P-Bruins falter down stretch

01:00 AM EST on Sunday, December 18, 2005

BY DAN FRIEDELL Special to the Journal

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- After 46 minutes of misfiring, Binghamton's offense finally broke through.

With Providence ahead, 3-0, after a nifty 3-on-1 goal by Zdenek Blatny six minutes into the final period of last night's game, Binghamton's Gregg Johnson slipped a shot past goalie Tim Thomas.

Ordinarily, a two-goal advantage with fewer than 14 minutes to play would have been enough for the P-Bruins to hold on for a win and move their record above .500. But Johnson's goal, on the Senators' 34th shot of the night, sent them to a 4-3 defeat in front of 3,396 fans at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

Binghamton had plenty of chances to score in the first two periods, but Thomas stopped them all. Going back to Friday's win over Hartford, Thomas had stopped 70 of 72 shots before allowing Johnson's goal.

"I was saving tips cleanly and everything. I felt like through the first two periods, I probably had one of the best games in my life," said Thomas, who saw a three-game winning streak come to an end.

Thomas stopped 37 of 41 shots in the game. While disappointed with the loss, he was philosophical about Binghamton's turnaround in the final 15 minutes.

"I guess that's why people love sports, because things can turn on a dime, and they sure did," he said.

Grant Potulny scored the next two goals for Binghamton to even the score at 3-3 with 11 minutes left in the game.

His first goal came on Binghamton's 35th shot of the night. Tomas Malec took a wide shot from the point that deflected off the boards behind the net and back to Potulny.

The next goal came 38 seconds later on a play that began with the puck behind the P-Bruins' net. Jonathan Sigalet was fighting Binghamton's Danny Bois for possession, and the puck squirted free in front of Thomas and wound up in perfect position for Potulny to finish the play.

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Providence coach Scott Gordon said those goals, especially the second Binghamton score of the night,

turned the game around. "It's tough break to have a shot miss the net and come back to somebody who's relatively covered," Gordon said. "It's a shot that isn't a quality chance and the guy ends up putting it into what's pretty much an empty net."

Danny Bois finished off the night's scoring when he finished a 2-on-1 by knocking home a pass from

Johnson with 4:29 to play. While the Senators were frustrated by their inefficiency earlier in the game, they didn't give up on their offense.

"We just kept saying, 'Keep shooting it and something's going to go in sooner or later,' " Johnson said. Gordon pulled Thomas after a timeout with 1:17 to play, but Ben Guite, Sigalet, Eric Healey, Nathan

Robinson, Blatny and Tyler Redenbach couldn't come up with a good shot in front of Binghamton goalie Billy Thompson. Providence's other goals were scored by Blatny (first period) and Healey (second period.) Healey wasn't able find anything positive in the losing effort, which dropped the P-Bruins to 11-12-1-1

for the season. "The best thing to do with that game is just forget about it and move on," he said. Providence 1 1 1 -- 3 Binghamton 0 0 4 -- 4 First period -- 1, Pro, Blatny 3 (Schutte), 13:23. Penalties -- Served by Gajic, Pro, 4:15; Pelletier, Pro,

8:10; Ward, Bng, 11:19; Clouthier, Bng, 13:24; Stroshein, Pro, 13:24; Pelletier, Pro, 15:56; Ward, Bng,


Second period -- 2, Pro, Healey 12 (Dyment, Robinson), 10:44. Penalties -- Bois, Bng, 5:26; Reich, Pro, 5:26; MacDonald, Pro, 7:40; Malec, Bng, 11:53; Dyment, Pro, 14:38; Cullen, Bng, 17:54.

Third period -- 3, Pro, Blatny 4 (Healey), 5:53. 4, Bng, Johnson 5 (Potulny, Bois), 6:11; 5, Bng, Potulny 4 (Malec, Johnson), 8:22; 6, Bng, Potulny 5 (Bois, Johnson), 9:00; 7, Bng, Bois 3 (Johnson, Potulny),

15:31. Penalties -- Guite, Pro, 20:00; Hamel, Bng, 20:00; Potulny, Bng, 20:00.

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Hockey: Bears' run falls flat against Wayne State

01:00 AM EST on Saturday, November 11, 2006

BY DAN FRIEDELL Special to the Journal

PROVIDENCE -- Sophomore goalie Mark Sibbald had allowed 12 goals in Brown's first three games.

And after allowing three goals in the last night's 5-3, non-conference loss to Wayne State, his time ran out. When he couldn't corral a shot from Wayne State's Jason Baclig that made the score, 4-2, just moments into the second period, he got the hook from coach Roger Grillo.

"At that point, Mark was struggling and it was time to give one of the young guys an opportunity and see what he could do," Grillo said. "He was fighting the puck and he's a better goaltender than how he performed."

