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Brittany Pavelski is once again the areas most dominant softball player and a big reason the Blue Ridge Lady Raiders are unbeaten.
There were times last summer, however, when Bob Pavelski, her father and coach, thought Brittanys softball days were over.
Pavelski was struck in the top of the head with a line drive while pitching for the Firestyx, her summer travel team, in a June game in West Deptford, NJ.
Vision problems associated with post-concussion syndrome kept Pavelski off the mound for the rest of the summer and forced her to switch from batting right-handed to left-handed.
"It was very serious," coach Pavelski said. "It was to the point where maybe she would have to quit playing ball. She couldnt focus."
Those fears have been put in the past. The 2002 Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Year is back on top of her game. She is the Athlete of the Month again and putting up impressive numbers both on the mound and at the plate.
The most impressive numbers of Pavelskis high school career to date remain the 44 straight scoreless innings in the playoffs as a freshman in 2002. That streak ended in the seventh inning of the state Class A championship game in a 1-0 loss to Penns Valley.
It was in another scoreless tie late in the game in West Deptford when Pavelski wound up in trouble. With a runner on and the Firestyx reacting to an anticipated bunt, the batter instead ripped a line drive back through the middle. Pavelski ducked enough to avoid taking the shot in the face, but it caught the top of her head and left her unconscious.
The scene still makes her father nervous.
"It does scare me," he said. "With the new bats coming out and batters getting stronger and more aggressive
"I feel bad for any pitcher who gets hit."
Brittany has recovered from the injuries, worked on her pitching and overcome the fears created by the injury.
"Shes progressing every game," her father said. "It was a long fight to get back."
WEEK IN REVIEW
Blue Ridge and Elk Lake, the top two teams in the division in baseball and softball, split games, helping each leader expand its advantage.
Blue Ridge won the softball meeting between the two schools, avenging its season-ending upset loss in last years District 2 semifinals for the second time this season. Emily Sienko had a key double, Pavelski tossed a shutout and Blue Ridge outplayed Elk Lake defensively in a 5-0 victory Friday.
"We got out of some tight jams," coach Pavelski said.
The next day, Elk Lake rallied past Blue Ridge, 3-2, to maintain the lead in a tighter race in the Lackawanna League Division III North baseball standings.
In professional baseball, Montrose graduate Rich Thompson has settled in with the Nashville Sounds of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.
Thompson, who made his major-league debut with the Kansas City Royals earlier this season, was returned to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization under terms of the Rule 5 Draft when the Royals decided not to keep him on the major-league roster.
Thompson has scored eight runs in his first eight games and has already stolen five bases to tie for the team lead. He is hitting .304 with a double, a run batted in and two walks.
In professional hockey, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goalie Andy Chiodo posted a 3-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Phantoms Saturday night then won a battle in which no score was necessary.
Chiodos status as the fan favorite grew after his performance in front of an American Hockey League-playoff high of 8,092 gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Calder Cup East Division final series.
Philadelphias Steve Gainey charged Ross Lupaschuk at the final buzzer, triggering a post-game brawl that concluded with Chiodo taking part Philadelphia goalie Antero Niittymaki at center ice. Chiodo waved in a linesman as he got up off Niittymaki after landing a punch and scoring a clean takedown.
"I didnt want to make it a circus," Chiodo said.
While the rest of the players squared off in the corner, Niittymaki came down to the Penguins end of the ice to challenge Chiodo. Chiodo dropped his gloves while skating out to center ice where he squared off with Niittymaki.
Chiodo was a bit busier in his regular assignment. He made 18 saves in his second playoff shutout.
When referee Bob Langdon was done sorting out the post-game brawl, he had issued five fight majors and four game misconducts to each team. Gainey got the extra penalty, a minor for charging.
It was a busy night for Langdon, who called 205 minutes of penalties. Philadelphia was assessed 120 of those minutes, setting up the Penguins for 11 power plays. The Penguins converted just one of those 11, but stopped all seven Philadelphia advantages on a night when less than half the game was played at even strength.
"(Chiodo) was fantastic," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "He made key saves. They tried to talk to him and bounce him. He kept his composure."
Colby Armstrong, Michel Ouellet and Shane Endicott scored the goals for the Penguins. Defenseman Brooks Orpik had two assists and led the penalty-killing effort.
Each team had rallied for a win in the two games played earlier in the week in Philadelphia.
