew that's what he wanted to do. That's when he started really focusing solely on basketball."

As his father predicted when C.J. was 12, the NBA is now a real possibility. The NBA draft is Thursday, and Fair is projected as a mid-to-late second round pick. After four years playing for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and finishing as one of the most distinguished players in school history, Fair has trained with NBA greats George Gervin and John Lucas this offseason to prepare for the draft.

He has worked out for half of the NBA's teams in recent weeks, and he's fully confident he'll hear his name called Thursday night. Those close to Fair think whichever team takes him will be getting a steal.

"I think he's one of the most underrated guys in this whole draft," Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris said. "Whatever team picks him, I think the sky's the limit for him."

Fair and Harris work out together with Gervin in San Antonio. Harris, who was drafted 19th overall in 2011, has known Fair for years. They teamed up on the Baltimore Stars Amateur Athletic Union team in high school and have been friends since.

Harris' father, Torrel, is now C.J.'s agent. He was Gervin's agent, too, which is how C.J. got the opportunity to work out with Gervin. Fair and Harris often work on their 1-on-1 play, as Fair is striving to show scouts that the playmaking ability he had in college can translate to the next level.

"George Gervin, he's been a great mentor for me, helping me with my technique on the offensive end," Fair said. "We've been working on my jump shot and how to get separation."

While at Syracuse, getting separation was Fair's forte. He'd give a little jab step, then another, up fake and shoot over the defender. Defenders would know what was coming but still often be unable to stop it. Carl Fair calls C.J.'s midrange game his bread and butter.

Longtime Baltimore Stars official Troy Franklin, who watched Fair play throughout his childhood, agrees with Carl's assessment.

"He can shoot the lights out," Franklin said.

Fair is trying to market himself as a mid-range threat who can play solid defense. He knows some critics say playing in Boeheim's 2-3 zone is disadvantageous going to the NBA, but Fair's out to debunk that myth.

When he's not working out with teams or Gervin, Fair makes his way to Houston to train with Lucas, the NBA's No. 1 pick in 1976 out of Maryland.Five hours a day. Shots from all over the court. Dribbling drills. The workouts are grueling, but Fair knows they will be worth it.

Lucas said Fair's ball-handling has consistently improved since he arrived in Houston. At Syracuse, Fair had to dribble the ball more his senior year because of the team's lack of depth at guard. He knows everyone has to be able to dribble extremely well in the NBA, so he's ensuring his handles are up to par.

Lucas' main goals are to improve the 6-foot-8 Fair's conditioning and continue to polish his right hand. While Fair still has a ways to go, Lucas believes he has tremendous upside.

"C.J. is savvy and crafty as a player," Lucas said. "He's working hard to continue to improve his shot. His decision making is very good."

When Fair was trying to decide whether to declare for the draft after his junior season, Carl weighed in on the matter. His degree was within reach, so why not stay? Though this year's draft class is a lot stronger, he's going to have to guard players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at small forward if all goes according to plan, so why not continue to improve another year?

And that's what Fair did, piecing together his most complete season at Syracuse. He averaged 16.6 points per game, forming one of the most lethal duos in the country with freshman Tyler Ennis.

While the natural inclination of many players is to go to the NBA as soon as possible, Fair was the exception. Rather than hurt his stock like North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo, for example, he continued to build his resume and improve his game.Unlike Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon — all potential top-10 picks who left after their freshman season — Fair stuck around. His Twitter bio has read "Transitioning from fitting in to standing out" for months, and that is what Fair has gradually done over the past four years. Tobias Harris believes that experience will help him mightily going forward.

"I think he's more ready than more than half the guys in this whole NBA draft." Harris said. "He played four years in college, so he's more mature."Carl and C.J. Fair say they've received positive feedback from NBA team's about C.J.'s offensive skills and his ability to make the game look easy. C.J. has been pleased with how he's performed in 3-on-3 and 1-on-1 drills, knowing training with Gervin and Harris has been instrumental.

For the string bean from Baltimore, the NBA is now at his fingertips. He doesn't just want to get drafted; he wants to make his mark in the league and stay in it for years.

Looking back, he knows all the hard work he's put in is going to pay off and he's eager to continue surprising people.

"When the draft comes and I hear my name called that'll be amazing," Fair said. "It'll be everything."