The subsequent 38 minutes became an exercise in breaking in freshman goalie Dan Rosen, who put on a solid display, turning away 17 shots and giving the Bears an opportunity to get back in the game.

Luckily for Rosen, Wayne State (2-6-0), uncorked only five shots, two of consequence, after he stepped on the ice in the second period. They had blasted 13 at Sibbald in the first.

"It was good, today at least, that the guys managed to keep them away from our zone for a couple of minutes so I was able to get my feet moving," Rosen said.

The New York native's shining moment came with 6:33 to go in the second when he calmly made a glove save on a point-blank shot from Warriors center Stavros Paskaris. The effort seemed to energize the Bears, who hadn't converted any of their four power plays in the period.

About three minutes later, senior wing Antonin Roux smacked home the rebound of Sean Muncy's shot, cutting the Wayne State lead to one, at 4-3.

"After he scored, the last three minutes, we played in their zone and I think we were forechecking pretty well," said Jeff Prough, who scored his second and third goals of the season in the first period. "That was a positive."

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Though they were feeling good heading into the second intermission, the Bears couldn't maintain their

momentum. "I was really disappointed on how we came out in the third," Grillo said. "I thought we would come out with some jump, but we were flat and didn't have a lot of energy."

While Wayne State controlled the tempo for much of the final period, the score remained 4-3, and the Bears had a golden opportunity with 1:48 to play. With Brown on the attack, the Warriors' Mark Nebus was called for hooking, giving Brown a power play for the rest of the game.

After the ensuing faceoff, Dave Robertson fired a shot past Wayne State goalie Brett Bothwell that looked as if it had crossed the line before bouncing out of the net. But the referees saw it differently, deciding the puck had ricocheted off the post.

"I thought it was in from the angle I had, but I'm a long way away and [the referee] has got to make the call," said Grillo. "But we should have never put ourselves in that position to begin with." The Warriors' final goal came on a shot into an empty Brown net with 32 seconds to go.

Wayne state's Bill Wilkinson, a 25-year head-coaching veteran, accepted the victory with humility. "Early, we got some bounces and scored some goals," he said. "They hit the post two or three times, and the game sometimes comes down to luck. Tonight we got some luck our way."

Brown continues to search for its first win of the year as the teams close out their two-game set at 2 p.m. today in Meehan Auditorium. Wayne State 3 1 1 -- 5

Brown 2 1 0 -- 3 First period -- Wayne State, Katz (Bloomingburg) 3:22. Brown, Prough (Vokes) 4:29. Wayne State, Iliakis 8:00; Bloomingburg (Grabarek) 12:46 (pp). Brown, Prough (McNary, Vokes) 15:54 (pp). Penalties -- W 5-18, B 2-4.

Second period -- Wayne State, Baclig (Nebus) 1:57 (pp). Brown, Roux (Dersch, Muncy) 16:11. Penalties -- W 5-10, B 2-4. Third period -- Wayne State, Forgie 19:28 (en). Shots -- Wayne State, 13-6-13 -- 32; Brown 15 9 15 -- 39. Saves -- Bothwell, W, 13-8-15 -- 36; Sibbald,

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Lester hits pitch-limit early and PawSox hit the skids

Charlie Zink comes on in relief and can't get his knuckleball to behave as the Bulls gore Pawtucket.

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, April 21, 2006

BY DAN FRIEDELL Special to the Journal

DURHAM, N.C. -- It can't be a meeting of the big guns if one side doesn't bring enough ammunition to the fight.

Facing a 65-pitch limit, Jon Lester, the top pitching prospect in the Boston organization, had a 1-2-3 fourth inning, but didn't come out for the fifth at Durham Bulls Athletic Park last night.

His opposite number, Chris Seddon -- one of Tampa Bay's top prospects and also a lefthander, didn't have the same shackles, throwing 97 pitches over six innings to get his second win of the year.

While Lester, who left the game down, 2-1, pitched his best game of the young season, the PawSox relief corps couldn't match his pace. The bullpen cost the PawSox (7-8) any chance for a comeback as they fell 8-3 to the Bulls (10-5).

Charlie Zink replaced Lester in the fifth and gave up three wild-pitch-fueled runs. Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes, who struggled on Wednesday (1-for-7), came up with run-scoring hits in the inning.

Zink's replacement, Mike Bumatay, wasn't much better, allowing an inherited runner to score in the sixth and struggled in a groan-inducing seventh, giving up a run on two walks and three wild pitches, to make it 7-3. The Bulls scored another run in the eighth without a hit.

Designated hitter Jeff Bailey hit his second two-run homer in two days. Bailey's fifth of the year easily cleared the famous Durham Bull cutout above the 32-foot wall.

After giving up two runs in the third while facing the heart of the Durham lineup, Lester regained the form that made him dominant in the first and second.

