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The Elk Lake Warriors advanced to the state Class A baseball semifinals last season after winning their second straight division title.
There is no reason to believe that the run of success is over.
Elk Lake was one of only two unbeatens remaining in the entire Lackawanna League before losing Friday.
The Warriors are off to a 6-1 start with a veteran lineup that is missing just one starter - two-time division Player of the Year Jeremy Pierson - from last season's team.
Elk Lake has 10 of its top 11 players back from last season's championship team, including three-year starters John Pierson, Tony Rezykowski, Seth Button, Tony Dorman and Derek Guiton.
Button is actually in his fourth year as a varsity starter. He played at Blue Ridge during his sophomore season. He is Elk Lake's number-one pitcher while also playing first base and shortstop.
Pierson, Rezykowski and Button occupy the top three spots in the batting order. Pierson is an infielder and pitcher. Rezykowski is the catcher.
Dorman plays third base and Guiton is in centerfield.
Pierson, Dorman and Guiton all broke into the starting lineup on the first championship team as freshmen.
The Warriors still start only three seniors - Rezykowski, Button and right-fielder Paul Roman.
Ben Lyne, a starter in left-field last season and one of the pitchers, is another senior.
The other starters are: shortstop/pitcher Tom Blaisure, first baseman/designated hitter Colin Lunger and left-fielder Tyler Emmerich.
Coach Al Caines is happy that the team got off to its strong start despite having to play consecutive games after doing most of their preparation inside.
"I wasn't quite sure how we would start," Caines said. "We haven't been on the field.
"I wanted to break in slowly. You can only do so many things in the gym."
Button, Rezykowski, Pierson and Lunger have been leading the offense along with Roman, who moved up from ninth to seventh in the batting order after a strong start.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Elk Lake beat Blue Ridge, 10-8, in a key Lackawanna League Division III North baseball game before losing a Division III crossover to Old Forge, 2-1, Friday on a run in the seventh inning.
"Last year, we got beat by Old Forge and that loss kind of triggered everything," Caines said. "After the loss, we 10-runned five teams.
"This may not be that bad."
Blue Ridge lost some of its momentum in baseball with two tough losses. Before falling to Elk Lake, it lost, 7-6, to Old Forge.
In softball, Blue Ridge has allowed just one run through four league games after beating Forest City, 6-1, and Riverside, 2-0.
In track, Blue Ridge swept boys' and girls' meets from both Susquehanna and Lackawanna Trail.
Blue Ridge beat Susquehanna, 116-22, in the boys' meet and, 102-44, in the girls' meet. It beat Lackawanna Trail, 79-71 and 86-63.
In professional hockey, the Binghamton Senators kept rolling in the Calder Cup playoffs by taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The Senators were doing just fine without Jason Spezza, but got a boost from the American Hockey League's top rookie.
Spezza requested to be sent back to Binghamton after he sat in Ottawa and did not play in the first-round series with the New York Islanders. The Ottawa Senators sent Spezza to Binghamton for the weekend and he played a role in two dramatic comebacks at the Broome County Arena.
Spezza scored the game-tying goal and Joe Murphy followed with the game-winner at 13:29 of overtime in Saturday's 2-1 Binghamton victory. Ray Emery made 33 saves.
Spezza assisted two Joe Murphy goals Sunday, including the tying goal with 4:12 remaining. Chris Bala then scored the game-winner with just 16 seconds left in regulation for a 3-2 victory and a commanding lead in the series.
While in Binghamton in the regular season, Spezza had 22 goals and 32 assists in just 43 games. He also had seven goals and 14 assists in 33 National Hockey League games for Ottawa.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were eliminated from the Western Conference quarterfinals earlier in the week. The Penguins lost the best-of-five series, three games to one, to the Grand Rapids Griffins when they dropped a 3-2 decision Monday.
In arena football, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers used five Chris Boden touchdown passes, including three to Cosmo DeMatteo, to get their first win of the season, 58-35, over the Rochester Brigade Friday night at the First Union Arena.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Elk Lake has two key baseball games this week.