As he prepares for first start since injury, Dylan Bundy predicts return to form

Dylan Bundy is confident he can be the dominant pitcher he was before an elbow injury interrupted a promising start to his professional career.

Bundy, on the cusp of pitching in his first game since 2012, spoke Thursday at Ripken Stadium, home of short-season Single-A Aberdeen and his new home for at least the next few weeks. He said his arm feels great, and he's eager to make his first start Sunday on the road against Hudson Valley.

"I feel like I can be the same as I used to be," Bundy said. "It just takes time."

Bundy, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 first-year player draft and the Orioles' top prospect, according to Baseball America, has spent the last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. His original target to return to the mound was June 28, a year after his surgery, but he's two weeks ahead of schedule.

He said he could pitch for the Orioles this season, but his focus is on proving himself again and regaining his comfort on the mound. Facing live hitters in a game is something he has wanted to do for months.

"I just want to get through my rehab process healthy and then get out there competing again," Bundy said. "Everything else will take care of itself."

Bundy, 21, said he expects to make three or four starts with Aberdeen, but he's not sure how long he'll stay with the team. He has not pitched more than four innings or thrown more than 72 pitches at a time since his injury, but he'll be stretched to five innings or 75 pitches — whichever comes first — Sunday.He said he no longer thinks much about his arm when he's pitching and, after a year, is back to the place where he feels most comfortable — the mound.

"He's kind of getting the chains unleashed," IronBirds manager Matt Merullo said.

Bundy said the most difficult part of the rehab was the first month after he had the surgery. He'd go for walks just to get some fresh air and not stay barricaded in his apartment.

"It's tough laying around," he said. "Especially me, I don't like to lay around the couch all day."

After the first month, the recovery process went smoothly, he said. Bundy was finally able to ride a bike and exercise a little bit. He worked out with his brother, Bobby — who is also rehabbing from elbow surgery — in Sarasota, Fla.

Bundy said his fastball reached 94 mph in his past two four-inning starts in extended spring training, and that his fastball command the last two starts was better than it was in the first three.

As for his secondary pitches, he said they're better now than they were at the end of his first professional season, when he was in Double-A and was called up to the big leagues.

"Maybe not the tightest spin or the depth that I want," Bundy said, "but as far as locating, I feel a lot better about it."

Part of him wants to breeze through the starts as quickly as he can, but part of him knows he should take things slowly. He wants to look at the results because he's competitive, but knows the process is more important.

Said Bundy: "As long as I go out there and pitch my game and my arm is fine, I'll be happy."



Kevin Gausman 'wasn't too thrilled' with his performance vs. the Tigers

Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman dominated the Detroit Tigers on June 2, 2013, allowing just one run in six innings en route to a 4-2 win.

On Wednesday, though, the Tigers got the best of Gausman in his first start of the season. The right-hander gave up five earned runs in four innings as Detroit (24-12) jumped out to a 5-0 lead and went on to beat the Orioles (20-18), 7-5, in the series finale at Camden Yards.

“I wasn’t too thrilled with it,” Gausman said. “I thought I did some good things early on. As the game progressed, my fastball started going up in the zone.”

Gausman said his splitter wasn’t as good as it has been lately, which upset him more than anything else. He felt good about his stuff overall, but he didn't get the results he wanted.

"OK. Wasn't as good as we had hoped,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “But had a real good first inning. Some counts in his favor he didn't make work. He'll get better. Capable of better."

Gausman, 23, was called up Wednesday to face the potent Tigers lineup after Showalter decided that left-hander Wei-Yin Chen would be better suited to face the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Early in the game, it appeared as though Gausman was on his way to another impressive performance against Detroit. He retired seven Tigers in a row to start the game, cruising through the heart of the lineup unscathed.

Gausman was clocked at 98 mph, and his aggressive, yet calculated approach matched that of a potential long-term starter.

In the third inning, though, the Tigers played small ball with one out to take a 2-0 lead.

Bryan Holaday reached on an infield single before Danny Worth singled to right field. Ian Kinsler loaded the bases with another infield single, and then Miguel Cabrera singled to left field to drive in two runs.

