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Throop The Blue Ridge softball team reached the state final in 2002.
The Lady Raiders have not lost a league game on the field in two years.
One thing the team was lacking, however, was a District 2 title.
That is no longer the case after Wednesday's 6-1 victory over Bishop O'Hara in the District 2 Class A championship game at Mid Valley.
"We've worked tremendously hard for this," Blue Ridge coach Bob Pavelski said. "There have been many two-and-a-half and three-hour practices."
Much of that work is on defense.
Offense and pitching are evident just by a look at the scores. Before beating Bishop O'Hara, the 2001 state champ, Blue Ridge defeated Forest City, 4-0, and Old Forge, 8-1.
The Raiders have been just as sharp in the field.
"We haven't had an error in quite a long time," Pavelski said. "It's all in the repetition."
Blue Ridge did not commit an error in the entire district tournament. The closest the Lady Raiders came was in the seventh inning of the district final when two hits went off the gloves of fielders - one ripped hard past a drawn-in infielder, the other being just out of reach after a long run in the outfield.
Before that, there were 12 balls hit to the Blue Ridge infield in the district final, resulting in 12 outs.
The Lady Raiders also gave up their only other run of the tournament in the seventh inning, against Old Forge in the semifinals.
In both cases, the games were well under control before those runs.
Brittany Pavelski's pitching and balanced hitting joined forces with the strong fielding to create that comfort.
Pavelski threw a three-hit shutout against Forest City in the quarterfinals, a one-hitter in the semifinals and a four-hitter in the final. She took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Old Forge and had allowed only one base runner, on a single, before the seventh inning of the Bishop O'Hara game.
Strong starts were a key to all three efforts. Pavelski struck out six of the first seven Forest City batters. She also retired the first six against Old Forge and the first eight against Bishop O'Hara.
"She's getting better every day," said Bob Pavelski, her coach and father. "She's so confident in this defense that if she gets behind 3-and-0, she can throw three strikes.
"She knows they'll either field it or it will have to be an honest hit."
The continued improvement of the offense showed in the final.
Five players had hits and three of the other four either reached base or sacrificed runners over. Five players scored at least a run and three drove in runs.
"Right through the lineup, we're confident that anyone can hit the ball hard," coach Pavelski said. "And, they're all getting their bunts down."
Heather Franks got the scoring started in the first inning with a triple to drive in Pavelski. She then scored on a Jocelyn Dearborn ground-out.
Franks also drew two walks and scored another run.
Pavelski went 2-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases.
Dearborn had two hits and also scored a run.
Devin Glezen and Kelly Drake each scored on a two-run single by Cassandra Ralston to cap a three-run fifth inning and close the Blue Ridge scoring.
There was similar balance earlier in the tournament.
Brooke Hinkley had two hits, a sacrifice and two RBIs to lead the offense against Forest City. Glezen had an RBI single and scored in the sixth inning. Franks drew two walks and scored twice.
Pavelski got the offense started from the leadoff spot against Old Forge. She had three hits and scored four runs.
Kate Donovan had a two-run homer, Franks had three hits and an RBI, Dearborn had a sacrifice fly and two RBIs, Glezen had an RBI single and Hinkley tripled in the semifinal win.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Wilkes-Barre - Even Michel Therrien had to admit he was impressed this time.
Forget about bad calls or worse bounces.
No need to assess the opponent as guilty of doing too much clutching or of being thugs. No need to request the American Hockey League office impose suspensions or to suggest that unwritten rules had been broken as well.
The Milwaukee Admirals completed a Calder Cup finals sweep of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a 7-2 butt-kicking of such thorough proportions that even Therrien, the Penguins coach, had no one left to blame.
"They deserved the cup," Therrien said. "They played well.
"They were rested before the series and they played like true champions."
Therrien thought Milwaukee coach Claude Noel did not acknowledge soon enough when Game Two's blowout was unofficially over.
Everyone at Wachovia Arena, including a sellout crowd of 8,260 was well aware that this one was decided well before the game reached its midway point.