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He notched his fifth and sixth strikeouts against Kevin Witt and Shawn Riggans and cleanly fielded a grounder from Kevin Cash to end the inning and his outing.

Lester knows that Boston's plan is to limit his pitches in April.

"They just told me I'm on a pitch count and that's all I can do," said Lester. "There's no point in arguing because they've made up their mind."

Consequently, he's working on adjusting to the Triple-A level, 65 pitches at a time.

"I threw the ball well, commanded the ball well, had a plan and executed it," Lester said. "Finally, the game is starting to slow down. I'm getting comfortable on the mound."

With Lester's pitch restriction, Zink knew he would be in the game early. Unfortunately for the PawSox, his knuckleball wasn't behaving.

"I was having trouble throwing strikes with it. I was getting a ton of movement, but that's good and bad," he said after giving up four runs in just 1 1/3 innings. "I'm supposed to go four or five innings, so it's frustrating to me that we had to use another guy."

The PawSox, who have been straddling the .500 mark all season, have a chance to even their road-trip results with a win today before returning home to face Buffalo tomorrow.

Online at: http://www.projo.com/pawsox/content/projo_20060421_21pawsox.1ce241cf.html

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Some of the changes caused by trades are subtler. Perez, who is from Miami and played his entire career on the East Coast, appreciated the low humidity in the West. Furmaniak had an opposite reaction after having spent two years in the PCL.

“After the first week or so, I was like, this is unbelievable. My body was actually wearing down quicker in the two weeks (after the trade) than the first five months of the season,” Furmaniak said.

Perez, playing for his third team of the season, worried about missing signs. “Thank God I didn’t miss any,” Perez said, laughing. “The first week I was in Lancaster, I was totally confused. I would be at first base and the coach would be telling me what to do.”

When the Braves played the Mud Hens shortly after Miner arrived in Toledo, no one asked him for a scouting report on his ex-teammates.

“I was shocked,” Miner said. “I don’t whether it’s some unwritten rule, because I haven’t been traded before, but nobody really quizzed me on anything. I know Richmond changed their signs for the series because they figured that I would tell them, but they didn’t even ask me.”

In the end, Furmaniak, Miner and Perez all said they saw their trades as opportunities, not setbacks. Still, they were surprised to experience such strong post-trade emotions, having grown close to so many players and coaches over the years. Miner, for example, talked about his friendship with first baseman Scott Thorman.

“It goes a lot farther than the baseball relationship where I’m a pitcher, he’s a first baseman, we’re on the same team, so everybody’s friendly,” Miner said. “For those of us who don’t go to college, it’s like the years we spend in the minor leagues, those relationships, over four, five years, last forever.”

Even after a trade.


September Callup Surprises

The most talked-about September callups in 2005 were the ones that didn’t happen. The Devil Rays focused on the bottom line as their reason for not promoting B.J. Upton and Delmon Young from Triple-A Durham. Both are on the 40-man roster already, but the Rays’ ownership transition and muddled front-office future prompted them to keep their top young talent out of the big leagues for now, as the organization hopes to lessen the impact of arbitration for the duo on their future payroll. (See Page 3.)

While Upton and Young didn’t make it to the majors in 2005, here are some other players you may have missed who did make it:

Matt Capps, rhp, Pirates: A seventh-round pick in 2002, Capps posted an ERA above 10 in 2004 at low Class A Hickory and was sent back to short-season ball in the second half. In other words, this was the first time he spent an entire year in full-season leagues. He just happened to finish the year in the National League.

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CBA's accidental sprinter

Mishap at home forces Ehle to change specialty

Saturday, November 05, 2005

By Dan Friedell Contributing writer

It's a good thing that there are no right angles involved in swim meets, because Christian Brothers Academy senior Kayla Ehle has trouble with corners.

Ehle swam two lengths of the pool in 25.38 seconds to win the Class B 50-yard freestyle title in the Section III girls championship meet at Nottingham High School on Friday.

If you had asked her a year ago, she would more likely have predicted a title in the 200-yard freestyle.

Ehle's efforts helped push CBA into first place among Class B schools after the meet's first day. The Brothers already have scored enough points to defend their sectional title regardless of what happens during diver Eileen McMahon's routine today.

Last April, Ehle slipped and fell on a hardwood floor while turning a corner in her home, breaking her left elbow. The injury required surgery to insert a screw into the joint and kept her out of the pool for a month.

The combination of an opening on the CBA roster for a sprinter and the fact that the sprint events put less sustained pressure on her elbow led her to the 50-yard freestyle.

And if she manages to out-kick defending Section III champion Sarah Blair (Auburn) and top- seeded Cat Scharf (New Hartford) during Saturday's individual finals, she'll consider the fall a happy accident.

Ehle gave Blair her only loss of the season in the event during a regular-season meet last week, and she knows Scharf has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best sprinters in the section.