The next inning, Gausman’s rocky stretch continued. Holaday singled to drive in a run, Worth reached on an RBI bunt single, and Rajai Davis’ sacrifice fly scored one more. As Gausman pointed out, the bottom half of Detroit’s lineup did more damage than the top half.

Detroit’s No. 6 through No. 9 hitters combined for five hits and five runs, fueling the two innings that gave the Tigers a six-run lead after the top of the fifth.

“I just tried to go out there and get through those innings,” Gausman said. “The fourth was a tough inning for me. So was the third.”

Gausman, who is nearly fully recovered from pneumonia, threw 70 pitches in the bullpen Tuesday after being called up from Norfolk. Though he was capped at 75 pitches in the minors, Showalter bumped that number to 85 against Detroit.

Showalter wanted five or six innings from Gausman, but he only made it through four. He reached 87 pitches (54 strikes) after retiring Kinsler, and his afternoon came to a close.

Gausman said he didn’t even think about his pitch count or know what it was up to at any point. He felt fine physically, despite only three days’ rest. The main issue was making mistakes to hitters that were able to take advantage.

Gausman’s future is now uncertain. Showalter plans to discuss his status and figure out the best course of action prior to the team’s six-game road trip.

“We are going to take in today and talk about it on the plane,” Showalter said. “He’ll go with us. We will decide between now and tomorrow what we are going to do next. Probably decide tonight, or this afternoon before we leave.”



Big night for rookie catcher Caleb Joseph in Orioles' loss to Tigers

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph picked up his first career major League hit in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday night when he lined a fastball from Detroit Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly on an 0-1 count to center field.

“It was good, but it doesn’t matter because we lost,” Joseph said after the game. “Personal achievements don't mean crap to me right now. I’m just trying to win games for the Orioles.”

When he reached first base, the crowd at Camden Yards recognized the milestone with a standing ovation. Joseph, 27, started his career 0-for-8 before the hit.

In addition to collecting his first hit, Joseph guided starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to arguably the right-hander's best outing at Camden Yards. Jimenez shut out the Tigers in seven innings, surrendering just three hits and striking out seven on 97 pitches.

“Joseph caught a great game out there,” Jimenez said. “He has a really good idea of what he was doing.”The Orioles drafted Joseph in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur draft. After bouncing around the organization's farm system, Joseph finally entered the majors this season.

With starting catcher Matt Wieters on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow strain, manager Buck Showalter has started both Joseph and Steve Clevenger. While Clevenger has 14 hits in 46 at-bats, Joseph had struggled to get into a groove at the plate.

He was 0-for-3 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, and finished 0-for-4 with a strikeout the following day. After hitting into a fielder’s choice to end the second inning Tuesday night, though, Joseph finally delivered.

Tigers first baseman Victor Martinez handed him the ball as the fans stood and cheered.

Joseph also threw out three base runners -- two caught stealing -- and advanced Jonathan Schoop to second base on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh.

After the game, Showalter immediately praised the first-year catcher and credited him for helping the Orioles stay in front until the ninth.

Showalter said he was impressed by Joseph’s ability to successfully lay down a bunt.

When players bat third or fourth in the order during their entire minor league career, they are not accustomed to bunting in the eighth or ninth spot in the majors, Showalter said, but Joseph did so smoothly and effectively.



Terps baseball team to play Old Dominion on Friday in NCAA regional

COLLEGE PARK — A record-setting season for the Maryland baseball team will continue this week as the Terps qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1971.

The Terps earned the No. 2 seed in the Columbia regional, and they will play against third-seeded Old Dominion (36-24) from Conference USA on Friday at 1 p.m. in Columbia, S.C.

"It's a collaboration of a lot of work from our coaching staff and players," Maryland coach John Szefc said. "It's a really good feeling of at least getting some payback for all the blood, sweat and tears we've put into it."

The Maryland team gathered at Looney's Pub at noon Monday, eating Old Bay wings and watching a massive projection screen to find out where they would be playing.

A part of the final regional to be announced on the selection show, Terps players and fans stood and cheered when the team learned its destination.

Maryland has already set the program's single-season record for wins, and they currently have a 36-21 record heading into the tournament. The Terps finished 15-14 in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season.

And then Maryland boosted its resume with convincing wins over Virginia and Florida State in the ACC tournament to make the championship game before losing, 9-4, to Georgia Tech.

