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Par for the Course
Tom Benyo, Class A GCSAA
Willow Springs Municipal Golf Course

First Ace of the Year

Our first hole in one of the year is already recorded. Jerry Gibbons aced the long # 4 par 3 last week using a 3 wood. He wants everyone to know that it was a choked down 3 wood. That was a good thing because a full 3 wood would have gone long. Gibby is no stranger to aces at Willow Springs. He has 4 career hole in ones and all have been at WS. The ace at # 4 completes his trifecta of at least one hole in one on all of our par 3′s. Congratulations Gibby we are all happy for you and jealous of your aces.

We usually have 3-5 a year so there are several more waiting for the fortunate golfer.

Tournaments

The AAU Benefit tournament scheduled for April 18 has been cancelled. Our first tournament of the spring will be the YMCA tourney on April 25.

Call 469-5101 to sign up for that one. Do not leave that information at the golf course. This tournament does fill up so call soon if you hope to play.

Leagues

Our leagues will be stating up this week. Monday will start the Casual League. All skill levels of golfers are welcome for it. We divide up and

play some kind of scramble format usually. We charge only a dollar to play and that money goes toward a steak cookout at the end of the summer. We also charge a quarter and the hole prize winner that day gets all the quarters.

Tuesday is our couples Cat and Dog League. The male and female teams play a scramble format. Cost is the same dollar and a quarter but the dollar this time goes to the winners each night.

Men’s League takes place on Thursdays and I am not sure if they are beginning yet or not, but they will be starting soon.

Nonmembers can play in any or all of the leagues and the greens fee is only $5 per person instead of the usual $10 for 9 holes. Come out and enjoy some league golf.

The Course

The greens are healing nicely from aeration. Dave has the course in good shape with the help of Bill Jackson. They did a great job while I was visiting golf heaven at the Master’s in Augusta Georgia last week.

by RB Fallstrom, AP

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, April 13, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, April 13, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Adam Wainwright has definitely had better days. Kolten Wong felt much worse after the St. Louis Cardinals’ disappointing home opener.

“For me, unfortunately, I’m going to take the blame on this loss because it’s probably my fault,” Wong said after committing his first two errors of the season in a 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.

Wong walked three times and scored a run but hurt the Cardinals too much, with the errors leading to two unearned runs. It started with the first batter when he couldn’t handle a routine grounder by Carlos Gomez.

“It was just one of those plays where it came off the bat funny, I took my eye off the ball a little too early and it got away,” Wong said. “I take pride in defense and this happening, I think it’s something that has to bring me down to realize I still need to continue to work.”

Matt Garza overcame five walks to earn his first career win in St. Louis and Gomez had two hits and an RBI for the Brewers.

Wainwright (1-1) started his fourth opener at 10-year-old Busch Stadium and gave up five runs – three earned – in seven innings. Jhonny Peralta had two hits, including a two-run double off Jeremy Jeffress that cut the deficit to a run in the seventh.

“They had a good game plan,” Wainwright said. “They had a good game plan and they executed it in the big moments.”

The Cardinals were 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position, stranding 12 runners.

“We’ve had that a few games now,” manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s early in the season, so I see it turning, but right now we’re just kind of fighting to make something happen.”

Francisco Rodriguez earned his first save, helping himself with the defensive play of the game when he reached behind his head and snared Peralta’s liner leading off the ninth.

Play was sloppy on both sides with Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura also committing two errors.

Jeffress’ wild pitch put both runners in scoring position ahead of Peralta’s double, which got past right fielder Ryan Braun’s attempt at a shoestring catch.

Segura doubled off the outstretched glove of new Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward, who might have taken an indirect route to the ball, to set up Scooter Gennett’s run-scoring groundout for a 2-0 lead in the second.

A double by Gomez that made it 4-2 in the seventh was the first RBI hit for the either team. Gomez made it a three-run cushion when he scored from second on Jonathan Lucroy’s infield hit combined with Wong’s wild throw to first.

Garza allowed two runs – one earned – in 5 2-3 innings to win for the first time in six career starts in St. Louis. He entered 0-2 with a 6.95 ERA.

Wainwright beat the Cubs in the season opener and had won six consecutive regular-season decisions since losing to Pittsburgh on Aug. 27.