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"There's not really a rivalry, because I haven't been doing the event for a long time," Ehle said. "There's always competition, but no ill-will."

The 50-yard freestyle is just one of today's finals that should be tightly contested.

The 200-yard individual medley will match up CBA's Allie Speidel (2:14.90) and West Genesee's Nicole Murphy (2:15.54), two swimmers who qualified for the state championship meet with their times on Friday.

Today's final will be the top-ranked swimmers' first meeting of the weekend because Friday's qualifying round was broken down by school size. There were separate meets for Class A, B and C schools.

Since CBA is a Class B school in swimming, Speidel didn't have much competition in her heat, winning the event by three-fourths of a pool length over Mexico's Cali DeSanto. She said she is looking forward to facing off against Murphy, her teammate with the Syracuse Chargers club team, for the sectional title.

"That will be interesting," Speidel said. "(Good competition) always makes me swim faster."

One swimmer who won't get much competition for the sectional title today is Ashley Twichell (Fayetteville-Manlius) who won the 500-yard freestyle by more than seven seconds at 5:08.86. Twichell, who won the event as a freshman in 2003, is back at the sectional meet after spending last season away from high school competition while focusing on swimming for the Chargers.

"I missed it a lot," she said after the meet, during which she also won the 200-yard freestyle by one second over New Hartford's Alyssa Cortese. "High school is more about doing really well as a team, where club swimming is more individual."

Twichell's cousin, Laura, is looking to better her pair of 2004 sixth-place finishes in the 100-yard butterfly and the individual medley. She heads into Saturday seeded third in the butterfly, just 1.5 seconds behind top-seeded Scharf.

At the conclusion of Friday's swimming, New Hartford (417 points) had a substantial lead over Liverpool (324.50) and Auburn (243.50). Even with the sectional diving finals, which will be factored into the team scores, still to come on this afternoon, New Hartford and Liverpool's rankings cannot change.

However, F-M could move into third place ahead of Auburn with strong efforts from divers Lisa Goyette and Sarah Langkammerer, because the Maroons do not dive.

Skaneateles pulled out a half-second victory over Lowville in the last event of the day, the 400-yard freestyle relay, to clinch the first-ever Class C sectional title regardless of what happens during today's diving.

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Senior Abby Duggan anchored the team of Britton Weber, Maddie Halstead and Meg Clary.

"It feels like it's my birthday, I'm so excited," Duggan said while waiting with her teammates to ascend the podium. "We've only had a team for three years and we won sectionals. Last year our lacrosse team won states, and this feels just as good, if not better."

© 2005 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

Copyright 2005 syracuse.com. All Rights Reserved.

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Article published Dec 22, 2006

Duke sees red in victory

By Dan Friedell

Special to the News & Record

NEW YORK -- It took four drops of blood on the Madison Square Garden parquet for the Duke Blue Devils to see red.

After a slow first half that saw them post their lowest point total of the year, the sixth-ranked Blue Devils (11-1) played solid ball in the final 14 minutes for a 61-54 victory over Gonzaga. Sophomore point guard Greg Paulus clipped his chin as he dove under the press table chasing a loose ball.

He remained under the table's blue draping for a minute before teammates came to his aid. When he got to his feet, there were four red droplets on the floor. He left the floor for the only time all game to have a trainer bandage his chin.

A minute later, he was back leading the Duke offense to a key non-conference win over the 21stranked Bulldogs (9-4). Despite the blood, Paulus, a former quarterback, was eager to return to action; especially in front of about 50 friends and family who made the four-hour drive down from Syracuse.

"It was, let's get up and see what the score was and try to get out there as soon as possible," he said.

While Paulus didn't hit his next few shots, he found Josh McRoberts for a dunk off an inbounds pass that gave the Blue Devils a 43-38 lead with 8:00 to go. Then he made a 3-pointer a few minutes later that gave them their largest lead of the game, 48-40, and helped the Devils stay in their offense after DeMarcus Nelson fouled out with 4:12 to play.

That, combined with intrepid defense from freshman Jon Scheyer and Nelson against Gonzaga's leading scorer, Derek Raivio, propelled the Blue Devils to the win. Paulus hit four 3-pointers in a career-high 20-point game coach Mike Krzyzewski called "the best of his career."

Paulus' effort was capped by a give-and-go executed with McRoberts that pushed the Duke lead to 56-50 with just under a minute to play. The guard, who has been dealing with a foot injury and illness throughout the season, said he feels like he's almost at full capacity for the first time this year.

"I'm not where I'd like to be," he said. "But I know I'm getting better and getting back into shape."

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Krzyzewski joked about his bench's lack of offensive production -- zero points in 35 combined minutes -- but he was impressed with the way they dealt with Gonzaga's big scorers, Raivio and 6-foot-10 forward Josh Heytvelt.

