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by Paul Newberry, AP
ATLANTA (AP) — When DeMarre Carroll is having one of those nights where the shots just won’t fall, like Game 2 of the playoffs, he doesn’t get down on himself.
He knows there’s so many other ways he can help the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, whether it’s playing shutdown defense, banging for a rebound or diving to the floor to grab a loose ball.
Besides, Carroll knows a thing or two about adversity beyond the court. His brother died young. He’s been shot. He has a rare liver disease. Not to mention, all those doubts about his future in the NBA as he bounced from one team to another.
“It made me stronger, man,” Carroll said of the winding journey that brought him to where he is now. “I’ve been through so much, but I look at it as a positive. I look at me being a testimony for all the other individuals or kids or whoever in the world is going through something. You can go through obstacles but still succeed in life.”
Carroll has become the emotional core of the Hawks, who surged to the top of the Eastern Conference this season and hold a 2-0 lead in their playoff series against Brooklyn.
The 6-foot-8 forward had 17 points in Game 1, helping Atlanta get by even though top scorer Paul Millsap had a tough night. Carroll was the one struggling in the second game, making only one basket and missing all five of his attempts from 3-point range.
But his only points came on a crucial layup with less than a minute to go, helping the Hawks hold on for a 96-91 victory. Plus, he had eight rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block. At the defensive end, he’s largely responsible for Joe Johnson of the Nets to 36 percent shooting (12 of 33) in the series.
“My main focus in these playoffs is keying in on defense,” said Carroll, who is always easy to spot with his distinctive dreadlocks. “I’ve got to stop Joe. I can’t let him get going. The rest will take care of itself.”
Carroll learned at an early age to persevere.
He was just 5 when his older brother DeLonte died of a brain tumor. During the summer of 2007, while attending Missouri, Carroll was randomly shot in the ankle during a disturbance outside a nightclub, another reminder of the frailty of life. If that wasn’t enough, he also learned in college of his liver disease, which could eventually require a transplant but likely long after he’s finished his basketball career.
“My whole motto, my whole mindset throughout my life is someone can have it worse than you,” said Carroll, who has a tattoo of his brother’s face on his left arm.
After a stellar career at Missouri, where he was known for a tenacious style that earned him the nickname “Junkyard Dog,” Carroll was drafted late in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009.
It didn’t work out.
“He was an energy guy, flying all over the court,” said then-Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, who in an interesting twist now leads the Nets. “But he was young and immature. A lot of guys come into the league with a higher opinion of themselves and expecting a bigger role. It takes time.”
Time the Grizzlies didn’t have.
Carroll was demoted to the D-League and dealt to Houston before his rookie year was done. Waived by the Rockets at the end of the season, he moved on to Denver but played only four games before he was let go again. After signing with Utah, Carroll made a few starts and finally showed signs of getting his career on track. But it wasn’t until he signed a two-year deal with the rebuilding Hawks in 2013 that it all came together.
“There are a few guys in the NBA where you’re like, `Man, that guy’s got so much in the tank. If he could just be untapped,’” said Atlanta teammate Kyle Korver. “He’s always been a guy who just wants to go out there and hoop, ball, play hard, get offensive rebounds, a one-man, full-court press. That’s been his mantra his whole life. But he came here and learned fundamentals, too.”
The coaching staff focused on Carroll’s footwork, his shooting technique, helped him understand angles and positioning on defense. He was eager to put in the time, coming early and staying late at just about every practice. The Hawks figured they were getting a guy who would mainly serve as a defensive stopper, but he wound up averaging more than 11 points a game.
This season, Carroll was even better, improving to 12.6 while hitting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc.
He’s still the Junkyard Dog.
He’s just so much more.
“There’s a lot of us in the league, a lot of guys who didn’t get in the way everyone else did,” said Kent Bazemore, who backs up Carroll. “He’s one of the unsung heroes you look up to. You look at his career and say, `Man, `I’ve really got a chance.’”
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas coach Mike Anderson says the school has signed prep power forward Ted Kapita, a much-needed addition following the early departures of forwards Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls.
The 6-foot-9 Kapita played last season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, though he missed much of the season with a hip injury.
Kapita averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game during his junior season in Florida, where the native of Congo burst on the recruiting scene with a 36-point, 18-rebound effort while playing for Pan Africa against the U.S. in the Nike Global Challenge.
Kapita is the second signee in this recruiting class for the Razorbacks, joining Missouri guard Jimmy Whitt.
Arkansas was 27-9 this season. Both Portis and Qualls declared for the NBA draft last week.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas has announced a two-year contract extension for women’s basketball coach Jimmy Dykes, keeping the former ESPN analyst at the school through 2020.