The highlight of the pregame ceremony was a video memorial to Oscar Taveras, the promising outfielder killed along with his girlfriend in an automobile accident last fall. St. Louis uniforms include a patch on the left sleeve with the initials of the 22-year-old Taveras.

Cardinals favorites clad in red jackets rode atop convertibles during the traditional pregame procession around the warning track. Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith led the parade that also included former managers Tony La Russa and Whitey Herzog.

Standing room attendance of 49,875 was the largest at Busch Stadium.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Backup catcher Tony Cruz was activated from the paternity leave list prior to the game and catcher Ed Easley was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Lance Lynn (0-1, 1.50) makes his 99th career start and will oppose Wily Peralta (0-0, 2.57), seeking his 50th win. He was 2-0 with a 1.80 in four starts against Milwaukee last year.

OFF TARGET

Garza’s five walks in 5 2-3 innings were one off his career worst. Brewers pitchers totaled seven walks, fewest in the majors, their first six games.

Wong scored from first to tie it at 2 in the fourth when Segura overthrew first base going for a double play on a bunt by Wainwright.

STREAKING

Matt Carpenter was 1 for 12 against Garza before doubling to start the third.

by Dave Campbell, AP

Kansas City Royals' Alex Rios (15) congratulates teammate Kendrtys Morales (25) during the first inning after Morales solo home run off Minnesota Twins' Trevor May in a baseball game, Monday, April 13, 2015 in Minneapolis, (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)

Kansas City Royals’ Alex Rios (15) congratulates teammate Kendrtys Morales (25) during the first inning after Morales solo home run off Minnesota Twins’ Trevor May in a baseball game, Monday, April 13, 2015 in Minneapolis, (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kansas City has picked up right where it left off. Behind some torrid hitting and an impenetrable bullpen, the Royals are the only unbeaten team left in the majors.

Danny Duffy pitched into the seventh inning and Kendrys Morales homered in a 12-3 romp over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, moving the defending AL champions to 7-0 for the second-best start in Kansas City’s history behind the 2003 club that won nine in a row to begin the season.

“There’s a great mix here of young and veteran players that feed off each other,” Morales said. “The young players got a lot of energy, which helps the experienced players. It’s a real good clubhouse.”

Detroit was the only other undefeated team left until a 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh earlier in the day.

Duffy (1-0) went 6 1-3 innings, giving up three runs. He is 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his career against the Twins and is undefeated in four starts at Target Field.

“It’s a long season,” Duffy said. “Obviously you hear that every day, but we’re just kind of keeping it all in front of us.”

The Twins were better off with a put-it-all-behind-them approach.

“We didn’t play Twins baseball. I don’t know what we played. Bad News Bears baseball, I guess,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “Just got to do better.”

The Twins lost their fourth straight home opener, though they still packed the place with an over-capacity crowd of 40,123 on a 61-degree day. Hunter tipped his helmet to acknowledge the standing ovation during his first at-bat, but the cheers were scant the rest of the afternoon.

The Twins used four pitchers in a six-run eighth by the Royals, who did their damage on only two singles to accompany three walks, two hit batters, an error and a passed ball. Shortstop Danny Santana let a bases-loaded grounder bounce out of his glove with no outs.

Hunter was charged with a throwing error in the sixth, too, letting a run score. New manager Paul Molitor has so far had his hands full.

“We’re trying to find a way to put an offense together that’s a little more consistent. So far it really hasn’t clicked too well,” Molitor said.

The Royals have sure been rolling. Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain on his 29th birthday and Eric Hosmer each drove in two runs for Kansas City, which had five players tally two hits apiece. Manager Ned Yost was asked afterward what has stood out from his team’s strong start.

“Their energy. Their focus. Their intensity,” Yost said. “They’re just a real confident group.”

The bullpen hasn’t been scored on yet, either, with 21 strikeouts in 19 innings.

POWER SURGE

Morales, who failed to hit a home run in 67 plate appearances at Target Field during his stint with the Twins last summer, sent an 0-1 pitch from Trevor May (0-1) in the second inning into the upper deck above right-center field.

The scary part for the rest of the league is that the Royals, last in the majors in home runs last season, have gone deep 10 times already. Salvador Perez has nine RBIs and Alex Rios and Cain each have eight. The Twins have 14 total RBIs; no one has more than two.