"To get down there and play two of the top five teams in the country, and actually end up beating them," Terps sophomore right-handed pitcher Kevin Mooney (North Harford) said. "It really lifted up our spirits and made us believe that much more that we can make it."

The other two teams in Maryland's region — top-seeded South Carolina and No. 4 seed Campbell — will play at 7 p.m. Friday. The two winners will play Saturday, while the two losers also will meet in an elimination game.

The winner of the four-team, double-elimination regional will play the winner of the Charlottesville regional in the super regionals from June 6 to 9.

The Terps, who have won 11 of their past 13 games, are 4-4 against the Top 8 national seeds this season.

"We just played pretty well as a team at the end of the year," Mooney said. "Got really hot, and I think that helped push us into the postseason."

Maryland is looking for its second-ever NCAA tournament win, and its first since 1970. Maryland is 1-6 all-time in the tournament. The Terps will head to South Carolina on Wednesday.

"This is awesome," Maryland sophomore outfielder Anthony Papio said. "I think everyone's really pumped to go down to South Carolina, which is a great place to play, and a team that's been pretty dominant the last few years. So that's going to make it even more exciting for us."



Maryland Jockey Club president rooting for California Chrome to win Triple Crown

Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas says he is rooting for California Chrome to win the Triple Crown — both for the health of the industry and the storyline.

"Just simply having a Triple Crown keeps the industry and the public generally enthused about what's going on," Chuckas said Monday morning in a post-Preakness Stakes news conference at Pimlico Race Course. "It keeps the eyes on it, which brings attention and hopefully creates more customers, and so on."

He also called California Chrome a "feel-good story" with a team comprised of "regular people" who were agreeable and gracious during their time in Baltimore.

California Chrome can become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Feel-good element aside, Chuckas is happy the horse is in the hunt to boost attendance at Pimlico and Laurel Park during the Belmont Stakes on June 7.

"We'd have a nice day, but our attendance here will be two-and-a-half to three times what it is without a Triple Crown [contender]," Chuckas said. "People will wager more. Overall it's a big economic impact for us."

Chuckas estimates the attendance at Belmont will be around 100,000 because of the intrigue of the Triple Crown.

With a record-breaking attendance of 123,469 at the Preakness on Saturday, Chuckas said the entire weekend was "very successful."

He said there were very few expulsions and arrests and that the entire process went smoothly.

"The infield was magical," Chuckas said. "Overall, the accolades came and I couldn't have been happier."

Despite the success, Chuckas make the point again that he believes the Triple Crown should undergo a scheduling change. Currently, the three races occur in a five-week time frame, but Chuckas would like to space out the races to improve the quality of competition.

"We have an obligation to our people to put the best product on the table, and we're not doing it," he said, reiterating a point he made in multiple interviews last week.

He likened changing the schedule to making a structural change in another professional sports league. He said some critics of a spread-out format would argue that an asterisk should be placed next to the horse's name if he or she is to win the Triple Crown.

However, he said MLB, the NBA and the NFL have made all kinds of changes over the years, so this would be no different.

"Do you really believe the Seattle Seahawks should have an asterisk by their name because there's a change in the format?" Chuckas asked. "I don't think so. I really don't."



Race-by-race results from Preakness Day

Race 1: Jockey Julian Pimentel rode Magic Cash to victory in the first of 12 races on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Phlash Phelps took second and Relentless Ride finished in third in the 1 1/6-mile race. The winner finished in 1 minute, 44.98 seconds.

Originally set for turf, riders raced on dirt due to Friday’s rain.

Race 2: Lunar Rock and jockey Sheldon Russell won the Deputed Testamony Starter Handicap, finishing with a time of 1:44.51. No Brakes placed second for the second consecutive year, while Regal Warrior took third.

Race 3: Saddling Romp City, jockey Horacio Karamanos rode the rail to victory in the 1 1/6-mile race, which was moved from turf to dirt. Karamanos made a stretch run to pull away from second-place finisher Going to Market, rode by Victor Carrasco, and third-place finisher Tom Kitten, rode by Orlando Bocachica.

Saturday’s race was the second running of the $55,000 Xpressbet purse race.