The Warriors are home Wednesday with Riverside, which joins the Warriors and Blue Ridge as the only Lackawanna League Class A schools with just one loss. The Warriors then travel to Lackawanna Trail Friday in a game that could decided the Division III North lead.
In professional hockey, the Binghamton Senators are at Bridgeport Wednesday and Friday and could wrap up the series on the road. A fifth game, if necessary, is scheduled for Saturday night at the Broome County Arena.
Teresa Ely broke out of a recent slump in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader when she went 2-for-3 and scored the first run as Susquehanna University completed a sweep of Albright College with a 3-1 victory.
Ely, a senior, left-handed hitting outfielder from Montrose, has started 16 games while Susquehanna has gone 8-11-1, including 5-7 in the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth League.
Last season, Ely was a second-team Commonwealth all-star when she led Susquehanna with a .388 batting average, five stolen bases and a .423 on-base percentage. With the help of a 17-game hitting streak, she had 38 hits for the fifth-best total in school history.
Ely is hitting .184 with six runs scored and four stolen bases. This will be her fourth season as a letter-winner.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BUSCH And FORD Win At California
Fontana, CA Kurt Busch won a three-way battle in his No. 97 Ford over Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace in the last 14 laps of the Winston Cup Auto Club 500 Sunday at California Speedway.
The win made Busch the first repeat winner of the 2003 season. It was also his fifth win in the last 15 races.
"This made up for last year when we came up short," said Busch. "We struggled for a few races, like at Talladega, but this one was awesome."
Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet barely beat Wallace to the line for second.
"My car was good on the git-go and for about four or five laps, then it would tighten up," said Labonte. "We were junk yesterday. But today we started 19th and wound up second. That was pretty good."
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Dodge has now gone winless in the last 72 races.
"No, I don't feel disappointed," he said. " We had a good hotrod. The car was great. We shined today, and it will come."
Polesitter Steve Park collided with Ryan Newman on the first lap and wound up 40th.
Tony Stewart, who led the most laps, lost an engine in his No. 20 Chevrolet after 128 laps and finished 41st.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kurt Busch, 2. Bobby Labonte, 3. Rusty Wallace, 4. Bill Elliott, 5. Jamie McMurray, 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. John Andretti, 9. Matt Kenseth, 10. Sterling Marlin.
Top-10 points leaders after 10 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-1473, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-1429, 3. J. Gordon-1321, 4. Busch-1305, 5. Johnson-1266, 6. Waltrip-1234, 7. Craven-1205, 8. B. Labonte-1201, 9. Harvick-1173, 10. Sadler-1149.
Want More Races, But What About Time NASCAR Winston Cup racing is probably the hottest sport in the U. S. Throughout the country race tracks are begging for another race date.
Fans are aware of the intensive lobbying efforts by Texas Motor Speedway to gain a second race date, but there are tracks not even built yet that are clamoring for races.
Almost every facility that now hosts only one Cup race is appealing to NASCAR for a second one. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"We continue to see other speedways going public with their efforts to land a second yearly NASCAR Winston Cup event," said Chris Powell, general manager of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"What better market than Las Vegas to visit twice a year? As new sponsors come into the sport, they want exposure in large, popular markets. We appeal to NASCAR's good business sense that another race in Las Vegas would be a tremendous benefit to the sport."
As for shifting a date from another Speedway Motorsports facility, Powell said that would not happen. "Bruton (Smith, SMI chairman) has been firm on that issue, and we fully support his stance," Powell said. "But it wasn't long ago that NASCAR said it had capped the schedule at 32 races. Today there are 36. In the case of a unique destination such as Las Vegas, which offers a record of past success, there is a calling for one more."
Almost every racing facility can back up their claim for a second date with excellent marketing facts, but the question is, what about the drivers and team members?
How can they fit additional dates into their schedule? At the weekly Winston Cup teleconference, Tony Stewart told listeners how appreciative he was to have Easter Week off, and that he believes the sport needs more open dates.
