The Sayreville Stars Softball Association’s 12-and-under girls’ fast pitch traveling team opened its double elimination competition at the 2000 PONY National Tournament of Champions in Sterling, Va., last week hoping to build on past success. Under founder, President and Coach Leo Kirchner, the Stars tested their mettle against the country’s finest travel teams, and Kirchner was looking forward to seeing how his girls perform throughout the tournament. “All these teams are champions, and it’s interesting to see how our program stacks up against them,” said Kirchner, who, along with co-coach Mark Funk, has led the team to a 40-11-1 record this year. “What we’ve accomplished, we’ve done with pitching and defense. We’ve recorded 24 shutouts, which speaks very highly of those aspects of our game.” The Sayreville team, which is also made up of girls from Aberdeen and Old Bridge, went 2-1 in their preliminary play to earn a top seed in their A bracket. In the first contest, the club defeated the Long Island Bandits by a 3-1 score, with Mallory Kirchner taking the win, and key hits by catcher-third baseman Tricia Allutto of Matawan-Aberdeen and outfielder-pitcher Lauren Gelmetti of Westfield. Then the Stars conquered the Swansea (Mass.) Maddogs, 1-0, on great pitching by Jackie Funk of Clark, excellent defense and a little good luck: Marianne Marinella, the pitcher-first baseman from Matawan-Aberdeen, scored the lone run on consecutive passed balls. Although Sayreville fell 1-0 to the Prince William Comets July 24, the Stars were already guaranteed a first-seed. They earned their berth in the nationals by hosting a 12-team PONY National Qualifying tourney over Father’s Day weekend at the new Middlesex County Raritan Bay Waterfront Park in Sayreville. Among the Stars’ other accomplishments, the team placed first in the NJSASA Kickoff Classic and Mid Summer Fun tourney, and finished third out of 14 teams in the NSA State Tournament, as well as second in the ASA State Tournament. Rounding out the rest of the roster are second baseman-outfielder Kaitlin Calo-gera of Old Bridge; outfielder Martha Frazier of Weehawken; Jessica Nicola of Sayreville, who plays catcher, outfield and second base; shortstop-catcher Jilliam Ortega of Matawan-Aberdeen; and outfielder Nicole Riggio from Old Bridge. —Richard Jerome
Sports Shorts Middletown Township Men’s Slow Pitch Softball League is currently accepting registration. Teams are selected through draft by captains. There will be eight to 10 teams with games played on Sunday mornings. The league runs from March 28 to July 4. The $80 fee covers insurance, uniforms, umpires and awards. The fee is increased to $90 after March 1. Call Kevin (732) 673-8826 or Rich (732) 615-9233. Deadline for sign-up is March 6. The Jersey Shore Jaguars 11U baseball team will hold tryouts in early March for the spring season. Home field is in Middletown, and games are played in Monmouth/Ocean County. Call (732) 904-2894 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for date and information. Eric Walker, 18, of Matawan, recently competed in the Bank of America Gasparilla Distance 15K Classic In Tampa, Fla. Walker placed 15th overall in a field of 3,839 runners and first in his age group. With a finish time of 51:24 in the 9.3 mile event, this entitles him to a national ranking. The Bank of America Gasparilla Distance Classic attracts world-class runners who compete in the 5K and 15K events. The race is internationally known and recognized as one of the top 25 races in the world, according to race promoters. Walker is currently a freshman attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla., and is a member of the school’s cross country team, which won the 2003 Sunshine State Conference. He was named to the Sunshine State Conference second team He started running cross country at St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel.