The duo, averaging 37 points combined, was held to four. Gonzaga coach Mark Few was impressed with the atmosphere at the packed Madison Square Garden (19,528) but would have liked to see his offense make the easy shots.

"We missed layins during a real critical stretch there," he said. "We just didn't deliver."

Krzyzewski was thrilled to see his young team perform well in a foreign environment ahead of the ACC schedule.

"This was a really big win for us," he said. "I'm proud of our guys."

The slow first half provided a contrast for the active and bloody second half.

The opening 20 minutes were defined by two runs, the first by Gonzaga and the second by Duke. When Paulus hit a jumper to tie it at 10 halfway through the period, the Bulldogs took off on a 9-0 sprint that was punctuated by Sean Mallon's 3-pointer that made it 19-10 with 6:07 to go.

During the run, Gonzaga's interior defenders contested every Duke short-range shot, as McRoberts and Brian Zoubek had trouble gaining position against Gonzaga forward Abdullahi Kuso.

Kuso also imposed himself inside during the period, scoring eight points to best his season average by three.

The Blue Devils, energized by a McRoberts blocked shot and an authoritative dunk that made it 1914 with three minutes to play, went on a 10-0 tear during a 4:40 stretch and took a 20-19 lead when Nelson made a long 3-pointer with 1:11 to go. Raivio, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, made his first shot of the half, a mid-range jumper that gave Gonzaga a 21-20 lead heading into the break.

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Article published Mar 5, 2006

Coleman, Terps oust Devils

By Dan Friedell

Special to the News & Record

GREENSBORO -- Maryland freshman Marissa Coleman is legit.

She proved it in high school, she proved it in the ACC regular season. On Saturday, she proved it in the ACC tournament semifinals.

Coleman, the ACC's top freshman, shook off a rocky game Friday against 11th-seeded Georgia Tech -- during which she got an earful from coach Brenda Frese -- to notch a double-double Saturday and lead the third-seeded Terrapins to a 78-70 win over No. 2 Duke.

Coleman scored the Terrapins' first basket of the game and completed the first half with nine points as Maryland finished the opening 20 minutes ahead 38-32.

But that was just an appetizer. The main course came when Coleman exploded for seven points during a 1:35 stretch early in the second half.

A smooth 3-pointer, a floating 15-footer, a baseline drive and laser of a pass to a wide-open Crystal Langhorne gave Maryland a 51-38 lead with 15:10 to play and had Duke coach Gail Goestenkors desperately signaling for a 30-second timeout.

Earlier Saturday, Coleman and forward Laura Harper decided they had to atone for Friday's subpar efforts.

"We both didn't have our best games yesterday," Coleman said. "We had to bring it today because our team was going to need us more for this game."

Harper -- the Terrapins' most vocal cheerleader on the court -- led Maryland with 17 points and Coleman grabbed 13 rebounds to go with her 16 points.

Coming out of Goestenkors' timeout, Jade Perry made a shot inside to give the Terrapins a 53-38 advantage, their largest lead of the game.

But Maryland would not score for the next four minutes. The Blue Devils, who had been a step slow

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on defense most of the game, came to life and went on a 16-0 run to take their first lead of the game with 9:35 to play.

The burst was keyed by both Duke's switch to a 1-3-1 zone and a renewed effort on defense. Goestenkors said her smaller lineup of Monique Currie, Wanisha Smith, Abby Waner, Lindsey Harding and Mistie Williams picked up their intensity on both sides of the court.

But the one-point lead was short-lived. Langhorne made a layup to give Maryland a 55-54 lead with

8:42 left -- and the Terrapins never trailed again.

"We took two real quick shots in a row, and on both occasions they came down and scored," Goestenkors said. "They took the wind out of our sails a little bit."

Maryland held Duke scoreless for almost four minutes and pushed the lead to 62-54.

When freshman guard Kristi Toliver hit a jumper with 2:03 left, it gave the Terrapins a 69-58 lead. From that point on, Maryland converted 9-of-14 free throws to ice the game.

Afterward, Coleman said she appreciated Frese's verbal spanking 18 hours earlier.

"It was just a lot of screaming," she said. "She knows that's what gets me motivated and gets me to do what she wants. She knows that's not going to (negatively) affect me."

The Terrapins will face the Tar Heels today at 1 p.m. for the conference title.

Maryland (28-3)

Duke (26-3)

Blocked shots: Maryland 8 (Harper 2, Coleman 2, Langhorne, Carr, Noirez, Doron); Duke 4 (Williams 2, Bales 2). Steals: Maryland 4 (Langhorne 2, Coleman, Perry); Duke 11 (Currie 3, Harding 3, Waner 2, Williams, Bales, Black). Officials: Mattingly, Dean, Blauch. Attendance: 10,019

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Article published Nov 28, 2005

Panthers get enough offense

By Dan Friedell

Special to the News & Record

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Early in Sunday's 13-9 win over the Buffalo Bills, Carolina tight end Michael Gaines called attention to himself in the worst way.