NO REST YET

One of Yost’s stated priorities this season was to limit Perez’s workload, after the All-Star catcher’s production waned during the playoffs last year. He hasn’t had a day off yet, along with every other regular but left fielder Alex Gordon.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: Rios was hit on the left hand by J.R. Graham’s first pitch in the eighth. He eventually scored but was removed as a precaution in the bottom of the inning and sent for X-rays. Yost said he was encouraged by the strength test Rios took and believed he would be all right.

Twins: RHP Casey Fien, who has logged only one inning this season because of shoulder stiffness, was available to pitch.

UP NEXT

There is no game Tuesday, with the series resuming Wednesday night.

Edinson Volquez will take the mound, looking to match a sparkling debut with the Royals. The right-hander has faced the Twins only once, in 2007 when Joe Mauer homered against him in a no-decision at the Metrodome.

Kyle Gibson will start for the Twins, coming off a rough first turn at Detroit. Gibson has beaten the Royals more than any other team, carrying a 3-0 record and 1.40 ERA in three starts against them.

by Greg Beacham, AP

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Western Conference produced six of the last eight Stanley Cup champions, and the NHL appeared to be tilted decidedly to the left again when this season began.

Fast forward to April, and the West still looks powerful – but its recent hierarchy has gone through a bit of upheaval.

Half of the Western teams heading into the postseason this week missed the playoffs last year, and much of the conference’s momentum resides with the upstarts in an unpredictable slate of matchups.

Take the Anaheim Ducks, who have slugged it out with Los Angeles and San Jose for years. The Ducks comfortably won the Pacific Division again and held off St. Louis for the conference’s top spot, yet they are the only California team left standing in the division bracket against three Canadian clubs – Winnipeg used a wild card to move over from the Central – for a spot in the final four.

The Central Division side of the bracket is dominated by three usual suspects with ticking clocks on their title aspirations. Chicago has two recent Stanley Cup wins, while St. Louis has been on the brink of a playoff breakthrough for three frustrating seasons. Minnesota also is eager for overdue success in its third straight postseason.

They’re joined by upstart Nashville, which has been among the NHL’s biggest surprises in the Predators’ first season under coach Peter Laviolette.

The eight-team West field features only three teams with previous NHL titles, and the Original Six Blackhawks are the only contender with multiple championships.

Nashville, Vancouver, Minnesota, Winnipeg and St. Louis – now in its 47th NHL season – have never raised the Stanley Cup. Calgary and Anaheim each have won it once.

The odds are on an unfamiliar title contender to emerge from the West, but it will have to earn it.

Here’s a glance at each of the four series:

DUCKS (51-24-7) vs JETS (43-26-13)

Teemu Selanne retired a year too early. His Ducks have drawn a first-round matchup that will send them all the way to Winnipeg, where the Finnish Flash began his NHL career and is still beloved.

The Ducks that he left behind are deep, balanced and tough – and they’re widely considered to be ripe for an upset by the surging Jets, who squeaked into the postseason for the first time since their NHL return nearly four years ago.

Winnipeg will rely on physical play to go after an early upset before getting the series back to its frenzied hometown, but the Ducks could be motivated by a league-wide lack of respect for their three straight years of excellence.

“They’re a similar-built team to us, there’s no doubt about it,” Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “It’s about being prepared for what you’re playing against, and we’ll be prepared for anybody.”

CANUCKS (48-29-5) vs FLAMES (45-30-7)

This all-Canada matchup pits two Pacific Division surprises.

Vancouver bounced back swiftly from last season’s collapse, returning to the playoffs with a retooled roster under new coach Willie Desjardins. Calgary overcame the injury loss of captain Mark Giordano and persevered through a harrowing stretch run for its first postseason berth in five years.

The Flames appear to be an unbalanced team, but that top-end talent is scintillating. Rookie wing Johnny Gaudreau and second-year center Sean Monahan have teamed with Jiri Hudler to create one of the NHL’s most dynamic lines.

The Canucks are still led by the Sedin twins, whose puck-possession skills and offensive flair are just as entrancing as they were a decade ago. Vancouver’s tendency to commit too many penalties could be exploited by the Flames, who will need power-play and secondary scoring to keep up.

BLUES (51-24-7) vs WILD (46-28-8)

St. Louis’ reward for a season of steady excellence is a nightmare first-round matchup with Minnesota, which has been arguably the NHL’s most impressive team since mid-January.