BY DAN NEWMAN Sports Editor In 1923,Yankee Stadiumopened for business, and since then plenty of epic events have taken place, including World Series games, boxing matches, football games, and even a visit by Pope John Paul II. Above: Eight-year-old Tyler Ras of Middletown at Yankee Stadium while at a qualifying round of the Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship competition. Left: Ras in action as a member of the Middletown Warriors travel baseball team. Ras is one of a handful that will participate in next week’s National Finals, to be held during Major League Baseball’s All-Star Weekend festivities. While many of the aforementioned events were of great significance, 8-year-old Tyler Ras of Middletown is trying to make some history of his own, since he is one of the national finalists in the Major Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship competition. Ras will compete in the finals on July 14-15 at the hallowed stadium where Ruth, DiMaggio and Gehrig, among others, built their legacies. For Ras, this is not only an opportunity to compete against others his age, but to also potentially rub elbows with some of the game’s current legends. PHOTOS COURTESY OF GLENN RAS “A-Rod [Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez] is my favorite player,” Ras said. “I hope I get to meet him.” Tyler’s father, Glenn, said that his son showed a huge desire at an early age to get involved in the sport. “He would hit baseballs off a tee younger than a lot of kids his age did,” Glenn recounted. “His coaches were very impressed with his skill level and he just kept moving up the ranks as the years went on. I can’t say that I’m totally surprised with all that is going on, but at the same time, it is pretty amazing that we all get to be a part of All-Star weekend.” Tyler got involved in the event by initially going to a local competition in Atlantic Highlands, followed by a sectional round in Lebanon (Hunterdon County). Ras did well enough at the local and regional levels to get an invite to the Bronx on June 22 to compete against regional qualifiers. Over 54,000 fans watched the home team win 4-1 over the lowly Cincinnati Reds on that day. As for Tyler, he also gave the people something to cheer about as he threw four out of six pitches in the strike zone and hit a pitch out to left field en route to putting on a stellar performance. Now, it was just a matter of waiting to see if his score placed him in the top three out of all of the 30 competitions that were being held nationwide, with those three being invited to Yankee Stadium for the National Championship. Whereas most of us would be walking on pins and needles, hoping that we’d get to go to Yankee Stadium as part of the All- Star festivities, Tyler was more than relaxed. And on the day not too long ago when he got the invite, it was just another day in Tyler’s world. “First, the people from Aquafina [the event sponsor] spoke to him, and I really didn’t know if they told him that he made it or not,” Tyler’s mother, Corinne, said. “By the time I was off the phone with them, Tyler was right back to playing around like he usually does. It was really amazing to think that he just did something so huge, yet it didn’t really faze him.” Glenn was also a bit confused as to his son’s blasé attitude toward everything. “I don’t think he fully comprehends this whole thing,” Glenn said. “The history of the stadium is just so incredible, and my wife and I are trying to let him understand what an opportunity this really is for him. To be able to participate in a baseball event in the greatest stadium in the world is really special for him, and we just hope he can realize this, if not now, then maybe years from now.” Another bonus of being in the event is that he will be in the outfield during the State Farm Home Run Derby competition, to be held on Monday night. “It’s going to be pretty cool, as a parent, to watch my son catching fly balls off the bats of some of the best hitters in the game,” Glenn said. “I think it is one part of the event that he will be able to appreciate.” As for Tyler, he is looking forward to next week and having an opportunity to go back to the Bronx and soak it all in. “I just want to do well and have fun, and maybe I can meet a few of the players before the All-Star Game,” Tyler said. Eight-year-old qualifies for national finals in baseball competition