Race 4: Jockey Victor Espinoza had a warmup before saddling California Chrome in the the Preakness Stakes race. He rode Majestic Hussar to victory in the LifeBridge Health Good Neighbors Race, finishing with a time of 58:46.

“Well, it's a good start at least,” Espinoza said. “It’s always good to win before the big race.”

Espinoza and Majestic Hussar, who came in with 8-5 odds, beat out Silvertonguedtommy and Awesome Arceno, who placed second and third respectively.

Race 5: Happy My Way and his trainer Joe Bravo stormed out to an early lead and never looked back, dominating the six-furlong Maryland Sprint Handicap with a time of 1:09:21.

Lemon Drop Dream placed second in the six-horse race, while Service for Ten came in third and Sneaking Uponyou came in fourth. Happy My Way, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's Sagamore Racing, came in as the 6-5 favorite and cruised to victory.

Race 6: No. 7 horse Ageless and his jockey Luis Garcia won the day’s first race on turf. They ran The Very One Stakes with a time of 58.91 in one of the day’s closer finishes.

Perfect Measure placed second, Quality Lass came in third and Jewel of a Cat ended up in fourth. Fifteen horses raced in total, and the pack remained relatively tight throughout.

Race 7: Trainer Derek Ryan joked that he was due for a win on Preakness Day, and jockey Javier Castellano gave him one with a victory aboard Meadowood in the fifth running of the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes.

Second-place finisher Brewing led for the majority of the six-furlong dirt race before Meadowood closed in to finish first with a time of 1:10.11. Prudhoe Bay ended the race in third.

“Everything went perfect, according to plan,” Ryan said.

Race 8: Wallyanna was in second place for most of The James W. Murphy Stakes. Yet in the final two furlongs, the horse and his jockey, Javier Castellano, surged in front of Open the Bank to finish with a time of 1:39.09.

Open the Bank placed second, while Thunder Strike and Allstar came in third and fourth, respectively. Wallyanna’s odds were 8-1 coming into the mile race. Castellano won his second-straight race.

Race 9: Somali Lemonade and Daydreamin Gracie were neck-and-neck in The Gallorette Handicap, but once the field made the turn for the final stretch, Watsdachances crept up, finishing in second place just short of Somali Lemonade, jockeyed by Luis Saez.

“She gives me everything,” said Saez, who clocked in at 1:44.16.

Triple Arch placed third in the 63rd running of the $150,000 race.

Race 10: Class Leader and jockey James Graham came from behind to win The Sir Barton Stakes, completing the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:43.79. He's a Chance held an early lead, but Life in Shambles, Six Spot and Sea View Chico came back to take second, third and fourth, respectively.

Race 11: Utley and his jockey Edgar Prado trailed for most of the race, but pulled ahead in the final five seconds to win one of the day’s more tightly contested events. Utley, coming in on the outside, defied 8-1 odds to seize first place with a time of 1:43.88.

Hey Leroy placed second and Chamois came in third in the 113th running of the $400,000 Longines Dixie Stakes.

Race 12: Preakness: The anticipation surrounding the 139th running of the Preakness came to an end with the Kentucky Derby winner and 3-5 favorite California Chrome winning the race, keeping his hopes at the Triple Crown alive.

Saddled by jockey Victor Espinoza, California Chrome began in the No. 3 post position, cruising in third place for most of the 1 3/16-mile race. But once the chestnut colt made the final turn, he kicked into high gear, finishing the race in 1:35.65 ahead of second place Ride on Curlin and third place Social Inclusion.

Next for California Chrome is The Belmont Stakes on June 7, with a shot of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

“New York, here we come,” trainer Art Sherman said.

Race 13: Sir Sidney started out strong. But going around the final turn of the 6-furlong race, the horse experienced a little traffic, falling back to third. Luckily a late charge gave him and jockey Sheldon Russell the victory in the final race of the 2014 Preakness weekend.

Orlando Bocachica rode Nevsky to a second place finish and Julian Pimentel saddled Negrito for third.

The victory was Russell’s second of the day.





Near misses highlight the difficulty of a horse racing Triple Crown

Stewart Elliott chuckled when he was asked the question.

Why is winning the Triple Crown so difficult?

Elliott, Smarty Jones' jockey in 2004, rattled off a laundry list of reasons why no horse has captured the sport's most prestigious honor since 1978. You need an adaptable horse — one who can adjust to the longer distance at the Belmont Stakes. A horse that can handle running three races in five weeks. One that can handle the hubbub and not get flustered.

