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With 20 straight winning seasons and playoff appearances under Tony Blaisure, a certain amount of success has become routine for the Elk Lake softball program.
Blaisure had no trouble telling this year's team that even more could be expected.
"I told them in the beginning, we're setting higher goals as a team coming back," Blaisure said after Elk Lake won its first three Lackawanna League Division III games. "Personally, we're setting higher goals for everyone who's coming back individually.
"If we meet those goals, it should be a successful season."
Although there have been some position changes, Elk Lake has a player with at least one full year of experience as a starter in every spot in the lineup. Six players return from the team that made a surprise run to the District 2 Class A title two years ago.
For depth, the Lady Warriors have added a group of talented freshmen from a junior high team that went 20-1 and reached the district final last season.
Elk Lake has met its coach's expectations early.
The Lady Warriors have not allowed a run while beating Lackawanna Trail, 3-0; Mountain View, 15-0, and Dunmore, 8-0.
Katherine Lucenti threw a no-hitter against Mountain View, a two-hitter against Lackawanna Trail and a four-hitter against Dunmore.
Senior Tara Dymond, who bats third and plays third base, has been the team's top hitter. Dymond has two hits in every game and leads in RBIs.
Lucenti and Amanda Shingler are second and third on the team in batting.
Shingler, who was a left fielder on the district championship team as a freshman and a shortstop last season, is the catcher.
Dymond, Shingler, junior first baseman Laura Eastman, junior shortstop Katie McKeon, senior center fielder Jamie Sanfilippio and senior left fielder Sarah Stang all started two years ago. McKeon missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
Junior second baseman Mindy Minnick and sophomore right fielder Becca Richter broke into the starting lineup last season.
Elk Lake has moved up from Class A to Class AA this season, but Blaisure is hoping that does not limit a team that pulled off three straight upsets over Bishop Hafey, Blue Ridge and Mid Valley in the 2004 District 2 Class A playoffs.
"You've got to make your own things happen," Blaisure said. "We saw that two years ago."
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Binghamton Senators kept adding to their success story as the regular season came to an end.
Binghamton won the American Hockey League East Division title when it defeated the Hershey Bears, 5-2, Saturday night to finish at 50-21-4-4. The Senators had the second-best record in the 28-team league.
The Senators opened a 5-0 lead with 15 minutes left behind a Denis Hamel hat trick and goals by Josh Langfeld and Andy Hedlund.
Earlier in the week, Jason Spezza became the fourth Binghamton player to be named Most Valuable Player of the American Hockey League when he received the Les Cunningham Award last week.
The MVP award is voted on by players and media members from each of the league's 28 cities.
Spezza ran away with the league lead in assists with 85, won the league scoring title with 117 points and finished the regular season on a 20-game scoring streak.
Spezza had five points in a February 19 game against Manchester and five other games with four points. The 21-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, is the youngest player to win the award since 1989.
Ross Yates (1982-83), Paul Gardner (1984-85) and Don Biggs (1992-93) were previous Binghamton players to receive the award.
In professional baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons finished the week in first place in the International League North Division with the help of three of the league's five leading batters.
First baseman Ryan Howard was second with a .433 average. Right fielder Mark Budzinski was third at .429 and second baseman Leonard Hannahan was fifth at .407.
Montrose graduate Rich Thompson continues to lead the league in stolen bases wit six. The Indianapolis Indians outfielder is also one of three players tied for the league lead with two triples.
In high school baseball, Sean Brewer homered twice when Montrose picked up its first win of the season, 10-7, over Scranton Prep.
In high school track, District 2 released its qualifying standards for the championship meet in May.
Each school is allowed one team in the 400, 1600 and 3200 relays, but individuals need to meet a minimum standard in competition to qualify for the district event.
County schools compete in Class AA.