The consensus moment that the mood turned from hoping for an outrageous comeback to appreciating a long and successful run that had come up short was probably at 4:23 of the second period. That is when Therrien took out Andy Chiodo, who touched off many of the special playoff moments when he was inserted into the lineup with the team needing three straight wins in the first round against Bridgeport.
Chiodo had played well to hold Milwaukee to four goals on 19 shots, many of the high-percentage variety, in the first period. When he allowed two more goals on rebounds early in the second period, he was no longer able to slow the Admirals rush.
Fans chose to celebrate Chiodo's clutch season-extending saves and three playoff shutouts rather than dwell on the discouraging ending. He left to a standing ovation and chants of "Andy! Andy!"
The Admirals broke the Penguins' hearts with two overtime victories in the series, followed up each time by blowout wins. In each blowout, they knocked Chiodo out then scored on the first shot against his sub.
Number-one draft pick Marc Fleury was the victim this time. Playing for the first time since Game Two of the Bridgeport series, Fleury was beaten by Simon Gamache, who picked up the puck in the neutral zone, carried it to the left circle and launched a blast past Fleury.
The Milwaukee lead: 7-1.
The countdown: 34:18 more of hockey before the Admirals could shake hands with the Penguins, carry the Calder Cup around the Wachovia Arena ice and prepare to return to Milwaukee with the first championship in franchise history.
Susquehanna graduate Teresa Covert qualified for the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships for the second straight year.
Covert, a senior at the University at Albany, tied for the fifth and final national spot in the 100-meter hurdles during the NCAA East Regional in Gainesville, Fla. May 29. A runoff was ordered between Covert and Virginia's Monique Morgan, but Morgan declined to participate because of an injury.
A two-time America East champion in the 100 hurdles, Covert was unable to advance in the 100-meter dash.
Covert had a season-best time of 13.56 seconds in 100 hurdles qualifying then improved on that with a time of 13.47 in the finals. South Carolina's Lashinda Demus won with a time of 12.99 seconds.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Covert will wrap up her collegiate career at the NCAA Championships Wednesday through Saturday in Austin, Texas.
In high school softball, Blue Ridge will be playing in the state Class A quarterfinals Thursday if it was able to get past District 1 champion Bristol in the first round Monday. Thursday's opponent would be either District 3 champion Upper Dauphin or District 4 runner-up West Snyder.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will be headed back to Milwaukee Friday and Saturday if sixth and seventh games are necessary in the Calder Cup finals.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Ford won Sundays MBNA "Salute To Heroes" 400 at Dover Downs after a monster wreck occurred during lap 346 of the 400-lap race taking out 11 cars, including several of the leaders.
It was Martins fourth Dover win and ended a 73-race winless streak.
"Man, I forgot what victory lane felt like," said Martin. "The car got stronger and stronger, and missing the oil was just a gift. We dodged wrecks and bullets all day.
"It was just meant to be for us today. Our car was right. It was just a great day."
The wreck occurred between turns 3 and 4 after Michael Waltrip bounced off the outside wall and caused Dave Blaney to turn sideways in front of most of the leaders. The result was that most of the lead cars sustained major damage.
Drivers involved in the wreck were: Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Ricky Rudd, Robby Gordon, Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, and polesitter, Jeremy Mayfield.
NASCAR displayed the red flag for 20 minutes, and when green flag racing resumed on lap 354, Kasey Kahne was the leader, followed by Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Burton.
Almost immediately, Kahne was able to pull away from the other leaders in his No. 19 Dodge.
The 10th caution came out with 25-laps to go after Rusty Wallace hit the outside wall. Kahne and Martin stayed on the track, while Stewart elected to pit for four fresh tires.
The green flag was given again with 20-laps left. Kahne and Martin were the leaders, and then it was Stewart, Kenseth, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Two laps later, Kahne hit the wall in turn 3 after running through oil on the track that came from the car driven by Casey Mears. Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth slipped also.
This brought out the second red flag of the race.
Mark Martin was leading when the race continued with 9 laps left. Tony Stewart was second, followed by Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Scott Riggs These were the only cars on the lead lap.
