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ALLENTOWN - Sometimes in sports, it is necessary for one to make the most of an opportunity.
For Montrose graduate Rich Thompson, “opportunity” came in the form of getting a chance to face what may be the world’s best pitcher.
Thompson got up from his spot on the end of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs bench to make his first start of the season April 21 at Coca-Cola Park on the night when Daisuke Matsuzaka was making an injury rehabilitation start with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
While Matsuzaka, the Most Valuable Player of the only two World Baseball Classics, was busy proving he was ready to return to the Boston Red Sox, Thompson showed he was deserving of more playing time.
Just as the IronPigs have learned they can expect, Thompson took the right attitude into the assignment.
“If you’re going to play, I’d almost rather play against a guy like that than someone who doesn’t have good stuff,” Thompson said.
As if to add further proof that the game is not always fair, Thompson’s third-inning bullet into the left-field corner for what looked like a two-run double was stolen away when left fielder Matt Sheely made a brilliant, diving, back-hand grab, inches above the ground near the line.
“At that point, you just hope the next one falls in,” Thompson said.
Thompson, who beat out an infield single later in the game, got his double off Matsuzaka in the next at-bat.
“He’s a top big-league pitcher,” Thompson said of Matsuzaka, who won a World Series game in 2007 and went 18-3 in 2008. “It’s nice to see you can do well.”
IronPigs manager Dave Huppert took note.
After coming off the bench eight times to get seven at-bats in the first 12 games, the game against Matsuzaka was the first of seven straight starts for Thompson. The outfielder ended April with appearances in nine straight games, including starts in eight.
Thompson showed he was ready for the chance, pushing his batting average to .375 before going 0-for-8 to end April with a .300 average. He went 10-for-26 (.385) with hits in each of his first six games as a starter.
The limited chance to start the season is something Thompson has gotten used to since April of 2004 when he gained his only Major League Baseball experience, coming off the bench for the Kansas City Royals. The former James Madison standout went 0-for-1 with a stolen base and a game-winning run in his six appearances before the Royals decided not to keep him on the roster and, therefore, had to return him to the Toronto organization, according to the Rule 5 Draft.
Thompson started over in the minor leagues that spring. In 2007, as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he spent additional time in extended spring training waiting for his season-opening assignment. A year later, he was a late cut by the defending world champion Boston Red Sox right at the end of spring training.
“I was sitting home at this time of the year,” Thompson said.
So, spending a little extra time at the end of the bench was not going to stop Thompson, who celebrated his 31st birthday since returning to the lineup.
“I don’t go about my day any different,” Thompson said at the time. “I just don’t get to go on the field at 7.”
That situation has since been fixed. Thompson finished April 12-for-40 with seven runs in 17 games. He had three doubles, six RBIs and was 2-for-3 stealing bases.
WEEK IN REVIEW
THROOP - Montrose defeated Valley View, 3-2, Thursday at Mid Valley in a playoff to qualify for the fourth and final spot in the District 2 Class AA boys’ tennis tournament, which was scheduled to be played Tuesday.
Both teams went 6-2 to tie for second in Division 2 of the Lackawanna League.
The teams were tied, 2-2, and Valley View briefly led the third set at second doubles. Chris Jordan and Isaac Mitchell then won the final three games to defeat Valley View’s John Harrison-Jordan Furdock, 6-4, 6-4, and finish off the victory for Montrose.
The Meteors broke serve twice and Mitchell served a winning game in between. Jordan, a left-hander, closed out the match with some strong play at the net.
David Harris gave Montrose a point at second singles with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Trevor Troiani.
Max Scarola-Ryan Ochse defeated Shane Gensiak-Kelly Swift, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, at first doubles.
Andy Mattise and Ian Betti had the points for Valley View at first and third singles. Mattise topped Zach Warriner, 6-4, 6-0. Betti beat Aaron Roman, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
In high school softball, Elk Lake remained unbeaten, improving to 8-0 by getting past Lackawanna Trail and Montrose, two of the other three teams in the division with winning records.
Brooke Darling threw her third no-hitter of the season to stop Lackawanna Trail.
Sean Brewer has been the second-busiest pitcher, in terms of innings, as Keystone College tries to make the NCAA Division III baseball tournament for the third straight year.
In Keystone’s 13-2 start in the Colonial States Athletic Conference and 21-7 overall mark, Brewer is tied for the team lead in pitching starts with six.
Brewer is 4-1 with a 3.69 earned run average in seven games. He leads the team in strikeouts (41) while walking just nine in 39 innings.
Last season, Brewer was a first-team CSAC all-star when he went 8-3 with 88 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA in 81 innings.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The District 2 Class AA boys’ tennis singles tournament opens Thursday at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre.
The final two rounds will be Friday at a site to be determined.
The doubles tournament is set to begin Tuesday, May 11 at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre.