He was flagged for false starts twice during Carolina's second drive of the game, a 16-play, 11minute marathon that resulted in a 25-yard John Kasay field goal.

But by the end of the game, he was known as the guy who caught a 3-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter that propelled the Panthers (8-3) to a win and gave them a one-game cushion over Atlanta heading into next Sunday's NFC South contest at Bank of America Stadium.

Down 9-6 and facing third-and-goal with just over two minutes to play, Gaines lined up at the 3 and noticed that backup safety Coy Wire (Lawyer Milloy had just left the game with a foot injury) was playing him to the outside. A few seconds later, after a fake handoff froze the defense, Jake Delhomme found Gaines open 6 yards deep in the end zone.

"I knew I had him dead," a smiling Gaines said. "I gave him a head nod, and then I came back in and I was wide open. It was just a nod play ... a get open play."

Delhomme said he was happy to see Gaines get open, because he didn't want to settle for a field goal and a 9-9 tie.

"At that point, we wanted to get it into the end zone," said Delhomme, who found seven different receivers on a 20-for-27, 191-yard passing day. "You didn't want to give (Buffalo) a chance to kick a field goal at the end."

Gaines credited wide receiver Ricky Proehl of Greensboro, a 16-year veteran, with helping him refine his routes. And, having missed almost as much football over the last five years as he has played because of academic problems in high school and college, the raw 25-year-old has needed every bit of that advice.

"He's just a guy who's still learning to play," said tight end Kris Mangum, whose 16-yard catch late in the first quarter erased one of Gaines' false-start penalties. "Two years ago, he wasn't even playing

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football. He's getting better and better."

Working underneath the Bills' cover two defense, the Panthers' tight ends combined to catch five passes from Delhomme. It's the kind of production in the middle of the field Carolina has been looking for to offset the double coverage wide receiver Steve Smith routinely faces.

Delhomme's willingness to look for his secondary options -- the tight ends; DeShaun Foster (four catches) and Brad Hoover (three catches) out of the backfield; and wide receiver Keary Colbert (four catches) -- opened things up for Smith in the second half.

"They rolled to Smitty a good bit, and we just had to be patient," Delhomme said.

Smith, the NFL's leading receiver, responded with catches on two straight plays late in the third quarter.

The drive, which resulted in a John Kasay field goal that tied the game at 6, began with Smith's 19yard punt return that gave the Panthers the ball on their own 42.

"(Smith) still stepped up and made some huge plays for us both in the return game as well as on offense," Panthers head coach John Fox said.

Buffalo rookie Roscoe Parrish returned the ensuing kickoff to the 37-yard line, initiating a drive that would be the Bills' best chance for a touchdown in the second half.

Willis McGahee, who had been ineffective for most of the game, gained 20 of his 53 yards on five carries and Lee Evans made two athletic catches to give Buffalo a first down inside the Carolina 20. Two plays later, on third-and-8, quarterback JP Losman couldn't connect with Evans, who was tightly covered by safety Marlon McCree in the back of the end zone.

McCree, who said he treated the game as a must-win after Atlanta's Thanksgiving-day victory over Detroit, was ready for the play.

"We had seen that play all week on film, and in practice we prepared for it," McCree said. "It was just like we practiced. I just got back there and did my job."

After scoring the lone touchdown of the game to take the 13-9 lead, the Panthers' defense withstood Losman's frenzied nine-play, two-minute drill. Cornerback Chris Gamble dove in front of Parrish and intercepted a pass on the Panthers' 34 with 47 seconds left to end the threat.

Although Fox wasn't happy that his offense held the ball for more than 35 minutes and only scored 13 points, he saw the value of the victory.

"Anytime you can find a way to win on the road in this league, it's important," Fox said. "Luckily we were able to find a way to bounce back from last week."

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11/29/2006 10:00 AM ET

Velez rewarded for breakthrough season

'Jackets shortstop named Class A Offensive Player of the Year

By Dan Friedell / Special to MLB.com

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After several frustrating seasons in the Minors, speedy shortstop Eugenio Velez finally found his stroke with the Augusta GreenJackets in 2006, earning MiLB.com's Class A Offensive Player of the Year award.

Velez put together a dominant campaign with the South Atlantic League finalists, batting .315 with 14 homers, 29 doubles, a Minor League-leading 20 triples, 90 RBIs and 64 stolen bases.

The 24-year-old hit .285 with four homers and 34 RBIs for Class A Lansing in 2005 before being left unprotected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The San Francisco Giants snapped him up, and the native of the Dominican Republic paid immediate dividends under manager Roberto Kelly, a former big leaguer who flashed similar skills during his playing days.