And a little bit of luck.

Saturday, California Chrome will try to overcome all those obstacles and cement his legacy by winning the Triple Crown. The 3-year-old has been unflappable and unstoppable in the first two legs, but those who have been around horses in his spot know completing the trifecta is anything but a guarantee.

"It takes a certain kind of horse to do it," Elliott said. "It's not an easy thing. It shows with how long it's been."

Since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont in 1978, many horses have come close, but none have succeeded.

In the 36-year drought, 11 horses won the Derby and Preakness but fell short at the Belmont. That doesn't include I'll Have Another, who won the first two legs in 2012 but was scratched for the Belmont because of an injury.

Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Smarty Jones (2004) each finished second at the Belmont after winning the first two legs.

"It's like the Triple Crown in baseball," said Steve Cauthen, who was the 18-year-old jockey aboard Affirmed in 1978. "That's another thing that's not that easy to do. It takes a terrific, talented horse. You have to be better than everybody you're competing against. You have to overcome the things that naturally happen in any circumstances to pull it off."

For Smarty Jones' trainer John Servis, the Belmont was an especially daunting race because of the expectations placed on his horse.

"Once you win the first two legs, you go into the Belmont with a bull's-eye on your back," Servis said. "I felt a lot of pressure going into the Belmont that I didn't feel going into the Derby and the Preakness."

Servis said he felt like the city of Philadelphia was counting Pennsylvania-born Smarty Jones to win. He heard the hype on talk radio. He sensed the excitement around the city and the country. He knew he had a chance to win, but that doing so wouldn't be easy.

Smarty Jones had to win prep races just to get to the Kentucky Derby. Once he won the 1 1/4-mile Derby, it was off to the 1 3/16-mile Preakness two weeks later. While other well-rested horses came into the 1 ½-mile Belmont fresh, Smarty Jones was physically worn down. His aggressive style of racing and demanding schedule started to take its toll.

Everything went picture perfect, as Servis put it, from the end of February until two weeks before the Belmont. Then the exhaustion set in and Smarty Jones wasn't fully healthy going into the biggest race of his life.

"You have to change your training going into the Belmont anyway, just for the distance," Servis said. "To make sure he gets the mile and a half."

When the race started, Elliott knew Smarty Jones' chances were bleak. Back when he first mounted the horse, all he wanted to do was get him to relax. The talent and pure speed was there, but the patience wasn't.

Up until the Belmont, his aggression was never too much of a problem. Yet with history a mile-and-a-half away, Smarty Jones reverted to his old habits. He jumped out to an early lead, but couldn't maintain the pace.

"I knew when he was coming out of the gate and got into the first turn that we weren't going to win," Elliott said. "It's not going to work."

And it didn't. Just like so many horses before him and some after him, Smarty Jones couldn't complete the mission.

"It was very disappointing," Elliott said. "It was heartbreaking not to win it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you didn't get it."

One year earlier, trainer Barclay Tagg found his horse Funny Cide in a similar spot. Rain poured down and the Belmont track was three feet deep in mud. The colt was physically drained. He wasn't accustomed to the longer race.

Tagg said the press was "murderous" on New York-bred Funny Cide in the three weeks leading up to the Belmont. Much like Smarty Jones, Funny Cide started out too quickly before losing his lead and finishing in third.

"I'm not making excuses for him, but he did have a couple excuses," Tagg said. "It hasn't been done in 36 years, so there's a reason for that. It's very, very tough."

Despite their horses' inability to win the Triple Crown, Servis, Elliott and Tagg all feel that California Chrome has a very good shot to do so.

Servis pinpointed the horse's perfect running style. Elliott watched California Chrome trot to the winners circle after the Preakness seemingly unfazed. Tagg said he thinks Chrome has the ability to adjust to different conditions and has everything going for him.

Heading into Saturday, California Chrome is the heavy, 3-5 favorite. But as history has shown, winning the Triple Crown is anything but easy.

"I think it's so difficult because horses these days are fragile," Elliott said. "They don't hold up. They get injured. For the Triple Crown the races are close together, so they don't get a break.

"It takes a certain kind of horse."