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The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons have not been able to match the won-lost records of their four straight playoff teams so far this season.
The Red Barons have, however, continued their recent tradition of strong representation on the International League all-star team.
In 2001, the Red Barons set a franchise record with five players selected to play in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Four more were selected last season when the Red Barons went on to set another franchise record with five players on the post-season International League all-star team.
Starting pitcher Ryan Madson, second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Travis Chapman have been selected to continue that tradition this season. The three Red Barons will play for their manager, Marc Bombard, in the July 16 game against the Pacific Coast League all-stars at AutoZone Park in Memphis.
Richmond catcher Johnny Estrada, who was selected for the all-star game and the post-season all-star team last season while with the Red Barons, is also on the team.
Only Buffalo, the IL North Division leader, has more players on the team than the Red Barons. Buffalo had five players selected. Richmond and Durham also have three players on the team.
Madson is second in the league with 10 wins and in the top 10 in earned run average (3.35).
The 6-foot-6, 22-year-old, right-hander was the Eastern League's Most Valuable Pitcher last season when he went 16-4 with a 3.20 ERA.
After struggling a bit in his three April starts, Madson has been one of the International League's top pitchers. In 13 starts during May, June and July, he is 9-2 with 60 strikeouts and 22 walks while posting a 2.97 ERA in 81 2/3 innings.
Chapman and Utley give the Red Barons two of the league's top four players in runs batted in.
Chapman is first with 56 RBI.
The third baseman started for the National League affiliates in last season's Class AA all-star game. After being claimed by Detroit in the Rule V draft in the off-season, Chapman was returned to the Philadelphia Phillies organization when the Tigers did not place him on the Opening Day major-league roster.
Utley, 24, opened the season with Philadelphia. He is fourth in the IL with 51 RBI. He is also tied for second with 52 runs, third with 95 hits and ninth with a .319 batting average.
Utley leads the team with 11 home runs.
Despite not making the IL all-star team, Utley won the Paul Owens Award as the top position player in the Phillies system last season. The first-round draft pick from UCLA has returned to second base after spending his first Class AAA season attempting the transition to third base.
Utley got his first big-league hit in dramatic style this season when he hit a grand slam off Colorado's Aaron Cook in a 9-1 Philadelphia win April 24.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Eastern League announced the players for its all-star game Thursday. The Binghamton Mets will be represented by three players.
Pitcher Neal Musser and infielder Craig Brazell made the Northern Division team through fan voting. Infielder Chris Basak is also on the roster.
Musser is 2-6 with a 4.07 ERA.
Brazell leads the team in batting average (.326), home runs (13) and RBI (54).
Basak is batting .265.
Montrose graduate Rich Thompson might be an all-star candidate if he spent the season in one place. Thompson is batting over .300 overall on the season, including time with New Haven in the Eastern League and Syracuse in the International League.
Since his promotion to Class AAA, Thompson is batting .296 with 11 stolen bases in 25 games.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BIFFLE Leads Ford Trio At Daytona, Daytona Beach
FL It wasn't the fastest car or the best known driver that won Saturday night's Pepsi 400. Instead, it was a rookie, who was able to stretch his car's fuel mileage that wound up in victory lane.
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Grainger Taurus, captured this first win of his NASCAR Winston Cup career by winning the NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400. The victory snapped an 11-race winless stretch for Ford on restrictor plate tracks. The last time a Ford won at either Daytona or Talladega was July 1, 2000 when Jeff Burton won the Pepsi 400.
In addition, it marked the first time Ford has swept the top three spots since Rockingham when Dale Jarrett won with Matt Kenseth second and Kurt Busch third.
The win was Ford's sixth of the season and fifth for Roush Racing. Busch has won a series-high three times while Kenseth has one victory. Ford now has a NASCAR Winston Cup record 543 all-time series wins.
Biffle, a former NASCAR Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series champion, put himself in a position to earn his first win in 24 races because of a decision midway during the 160-lap race.
He brought his No. 16 Roush Ford into the pits to top off his gas tank on lap 79 during a caution.
His lap stop came on lap 120, and he had just enough gas to outlast several of the earlier leaders including the DEI teams of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip.
"I didn't realize what was going on in the later part of the race why they were stopping 16 laps before us, but I realize now what had happened and it really paid off for us tonight," said Biffle.
Biffle took the lead on lap 140 after Dale Jr., Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson had to pit for fuel. His teammate Matt Kenseth ran shotgun behind him until he pitted on lap 156.
From then on it appeared it would be a showdown between Biffle and Bobby Labonte. But Labonte, who was running second, ran out of fuel on the white flag lap.
"I figured Bobby Labonte would get me there at the end," said Biffle. "He's got a lot of experience at these superspeedways and this is my first year as a rookie in these cars. This thing was really loose and pushing on the bottom, but Bobby didn't have anybody to help him. If Matt Kenseth wouldn't have stayed up there, he would have definitely got me."