Dykes led the Razorbacks to an 18-14 record in his first season, helping them reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. Arkansas won its opening tournament game over Northwestern before losing to Baylor in the second round.
Dykes returned to coaching for the first time in more than 20 years when he was hired last year by the Razorbacks. He was originally signed to a four-year contract with an annual salary of $250,000, but athletic director Jeff Long worked quickly to extend that deal after Arkansas’ success this season.
by Jeff Seidel, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kolten Wong keeps causing trouble for the Washington Nationals.
Wong homered and drove in the tiebreaking run with a double in the eighth inning to lift the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-5 victory over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.
Wong finished 3 for 4 for the second straight night. He hit a two-run homer in the second inning and the tie-breaking double gave him three RBIs.
He also made two spectacular plays at second base and a third good one, helping St. Louis on offense and defense.
“You always want to try and have that one game where you can play both sides really well, and (this) was my night,” Wong said. “I got to play well on both sides, and I got to help to contribute to the win.”
Wong ranged into short center field to grab grounders and throw out Yunel Escobar to end the fifth and Wilson Ramos starting the sixth. He also made a nice play later that inning on Danny Espinosa’s grounder, going far to his left and throwing to pitcher John Lackey covering first.
“(He) had a huge day,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “There’s a couple of plays there you just don’t think that there’s any chance. Just overall a very good day for Kolten.”
The tiebreaking hit might have been Wong’s biggest moment. Jon Jay drew a one-out walk off Blake Treinen (0-2) in the eighth and moved to third on Yadier Molina’s single. Wong then sliced a double down the left-field line, scoring Jay to break a 5-5 tie.
Matt Adams added a solo homer in the ninth off Rafael Martin to close the scoring.
Kevin Siegrist (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings and Trevor Rosenthal got the last three outs for his fifth save as St. Louis won for the sixth time in seven games.
The Cardinals appeared headed for an easy night after taking a 5-0 lead in the third inning.
Matt Carpenter led off the game with a homer off Washington starter Doug Fister, and Wong added his two-run shot in the second. The Cardinals added two more in the third for the five-run lead.
The Nationals then bounced back with five runs in the third, tying the game on Yunel Escobar’s three-run double with two outs off Lackey.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “It’s one of those days where you could just easily fold the tent and say it’s not our day, but they came back and made a game of it.”
Cardinals: OF Randal Grichuk is making progress toward a return. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday that Grichuk is moving around well but have yet to talk about a rehab assignment. Grichuk went on the disabled list with a lower back strain last Friday.
Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon (sprained left knee) played five innings in extended spring training on Wednesday and is coming back to Washington for a workout with the Nationals on Thursday. He’ll then head to Double-A Harrisburg to begin a rehab assignment on Friday. Manager Matt Williams said he wasn’t sure of a timeline for Rendon returning to the Nationals but they wanted to get him up to playing nine innings and a bunch of at-bats.
WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES
Nationals left-hander Matt Grace made his major league debut in this game. Called up earlier in the day when LHP Felipe Rivero (intestinal bleed) went on the 15-day disabled list, Grace threw a scoreless seventh inning, walking one without giving up a hit while the teams were locked in a 5-5 tie.
Lackey made two errors on one play in the bottom of the fourth inning. Denard Span hit a grounder back to the box that Lackey fielded, then dropped and then threw wildly past first. However, the Nationals stranded Span at second.
Cardinals RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 1.35) has beaten the Reds in his first two starts, giving up a total of two runs while winning both times.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (1-1, 0.83), a St. Louis native, is coming off a stellar eight-inning effort in a victory over the Phillies last Friday. He has already struck out 25 in 21 2-3 innings this season.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Even with a gift out, Jeremy Guthrie was too wild for his own good.
Guthrie matched a career high by walking six and also hit a batter as the Kansas City Royals lost to the Minnesota Twins 3-0 Wednesday night.
Guthrie (0-1) gave up three runs in the first inning. Overall, he allowed six hits in five innings. Only half of his 98 pitches were for strikes.
“It’s real uncharacteristic of Jeremy,” manager Ned Yost said. “The veteran pitcher in him allowed him to keep us in the game through five and get us in a spot where we can manage it. Three runs is not an insurmountable lead.”
“It’s one of those games, but Jeremy doesn’t panic. He will bend at times, but not break. He doesn’t freak out he can’t find his command,” he said.
The Twins scored all their runs in the first on three hits, two walks and a hit batter. Brian Dozier and Kennys Vargas had RBI singles and Oswaldo Arcia was hit with the bases loaded.