Both teams are uniformly deep and balanced, and this series will match strengths on strengths when St. Louis’ dominant power play goes against Minnesota’s stellar penalty-killing units.

The differences are small, and the biggest could be in net: While St. Louis doesn’t have a dominant netminder, Devan Dubnyk has incredibly become an all-world goalie since arriving in Minnesota three months ago. If Dubnyk keeps up his uncanny run, all of the Blues’ top-end offensive talent might not matter.

PREDATORS (47-25-10) vs BLACKHAWKS (48-28-6)

Chicago was arguably the NHL’s most consistent power in the previous half-decade, winning two titles and making five playoff appearances. With salary cap issues and age catching up to this roster, the Blackhawks might be down to their last shot at another Cup as currently constructed.

And if goal-scoring sensation Patrick Kane makes a return from a broken collarbone, the entire series could be shifted. Kane was cleared for contact in practice Monday, and coach Joel Quenneville expects him to play in the series.

Nashville roared back into the postseason and held off Chicago for home-ice advantage in this series, but nobody knows exactly how the Predators will respond to playoff pressure – particularly when they visit Chicago’s suffocating United Center.

by Mark Schmetzer, AP

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the eleventh inning of a baseball game Sunday April 12, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the eleventh inning of a baseball game Sunday April 12, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals want leadoff batter Matt Carpenter to drive the ball. He sure did Sunday.

Carpenter hit a two-run homer off Kevin Gregg in the 11th inning, lifting St. Louis over Cincinnati 7-5 in a game that featured the major league debut of Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias for the Reds.

Carpenter’s 392-foot drive to center on a full-count pitch from Gregg (0-1) followed Kolten Wong’s single and delighted Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny.

“We’ve talked to him about utilizing his power,” Matheny said. “You’re going to see that from him from time to time.”

Carpenter’s go-ahead drive followed Jhonny Peralta’s two-run, tying homer in the eighth off of Jumbo Diaz, which quieted the crowd of 41,446, Cincinnati’s third sellout of the six-game homestand.

“That was huge,” Carpenter said. “He’s been swinging the bat well all season.”

Carlos Villanueva (1-0) pitched two innings, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th by striking out Todd Frazier. St. Louis took two of three in the series and has won 13 consecutive three-game series against Cincinnati, putting a damper on a homestand that opened with four consecutive wins and frustrating second-year manager Bryan Price.

“It was a nice homestand but today was a game we should have won,” said Price, who joined the team in 2010 as pitching coach. “Since I’ve been here, the Cardinals has been a team that has beaten us. At the end of the World Series, no one cares how many times you beat a certain team, but to reverse that, yes, it’s important to me.”

Iglesias allowed three runs and five hits in five innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Signed last July to a $27 million, seven-year contract, he became the first Reds player since Mike Leake in 2010 to reach the majors without playing a minor league game.

Iglesias gave up two hits and a walk through the first four innings, then fell behind 3-1 in the fifth. Yadier Molina doubled leading off, and Carpenter hit a two-run single and scored from first on Jason Heyward’s double into the right-field corner. Heyward was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a triple, with second baseman Brandon Phillips making the relay after Jay Bruce’s throw.

St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high eight in six innings, giving up two runs and four hits.

Bruce led off the second with his second homer of the season and Billy Hamilton cut the Cardinals’ lead to 3-2 in the sixth with his first homer.

Frazier had a two-run single and Phillips followed with an RBI hit to give Cincinnati a 5-3 lead in the seventh.

BREAK TIME

The Reds varied their starting eight for the first time this season, with Brennan Boesch replacing Marlon Byrd in left field and Brayan Pena taking over for Devin Mesoraco at catcher. Pena was the last position player to play for the first time this season. Byrd and Mesoraco both were 2-for-20 (.100) in the first five games.

TIMEOUT

Reds manager Bryan Price was ejected by crew chief Joe West in the top of the eighth after Jon Jay was hit by a pitch. The ejection was the third for Price, who is in his second season as manager.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Catcher Tony Cruz was expected to rejoin the team in St. Louis on Sunday night. Cruz started paternity leave Friday.

Reds: Catcher Brayan Pena left the game in the seventh after injuring his left shoulder in a fall at first base while beating out a leadoff bunt.