Jeff Burton, another Roush driver finished second, over 4-seconds behind Biffle.
"We were really good," said Burton. "We really struggled in February and we struggled at Talladega. They told me as soon as I came out that I had to start saving fuel, so we saved fuel the first two-thirds of the run. That's why we weren't able to get up there and mix it up. I wish we would have, but if we had, we might have run out of gas. Sometimes you've got to work with your head and not with your foot.
"I'm so proud of Greg Biffle and Randy Goss. I'm a fan of theirs and I was so happy when they came on board in Winston Cup racing with us. Short of us winning, that really makes me happy to see."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Woods Bros. Ford came in third, his highest finish of the year.
"They made a super call on trying to work fuel strategy to their best," said Rudd. "If you notice, all the Roush cars were 1-2-3 there at the end of the race. I'm sure it's quite an upset anytime you beat the DEI cars. We didn't actually beat 'em on the track, but beat 'em on economy."
Polesitter, Steve Park came in 39th after being involved in an accident.
Top ten finishing Order: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Jeff Burton, 3. Ricky Rudd, 4. Terry Labonte, 5. Bobby Labonte, 6. Matt Kenseth, 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 8. Jeremy Mayfield, 9. Kevin Harvick, 10. Dale Jarrett.
Top-10 points leaders after 17 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-2551, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-2371, 3. J. Gordon-2348, 4. B. Labonte-2296, 5. Waltrip-2159, 6. Johnson-2079, 7. Busch-2067, 8. Harvick-2049, 9. R. Wallace-2019, 10. Marlin-1998.
RIGGS Leads All Busch Drivers Top-10 points leaders after 18 of 34 races: 1. Riggs-2440, 2. D. Green-2438, 3. Hornaday-2407, 4. T. Bodine-2397, 5. Keller-2356, 6. Vickers-2352, 7. Hamilton Jr.-2249, 8. J. Sauter-2210, 9. Hmiel-2125, 10. Wimmer-2123.
TRAVIS KVAPIL Takes Over Truck Lead Top-10 points leaders after 10 of 25 races: 1. Kvapil-1529, 2. Gaughan-1523, 3. Hamilton-1499, 4. Crawford-1478, 5. Musgrave-1473, 6. Setzer-1472, 7. Wood-1431, 8. Leffler-1357, 9. Cook-1335, 10. Edwards-1287.
The Winston Cup and Busch Series are at Chicago, while the Craftsman Trucks go to Sparta KY.
Saturday, July 12, NASCAR Busch Series Tropicana Twister 300, race 19 of 34, 200 laps/300 miles, : 2:30 p.m. TV: NBC.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Ford Tough 225, race 11 of 25, 150 laps/225 miles, 8 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Sunday, July 13, NASCAR Winston Cup Tropicana 400, race 18 of 36, 267 laps/400 miles, 2:30 p.m., TV: NBC.
Racing Trivia Question: How many Winston Cup Championships did Darrell Waltrip win?
Answer To Last Week's Question: Bobby Hamilton Sr. is driving in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he is third in the points standings.
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.
Seth Button did it all on the baseball field in June.
The Elk Lake senior led his team to the state high school championship game, was drafted by a Major League team, maintained his commitment to play college baseball first and excelled in an all-star game.
The variety of accomplishments should be no surprise for Button. The Lackawanna League Division III North Player of the Year, according to a vote by the division's coaches, has been an all-star at four different positions in high school. Button played catcher and outfield in the past and was a standout first baseman and pitcher this season.
Button's latest honor is his second selection as a Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month. He was honored last year for his play on the basketball court.
"The kids always felt confident with Seth up there," Elk Lake coach Al Caines said. "They knew how good he was."
Button pitched in the state Class A baseball championship game despite suffering an elbow injury when he was struck by the ball in practice the day before.
In the 2-1 loss to Bellwood-Antis, Button struck out six without walking a batter in 3 1/3 innings in relief, but suffered the loss on the only run he allowed.
Button played a major role in each of Elk Lake's three state tournament wins. He helped the Warriors to the final by winning two games - one in relief, one in a complete game, nine-inning effort - and hitting a game-winning home run.
The strong state tournament performance allowed Button to finish the season with a .523 batting average and a 2.13 earned run average.
Button started the season 22-for-29 at the plate. He finished with six doubles, a triple, four home runs and 25 runs batted in.
On the mound, he was 8-3 with two saves. He struck out 103 while giving up 47 hits and 25 walks in 67 2/3 innings.
In the Lackawanna Baseball Challenge, Button struck out five in two hitless innings as the starting pitcher in Division III's 2-0 loss to Division II at Lackawanna County Stadium.
Button, who has committed to play at Gloucester County Community College in New Jersey, was drafted in the 50th round by the Cleveland Indians.
Seth lives in Auburn with his stepmother, Loretta Button, and Bob Ralston.
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