By TIM MORRIS Staff Writer Brookdale Community College’s Terrel Cox puts up a running one-hander during a recent win against Atlantic Cape Community College at Brookdale’s Collins Arena in Lincroft. The Jersey Blues are currently in a tie for first place in the Garden State Athletic Conference. The Jersey Blues were 8-6 overall before games against Passaic County Community College on Jan. 17 and Ocean County College on Jan 20. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Brookdale Community College’s men’s basketball team has had to make a lot of adjustments this winter.Head coach Paul Cisek has had to nurture a freshmen-dominated team with no returning starters through its growing pains. At the same time, the Jersey Blues have something they haven’t had in recent seasons: size up front with two centers who are 6 feet 8 inches tall and 6 feet 9 inches tall.“We’ve usually been a smaller, quicker team,” the veteran head coach said. “We’ve got size, which is a little different for us.”Cisek expected his team to start slow, but perhaps not 3-6 slow.That record can be chalked up, in part, to the schedule, which had the Division III program playing Division I and II teams early on.“We’re young, and the schedule was pretty strong — one of the strongest in a while,” Cisek said. “It was challenging.”There was a bright side to playing the challenging schedule early, as it helped the freshmen mature quicker and had them ready for the competition in Region 19.Brookdale has reeled off five straight wins to improve to 8-6 overall. Most important, it has moved up to second place in Region 19 and into a tie for first place in the Garden State Athletic Conference with a 7-3 mark.Cisek’s patience and confidence in his team through the slow start have been rewarded. “I knew it would click,” he said. “We’re starting to play better defense, and we’re figuring out the offense.“With no returning starters, it took a while to learn the system and understand what we want to do. Every day, we get better.”Brookdale’s offense has been predicated on dribble-drive penetration in recent years, but the Jersey Blues are looking to take advantage of their size up front this season. It took some time to get the centers into the offense. “We have to capitalize more on our size,” Cisek said.Norbert Allen (Boys & Girls, Bronx, N.Y.) and Brian Crosby (Middletown North), both freshmen, are the centers who are giving the offense a new look. The Jersey Blues are playing a more patterned offense with screens and pick-and-rolls because of them.Helping the offense come around has been Long Branch High School graduate Terrel Cox, who was asked by Cisek to do something he hasn’t done before: play point guard. As he has become more comfortable running the point, the Jersey Blues offense has flourished.“It was a learning process,” Cisek said. “Terrel has gotten stronger, and he’s a pretty solid leader.”A transfer, sophomore Isaiah Johnson (Notre Dame High School/Trenton), has been the go-to man on offense averaging 22.9 points.Although no one else is averaging double figures, Johnson has been getting support from Tevon Bennett (Orange), Cox and Corrie Brown (Teaneck), who are averaging 9.7, 9.5 and 9.1 points, respectively. On any given night, they can score in the high teens or 20s. Allen and Crosby are averaging 10 points a game between them.Because of what Allen and Crosby are bringing up front, Brookdale can be flexible on defense, go man-to-man or sit back in a zone. The Jersey Blues are playing more zone than in the past. In a recent game, the Jersey Blues had 10 blocked shots.What has pleased Cisek the most is the rebounding. The Jersey Blues are starting to build up a noticeable rebound advantage over their opponents each night.Completing the roster are Noah Dean (Bloomfield), Tyler Gurczeski (Raritan), Johnson Akerele (Old Bridge), William Gay (Neptune), Brian Reese Jr. (New Rochelle/NY) and Glenn Bates (Freehold).The five-game win streak has Brookdale right where Cisek wants the team to be.“With 10 [region games] to go, we’re OK,” he said. “We have to keep winning.”Cisek remarked that Brookdale’s goal is to reach the Region 19 Final Four.“This is the last year we have it [region semifinals and finals], and we want to make it there,” Cisek said.The best way to do that, the coach explained, is to finish in the top four during the regular season. That guarantees home games through the first rounds of the playoffs leading up to the Final Four that Brookdale is hosting.Another reason to get there is Brookdale’s dominance at the Collins Arena. The team has been almost unbeatable at home. A top-four finish will guarantee the Jersey Blues home games throughout the playoffs.After a road-heavy schedule early, the Jersey Blues end the season playing seven of their last nine games at home, which is a big advantage for Brookdale because of its home-court dominance.Brookdale begins a three-game home stand on Jan. 24, hosting Bergen Community College at 2 p.m. That is followed by games against Union County College on Jan. 27 (6 p.m.) and Cumberland County College on Jan. 29 (5 p.m.).The games with Bergen and Union are important. Union is 7-3 in the region and tied for second, while Bergen is 9-4.Brookdale goes for its fourth straight championship when the tournament begins at the end of February.In 2013, Brookdale rode its region title win to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship. Last year, the Jersey Blues were back and finished third at the NJCAA Championship.
