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The softball team's run to the state Class A championship game made the most noise last season, but it was a successful spring overall for the Blue Ridge athletic programs.
This spring is shaping up the same way.
The softball team has outscored its first two Lackawanna League opponents, 25-0, while winning early on the 10-run rule both times and giving up just two hits. The latest win was a 15-0 romp over Scranton Prep.
The rest of the programs are enjoying success as well. Every Blue Ridge varsity team arrived at the Easter holiday with a winning record.
In baseball, the Raiders ripped Bishop O'Hara, 14-4, and Bishop Hannan, 15-2, last week to improve to 4-2. The Raiders have scored at least 10 runs in all four victories, including a season-opening, 14-0 shutout of Susquehanna.
Both track teams were off to impressive 3-0 starts before losing to strong Western Wayne teams.
The girls' track team beat Mountain View, 104-42, to start the week and won its first three by an average of 52 points before losing to defending division champion Western Wayne, 90-60.
The boys' track team won its first three by an average of 47 before falling to Western Wayne, 91-59.
The boys' volleyball team lost to Mountain View, but beat Susquehanna last week to run its record to 3-2.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Susquehanna football coach Joe Zabielski's task got easier and more complicated at the same time last week.
When the Susquehanna school board voted to accept joint sponsorship of football with Blue Ridge, Zabielski gained a new set of athletes for his program.
Pending likely approval by District 2 and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the decision also requires Zabielski to change his approach. Preseason practice will mean more time spent evaluating the abilities of unknown personnel and extra attention toward meshing two groups into one cohesive unit.
It is a lot to address early in a coaching career, but the additional resources to work with give Zabielski a chance of producing an improved team after going 0-10 in his first season as a head coach.
In baseball, Elk Lake, a state Class A semifinalist last season, got off to a strong start in its first week of league action.
The Warriors won four straight, including two shutout wins over county teams Saturday. Elk Lake put Susquehanna away early, 15-0, then defeated Mountain View, 9-0. Seth Button had four hits in the first game and pitched a one-hitter in the second game.
In professional sports, the Binghamton Senators extended their American Hockey League season to another round with a win Friday. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins had to settle for simply stretching their season at least two more nights with a win Saturday.
Binghamton, which had a first-round bye after winning the East Division, completed a three-game, second-round sweep of the Worcester IceCats with a 1-0 road win Friday.
John Langfeld scored midway through the second period and Ray Emery made 29 saves in the shutout for the Senators.
Binghamton is one of the last eight teams alive in the AHL. It has a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton started the week with two road losses against Central Division champion and Western Conference top seed Grand Rapids.
The Griffins used the play of AHL Goaltender of the Year Marc Lamothe to win, 3-1 and 2-1.
The Penguins faced possible elimination Saturday, but broke out of a 1-1 tie by scoring five straight third-period goals in a 6-2 win.
Milan Kraft, who finished with two goals and one assist, broke the tie with a short-handed goal.
"I was hoping for a 2-1 win," Penguins coach Glenn Patrick said. "The talk on the bench was that we didn't need a goal. We needed to stop them from getting one."
Tomas Surovy, who also had two assists, responded with a goal to break the game open. Defenseman Micki DuPont then added two straight goals to knock Lamothe out of the game.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Blue Ridge is at Elk Lake Wednesday in a matchup of Lackawanna League softball unbeatens.
The New Haven Ravens are scheduled to make their first appearance of the season at the NYSEG Stadium against the Binghamton Mets April 28-30 in three straight 6 p.m. games.
New Haven's lineup includes outfielder Rich Thompson from Montrose. Thompson remained at the Class AA level in the Toronto Blue Jays chain this season, but the Blue Jays moved their team from Tennessee to New Haven.
The Ravens were leading the North Division going into the weekend with a 5-4 record. Thompson played in every game and was hitting .333 with eight runs, a double, an RBI, three walks and two stolen bases.
Jason Pantzar of Forest City shot a 78 at Glenmaura National Golf Club to finish as medalist in Wilkes University's 331-342 loss to the University of Scranton.
