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Issue Home April 13, 2004 Site Home





Local Sports Scene
Justin Herbert Is March's Athlete Of The Month

Quick Start With Royals For Montrose's Thompson

Montrose graduate Rich Thompson sat in the Kansas City Royals dugout for the first nine innings of Saturday's game with the Cleveland Indians.

Given a chance in the 10th inning, Thompson quickly showed why he can be valuable as a reserve, for now, in his major-league debut season.

Thompson's speed turned a pair of otherwise harmless singles into the winning run as the Royals improved to 3-2 with a 7-6 victory over the Indians.

Matt Stairs singled with two out and Thompson, whose only previous appearance had been as a defensive sub in the outfield, was sent in to pinch run.

When Aaron Guiel fell behind in the count 0-2, Thompson was off and running.

Thompson stole second base where he was able to score easily on Guiel's single to shallow center field.

"I was pretty excited because I was able to help this team win," Thompson told "If I got my first steal in a game that we won by 10 runs, it wouldn't have been anything like this."

Thompson got a charge out of the reaction from the Kansas City crowd, which included four family members.

"The fans are huge, just up on their feet cheering for us," Thompson said of the excitement running through Kansas City during a 3-2 start to the season. "It helps so much when you have that kind of support behind you."

There was support specifically for Thompson.

According to the report, Thompson's mother, Anne, used one of three weeks a year she gets to come home from Nicaragua in order to be in Kansas City for Rich's first week in the big leagues. Anne is a missionary with "Food for the Hungry."

Thompson's sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Paul Trudeau, were also in attendance.


Wilkes-Barre - The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Binghamton Senators brought the regular-season portion of their series to an end Wednesday night.

The teams could meet again in the upcoming Calder Cup playoffs.

The Penguins used a 2-2 tie with the Senators to clinch third place in the American Hockey League East Division and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Binghamton clinched its playoff berth in its final game Saturday, then picked up the home ice for the three-game, first-round miniseries after the results of Sunday's games.

The Penguins' playoff roster has existed on paper since March 12, but Wednesday's game was the first chance to see the team together on the ice.

At first glance, the combination was effective.

The Penguins outshot the Senators, 37-17, and led until Binghamton converted one of its three late power-play chances.

"The important thing is how we played," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought we played very well."

Team captain Tom Kostopoulos, the most productive scorer in franchise history, and goalie Sebastien Caron returned from extended stays in Pittsburgh. Forward Konstantin Koltsov and defenseman Brooks Orpik, who had not played here this season, also came down from the parent club when the National Hockey League season ended.

They did not need long to blend into the lineup.

Koltsov's world-class speed was on display in two near misses as the Penguins fell behind, 1-0, in the first period. He contributed two assists in the second period as the Penguins took the lead.

Caron played in goal and was credited with 15 saves.

Orpik knocked Gregg Johnson off his feet with a crunching check behind the net about six minutes into the game. It was just the start of a sound game defensively for Orpik, who was paired with former Boston College teammate Rob Scuderi.

Kostopoulos drew the loudest cheers when he appeared on the ice for the first time during the Penguins' first line change.

By the time the game was over, Therrien had placed Kostopoulos on a line with Kris Beech and Tomas Surovy, the team's top two offensive threats.

On the first night of new combinations, it was the line of Eric Meloche, Toby Petersen and Koltsov that saw the best results.

"They've got a lot of speed," Therrien said. "With their speed and following the system right, they're going to have occasion to score some goals. The scoring chances will be there."

Petersen and Koltsov assisted on both goals. Meloche scored the goal that gave the Penguins the lead.

Patrick Boileau created a 1-1 tie with a hard shot from the top of the right circle at 13:19 of the second period.

Petersen carried the puck in from the right corner, stayed with it after taking a hit, and set up Meloche in front for the goal 5:20 later.

Binghamton goalie Ray Emery made 35 saves and kept the Senators within a goal until the late power-play chances paid off.

"He's one of the elite goalies in this league and he sure gave them a chance to get back in the game," Therrien said.

The Senators had three power-play chances in the final 8:09. Serge Payer came out from behind the net and tucked a shot under the crossbar with 2:05 left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

The Penguins won the season series, 3-1-4.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had two ties and a loss while playing three straight overtime games with its new lineup. The Penguins finished with a 34-28-10-8 record, the best in the franchise's five-year history.

A tie was also enough for Binghamton in its final game.

Denis Hamel and Charlie Stephens each had a goal and an assist in a 2-2 tie with Rochester. Emery made 22 saves as the Senators finished 34-34-9-3.

In high school baseball, Blue Ridge got its baseball season off to a strong start by beating two of its top rivals in the Lackawanna League Division III North.