Velez always knew he had the potential to steal bases, having swiped 28 in 2002 in the Dominican Summer League. But it wasn't a skill the Blue Jays were focused on developing.

"The Blue Jays gave me a chance to play baseball, I grew up with them. But when I came to the Giants, a lot of things were different," Velez said. "They recognized I had some speed and helped me with that part of the

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game. Roberto Kelly helped with that." ● Samardzija facing career choice

Marlins agree on Minors contracts For Velez, base stealing was symbolic of the new freedom he felt in the Giants organization.

ADVERTISEMENT "It's hard to explain," he said. "I had a little more confidence and I was looser and happier. In past seasons, I was sometimes bored and uncomfortable."

He also took advantage of the "green light" to stretch doubles into triples.

"They told me that if I hit the ball into the gap or down the line, I've got to go for third because I've got good speed," Velez said. "Roberto Kelly put that in my mind and, thank God, I put it in practice."

Kelly, who took over the GreenJackets after managing Panama's entry in the World Baseball Classic, was thrilled to help mold such a well-rounded offensive player.

"He's a very exciting type of player," Kelly said from his home in Texas. "He can beat you with his power and his speed, he can beat you in so many ways. He can get on base with a walk and steal second and third. It puts pressure on the pitcher and gives the other batters better pitches."

Giants farm director Bobby Evans said the organization was not deterred by Velez's less-than-stellar statistics. He hit .274 with nine triples and 11 stolen bases in 638 at-bats in the Toronto system.

"Our report showed us that this guy had tools," Evans said. "You want to look for athletes, and he's a guy who can play in the middle of the diamond. Scouts don't spend a whole lot of time on the stats."

Kelly revealed the reason for Velez's newfound success.

"He realized the potential he had and how far he could go, and that he was taking it for granted and getting older," Kelly said. "It was time to prove to people that he could make a big jump. And that's exactly what he did."

Kelly also demanded batting cage discipline from his entire team.

"You should use batting practice to work on things and not use it as a driving range," Kelly said. "In the past, he may have tried to hit everything out of the park."

While Augusta hitters were instructed to stay off the range, hitting coach Andy Skeels used a golf analogy to describe the way the ball comes off Velez's bat.

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"If he's swinging the bat well, he's flat through the zone, and it looks like a Tiger Woods 2-iron," he said. "To hit a lot of triples, you have to hit the ball against the wall, and that's what he does."

The comparisons to star athletes doesn't end there. Asked how Velez's combination of speed and power measured up against players from his era, Kelly quickly offered the name of future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson.

"He may even have more home run power than Rickey did," said Kelly, who roamed the same outfield with Henderson as a member of the New York Yankees.

At 6-foot-1 and 163 pounds, Velez isn't intimidating at the plate. But he certainly got the attention of SAL pitchers. "He always swung hard, and when he made contact the ball would go," said West Virginia Power left-hander Steve Garrison. "He had a good eye, and if he saw something to hit, he would hit it. He didn't miss many mistakes."

Velez said he worked on pitch recognition with Skeels during early batting practice for most of the season. He also

enjoyed playing for a Spanish-speaking manager. "I could understand everything (Kelly) was telling me," Velez said. "If he wanted to teach me something in the cage, I could understand what I was doing well and what I was doing badly."

The wisdom Kelly gained from 14 seasons in the Majors wasn't lost on Velez or the other GreenJackets, who went

92-47, including a 53-16 mark in the second half. "I've been thinking about playing in the Major Leagues for a long time," Velez said. "And he was able to tell me how to get there, but not just me alone, the whole team."

While the Giants aren't sure where Velez will start 2007 or what position he will play, they have recognized the enormous potential he began to tap last year.

Dan Friedell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Article published Dec 5, 2006

Panthers flop again

By Dan Friedell

Special to the News & Record

PHILADELPHIA — Jake Delhomme was looking for a chance to redeem himself Monday night. And he got it.

Delhomme got the chance to win the game for the Panthers in the final minute, but his fade pass to Keyshawn Johnson in the right corner of the end zone was picked off by Lito Sheppard with 25 seconds left. And as Sheppard crashed to the ground, Carolina's chance to win crashed, too, as the Eagles snatched a 27-24 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.

The loss was the Panthers' second straight, dropping them to 6-6.

Before the final interception, Delhomme had thrown an ill-advised pass with 7:30 left, leading to the Eagles' game-winning field goal. Nick Goings went one way and Delhomme's pass went the other, and Eagles safety Brian Dawkins picked it off. Dawkins' 38-yard return led to David Akers' 25-yard field goal, which gave Philadelphia a 27-24 lead with 3:13 left.

When the Panthers began their final possession from their 24 with 3:06 to go, Delhomme was ready to make amends.

