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Dunmore was giving Elk Lake a surprising challenge in softball, locked in a 1-1 tie going into the bottom of the fifth inning.
That's when sophomore outfielder Celia Tyler came through with a grand slam to key a seven-run inning that kept the Lady Warriors unbeaten with an 8-1 Lackawanna League Division III romp.
It must seem unfair to the rest of the division.
Elk Lake, already working with six four-year starters, is hardly a team desperate for contributions from its younger players.
Tyler's clutch hit, however, provided one when Elk Lake needed it most.
Most of the time, the Lady Warriors are getting the key hits and pitches from their established leaders.
By the time the 2003 season ended with Elk Lake knocking off three higher-seeded teams on the road to win the District 2 Class A championship, Elk Lake had five freshmen in the starting lineup. Katherine Lucenti was the starting pitcher for Montrose at the same time.
All six have been starting together at Elk Lake since the beginning of their sophomore season. The combination is back to fill up the infield after helping the Lady Warriors go 14-0 in the division last season.
Amanda Shingler is behind the plate after spending some time at second base last season when injuries made catching difficult. Laura Eastman is at first base, Sarah Stang has moved in from the outfield to second base, Katie McKeon is at shortstop and Mindy Minnick is at third base.
Lucenti had a no-hitter against Lackawanna Trail. She has struck out 77 and walked seven in six games as the team is unbeaten, including non-league wins over Wyoming Valley West and returning District 2 Class AAA finalist Wilkes-Barre Coughlin.
"She's got more confidence in herself," Elk Lake coach Tony Blaisure said of Lucenti. "She has five different pitches and she's more confident to throw all five in any count."
Shingler leads the team with a .522 average. Stang is hitting .471 while Minick is at .444 and McKeon is at .435. Eastman has a homer and leads the team with seven runs batted in.
"We have a lot of potential to duplicate last year," Blaisure said.
The Lady Warriors could threaten for even more. A year ago, their season ended in disappointment with a 2-1 loss to Lakeland in 10 innings in the District 2 Class AA championship game.
Elk Lake is not the only county team undefeated and on top of its division in softball.
Blue Ridge, the 2004 state champion and 2005 district champion in Class A, is again looking strong with a 4-0 start in Division IV of the Lackawanna League and a 5-0 overall record.
The Lady Raiders have outscored their first five opponents, 35-6.
Sophomore Erin Keene got her second shutout of the season Saturday in a 5-0 crossover win over Honesdale, but it was the team's response to adversity in the previous game that impressed coach Bob Pavelski.
Pavelski was forced to pull Keene after the first inning of the game against perennial power Bishop O'Hara when Keene was repeatedly called for illegal pitches when umpires found a problem with her delivery.
The Lady Raiders rallied around their teammate and pounded the Lady Bruins, 8-2, in the matchup of former state champions.
"It's coming together," Pavelski said. "You could see it in the Bishop O'Hara game when I had to pull Erin off the mound. The girls were so upset about what that did to her.
"They just went out and pounded Bishop O'Hara's pitcher. I knew right there that we have something with this team."
Brittany Welch, the hitting star of the 2004 state championship, took over on the mound against Bishop O'Hara and got her third win of the season.
Freshman Dayna Keene is leading the team while batting nearly .600. She catches when her sister pitches and plays third base otherwise.
Kate Donovan, who is playing catcher and shortstop, is second on the team in hitting.
Juniors Donovan, Joce Dearborn, Caryn Zurn and Kas Ralston are all back.
Sophomores Ashley Luce and Jill Majeski were starting at the end of last season.
Senior Alison Mayes has returned after three years away from the sport.
"Everybody throughout the lineup is coming through," Pavelski said.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Three county baseball teams produced impressive victories against strong competition Wednesday.
Mountain View and Blue Ridge both beat defending champions and knocked off teams that were unbeaten. Montrose also handed an opponent its first division loss.
Mountain View defeated Riverside, 11-7. The Vikings were unbeaten Lackawanna League Division III champions last season and had not lost yet this season.