The Raiders opened league play with a 3-2 victory over Elk Lake, last season's state Class A finalist.

The teams were tied, 1-1, in the third inning until Justin Herbert delivered a two-out, two-run single.

Blue Ridge held on behind the pitching of Jordan Smith and John Bovenkamp. Smith went the first five innings for the win. Bovenkamp worked the last two for the save.

The Raiders came back with an 11-4 victory over Lackawanna Trail. Josh Rudock, Louis Villella and Herbert each hit home runs.

In professional baseball, the Binghamton Mets lost their Eastern League opener to the Norwich Navigators, 4-3, in 11 innings Thursday.

The B-Mets came back and won three straight. Third baseman David Wright led the offense, going 7-for-16 with five doubles, a home run and four RBIs.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons opened in Ottawa where they lost two straight before winning two straight. Outfielder Jim Rushford went 8-for-16 in the series.

In arena football, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers opened their third season of arenafootball2 League play with an exciting finish.

Back-up quarterback Tim Hicks passed 17 yards to Rocco Forgione for the winning score with 10 seconds left.

Hicks came off the bench to throw for two touchdowns and run for another as the Pioneers erased a 30-16 deficit in the fourth quarter.

The win puts the Pioneers above the .500 mark for the first time in franchise history.


Dean Lewis has stepped down as coach of Blue Ridge, the county's top wrestling team this season.

"I'm done," Lewis said. "It's just too much time involved."

Former Susquehanna coach John Ciotoli will take over for Lewis next season. Ciotoli returned to coaching by handling the Blue Ridge junior high program this season.


Mountain View graduate Jake Johnson is a junior infielder/pitcher for the Marywood University baseball team.

Johnson has started two games on the mound, going 0-1 with a 12.27 earned run average. He has given up 17 hits and four walks while striking out six in 7 1/3 innings. In five games, Johnson is 1-for-9 (.111) at the plate with two walks and four strikeouts.

Marywood is 10-9-1.


The Binghamton Senators are home for all three games of their series with Norfolk, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the Broome County Arena.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Bridgeport Sound Tigers start their best-of-seven, second-round Calder Cup playoff series.

The East Division semifinals start at Bridgeport with games Thursday and Saturday at 7:05. The series then moves to Wilkes-Barre for games April 18 and April 20.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at

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Late Crash Allows WALTRIP Busch Win

Gladeville, TN – Michael Waltrip was able to win Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series, Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway after a late race wreck took out the four leading drivers.

Michael Waltrip

Clint Bowyer bumped Kyle Busch coming out of turn 2 on lap 224, causing Busch, who was leading the race to spin. Johnny Benson ran into the back of Bowyer, and Robby Gordon slid into the infield.

This opened the door for Waltrip, who had just passed Johnny Sauter. NASCAR ruled that Waltrip had passed Sauter before the caution came out.

"We were lucky for sure," said Waltrip. "The first thing I thought when I drove out of the smoke was the Red Sea had just parted."

The win was Waltrip’s first Busch victory since Bristol in August 2003. He has yet to win a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race this season.

Sauter, who was fined by NASCAR earlier in the season, was not happy with the call that gave Waltrip the lead. Sauter thought he was the leader when the caution came out.

"I think NASCAR is doing everything they can to keep me from winning races and accumulating points," said Sauter, who drives for Richard Childress.

Top ten finishing order: 1. Michael Waltrip, 2. Johnny Sauter, 3. Kasey Kahne, 4. Clint Bowyer, 5. Robby Gordon, 6. Kyle Busch, 7. Johnny Benson, 8. Mike Bliss, 9. Jason Leffler, 10. David Green.

WALTRIP Is New Busch Leader – Top 10-points leaders: 1. Waltrip-1033, 2. D. Green-1025, 3. Busch-977, 4. R. Gordon-972, 5. Truex-968, 6. Keller-924, 7. J Sauter-913, 8. Hamilton Jr.-870, 9. Fedewa-862, 10. Benson-829.

JEFF GORDON Hoping To Turn Season Around – Jeff Gordon will go into the Advance Auto Parts 500 as the defending champion. He had what might be considered the perfect season at the .526-mile track, winning both races and both poles there in 2003.

He has started in the top-five in each of the past seven events at the track, with four of those starts coming from the pole.

"I love Martinsville because I run well there," Gordon said. "I grew up on short tracks. We can't have a series that's nothing but l.5-mile tracks. We see how many people we pack in for Bristol (Tenn.) and how exciting it is. Even though Martinsville isn't that same type of track, it still offers that short-track excitement the fans love to see."

Gordon has won at Martinsville five times, and has finished in the top-10, 16 times.