By Justin PalmerJohn Terry’s early header and Cesc Fabregas’ second-half strike restored Chelsea’s three-point Premier League lead heading into a busy Christmas programme after a 2-0 win at Stoke City on Monday night.Chelsea were ahead inside two minutes at the Britannia Stadium when Terry met a Fabregas corner with a powerful downward header.Stoke pushed forward after the break without ever causing fit-again Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois many problems and Fabregas sealed victory with a scuffed finish 12 minutes from time.“These victories mean more than three points, to win and get three points the players need the right spirit and mentality, to win here they must be a really very good team with the capacity to adapt to Stoke’s style of play,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told the BBC.Chelsea, who host West Ham United on Friday, have 42 points from 17 games with Manchester City, who visit West Brom the same day, on 39 and Manchester United on 32.“Now we have to focus on the three matches we still have until the end of this period,” Mourinho said of the clash with Sam Allardyce’s West Ham, the trip to Southampton on Sunday and another London derby with Tottenham on New Year’s Day.“Playing against Big Sam is a hard job for us, we have to cope with it. The three point lead we have is a little advantage, it is a little pillow we have to protect us – we go home happy and pleased with what we did.”Stoke beat Chelsea in this fixture last season but the hosts were always up against it after Terry timed his run to perfection and beat Asmir Begovic with a powerful header for his first league goal in over a year.Mark Hughes’ side tried to harry and hustle Chelsea but the superior class of the leaders always shone through.Courtois, back after a muscular injury, was rarely troubled although the Belgian needed to produce a fine save midway through the first half from Steven N’Zonzi’s deflected strike.Top scorer Diego Costa should have increased Chelsea’s lead when Stoke tried and failed to catch him offside, the Spaniard timing his run perfectly – only to the skew his shot wide.Fabregas might have been awarded a penalty when he appeared to be clipped by Ryan Shawcross soon after half-time but Stoke escaped.Charlie Adam drilled wide from edge of box following neat approach play from Stoke but Chelsea soaked up the pressure and made the points safe when Eden Hazard, who needed lengthy treatment in stoppage time, fed Fabregas and the Spaniard beat Begovic.
By Julian LindenINDIA, growing in confidence with every match, thrashed Bangladesh by 109 runs on Thursday in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.The defending world champions made light work of their clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, outclassing their Asian neighbours to stretch their unbeaten run at the tournament to seven games.India will now play either Australia or Pakistan in the semi-finals in Sydney next week and on current form, they will be hard to beat.Batting first, India compiled a daunting total of 302 for six, built on the back of a magnificent century from Rohit Sharma, who completed his first World Cup hundred with a slice of luck.One of the most dangerous batsmen in the world, his return to form could not have come at a better time for an Indian team that struggled in the lead-up to the World Cup but is rapidly gaining momentum.Rohit was caught in the deep when he was on 90 but was given a second life when the umpires ruled that Rubel Hossain’s delivery was above waist-height and therefore a no-ball, although television replays suggested otherwise.Rohit went on to make 137 off 126 balls, highlighted by 14 boundaries and three sixes, while the left-handed Suresh Raina chipped in a with a quickfire 65 after India had waddled along to 115-3 and needed a lift.Bangladesh, appearing in their first World Cup quarter-final, kept the Indian batsmen in check through the first 35 overs, stalling their run-rate with their spin bowlers.But they dropped their heads after Rohit was given his reprieve and gave up 147 runs off the last 15 overs, leaving themselves a near impossible run-chase at one of cricket’s biggest and most intimidating cauldrons.Bangladesh are one of the most improved sides in cricket. They beat England to make the quarter-finals but found India too hot.Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes came out all guns blazing, smacking 31 off the first six overs but when they fell in successive balls in the next over the run-chase was doomed.Their frustrations were compounded by India’s excellent fielding, once one of their weakest points but now one of their strongest.India have bowled out their opponents in all seven matches they have played at the World Cup, another ominous warning for their remaining challengers.Shikhar Dhawan took a juggled catch on the fine leg boundary rope to send Mahmudullah, who had scored two consecutive hundreds in the Pool stage, on his way for 21.Then the Indian captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a diving catch to remove Soumya Sarkar for 29 to effectively end any hopes of a Bangladesh upset.