The Penguins recovered from a 4-1 deficit to win, 5-4, on Kris Beechs goal in the last five minutes of Game One. Philadelphia came back from giving up two goals in the first 10 minutes to win Game Two, 3-2, in overtime.
Montroses Jason Lodge finished his golf career at Mount Olive College in North Carolina during April.
Lodge was in the starting lineup for the last three tournaments of the spring season, leading Mount Olive in one event and finishing third on the team in another.
Lodges season highlight came when he finished 11th of 57 golfers in the Ralph Hargett Invitational, hosted by Wingate College at Marshville, NC. He shot a second-round 78 to finish the two-round event with a 160.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The District 2 Class AA track and field championships are scheduled for May 18 at North Pocono.
Many of the districts teams will prepare for the meet with Thursdays Jordan Relays, also at North Pocono.
In boys tennis, District 2 singles tournament play is already underway. The doubles tournament will be held later in the week.
In professional hockey, the Penguins will head back to Philadelphia Friday for Game Five of their Calder Cup series. They took a 2-1 lead into Game Four, which was played Monday in Wilkes-Barre.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
TRUEX Gets Third Busch Win
Martin Truex, Jr. won his third NASCAR Busch Series race in six tries, after leading 123 of the 200 laps in the Charter 250 at Gateway International Raceway.
Driving Dale Earnhardt, Jr.s No 8, Truex started on the pole and finished the race 6.60 seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday.
Jason Keller was third, followed by Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and Kyle Busch.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Martin Truex Jr., 2. Ron Hornaday, 3. Jason Keller, 4. Bobby Hamilton Jr., Kyle Busch, 6. Jason Leffler, 7. Greg Biffle, 8. David Stremme, 9. Tim Fedewa, 10. Robby Gordon.
Top-10 points leaders: 1. Truex-1472, 2. Waltrip-1456, 3. Busch-1443, 4. D. Green-1386, 5. R. Gordon-1379, 6. Keller-1322, 7. Hornaday-1259, 8. Hamilton Jr.-1255, 9. Biffle-1223, J. Sauter-1188.
Truck Driver BRANDON WHITT Brandon Whitt, the 21-year-old driver from El Cajon, Calif., is running for Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In 2003 Whitt was a regular top-20 qualifier in his seven attempts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. For the 2004 season, Whitt has enjoyed strong runs and faced some bad luck.
Following in the footsteps of former California phenoms Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, Whitt has moved to this level of major league stock car racing. He comes to the Trucks from a successful stint in NASCARs Winston West Series where he qualified on the outside pole for the California race last Spring and the NASCAR Southwest Touring Series, where he was the 2002 Rookie of the Year.
"Everybody is going into the Mansfield (Ohio) weekend blind and that might be better for teams like ours," said Whitt. "Everywhere else weve been, you have drivers and teams with a lot of experience. Mansfield is a great unknown. The only thing you know for sure is you dont know much about the place.
"Ive been pretty good at adjusting to race tracks, so Im figuring that should help me some at Mansfield. Jerry (Pitts) and the guys have been able to adjust pretty quickly too, and working together we should be in pretty decent shape for the race there. Sure there are some questions there, but every team in the series is going to have some questions. The place is just brand new to our series.
"NASCAR is giving us an extra day at Mansfield too, and that always come in handy. We have all day Friday to practice and test, learn what we can about the race track. Then we go into our regular routine Saturday with practice and qualifying, then race Sunday. Those extra hours on the track Friday will be the best indication of how things are going to go throughout the weekend. The faster you adjust to the track and figure it out, the quicker you can move on to working on your qualifying and your race setups. Quicker adjustments simply lead to better races."
p teams are at Richmond, VA, while the Craftsman Trucks have an inaugural race at Mansfield, Ohio.
Friday, May 14, Busch Series, Funai 250, race 11 of 34, 250 laps/187 miles, 7:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Saturday, May 15, Nextel Cup Chevy American Revolution 400, race 11 of 36, 400 laps/300 miles, 7 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, May 16, Craftsman Trucks Ohio 250, race 4 of 25, 250 laps/110 miles, 2 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Racing Trivia Question: Which three drivers are competing full-time in both the Busch and Nextel Cup Series?
Last Weeks Question: Who was the first NASCAR racer to reach the 200 miles per hour mark? Answer. Buddy Baker was the first NASCAR driver to break the 200 mph mark. He did it at Talladega in March of 1970.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
Brittany Pavelski has had plenty of success in her first two-plus seasons of high school softball.