The Easter Weekend was the first weekend for most teams since early in the year and one of only three throughout the season.
The schedule calls for 38 race weekends-36 races, The Bud Shootout and the Winston-over the course of 41 weeks. It all begins in February and continues through November. With testing, many teams have been going hard since the first of the year.
Is the schedule already too much? And how could additional dates be added?
Eddie Jones is the general manager of the No. 49 BAM Dodge driven by Ken Schrader.
"If you are a racer, and you are a dedicated racer, then, no, the schedule isn't too long. This is what we do - we're racers. What would we do if we weren't racing? We'd probably just go racing somewhere else on the weekend. That's what a lot of the guys would do, at least the ones who are serious about this.
"The schedule is not too bad right now. Once you get the resources and people in place to do it, it's not too demanding. The guys who have done this for a long a time, and the ones who have been around for a while, it doesn't bother them. I don't think it would bother them, or myself, even if they added onto the schedule. This is just what we do and it's our living."
John Andretti, who now drives the No 43 Betty Crocker/Cheerios Dodge, grew up in a racing family.
"I think the schedule is tough in a lot of different ways," said Andretti. "I have always said that it's tougher on the team members than anyone else. They have to get back to the shops and get back to work after the weekend is over. Airplanes became a convenience at one point, and now they are a necessity to get people back and forth in a timely manner.
"Obviously you want to diversify throughout the country, but once you go from a concentration in one area and start spreading out, it makes it harder and more expensive for teams. Saying that, that's part of the growing pains of the sport. Not everything is easy when you grow. It's the price we pay for our growth. Did we grow beyond the point that we can handle? No, but you still want to believe that people have lives and families that they want to be close to and spend time with. You can't turn away and ignore it, and you can't just not listen to it. Pretty soon, either you are going to have to be single to be in this sport, or have someone who is extremely understanding."
While everyone agrees that there will have to be sacrifices for additional races, I believe the question is not if, but when.
NASCAR is currently looking at the schedule and television ratings. I believe within two years, at least one more Winston Cup date will be added.
KENSETH Wins California Busch Race The top ten results of the NASCAR Busch Series 1-800-Pit-Shop.com 300, run Saturday, April 26 at Fontana, CA: 1. Matt Kenseth, 2. Michael Waltrip, 3. Kevin Harvick, 4. Kasey Kahne, 5. Todd Bodine, 6. Jamie McMurray, 7. Jason Keller, 8. Shane Hmiel, 9. David Green, 10. Ron Hornaday.
The top-10 points leaders after 9 of 34 races; 1. T. Bodine-1275, 2. Hornaday-1176, 3. D. Green-1173, 4. Hmiel-1165, 5. Bliss-1130, 6. Keller-1117, 7. McMurray-1107, 8. Kahne-1054, 9. Riggs-1053, 10. J. Sauter-1046.
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 drivers are at Richmond, VA. The Craftsman Trucks have the week off.
Friday, May 2, Busch Series, Hardees 250, race 10 of 34, 250 laps/187.5 miles, 7 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Saturday, May 3, Winston Cup Pontiac Excitement 400, race 11 of 36, 400 laps/300 miles, 7 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Racing Trivia Question: How many drivers are running for Winston Cup rookie of the year this season?
Answer To Last Week's Question: The California Speedway opened June 20, 1997.
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.
This is the third in a series of what we consider to be the best NASCAR racers of all times. Our list of drivers probably won't line up with the 50-Greatest Drivers selected by NASCAR, but an article on a different driver will appear about every other week.
Curtis Turner was one of racing's earliest stars and perhaps its most controversial driver. He won 17 NASCAR races and 17 poles in a career that started in 1949 and ended in 1968.
Perhaps Turner is most remembered because of his suspension from NASCAR competition by Bill France Sr. from 1960 until 1965, after he tried to organize the drivers for the Teamsters Union.