The Twins loaded the bases in the second on Torii Hunter’s double and walks to Joe Mauer and Dozier. Hunter took off from third, trying for a straight steal of home, and was out.
“Hopefully you get miracles,” Guthrie said. “Stolen bases (outs) with the bases loaded and their best hitter up. Stuff like that.”
Mike Pelfrey (1-0) pitched seven scoreless innings to pick up his first victory since 2013. Mauer reached base four times with two hits and two walks and scored a run.
Pelfrey’s last victory was Sept. 23, 2013, against Detroit. He went 0-3 in five starts last year before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery on June 10.
Pelfrey gave up five singles, walked two, hit two batters and struck out four. It was his longest outing since he went seven innings against Texas on Aug. 31, 2013.
Glen Perkins got the last three outs for his third save
Yohan Pino replaced Guthrie and threw three scoreless innings.
Twins: LHP Brian Duensing (right intercostal strain) started soft tossing Wednesday.
Royals: 2B Omar Infante (strained left groin) missed his third straight game. Manager Ned Yost said Infante could have played, but did not want to push him.
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes (0-3, 5.30 ERA) starts against the Mariners on Friday.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura (2-1, 4.80 ERA), fined Tuesday for hitting Oakland’s Brett Lawrie Sunday, starts Thursday against the Chicago White Sox.
Royals relievers Pino and Franklin Morales combined for four scoreless innings after Guthrie was pulled. The Royals’ bullpen has allowed three runs in 46 1-3 innings. “They’ve been nothing less than dynamite,” Yost said.
by David Brandt, AP
For a quick window into how much college baseball has changed over the past year, look no further than the stat line of Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound sophomore hit just one homer in 225 at-bats last season, watching as a few potential long balls fell just shy of the fence.
This year has been a different story.
He’s already hit 14 out of the park and there’s still a month remaining in the regular season.
The NCAA’s new baseball – which has flatter seams than the previous version – was introduced this spring with the hope that it would increase offense.
So far, it has worked.
“I haven’t really changed my approach from last season, but I do think I’m a little stronger which has helped,” Benintendi said. “There’s no doubt the new baseball has helped some, too. I didn’t think I would hit this many (homers) and really, I’m not thinking about it. I’m just trying to hit it hard into the gap and fortunately some are leaving the park.”
Benintendi’s huge power spike might be an anomaly, but offensive numbers are up across the Southeastern Conference. The 14 teams have already combined for 399 homers through Tuesday’s games after hitting just 392 all of last season.
With the weather warming up, don’t expect the trend to stop any time soon. Pitching and defense are still important, but the SEC’s elite are all hitting the ball with authority.
“It’s partly because of the new baseball and partly because of some really good hitters,” Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said. “But mostly, it’s about confidence. Guys have noticed that the new ball carries and they’re really attacking. It’s what everyone is talking about.”
The offensive increase isn’t all about homers. Four teams – LSU, Texas A&M, Florida and Kentucky – have a team batting average above .300. Last season, no one reached that mark.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he’s much less likely to call for a sacrifice bunt this spring, playing for the big inning instead of trying to squeeze out one run.
The Tigers (35-6, 12-5 SEC) lead the league with a .320 batting average and are tied third with 38 homers. Texas A&M (36-5, 12-5) has a league-leading 47 homers. The two teams – ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the d1baseball.com poll – meet this weekend for a three-game series in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
LSU’s Kade Scivicque, who is hitting .396 with five homers, leads an offense that returned eight of nine players from last season. He says the ball has had a huge effect on hitters’ psyche.
“When you have a positive mindset in the batter’s box, good things happen,” Scivicque said. “You’re getting good swings, getting some backspin and the ball is carrying.”
Benintendi is one of five SEC players who has reached double digits in homers. Florida’s J.J. Schwarz has 13 and teammate Harrison Bader has 11, Tennessee’s Christin Stewart has 12 and Texas A&M’s Logan Taylor has 10.
Only two players – Kentucky’s A.J. Reed and Mississippi’s Sikes Orvis – had more than 10 homers last season.
College baseball’s home run rate is still much lower than its heyday in the late 1990s, but the threat of a long ball has certainly increased. Benintendi said everyone he’s talked to has been pleased with the new baseball and the results it has produced.
His coach agrees.
“To me, this is a lot more like baseball,” Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn said. “The last few years, if you were down three runs going into the 7th inning, the game was basically over because it was so hard to hit the ball over someone’s head. That’s not the case anymore.”
(West Plains) – Keeton Tennison, a freshman guard on this year’s Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team, has decided to take his talents to Southern Arkansas University (SAU) in Magnolia for the remainder of his collegiate career.