The Class AA qualifying standards are: 110 hurdles (boys): 18.5 seconds; 100 hurdles (girls) 19.3; 300 hurdles: 47.3 for boys, 55.5 for girls; 100 meters: 12.1 for boys, 14.4 for girls; 200 meters: 24.7 for boys, 29.7 for girls; 400 meters: 56.5 for boys, 1:09.0 for girls; 800 meters: 2:11.0 for boys; 2:37.0 for girls; 1600 meters: 5:00 for boys, 6:15 for girls; 3200 meters: 11:10 for boys; 13:30 for girls; pole vault: 10-6 for boys; 7-6 for girls; discus: 119-0 for boys, 81-6 for girls; shot put: 42-0 for boys, 28-0 for girls; javelin: 143-0 for boys, 83-0 for girls; long jump: 18-6 for boys; 14-6 for girls; triple jump: 37-6 for boys; 29-9 for girls; and high jump: 5-7 for boys, 4-6 for girls.
Five county players, including two of the team's top three pitchers, are part of Keystone College's 17-7 start in baseball.
Jeremy Pierson, who was the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Player of the Year, is in his third season at Keystone, which now competes as a four-year school.
Pierson, a junior from Elk Lake, is 4-2 with a 4.92 earned run average. In six games and 27 innings, he has allowed 28 hits and 15 walks while striking out 10.
Matthew Treible, a senior from Blue Ridge, is 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA. In five games and 24 2/3 innings, he has given up 24 hits and 20 walks while striking out 29.
Tom Blaisure, a freshman from Elk Lake, has pitched two innings in one game. He gave up two runs on two hits while walking one.
Michael Keiser, a freshman infielder from Blue Ridge, is 3-for-6 with two runs scored in five games.
John Pierson, a freshman infielder from Elk Lake, is 2-for-4 with a run in four games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Calder Cup playoffs open with the Binghamton Senators at home against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first two games of a best-of-seven series Friday and Saturday at the Broome County Arena.
The series continues in Wilkes-Barre April 25 and 27. The remaining games, if necessary, are: April 29 in Binghamton, May 1 in Wilkes-Barre and May 2 in Binghamton.
In high school softball, Elk Lake is home Thursday against Mid Valley in a meeting between Lackawanna League Division III teams that started the week unbeaten. Elk Lake was scheduled to face third-place Riverside at home Monday to start one of its most important weeks of the season.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BIFFLE Rules At Texas, Ft. Worth, TX – Greg Biffle went from last to first in a backup car to win Sunday’s Nextel Cup Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
On the way to his fifth career win, the driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford led 219 of the 334 laps.
Biffle had to start the race from the tail end of the field after crashing his primary car during practice on Saturday, and was forced to use the team’s backup car.
“It was a big day for us,” said Biffle. “All the Roush teams helped get this car ready, and it was a team effort.
“I knew we had a good car as soon as the race started, but I didn’t know just how good it was. It really ran great all day, and we made very little changes on it.”
Biffle briefly lost the lead to Casey Mears after a round of pit stops with 32 laps remaining. Biffle, who was leading the race, came out second, after Mears’ No. 41 Ganassi team only took on two right side tires.
But within two green flag laps, Biffle had regained the lead, and went on to win by about 4-seconds. It was his second win of the 2005 season; his other one came at California.
Jamie McMurray was able to pass Mears and hold off Jimmie Johnson for second.
“This was a brand new body and it worked really well,” said McMurray. “We had a very good car, but we just didn’t quite have what the 16-car had.
“Everyone has talked about Hendrick and Roush, but Ganassi had three cars in the top-five. I think that says a lot for them.”
Casey Mears, the fourth-place finisher and Sterling Marlin, who came in fifth, were the other two Ganassi teams.
Jimmie Johnson had problems early in the race, but came on strong at the end to finish third.
Polesitter, Ryan Newman finished 16th.
Tony Stewart received some minor burns on his right arm and wrist after his No. 18 blew an engine. Hot oil from the engine was ignited by the headers, causing flames to enter the car’s cockpit.
Kasey Kahne, winner of Saturday’s Busch race had a hard crash in turn-3 during lap 276 and had a DNF.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Jamie McMurray, 3. Jimmie Johnson, 4. Casey Mears, 5. Sterling Marlin, 6. Michael Waltrip, 7. Kurt Busch, 8. Ricky Rudd, 9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 10. Rusty Wallace.
Top-10 points leaders after 7 of 36: 1. Johnson-1142, 2. Biffle-1007, 3. R. Wallace-905, 4. Busch-897, 5. J. Gordon-895, 6. Marlin-883, 7. Martin-882, 8. Sadler-879, 9. Newman-873, 10. Jarrett-853.