In track and field, the Jordan Relays are scheduled for Thursday at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
The LTC’s Robert Spagna Championships are scheduled for Tuesday, May 11, also at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
In softball, defending champion Blue Ridge is at current leader Elk Lake in a Lackawanna League Division 3 game Monday, May 10.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Kyle Busch Outruns Gordon
RICHMOND, Vir. -
Kyle Busch dominated the Crown Royal 400 but had to rally late to win Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Busch grabbed the lead from Jeff Gordon on a restart with three laps to go and steadily pulled away down the stretch, beating Gordon to the checkered flag by .755-seconds to win for the first time in 2010.
Kyle Busch, Richmond Cup race winner.
“All I really knew was just to get into Turn 1 smooth and be able to get a good launch up off Turn 2 to get down the backstretch, then make sure I got into three without overdriving it,” Busch said. “On the previous restart, when I was with [Kevin] Harvick, I kept overdriving, locking up the left front tire into Turn three, sliding up the track. I knew if I could get through Turn 3 okay, hammer down off of Turn four, get him clear, it would be pretty good. That’s what I did.”
Gordon finished second for the eighth time since his last win in the series on April 5, 2009 at Texas, 39 races ago.
“I've been doing this long enough to know they don't give out trophies for leading any lap other than the last one,” said Gordon, who reached the boiling point at Talladega last week after Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, forced him onto the apron in Turn 3. Moments later, Gordon was wrecked.
“We're a team that's made huge strides, in my opinion, from last year. … That's what I'm excited about. We're leading laps at a lot of different types of tracks, and I think our team is really on top of our game.
“Yeah, it's a little disappointing that we haven't won some races yet, but if we keep doing this, those will come. We've got to keep putting ourselves in position.”
Kevin Harvick, last week’s winner at Talladega finished third, right on Gordon’s rear bumper.
“It was a solid night for us,” Harvick said. “We were right in the middle of the top-five all night, which is where you got to be to have a chance. We had a chance there at the end. The 18-car, he could run the outside where none of the rest of us could. He could carry that momentum.
“He had a couple lap fresher tires than we all did and was able to really make the move on the outside, make it stick. But all in all, it was a solid night and we'll take it.”
Harvick is the new Chase leader. He leads Jimmie Johnson by 10 points.
Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Juan Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Marcos Ambrose, and Jimmie Johnson were the remaining top-10 finishers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 32nd, addressed a rumor about a story that appeared in the National Enquirer, which said that he broke up the marriage of his current girlfriend, Amy Reimann.
“We’ve been in there a lot. I don’t know why we keep popping up in there. I guess we’re relevant in some realm,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You learn a lot of new stuff about yourself that you never knew before. … There’s no truth to that particular story.”
Earnhardt’s poor finish dropped him to 13th in the points standings, 258 points out of first.
Top-12 Chase contenders after 10 of 36: 1. Harvick-1467, 2. Johnson-1457, 3. Kyle Busch-1358, 4. Kenseth-1348, 5. Biffle-1334, 6. J. Gordon-1305, 7. Hamlin-1268, 8. Kurt Busch-1255, 9. Burton-1247, 10. Martin-1242, 11. Edwards-1227, 12. Bowyer-1213
KESELOWSKI POWERS TO NATIONWIDE WIN
RICHMOND, Va. - After a late caution turned a runaway into a challenge for Brad Keselowski, a late four-tire call proved decisive, as Keselowski stormed to the front from fourth place during a green-white-checkered finish to win Friday night's Bubba Burger 250 Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.
Keselowski, who led 189 of 252 laps, had an advantage of almost two seconds when Paul Menard slammed the Turn 2 wall on Lap 245 of a scheduled 250 laps at the .75-mile short track.
“I'm coming,” Keselowski radioed to crew chief Paul Wolfe, steering his car toward pit road for a four-tire stop.
Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier stayed out on old tires, while Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle each took two. Busch led the field to green on Lap 251 with Allgaier beside him, McMurray on the inside of the second row and Keselowski alongside in fourth.
Biffle surged forward from the fifth spot, and by the time the cars reached Turn 3 on the next-to-last lap, Keselowski and Biffle had separated themselves from the pack. A lap later, Keselowski passed to the inside and ultimately crossed the finish line .261 seconds ahead of Biffle.
McMurray finished third, Busch fourth and Carl Edwards fifth. Keselowski extended his series lead to 59 points over seventh-place finisher Kevin Harvick.
The victory was Keselowski's second in as many weeks to go with last Sunday's victory at Talladega Superspeedway
Top-10 points leaders after 9 of 35: 1. Keselowski-1469, 2. Harvick-1410, 3. Kyle Busch-1385, 4. Allgaier-1289, 5. Edwards-1266, 6. Logano-1228, 7. Menard-1191, 8. Biffle-1039, 9. Gaughan-976, 10. Scott-955
Weekend Racing: The Cup and Nationwide teams will be at the 1-mile Darlington Raceway for night races. The Camping World Trucks have the weekend off.
Fri., May 7, Nationwide Series Royal Purple 200, Starting time: 7:30 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN2.
Sat., May 8, Sprint Cup Southern 500, Starting time: 7:30 p.m. ET; TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is Brad Keselowski’s hometown?
Last Week’s Question: What series did Jimmie Johnson race in before moving to the Cup series? Answer. It was the NASCAR Busch Series, now known as the Nationwide Series.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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