Blue Ridge ripped two-time defending District 2 Class A champion Bishop O'Hara, 15-0, in just three innings.
Montrose handed West Scranton its first Division II loss, 4-2.
In professional baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons dipped to 3-6 on the season when they dropped their home opener, 6-4, to the Norfolk Tides.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins posted two more wins to finish the best season in team history with a 50-18-5-6 record.
The Penguins are 11-2-2-3 since adding Krystofer Kolanos and Petr Taticek at the National Hockey League trade deadline. The only two regulation losses during that stretch came to the Binghamton Senators.
A late season push by the Senators failed to produce a playoff berth, but did get the team past the Philadelphia Phantoms to avoid a last-place finish in the American Hockey League East Division.
Amanda Rizner, a freshman from Forest City, is off to a strong start as a pitcher at King's College.
Rizner is 5-0 with a team-best 1.66 earned run average after making nine appearances. She has started six games and pitched the distance in four of them.
In 38 innings, Rizner has walked just four and struck out 12 while giving up 39 hits.
Rizner also plays first base. She has appeared in three games there and is 0-for-4 at the plate with a walk and a run scored.
King's is off to a 20-4 start.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will open the American Hockey League's Calder Cup playoffs with home games Thursday and Saturday against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The best-of-seven, first-round series continues in Bridgeport Sunday and Tuesday.
If the series continues beyond four games, Game Five would be in Wilkes-Barre April 26, Game Six would be in Bridgeport April 28 and Game Seven would be in Wilkes-Barre April 29.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
HARVICK Gets Nashville Busch Win, Lebanon, TN – Five years ago, Kevin Harvick won the pole at Nashville Superspeedway in the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race at the lightning-fast concrete racetrack. Saturday, the 2001 series champion and current points leader, returned to capture the 18th win of his career.
“Life is good right now,” said Harvick. “But in racing, things can go bad in a hurry, so the best thing is to enjoy it while you can, and then move on to the next race.”
Kevin Harvick celebrates in victory lane at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday.
Harvick battled last year’s race winner Reed Sorenson for the final 35 laps, but Sorenson’s challenge for a repeat ended with five laps to go when he scraped the wall in Turn 4. Harvick then had to hold off his Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer – who won the 2005 June race at Nashville – with two laps left but had a great restart and pulled away with little effort and was rewarded with the coveted Sam Bass guitar trophy.
Bowyer remained in the runner-up slot, Busch Pole winner Denny Hamlin was third, J.J. Yeley was fourth and Carl Edwards was fifth. Jon Wood had his second-best finish of the season with a sixth-place, Raybestos Rookie Burney Lamar was seventh, Kenny Wallace was eighth, Paul Menard was ninth while Michael Waltrip completed the top 10 finishers.
Harvick padded his NASCAR Busch Series points lead, now holding a 156-point advantage over second-place Hamlin. Bowyer is third, followed by Yeley in fourth, fifth-place Edwards, Menard in sixth, then Wood, Johnny Sauter, Kyle Busch and Lamar in seventh through 10th, respectively.
ARCA Race Goes To STEPHEN LEICHT, Lebanon Tenn. – Asheville, North Carolina’s Stephen Leicht, in a Robert Yates Racing Ford, earned his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory in only his second series start Saturday afternoon at Nashville Superspeedway, claiming the PFG Lester 150 by a margin of 0.538 seconds over fellow rookie Brad Coleman.
“I still haven’t realized I won this race,” said Leicht. “It probably won’t hit me until tomorrow.
“I knew we had a good car, but I didn’t know if we had the experience to beat guys like Frank Kimmel. And you know, Steve Wallace has a lot of seat time in these cars.”
Top-10 finishers: 1. Stephen Leicht, 2. Brad Coleman, 3. Frank Kimmel, 4. TJ Bell, 5. Willie Allen, 6. Cale Gale, 7. Todd Hansen, 8. Damon Lusk, 9. Michael Faulk, 10. Steve Wallace.