Tennison, a graduate of Valley Springs High School near Harrison, Arkansas, recently signed paperwork to transfer to Southern Arkansas and play for the Muleriders, an NCAA Division II school in the Great American Conference.
Tennison averaged 5.5 points, .8 assists and 1.5 rebounds per game in 32 games this past season. He also shot 43.1 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
“I chose Southern Arkansas University because they finished at the top of one of the best conferences in NCAA Division II, and they are returning multiple starters,” Tennison said. “I felt very comfortable with the coaches and playing in their system. I plan to walk in and make an immediate impact as a shooter and as a leader on and off the floor.
“I’d like to thank everyone from Missouri State University-West Plains for all of the support throughout the year,” he added. “I’d also like to thank the coaching staff for the opportunity to be a Grizzly. And, I want to specifically thank my host parents, Dennis and Sonya McGinley.”
by Howard Fendrich, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Carlos Villanueva had pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals only once all season, and that was more than a week ago.
Neither he nor manager Mike Matheny was going to say that’s why the Cardinals lost this game.
Yunel Escobar drove an 89 mph fastball from former teammate Villanueva to left with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning Tuesday night, then celebrated with a head-first dive to the plate, lifting the Washington Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals, ending St. Louis’ five-game winning streak.
“It’s no excuse. I’ve done it before. That’s what I’m here for. I don’t see that being a factor,” said Villanueva (1-1), who hadn’t pitched since earning the win April 12 against Cincinnati. “I’ve stayed ready in between. I’ve thrown my sides. And it’s something that I have to deal with, to stay ready for situations like this.”
“That’s what we got him for. He comes in, in those spots, and that’s the kind of spots he knows he’s going to be pitching in,” Matheny said. “We just try and ride him as long as we can.”
It was the second homer of 2015 for Escobar, acquired this offseason in the deal that sent setup man Tyler Clippard to Oakland. Escobar was supposed to be Washington’s starting second baseman but has been filling in at third while Anthony Rendon is on the disabled list.
“He would play anywhere we ask him to,” manager Matt Williams said.
Escobar went to the plate looking for a fastball from Villanueva, the seventh pitched used by St. Louis – and that’s just what he got.
“He ambushed me,” said Villanueva, who was on the Toronto Blue Jays with Escobar in 2011-12.
The Nationals have won five of six games to get back to .500 after starting the year 2-6.
After Gonzalez managed to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard despite giving up eight hits and four walks in six innings, Aaron Barrett (2-0) earned the win by pitching the 10th. He worked around a leadoff single and stolen base by Pete Kozma – forever associated around these parts with the Cardinals’ 2012 NL Division Series Game 5 comeback.
Thanks to Bryce Harper’s RBI single in the third – when he also wound up getting doubled off base on an appeal – the Nationals led 1-0 heading into the ninth inning, when closer Drew Storen blew the save. Matt Holliday tied the game with an RBI single, making him 4 for 4, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
Entering the ninth, St. Louis had left 12 runners on base.
“We were getting some hits,” Matheny said, “but not the consecutive ones.”
Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (DL, left shoulder) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday.
Nationals: 3B Rendon (sprained left knee) played three innings at extended spring training and could be headed out on a minor league rehab assignment as soon as Friday.
The Cardinals brought up reliever Mitch Harris, a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, from Triple-A Memphis. The Hall of Fame said it believes the only Naval Academy graduate to appear in a major league game was pitcher Nemo Gaines, who made four relief appearances in 1921 with the Washington Senators. Harris did not get into Tuesday’s game.
Cardinals RHP John Lackey (1-0, 2.77 ERA) is one strikeout shy of 1,800 for his career heading into Wednesday’s game, his first start against the Nationals since 2008, when he was a member of the Angels. He’ll face Nationals RHP Doug Fister (1-0, 0.69). In 2013, they were opponents in the AL Championship Series, although never pitched against each other, as Lackey’s Red Sox beat Fister’s Tigers in six games.
by Howard Fendrich, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — During his stint in the Persian Gulf on a Navy carrier, Mitch Harris kept his pitching arm – and his hopes of eventually making it to the majors – in shape by tossing a baseball on the flight deck.
“We actually had a cook … who grew up playing baseball his whole life,” Harris recalled. “He was about the only person I truly trusted to throw with, because I was scared I’d hurt anybody else.”
Harris, a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, told this story Tuesday during a news conference at Nationals Park, where the 29-year-old relief pitcher joined the St. Louis Cardinals after being called up from the minors.
The Hall of Fame said it believes the only Naval Academy graduate to appear in a major league game was pitcher Nemo Gaines, who made four relief appearances in 1921 with the Washington Senators. Counting the minor leagues, just nine Annapolis graduates have played professional baseball, the Hall said.