"I just felt that we were going to get it done," Delhomme said after the second game in a row in which his final pass was intercepted.

The Panthers quickly moved down the field, thanks to a 25-yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson that gave them the ball at the Philadelphia 33 with 2 minutes left. Three plays later, the Panthers had a first down at the Philadelphia 7.

As he set up for what turned out to be his final play of the game, Delhomme was confident.

"If I had the matchup, I'd take it again," he said.

Coach John Fox agreed.

"We feel it's a high-percentage pass," he said.

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Johnson, the target of the pass, supported his quarterback.

"The pass was there," he said. "Ain't nothing wrong with Jake."

Johnson thought he had been pushed, which enabled Shepard to get in position for the interception.

"A call wasn't made," Delhomme said. "I like my chances there, and I thought we had it when I let it go."

While neither quarterback's effort was pretty, Philadelphia's Jeff Garcia, subbing for injured Donovan McNabb, made enough plays to keep the Eagles (6-6) in the game.

Garcia finished 21-for-39 for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He threw no interceptions.

Delhomme completed 22 of 37 for 269 yards and three touchdowns, but threw two costly interceptions.

It was often difficult to tell which quarterback was starting his second game of the season (Garcia) and which one had been behind center all year, but Delhomme converted just enough plays to put his team into the end zone twice in the first half.

The Panthers' first touchdown came on a 9-yard pass to Steve Smith in the first quarter.

Delhomme didn't look great on the Panthers' TD drive late in the first half, but he completed two key passes, including a 38-yarder to Smith, and took the Panthers to the Eagles' 17 yard with 12 seconds to go. The next pass resulted in an interference call in the corner of the end zone on a ball intended for Smith, and the following throw fluttered in the hands of Johnson for a 14-7 lead with 7 seconds remaining

The Panthers opened the second half with an uninspired 3-and-out that mimicked most of their first-half possessions. The Eagles answered with a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that tied the game 14-14.

Carolina broke the tie when Delhomme hit DeAngelo Williams for a 35-yard touchdown pass with

5:17 left in the third quarter.

Garcia found Reggie Brown on a 40-yard bomb down the right sideline to tie the game, 24-24, putting Delhomme on center stage.

Copyright © 2006 The News & Record and Landmark Communications, Inc.

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PawSox' Serrano takes Bulls by horns

01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, April 20, 2006

BY DAN FRIEDELL Special to the Journal

DURHAM, N.C. -- As Pawtucket right-hander Jimmy Serrano climbed through the minors during the last eight years, his E.R.A. rose along with him.

Last year, pitching in Triple A for both Cincinnati and Oakland, he allowed just under four runs per nine innings. This year, after two starts for the PawSox, he arrived at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for yesterday's 11 a.m. start with a 9.35 E.R.A.

After six shutout innings -- featuring six strikeouts -- that number is now down to 5.52.

Backed by a solid offense, Serrano teamed with Manny Delcarmen and Mike Holtz to deal Durham its first shutout loss of the season, 6-0. Serrano kept up his pace of striking out a batter per inning (14 Ks in 14 2/3 innings).

With busses lining up on Jackie Robinson Way to shuttle home thousands of school children in attendance on "education day," Holtz kept up the strikeout pace by whiffing the side to end the game. The Pawtucket pitchers recorded 11 of their 27 outs by strikeout.

"This is what I expect every time I go out," said Serrano (1-1). "It's a good step in the right direction."

Serrano's shutout was only truly threatened when Durham put runners on second and third in both the second and fifth innings. A soft grounder ended the first rally and Willie Harris helped Serrano by running down Delmon Young's drive to the 400-foot sign in center to end the fifth.

The heart of Durham's order -- B.J. Upton, Young and Elijah Dukes -- went a combined 1-for-11.

"I know those guys are good. You hear what they can do, and you definitely don't want to see what they can do," Serrano said.

The early start didn't faze Serrano or first-baseman Jeff Bailey, who went 3-for-3, including a two-run homer over the 32-foot wall in left that gave the PawSox a 2-0 lead in the fourth.

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"You've just got to act like it's a 1 o'clock game,mentally. You've got to quit complaining and go play," said Bailey. "Sometimes it's better. You don't have time to think about your swing too much and get in your own head."

The PawSox scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, with their two-run eighth punctuated by a long homer to right-center from designated hitter Hee-Seop Choi.

Pawtucket is now 7-7 thanks to its 3-3 road trip, which concludes with 7 p.m. games tonight and Friday.

"I thought it was an outstanding effort by our boys today," PawSox manager Ron Johnson said. "The quality hitters they have in this lineup really magnifies the outings by Serrano, Delcarmen and Holtz."

Online at: http://www.projo.com/pawsox/content/projo_20060420_20psox.17b9dc56.html

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