ON DECK

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright will pitch for the first time in eight days when he starts St. Louis’s home opener on Monday against Milwaukee. The right-hander’s second start of the season was pushed back by last Tuesday’s rainout in Chicago.

Reds: The Reds get their first look at under-renovation Wrigley Field when they open their first trip of the season on Monday in Chicago. Mike Leake is 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last four starts against the Cubs.

by RB Fallstrom, AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) — At least the first time through the rotation, the St. Louis Cardinals stuck to the plan of giving their pitchers extra rest.

Adam Wainwright starts Monday’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers with seven days’ rest since pitching six scoreless innings in an opening-night win at the Chicago Cubs.

The 33-year-old right-hander pitched 243 innings last year, including the postseason, after throwing 276 2-3 in 2013, then St. Louis lost to Boston in the World Series.

Wainwright had minor elbow surgery after the season. He’ is 12-7 with a 2.31 career ERA against Milwaukee, and was 3-1 last season.

Wainwright (1-0) opposes Matt Garza (0-1), who was 0-2 in three starts against St. Louis last year.

PRE-GAME TRIBUTE

There will be a memorial tribute to Oscar Taveras, the promising rookie who died along with his girlfriend in a car accident during the offseason.

The team’s Hall of Famers and the current roster will arrive on a motorcade around the warning track, and the Budweiser Clydesdales also will also make an appearance. Stars of the Whiteyball era will be on opposite ends of the first pitch, with Willie McGee throwing to Ozzie Smith.

Manager Mike Matheny is having players come in earlier than usual for the 3 p.m. CDT start so veterans can discuss expectations for the day with younger players.

“Opening day in St. Louis is like a holiday,” Matheny said.

LONG TIME GONE

Since they opened on the road, the Cardinals will be taking the field at Busch Stadium for the first time since the NL Championship Series.

“I can’t speak for everyone but I’m anxious to go home,” Matheny said. “We started off in two cities (Chicago and Cincinnati) that don’t like us, and now we go home to a city that loves us. I can’t wait.”

BUSINESS AS USUAL

Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said the pomp and circumstance won’t change the pre-game routine. There will be plenty of time for meetings, video room work and scouting reports.

“The biggest thing is just keeping it simple,” Lucroy said. “You want the pitcher to basically use your strengths as much as you can.”

NL CENTRAL TOUR

The Brewers will be starting a 22-game stretch against division rivals. Manager Ron Roenicke said it shouldn’t change the approach.

“We want to win, we don’t care who it’s against,” Roenicke said. “It’s more about just getting going the right way and we need to do a better job of that.”

by Mark Schmetzer, AP

St. Louis Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta (27) is safe at home beating the tag from Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, left, in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Cardinals won 4-1. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta (27) is safe at home beating the tag from Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, left, in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Cardinals won 4-1. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Matt Adams’ first hit sent the Cincinnati Reds to their first loss.

The St. Louis first baseman snapped a hitless start to the season at 10 at-bats with a leadoff homer in the fourth inning, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-1 victory Saturday that ended the Reds’ winning streak at four.

“I got to the park early, and my early work felt good,” said Adams, who was robbed of a hit in the second inning on a diving catch by left fielder Marlon Byrd. “It carried over into the game. He left a changeup up, and I was able to get the barrel through it.”

Kolten Wong had a sacrifice fly, Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina added ninth-inning RBI singles and Michael Wacha pitched into the seventh to get the win in his first appearance of the season.

Wacha (1-0) shook off Todd Frazier’s first-inning home run to go 6 1-3 innings, allowing five hits and one run with a walk and two strikeouts. He stranded a runner in scoring position in each of his last four full innings and needed just 76 pitches to earn the win.

“That team over there is very aggressive early in the count,” he said. “I was able to keep it down in the zone and get some weak contact.”

The Reds left five runners in scoring position. Cincinnati’s fourth-through-eighth batters are hitting .200 or less.

“We didn’t have much going on offense, but it was a close game until the end,” manager Bryan Price said.

Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals’ fifth relief pitcher, got five outs for his second save.

Adams led off the fourth inning by lofting a one-strike pitch 355 feet down the right-field line and on to the netting above the visitors’ bullpen to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.

That was the only earned run allowed by Reds starter Johnny Cueto in 14 innings this season – a 0.64 ERA. Cueto (0-1), who turned in seven shutout innings without a decision in Cincinnati’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh in Monday’s opener, again went seven, giving up four hits and two runs with four strikeouts. He also hit a batter.