Will BIFFLE Go, Or Stay? Greg Biffle, the driver of Roush Racing’s No. 16 Nextel Cup Ford is a leading candidate to replace veteran Rusty Wallace in Penske Racing South's No. 2 Dodge next season.
Biffle, who has won NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Busch series championships, is currently second in the Nextel Cup series standings.
Biffle said his contract with Roush Racing expires at the end of 2005, and he also confirmed he has not signed a contract extension with Roush.
"It hurts my performance and my team when stuff like this gets started. I haven't talked to anybody and I don't plan to until I have exhausted every possible resource at staying at Roush Racing."
Biffle was racing predominantly in the Northwest, when Benny Parsons pointed him out to Roush as a driver that had “great potential.”
Roush hired him and entered him in the Truck Series in 1997, and Biffle became the first Roush driver to earn a major NASCAR championship of any kind.
In two-plus seasons, Biffle has five Cup wins, including two this season at California and Texas.
He is one of a handful of drivers being considered by Penske, but is thought to be the front-runner at this point in the selection process.
However, Penske officials would not comment on Biffle.
"We are looking at several drivers right now and don't expect to make any decision for several months," said Penske co-owner Don Miller.
No one should take anything away from Biffle, because he is the leading Roush driver, but there are still 29 races left in the season.
What would happen if he falters during the rest of the season? I don’t necessarily feel that Biffle, as a driver, might mess up, because he is too focused and dedicated to winning, to do a lot of stupid things.
One thing that has always played a part in a championship run is good luck. It doesn’t matter what shape or form it takes, it can happen. A blown engine here, a flat tire there, or a couple big wrecks caused by someone else, and a good season goes bad.
It is my belief that the folks at Penske Racing want a winner. Wallace has won his share of races in the past, but he hasn’t done well in past years. I think everyone in their shop wants a winner.
Their sponsor is Miller Brewing Co., and like all major corporations with national brand labels, they want their customers to be able to see their presence in victory lane.
Penske doesn’t want to go through a rebuilding season. They want to bring a driver on board that is a proven winner, and can win for them in 2006.
I believe Penske will be willing to come up with a better financial package than Jack Roush. If Biffle does get another win, or maybe two, his bargaining power will be greatly enhanced.
If he has a long string of bad luck, then he’s going to fall down the list of driver candidates, and fate might be the deciding factor whether he goes or stays.
EDWARDS Continues To Lead Busch Points – The top-10 Busch Series points leaders: 1. Edwards-1271, 2. Sorenson-1195, 3. Bowyer-1105, 4. K. Wallace-973, 5. Lewis-932, 6. Hamlin-932, 7. Truex-924, 8. Hmiel-913, 9. Harvick-875, 10. Wood-868.
The Nextel Cup and Busch teams are at Phoenix, AZ for night races, while the Craftsman Trucks are idle.
Friday, Apr. 22, Busch Series Bashas’ 250, race 9 of 35, Starting time: 8:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Fox Channel; Distance: 250 laps/250 miles; Defending champion: This is the inaugural event.
Saturday, April 23, Nextel Cup Subway 500, race 8 of 36, 312 laps/312 miles, 7:30 p.m. TV: Fox. This is the inaugural event.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the defending winner of at next week’s Nextel Cup race in Talladega, AL?
What is the number of Greg Biffle’s Nextel Cup car? Answer. It is No. 16.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. You may write him at P. O. Box 160911, Mobile, AL 36616.
The Montrose Tennis Team competed against North Pocono and Riverside High in separate matches to open their division schedule. They were victorious at home against North Pocono, winning 7-0 with wins by Patrick Bayer, Sean Jones, Brady Goldsmith, Andrew Bookin at No. 1 thru No. 4 Singles respectively and the Doubles Teams of John Watts–Mike Whitney, Lance Elliot–Dave Kimble and Brian Perry–Matt Bulger.
Montrose had a tougher time against a very strong Riverside High team at McDade Park, falling 2-5. Wins for Montrose were at No. 1 Singles by Patrick Bayer and by the No. 1 Doubles Team of Bayer and Brady Goldsmith.
Upcoming matches for Montrose are Bishop Hannan and Scranton.
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