Pantzar, in his fourth season starting for the Colonels, has figured in the team scoring in each match as Wilkes has gone 3-2. With an 82 at Huntsville Country Club and a 41 in a nine-hole match, Pantzar is in position to improve on last season's stroke average of 82.2.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
"Hot" Is The Way To Describe KURT BUSCH Hot and fiery both on and off the track, is the best way to describe young Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 97 Sharpie Ford.
The boyish looks might fool a lot of folks, but Busch is a determined and driven driver.
In the garage area he is always tinkering with the car or talking with crew members as to what needs to be done to make his car drive and handle better.
"It's all about winning," said Busch. "That's what I've always wanted to do. Before I get on the track I believe I'm going to win."
Car owner, Jack Roush, who has four other Winston Cup teams, will tell you quickly that even at the young age of 24, Busch is very race savvy.
"He's as good a racer as I've ever seen," said Roush. "And he gets better with each race. He's so determined to take what he's learned and make things better."
His aggressiveness behind the wheel is great, but off the track he speaks out also.
Busch was leading the points going into the Atlanta race, but his No. 97 car was one of four Roush cars that developed engine problems that Sunday. His reaction to his DNF was less than tactful.
"This is a very big hurdle we have to overcome," said Busch. "The way this year started, it didn't seem like there is any light at the end of the tunnel.
"He (Jack Roush) needs to let his engineers and motor development department in Michigan take over the primary role."
At least he was honest with his opinions.
Busch is currently fifth in the points standings, 205 points behind his teammate, Matt Kenseth.
While there are many racing fans that criticize Busch for his actions and aggressive style, no one can argue with success.
It was only three years ago that he popped up at Daytona in a Craftsman Truck. He had no experience at long-distance racing or working with drafting partners.
Busch moved up to the Busch series ranks in 2001, but fell just short of winning rookie of the year, which went to Kevin Harvick.
At the beginning of the 2002 season, Roush moved him into one of his Winston Cup cars.
After one season of Cup competition, there were many drivers and crew chiefs that thought the young man from Nevada was the one to beat this season because of his four wins in 2002.
Despite the setback because of engine failures, it appears Busch is headed for a good season-at least a top-10-and soon, maybe a Winston Cup championship.
He's a determined young man, and in spite of his cockiness, he has that aggressive style of driving that is necessary to win races.
Top-10 Winston Cup points leaders after 9 of 36 races: Kenseth-1330, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-1279, 3. J. Gordon-1191, 4. Johnson-1151, 5. Busch-1125, 6. Harvick-1097, 7. Stewart-1092, 8. Waltrip-1088, 9. Craven-1082, 10. Sadler-1055.
TODD BODINE Leads Busch Series Top-10 points leaders after 8 of 34 races: 1. T. Bodine-1120, 2. Hornaday-1042, 3. D. Green-1035, 4. Hmiel-1018, 5. Bliss-1018, 6. Keller-971, 7. McMurray-957, 8. J. Sauter-952, 9. Riggs-950, 10. Vickers-910.
HAMILTON Is Truck Leader Top-10 points leaders after 4 of 25 races: 1. Hamilton-670, 2. Crawford-631, 3. Gaughan-594, 4. Musgrave-591, 5. Setzer-590, 6. Kvapil-569, 7. Cook-557, 8. Pressley-551, 9. J. Wood-520, 10. Leffler-514.
The NASCAR Busch and Winston Cup teams go west to California Speedway in Fontana, CA. The Craftsman Trucks do not race again until May 16.
Saturday, April 26: Busch Series Auto Club 300, 9 of 34 races, 150 laps/300 miles, 4 p.m. TV: Fox.
Sunday, April 27: Winston Cup California 500, 10 of 36 races, 250 laps/500 miles, 2:30 p.m.
Racing Trivia Question: When did the California Speedway open?
Answer To Last Week's Question: Dale Jarrett has three Daytona 500 wins (2000, 1996, 1993).
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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