With eight to go, Earnhardt Jr. moved into third. He and Stewart had a drag race to the finish. Earnhardt Jr. tried several passes on Stewarts No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, but each time Stewart was able to hold him off.
Meanwhile, Martin was able to pull away as Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. raced each other.
Finishing order: 1. Mark Martin, 2. Tony Stewart, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 4. Jeff Burton, 5. Scott Riggs, 6. Michael Waltrip, 7. Terry Labonte, 8. Jeremy Mayfield, 9. Scott Wimmer, 10. Kevin Harvick.
Current NEXTEL CUP Chase For The Championship 1. Earnhardt Jr.-1963, 2. Johnson-1865, 3. Kenseth-1784, 4. Stewart-1767, 5. J. Gordon-1709, 6. Busch-1648, 7. Sadler-1646, 8. B. Labonte-1642, 9. Harvick-1632, 10. Newman-1596.
FORD Helping Promote Women Drivers Ford Motor Racing has chosen Erin Crocker, a 23-year-old Massachusetts native over about two dozen other women for a new initiative designed to eventually launch NASCAR's first female star.
After 16 years of racing quarter-midgets, mini-sprint and winged sprint cars, and even trucks, she now has the biggest break of her career.
"You'd always hear things, like 'A girl doesn't belong in the sport,'" Crocker said. "But I think if you've got the skill and get the respect, you'll be fine."
Shawna Robinson has raced in the Busch and Winston Cup Series, while Kelly Sutton and Tina Gordon are regulars in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series this season.
There were four finalists in the Ford tryouts; Crocker, Michelle Theriault, Lynsey Tilton and Alison MacLeod. All were invited to a two-day tryout last month in Anderson, about 25 miles north of Indianapolis.
Ford decided to go with Crocker, who grew up driving quarter-midgets in Wilbraham, Mass., and was the first woman to qualify for the Knoxville Nationals in a sprint car.
"We want someone who is a great driver, who is properly trained," said John Szymanski, Ford's director of sponsor development. "The fact she is a woman, we feel, is the trump card."
NASCAR started a similar program, "Drive for Diversity," this year with five drivers - four blacks and one woman - who are now driving late-model cars.
DIFFERENT FINES FOR DIFFERENT DRIVERS Scott Wimmer, driver of Bill Davis Racings No. 22 Nextel Cup Dodge was convicted of drunk driving by a judge in North Carolina, but will not suffer any consequences by NASCAR.
Wimmer was arrested January 31, at his house after police found his pickup truck wrecked along a road leading to his home.
His wife was originally charged with obstructing justice, because she tried to hide Wimmer, and lied to the police about his presence.
By letting Wimmer off the hook, NASCAR is showing they have different policies for different drivers. NASCAR didnt exempt Shane Hmiel last year when he was caught violating their drug policy. He was suspended for the remainder of the year.
Meanwhile, the Nextel Cup series will begin a six-week, 12,500 mile road trip that will take them to Long Pond, PA, Brooklyn, MI, Sonoma, CA, Daytona Beach, FL, and Chicago, IL before having another weekend off.
CHAFFIN Wins Dover Truck Race The results of the Craftsman Truck Series MBNA America 200, run Friday at Dover, DE: 1. Chad Chaffin, 2. Rick Crawford, 3. Hank Parker Jr., 4. Mike Skinner, 5. Ken Schrader, 6. Dave Blaney, 7. Andy Houston, 8. David Starr, 9. Jack Sprague, 10. Jon Wood.
Top-10 points leaders: 1. Setzer-924, 2. Edwards-904, 3. Crawford-868, 4. Skinner-847, 5. Hamilton-800, 6. Kvapil-788, 7. Wood-776, 8. Sprague-767, 9. Starr-765, 10. Cook-760.
Three different series will be racing at three different venues. The Craftsman Trucks are at Texas, the Busch Series goes to Lebanon, TN, and the Nextel Cup Series is at Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA.