“It’s nice to finally say that the dream has begun to come true,” Harris said. “Obviously just making it is part of it, but staying is the better half.”
Harris, who is from Ocala, Florida, had the rank of second lieutenant and still is a member of the reserves. He said he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, for five years and went on three deployments, including time in the Persian Gulf, Russia and on drug operations in South America.
“It’s a great story for our country and for our soldiers,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “For a guy who’s made that kind of sacrifice, and then (to) be able to make that kind of jump into our world, it’s just so rare.”
The right-hander was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 2008 amateur draft and started his professional baseball career in 2013. He had a 1.86 ERA in eight spring training appearances for the Cardinals this year, then had two saves and a 2.45 ERA for Memphis.
“He made a commitment to his country and he honored that. From a baseball development standpoint it was not ideal,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. “In a lot of ways, he dealt with baseball atrophy.”
Through all the time away from the game, Harris never lost sight of his goal.
“If you tell yourself you’re not going to be able to do it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. So I told myself the whole time that there was going to be a time where I was going to get a chance to do this,” Harris said. “And that was the best way to go about it. I’m human. There’s definitely days where I thought there’s no shot, no chance I was going to do this. But here we are.”
He said he thought about 20 relatives and friends planned to be in the nation’s capital for Tuesday’s game against Washington, a cheering section that included his parents and the commanding officer on his first Navy ship.
“It’s a fantastic story. Service to his country, first and foremost, and worked hard to get to where he wants to be professionally, too,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “We approach it like we would any other guy – we hit to our strengths. But I think it’s a fantastic story. And his first game being here is really interesting, as well.”
Williams then added with a smile: “We want to beat him. We really do. But it’s a great story.”
Notes: St. Louis placed OF Peter Bourjos on the paternity leave list Tuesday and selected the contract of Harris from Triple-A Memphis. St. Louis designated OF Gary Brown for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Harris.
by Robert Jablon and Andrew Dalton, AP
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — The ball now belongs to the Raiders, the Chargers, the Rams – and the NFL.
A second City Council has approved a second proposed pro football stadium in the Los Angeles area, putting local issues to rest in the NFL’s return to the region and leaving the next move in the hands of the teams that would seek to relocate and the league that must give its final approval.
The latest significant step was Tuesday night’s 3-0 vote from the Carson City Council, which cleared the path for a $1.7 billion stadium that could become the shared home to the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders.
It was intended to lure the NFL back to the Los Angeles area after two-decades without a team in the nation’s second-largest media market.
Under current rules, the next opportunity for a team to file to relocate, either to the Carson stadium or the nearby proposed stadium in Inglewood, would be in January 2016. Any decision to move would have to clear a tangle of league hurdles, including winning the support of at least 24 of the 32 teams.
Carson Mayor Albert Robles likened the absence of the NFL in greater Los Angeles to the state’s deep drought.
“There are two things that are needed here in Southern California,” Robles said after the vote. “One of them is rain … the other is football. And today, hopefully, we took care of that, because football is coming to Carson.”
The vote came with a loud cheer from a crowd dotted with Raiders jerseys and Chargers banners, and faced virtually no opposition from the room.
Mike Haynes, who played for the then-LA Raiders in their 1984 Super Bowl title year and also grew up in the area, spoke strongly in favor of the stadium.
“It might not be too long `til sometime another local kid will have an opportunity to play in a Super Bowl right down the street from here,” Haynes said.
Council members could have opted to put the issue before Carson voters, but instead chose to approve it outright themselves as state law allows.
In the Inglewood project, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a group planning to build an 80,000-seat stadium. Its City Council already gave it the same green light given by Carson Tuesday night.
The sudden rush to Los Angeles is tempered by a 20-year history of disappointment for fans. A string of stadium proposals have come and gone since the Rams and the Raiders fled Southern California after the 1994 season. Last month, the Anschutz Entertainment Group spiked plans for a field in downtown Los Angeles, although Mayor Eric Garcetti has suggested that it could be revived.
The Kroenke blueprint envisions a $1.86 billion stadium rising on the site of a former horse track, as part of a nearly 300-acre development of homes, parks and office space.
The 168-acre Carson site, edged by a freeway, is a former landfill.
The Chargers’ talks with San Diego City Hall to replace the nearly 50-year-old Qualcomm Stadium have grown increasingly strained. The Raiders’ even older Oakland Coliseum has had sewage and electrical problems and is now the only stadium in the U.S. used as the home for both an NFL and Major League Baseball team, the Oakland Athletics.