Top-10 ARCA RE/MAX Series Points after Nashville: 1. Frank Kimmel-410, 2. TJ Bell-400, 3. Bobby Gerhart-400, 4. Damon Lusk-395, 5. Billy Venturini-365, 6. Mario Gosselin-365, 7. Ken Weaver-350, 8. Stephen Leicht-345, 9. Erin Crocker-315, 10. Chuck Weber-270.
JEFF GREEN Enjoyed His Off Weekend – For thirty eight weekends a year, Nextel Cup drivers are racing.
It was Easter week. There was no Cup race, only the Busch series event at Nashville on Saturday. But the main reason the Cup teams didn’t have a scheduled race is because NASCAR knows it couldn’t draw a sellout crowd on Easter Sunday.
Officially, it’s called “a week off.”
While all drivers had Easter Sunday off, it could hardly be looked upon as a leisure time, because most teams spent the week testing at Richmond.
Wednesday saw Jeff Green, driver of the No. 66 and his Haas CNC Racing crew posting the third-fastest lap time of the evening session. The effort gave Green and the No. 66 team the sixth-fastest time overall after the first two days of testing.
“I’m pretty happy with how everything went in the test,” said Green. “We didn’t really make a ‘Bonzai’ qualifying run until Wednesday evening, and ended up with a pretty good lap. We spent the rest of the time trying a lot of different stuff on race runs. We took our time and just worked through a lot of things. I feel like we’ll be good when we get back here.”
After testing Green spent time at the team’s shop in Harrisburg, NC.
Green and his wife, Michelle, flew to Green’s hometown of Owensboro, KY, on Friday to celebrate Easter with family, and returned to Harrisburg on Tuesday.
“Me and some hunting buddies drove up to some farm land I have that’s about 70 miles outside Owensboro,” continued Green. “We went up and did a little turkey hunting. Then we spent Easter with the family, and just relaxed a couple days before heading to Phoenix.”
Green, who began racing full-time in the Cup series in 2002, is now driving for the fourth different team.
He has yet to win a Cup race, but despite the winless streak, he is a capable driver. From 1999-01, he won a Busch Series Championship and finished second twice, while recording 13 Busch wins in that time period.
While driving for Petty Enterprises in 2005, it was a season of mechanical failures and mid-pack finishes. Green was only able to lead eight laps during the entire season.
In 2005, Green started off with a 16th place finish at Daytona, which is not bad considering their equipment and level of competition.
However, the only remaining bright spots for the team were two, top-10s at Bristol and Pocono, 11th at Lowe’s in the Coca-Cola 600, and a 12th at Homestead.
He finished 29th in points.
The HAAS CNC team has struggled over the past two seasons. In 2004, with Mike Bliss and Ward Burton as drivers, the team scored only four top-10s.
Green definitely has the necessary driving skills, and if the team can build a solid program around the former Busch champion, get some reliable horsepower, and keep the fenders on the No. 66, Green could be in for some good runs before the season is over.
The Nextel Cup drivers will have 14 consecutive weeks of racing before another break, and then it will be 16 more consecutive race weekends.
Top-10 unofficial Nextel driver standings after 7 of 36: 1. Johnson-1063, 2. Kenseth-1048, 3. Kahne-1017, 4. Martin-1017, 5. Stewart-966, 6. Earnhardt-951, 7. Kyle Busch-950, 8. Jeff Gordon-911, 9. Harvick-859, 10. Mears-845.
The Cup and Busch Series go west to Phoenix, AZ, while the Craftsman Trucks are off.
Friday, April 21, Busch Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 250, race 9 of 35, 200 laps, 8:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Saturday, April 22, Nextel Cup Subway Fresh 500, race 8 of 36, 312 laps, 8 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the crew chief on the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet driven by Tony Stewart?
Last Week’s Question: Which Cup team is Jeff Green driving for this season? Answer. Green drives the No. 66 Best Buy Cup team of HAAS CNC Racing.
You may read additional stories at the Racing Reporter’s website, www.race500.com.
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