Friday, June 11, Craftsman Trucks OReilly 400K, race 7 of 25, 167 laps/250 miles, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, June 12, Busch Series Federated Auto Parts 300, race 15 of 34, 225 laps/300 miles, 7:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, June 13, Nextel Cup Pocono 500, race 14 of 36, 200 laps/500 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is Ryan Newmans Penske Racing teammate?
Last Weeks Question: What is the nickname of Dover International Speedway? Answer. It is called, "The Monster Mile."
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
Montrose senior Joe LaBarbera and Susquehanna freshman Amber Gaffey each make the ride to Bethlehem twice a week for training with pole vaulting expert Mike Lawryk at the Vertical Assault Club.
The dedication LaBarbera and Gaffey have put into the event paid off as the high school track and field season came to a close.
LaBarbera and Gaffey each set District 2 records while winning Class AA titles and went on to finish second in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state championships.
For their equal accomplishments, LaBarbera and Gaffey share honors as the Susquehanna County Transcript co-Athletes of the Month.
"I'm just so grateful my parents drove me two hours twice a week for practice," said LaBarbera, who plans to continue pole vaulting while attending Slippery Rock University. "Amber had the same coach.
"We really owe them a lot. Our parents for driving us and coach for all the attention he gives us."
Joe is the son of Tony and Linda LaBarbera of Montrose. Amber is the daughter of Robert and Dawn Gaffey of Thompson.
Lawryk made the trip to North Pocono to offer guidance as each won district titles.
The two athletes have other similarities.
Each has enjoyed other athletic interests but has made pole vaulting into a specialty.
LaBarbera competed in three different fall sports in his four high school years. After playing soccer as a freshman then golf as a sophomore and junior, he was a member of the football team as a senior.
Gaffey, who is a member of the junior varsity volleyball team and has been riding horses for the past three years, credits a former sport with helping her succeed. She was active in gymnastics until seventh grade, something that helped convince coach Alice Rhone that she should give pole vaulting a try.
"A lot of people who do gymnastics have really good swing up," Gaffey said. "Coach Rhone knew I had a gymnastics background and thought I should try."
Jeff Rhone, the coach's son, started teaching Gaffey about pole vaulting and she won two District 2 junior high titles.
LaBarbera's back-to-back efforts in districts and states represented the second time this school year that he put together consecutive successful performances.
LaBarbera finished fifth in the state indoor championships February 28 at Penn State, clearing 14 feet for the first of three straight weekends. He jumped 14-7 the next week in a meet in New York City then performed well again the following week at the Nike Indoor Nationals in Landover, Md.
After LaBarbera went 14 feet again for the District 2 record and Gaffey set her record at 10-0, each had concerns about clearing their first height at the state meet.
Although seeds projected that she would earn some type of medal, Gaffey tried to avoid setting expectations too high as a freshman in her first state meet.
"I just wanted to go down and not no-height," Gaffey said.
Gaffey cleared 8-6, her first height, then changed poles after 9-6 on her way to a personal-best 10-6 and second place.
It was her third time over 10 feet in competition. The first was in the Wilkes-Barre Invitational earlier in May.
LaBarbera entered the state competition at 13-6 and was immediately in danger of not recording a height. He did not come close on his first two attempts and was halfway down the runway for his third attempt when he stopped and regrouped.
"I was real close to missing a shot at a state medal," LaBarbera said. "I just squeaked it out."
LaBarbera gathered himself to make 13-9, 14-0, 14-3 and 14-6 on his first attempts, making him the leader for fewest misses when the competition got to 14-9. When he was unable to clear that height, LaBarbera claimed second place and a state silver medal.
As Fathers Day approaches, the American Lung Association of Pennsylvania's golf discount program is the perfect gift for the golfer in your life. The Golf Privilege Club and the Mighty Mid-PA Card are a great way to try out different courses and save money too.
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Both American Lung Association golf discount programs make excellent Fathers Day gifts. For more information on either program, call the American Lung Association of Pennsylvania at 1-800-932-0903. Cards can be ordered over the phone with quick turnaround time.
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