In a storybook comeback in 1965, Turner won a 500-mile race at North Carolina Motor Speedway on October 31.
But what makes him stand out is the way he lived out his life.
He was a racer, party-thrower, moonshine hauler, pilot and timber baron.
He threw parties that lasted all night and sometimes several days. A small party would consist of 250-300 people. Some came for the whiskey, while others came for the dancing, lie swapping and music.
"He could really throw them," said Bobby Allison. "I was just a young hot shot driver at the time, but he could put on some big shindigs. I remember one time the police coming in about daylight and asking him if he didn't think it was too late to party.
"It didn't bother him, I think he just said something like, 'hell no, it's just beginning.'"
Curtis Morton Turner was born in 1924 on a small farm in Floyd County, Virginia. Like most early racers, Turner's heritage included moonshine running.
In the late 1940s it was not uncommon for many moonshine runners to wind up in Atlanta, or other large cities in Georgia and the Carolinas. They might race on Saturday or Sunday in some cow pasture, and then head back home with a load of sugar for the still.
Turner says he was 10, and had just learned to drive when he made his first run. He was driving along a dirt road with about 100 gallons of whiskey when he came up on a mail truck.
He forgot which side he was supposed to pass on and went around on the right side and wound up against a fence.
After dropping out of school at the age of 14, he went to work in his father's sawmill. To supplement his salary of 10-cents an hour he got into the transporting business. By the time he was 18, he owned three sawmills.
While most sawmill operators sold their timber to the first buyer, Turner waited for his price. Quite often wood stacked up outside his mills and in order to make his weekly payroll he ran whiskey at night.
During World War II he served in the U. S. Navy. After the war he went back to running moonshine but now he was getting pursued. After one run he found three bullets embedded in the rear of his 1942 Ford coupe.
A few years after the war ended Turner went into the timber business. In a 1968 Sports Illustrated interview Turner said he had sold two million acres of North Carolina timberland during his lifetime.
Turner was always restless. He threatened to retire from racing after every big timber deal, but he usually wound up broke. This happened several times.
The years in which he started building the Charlotte Motor Speedway were the most tumultuous of his life. The bitter struggle with finances caused him many problems.
The financing of the speedway by Turner and his group of backers was very marginal to begin with. They started out with 2.3 million, but construction costs soared and Turner scratched, begged and borrowed from everyone.
He even bought a small bank. It was so small that the maximum it could loan was $12,000. But Turner gave himself a loan of $75,000, which wasn't discovered for nearly two years.
Two days before the 1960 World 600, the paving contractors demanded their $75,000 immediately. To back up their demands they moved all their heavy equipment on the track in front of the paving machine, which still had about 100 yards to go to finish the track.
Turner and one or two other directors, took shotguns and pistols in hand and backed the operators against the wall, while Turner's own men completed the job.
Three races were run and each one was a financial success, but the money drain had been too much for speedway directors and in order to get the track on a sound financial footing, Turner went to the Teamsters Union for a loan of $850,000.
Turner did not know it at the time, but the Teamsters Union could not have loaned him the money.
Turner, along with Tim Flock was barred from NASCAR. Meanwhile, the board of directors ousted him from control of the speedway.
France ended the suspension on Sept. 30, 1965, and Turner quickly showed that four years on the sidelines hadn't diminished his skills. In his first race, the National 500, he finished third. Two weeks later, he won the inaugural race at North Carolina Motor Speedway.
"Turner was one of my early heroes,' said Allison. "But the thing about the man is he could do so much. He could have made it in practically anything he chose. That's how smart he was.
"He had that sixth sense that just told him where he needed to be on the track. That sometimes means more than horsepower or handling. He just had it. That's all I can say."
Turner died in a 1970 plane crash at the age of 46.
To all Susquehanna and Blue Ridge football parents, the next Saber Football Booster Club meeting will be held on May 6, at 7:00 p.m., at the Susquehanna Community High School. They have many things planned and need your assistance. For more information, call Kathy Whitney at 879-4440.
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