He goes to the track coming off a third-place finish in the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, his first top-five finish this year, but his fifth top-10 in seven races. That moved him from 12th to ninth in the points standings.

"It's a lot harder to pass these days," he said. "I can remember when if we did have trouble, we could always find a way to get back. That seems to be a lot tougher to do these days. Fewer mistakes can be made.

"Track position is extremely important. If you don't have it through qualifying, you'd better get it through pit stops. Or you'd better find a way to get that track position and hold on to it."

The Advance Auto Parts 500 is still almost a week away, but 12 teams have already tested at Martinsville Speedway.

Some of the teams that tested included, defending series champion Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Brian Vickers, Jimmy Johnson, Ricky Craven, Scott Riggs, Jamie McMurray, Scott Wimmer and Johnny Sauter.

They gathered in search of speed for the April 18th Advance Auto Parts 500, but they were also trying to get a read on the new, softer Goodyear tire, which will be making its first Martinsville appearance.

"We were just trying to learn what these tires felt like at Martinsville," said rookie driver Scott Riggs, who along with Johnson, McMurray and Marlin, had some good times.

"We’re trying to learn to make the adjustments we need to make for the cars to respond. We feel good about it (the tires). We’ve learned leaps and bounds about them the past couple of weeks."

Riggs has struggled early in his rookie season and he was thankful to be back on a track where he recorded a win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

"We just feel good about being back here," said Riggs. "I can smile today and really mean it."

"Our race trim was pretty good. It seemed like we gained as the day went on," said McMurray. "We were a lot quicker on the long runs and by this afternoon we felt like we had one of the best cars here. We were just sort of cruising around and seeing what our car needed."

SIZZLERS: Jeremy Mayfield, Jimmie Johnson, and Rusty Wallace are improving.

FIZZLERS: Jeff Green, Kyle Petty and Casey Mears aren’t racing to potential.


The Craftsman Trucks and NEXTEL Cup teams are at Martinsville, VA. The Busch series has the weekend off.

Saturday, April 17, Craftsman Trucks, Kroger 250, race 3 of 25, 250 laps/131 miles. 1 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.

Sunday, April 18, NEXTEL Cup Advance Auto Parts 500, race 8 of 36, 500 laps/263 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Fox.

Racing Trivia Question: How many truck manufacturers are represented in the Craftsman Truck series?

Last Week’s Question: Has David Green, driver of the No. 37 Brewco Pontiac in the Busch series ever won any major racing titles? Answer. Yes, David Green won the Busch Series title in 1994.

If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to

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Justin Herbert Is March's Athlete Of The Month

Justin Herbert was prepared for the scene at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling championships in Hershey.

As a fan in earlier years, he had attended the event at the old HersheyPark Arena. Those earlier trips prepared the Blue Ridge junior for performing in front of thousands of fans during this year's PIAA championships right down the road at the Giant Center.

"It helped," Herbert said of those earlier trips. "It gave me something to look forward to.

"With a lot of fans there, you might get nervous, but it didn't bother me too much."

Herbert, the only county wrestler to qualify for this year's state tournament, handled his first exposure to the state tournament. He claimed a medal by finishing sixth among the 16 state qualifiers in the Class AA 160-pound bracket.

For his season-ending accomplishment, Herbert has been selected as the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.

Herbert is a big part of Blue Ridge sports in each of the three high school seasons.

He just began his third season as a starter on the baseball team. Herbert was a second baseman as a freshman before moving to catcher where he was a second-team division all-star last season.

In the fall, he is a two-year starter on the soccer team as a mid-fielder.

It is in the wrestling season, however, that Justin is at his best.

Herbert, a District 2 champion as a sophomore, has been to three district finals. He went 38-7 this season to run his career record to 88-34.

"He has a tremendous drive to be number one," said Dean Lewis, who was Herbert's coach this season. "He never misses weightlifting in the summer and he goes to camp. He doesn't settle for second best."

With that in mind, Herbert plans to get to work on moving up the state medal stand once baseball is over.

"As soon as it's over, I'll be wrestling and lifting weights five days a week," he said.

Herbert will concentrate on working out from the bottom more efficiently and being more aggressive on his feet.

Blue Ridge's strong group of top wrestlers carried the team to a second-place finish in Division II of the Lackawanna League and the team scoring lead halfway through the District 2 Class AA tournament. It also gives elite wrestlers like Herbert the necessary practice competition to move up the state ranks.

"We have some of the best partners in the area to work out with," said Herbert, who often practiced against Nick Pease, an earlier Athlete of the Month, and the team's top wrestlers in the heavier weight classes. "We know each other's moves, so you have to do it just right for it to work."

Like some of those teammates, Herbert has been wrestling for 10 years.

Justin is the son of Rich and Dixie Herbert, New Milford.

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