Frazier, before a sellout crowd of 41,525 on his bobblehead day, gave Cincinnati the lead with his third home run of the season, a 342-foot drive into the seats down the left-field line on a 3-0 pitch with two outs in the first.

The Cardinals tied it by loading the bases with one out on Frazier’s error of Peralta’s sharp one-hopper – Cincinnati’s first error of the season – a hit batsman and Molina’s single, setting up Wong’s tying sacrifice fly. Molina’s hit was his first in 11 at-bats.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Jon Jay returned to the starting lineup on Saturday after getting Friday off so that Randal Grichuk could get some playing time. Grichuk responded with a two-run homer.

Reds: The Reds have used the same starting lineup for their first five games after being able to use last year’s projected starting eight just 12 times all season. The last time the Reds used the same lineup for a season’s first five games was 1989, according to Elias Sports as reported by the team.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: After 11 career relief appearances against the Reds, Carlos Martinez makes his first start against Cincinnati and his first start of the season on Sunday. The right-hander pitched a scoreless relief inning last Sunday against the Cubs in Chicago.

Reds: Cuba native Raisel Iglesias is set to make his major league debut with a start on Sunday.

PACK `EM IN

Saturday’s sellout crowd was Cincinnati’s second in five games. The Reds needed 23 games to log their second sellout last season.

THE BIRD’S A TARGET

Jon Jay led the majors by being hit with pitches 20 times in 2014. His first of 2015 helped the Cardinals tie the game at 1-1 in the second inning.

by RB Fallstrom, AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen looked as if they’re ready for the playoffs.

The pair had a lot to do with the St. Louis Blues finishing the regular season strong.

“This is the team we want to take on the journey,” coach Ken Hitchcock said after a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

“We’re healthy and we’ll be 100 percent going into the playoffs, which is completely different from last year.”

Tarasenko and Steen returned from injuries with two points apiece, fueling a dominant second period.

“I didn’t expect nothing,” Tarasenko said. “I just wanted to play this game and try to be ready for the playoffs. Everything feels good.”

Jori Lehtera scored twice and Brian Elliott was solid in net for the Central Division champions, who thwarted Minnesota’s bid for an NHL-record 13th consecutive road victory.

The Blues and Wild will meet again in the first round of the playoffs.

Marco Scandella and Zach Parise scored for the Wild, who allowed two or fewer goals in each of the wins that matched the 2005-06 Red Wings for the NHL’s longest road winning streak. Minnesota, which pulled goalie Devan Dubnyk before the third period trailing 3-1, has the first wild-card spot in the West.

The Wild entered with an NHL-best 54 points in 35 games since the All-Star break and a 28-8-3 record since Jan. 15.

“We dug ourselves out, found a way,” right wing Jason Pominville said. “Obviously, we would have liked to have played a better game, but I think our run is something we’ve got to be proud of.”

Tarasenko missed five games and Steen six with undisclosed lower-body injuries. The Blues had been scuffling for goals, totaling four in the previous three games.

“We played a good game, moving the puck well, supporting each other,” Steen said. “It wasn’t necessarily a playoff-type game.

“It’ll be different come Wednesday or Thursday when we start.”

The Blues have won five of their last six games. St. Louis finished with 111 points last season, two more than this season, but ended on a six-game losing streak and was eliminated in the first round by Chicago.

“We’re not comparing anything to any other previous years,” Steen said. “It’s just focus on what we’re doing right now.”

Both teams rested several key players, including both captains. David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk were among the Blues scratches while the Wild sat forward Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter.

“It was a little different,” Dubnyk said. “You could tell there was a lot of new pairings and combinations on the ice.

“I still thought we played pretty well, there’s just a couple of lapses that ended up in them making some nice plays.”

Elliott got just his second start in the past six games and will be the backup entering the playoffs behind Jake Allen.

Tarasenko scored his 37th goal and added an assist while Steen had two assists – all four points coming in a stretch of 6:04 of the second period in which the teams combined for four goals. Dmitrij Jaskin opened the scoring for St. Louis.

Jaskin’s 13th goal, and second in two games, opened the scoring at 13:27 of the second on a 3-on-2 break. Tarasenko’s 37th came off a cross-ice setup from Steen with two minutes to go in the second.