That does not stop Pavelski from constantly adding to her game.
More variety in the pitches she delivers and in the way she handles pitches as a leadoff hitter has kept the Blue Ridge junior improving.
"Im definitely working on different pitches to keep batters off stride," said Pavelski, who is leading the way as the Lady Raiders work on a second straight unbeaten regular season.
Pavelski, the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month, is 8-0 with an 0.26 earned run average. She has struck out 74 while walking just 10 in 53 innings.
At the plate, Pavelski is batting .523 while scoring 21 runs and driving in eight during Blue Ridges 13-0 start.
"Ive been working on going to the left side," said Pavelski, a natural right-handed hitter who has become a switch hitter.
Pavelski switches to the left side to improve her on-base percentage and to move runners along.
"Im confident the batters behind me will be able to get me in if I get on," she said.
Brittany is the daughter of Bob and Susan Pavelski of Jackson.
Coach Pavelski said batting left-handed brings a new dimension to Brittanys game.
"Last summer, she lived on the left side and became a real good slapper," he said. "Her average went up from .340 on the right side to about .560. The reason is that shes so much closer to first base.
"Teams are not used to seeing her on the left side and dont know what shes going to do. Its getting to the point where she can just about set the ball on the third-base line."
Looking out over the wing of an airplane flying at about 5,000 feet, Carl Edwards spots the dirt track he will be racing on in just a few minutes.
"Wow that looks pretty neat," an excited, grinning Edwards says.
Five minutes later hes jogging across the tarmac, running toward another night of fun at a race track.
Headed into next Saturdays Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway, Edwards is probably the story of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series over the past two seasons.
He was the series rookie of the year in 2003 with three wins, and 15 top-10 finishes. He won the 2004 season-opener at Daytona and after two races is just four points behind leader Travis Kvapil in the NCTS standings. He is Roush Racings rising star; in fact Jack Roush said after the Daytona win in February, he was the guy who would eventually replace Mark Martin in one of the teams lead NEXTEL Cup cars.
Edwards is unfazed, unspoiled by it all. He can still say things like "Wow that looks pretty neat."
During a recent autograph session in Beckley, WV, he struck up a conversation with a single parent and her young child. He discovered they love racing, but have never been able to afford to attend a race in person. He made sure they had tickets to the Kroger 250. Its not a public relations ploy; its from his heart. On and off the track, hes a breath of fresh air.
Fans first set up and took notice when Edwards did a back flip off of pit wall after his first career truck win last year. They quickly began to flip over his driving. Hes sort of a Ken Schrader clone in the sense hes never met a race car or race track he didnt love. Hell race anywhere, anytime in any vehicle and the purse isnt really a big deal.
"I just love to race. I love being in a race car," said Edwards, a former University of Missouri student who was a substitute teacher until his racing career took off.
After visiting two of the circuits fastest tracks in the seasons first two races, Edwards is anxious to get to Martinsville, a track so similar to the ones he cut his racing teeth on in Missouri.
"All the races are fun for me for different reasons, but Martinsville is a lot of fun, because one, there are two grooves and thats fun. And its a short track where you can overdrive that thing. You can slide off the corners a little bit or drive it a little two deep," said Edwards. "You can get right up against the guy. Thats whats racing is all about. Its what I did every Saturday night growing up."
Edwards Martinsville stats certainly back up his love affair with the historic short track. He finished fourth in the Kroger 250 last spring, his first start at Martinsville, and then chased teammate Jon Wood to the checkered flag in the Kroger 200 last fall to finish second.
"I got lucky in the first race at Martinsville last year. I probably shouldnt have finished second," said Edwards. "But the second one, I sat on the pole my first and only pole yet and then finished right on my teammates bumper, pushing him around the race track.
"To me Martinsville is going to be one of the strongest race tracks we go to this year."
For Edwards the fall one-two Roush finish at Martinsville was especially special.
"Jon and I are close, we talk a lot. We like the same type of race cars and the same setups, so if Im struggling, I can go right over there and say What are you doing with springs and shocks and I do the same thing for him," said Edwards.
"Thats one of the things thats so cool about Jon and me. We try really hard not to compete against each other, but... He won two races last year and I finished second to him both times. Thats pretty cool, too."
Great seats are still available for the Advance Auto Parts 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race for $40 to $72 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or order on-line at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
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