Scandella answered for Minnesota with his 11th goal 51 seconds later before Lehtera’s 13th, off a nifty backhand pass from Steen, restored the two-goal cushion just 40 seconds later.

Minnesota, which took the season series 2-1-1, blocked seven shots in the first period and held the Blues to season-low one shot.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – District officials have unanimously voted to fire North Little Rock High School’s football coach Brad Bolding, who is accused of recruitment and purchasing violations.

School board members voted Friday to uphold their decision to terminate the coach made during a previous appeal meeting. Bolding requested the appeal after receiving a second termination notice.

Superintendent Kelly Rodgers said the second notice was sent to state additional reasons for Bolding’s firing.

Bolding is accused of not properly following inventory and purchasing procedures involving more than $230,000. He is also accused of violating the Arkansas Athletic Association’s rules on recruiting by inappropriately contacting a wide receiver’s family before the student was recruited.

The coach says that he was not given guidelines on how to spend funds raised by the North Little Rock Athletic Foundation, and denied any wrongdoing in regards to the recruitment violation.

by Joe Kay, AP

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cardinals couldn’t stop Cincinnati’s hottest hitter or its fastest player.

Joey Votto had a pair of two-run homers – the strongest indication yet that he’s fully back in form – and Billy Hamilton slid home on Todd Frazier’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly on Friday night, keeping the Cincinnati Reds unbeaten with a 5-4 victory.

The Reds are 4-0 for the first time since 2011, when they won their first five games. They’ve won each game in their final at-bat. The Cardinals slipped to 1-2, with all three games decided by three runs or less.

“We’re playing good baseball,” said Jason Heyward, who singled home a run that tied it at 4 in the St. Louis seventh. “That’s what you want day-in and day-out. You want to battle teams, play close games. It’s a good steppingstone.”

Votto homered off John Lackey in each of his first two at-bats. Frazier’s sacrifice fly in the eighth off Jordan Walden (0-1) marked the second time this week that he’s knocked in the deciding run.

Hamilton walked with one out to start the rally, stole second and made it to third on a wild pitch. Hamilton is one of the few runners fast enough to score Frazier’s fly to Heyward in medium right field.

“It’s got to be perfect,” said Heyward, who made an on-target throw. “You’ve got to get rid of it as best you can. After that, you did your job. It was a good throw, but it didn’t matter, it didn’t get him. That’s the part of speed.”

J.J. Hoover (2-0) escaped a threat in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman gave up a hit and fanned two in the ninth for his second save.

Votto hit only six homers last season – the last one on May 10 – and didn’t play after July 5 because of strained muscles above his left knee. He showed up for spring training feeling strong and has played to his 2010 National League MVP form so far.

He had his first multihomer game since May 13, 2012, and the 10th of his career. In four games, Votto is 7 for 17 with three homers and eight RBIs.

“The one was off a pretty good pitch,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He just went out and drove it. We’ve seen him hit some pretty good pitches in the past, and he did today.”

Jason Marquis made his first start in the majors since July 19, 2013 with San Diego. He had Tommy John surgery and made nine appearances in the minors with the Phillies last season as part of his comeback.

The 36-year-old was in line for the win, handing a 4-3 lead to the bullpen in the seventh. Marquis retired 12 in a row after Randal Grichuk’s two-run homer. The Cardinals put together three singles in the seventh, with Heyward’s hit up the middle tying it at 4.

PAYING TRIBUTE

The Reds had a pregame tribute on the videoboard for of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend, who died in a car crash during the offseason. Also, a tribute to Lauren Hill, the college basketball player who died from a brain tumor on Friday.

BILLY RUNS

Hamilton’s steal left him 7 for 7 this season. He’s also 7 for 7 career off Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Reserve catcher Tony Cruz went on paternity leave. He’s expected back on Monday. Catcher Ed Easley was called up from Triple-A Memphis for his major league debut.

Reds: RHP Homer Bailey is scheduled to make his first rehab start on Sunday at Triple-A Louisville. He’s on the DL recovering from surgery on his forearm last September.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Michael Wacha has made six career appearances against the Reds, going 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA.

Reds: Johnny Cueto makes his second start. He threw seven shutout innings but didn’t get the decision in a 5-2 win over the Pirates on Monday. Cueto is 2-3 career against the Cardinals.