By John GeddieScotland brought Japan’s dream Rugby World Cup start back down to earth on Wednesday as they ran in five second-half tries for a 45-10 win over the Brave Blossoms who were clearly tiring after their epic victory against the Springboks.Playing at his club’s home ground of Kingsholm, Gloucester, the ever-reliable boot of Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw nudged the Scots to a half-time lead of 12-7, before the game opened up and Scotland’s backs started to run riot.In the early exchanges, Scotland stuck to a clear game plan, kicking the ball deep into Japan’s territory, and it paid off with scrum-half Laidlaw kicking Scotland six points up within the first 10 minutes.But it was Japan that got the first try, against the run of play, when a textbook driving maul from a lineout allowed number eight Amanaki Mafi to crash over. Veteran full-back Ayumu Goromaru added the extras to put Japan narrowly in front.It proved to be a short-lived lead with the Laidlaw’s kicking punishing Japanese errors, one in which winger Kotaro Matsushima was sent to the sin bin for a ripping the ball illegally from winger Sean Lamont, as they led 12-7 at the break.Two barnstorming runs by the hulking Mafi rattled the Scots when play resumed, and it was a real blow for the Japanese when he was taken off injured but a penalty by Goromaru closed the game to 12-10The Scots regained composure and a neat inside pass sent Lamont scything through. Centre Matt Scott was hauled down just before the line and from the resulting ruck flanker John Hardie, playing in only his third game for Scotland, got over in the corner.The Scots’ attack then started firing against a Japanese side clearly exhausted from their 34-32 victory over twice-winners South Africa on Saturday.Full-back Stuart Hogg danced through the line to open the way for centre Mark Bennett to cross for Scotland’s second and the game was settled when Seymour caught an interception and ran the length of the pitch to score.Bennett then sidestepped his way through to grab a bonus-point-securing fourth s and Russell, who had been an attacking threat all day, rounded off a satisfying day with the fifth.“Happy days with that result – but that is just the start hopefully for this team,” said Laidlaw.“We talked at length about playing for 80 minutes and we have done that today. I thought we were outstanding for the duration. They said if they were in the game at half-time they could take us, so we were determined and outstanding.“Credit to Japan though, they were awesome against South Africa and really tough opponents again today. That win against South Africa blew the group wide open and meant it was important for us to win today.”Scotland top the Pool B standings with five points, to the four of Samoa and Japan with South Africa on two and the United States pointless.
By Martyn HermanRafael Nadal’s late-season resurgence continued at the ATP World Tour Finals when he beat wayward French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-2 to open his account on Monday night.The Spaniard, who has climbed back to fifth in the rankings after falling to 10th in a miserable summer, took advantage of an error-strewn Wawrinka display to move level with Andy Murray at the top of Ilie Nastase Group.Nadal, back at the Tour Finals after missing out last year because of appendicitis surgery, dropped his opening service game to love but then broke Wawrinka’s as the first nine points all went the way of the receiver.Wawrinka blazed a forehand to fall 5-3 behind in the opener and Nadal wrapped up the set with an ace.Nadal failed to convert any of the seven break points Wawrinka offered up at the start of the second set and then had to save two himself in the next game, one with a stunning lob.World number four Wawrinka offered precious little resistance after that and his unforced error count climbed to 35 as Nadal raced to victory.The 14-time grand slam champion has won 14 of his 18 matches since a disappointing defeat in the US Open third round by Fabio Fognini, reaching finals in Beijing and Basel as well as the semis in Shanghai.He will face Murray on Wednesday after the Briton also won his opening match against David Ferrer earlier on Monday.
VfL Wolfsburg are confident their recent good form can carry them past Gent on Tuesday (9.45pm) and into the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.The Wolves, who won the first leg 3-2 in Belgium after leading 3-0 and conceding two late goals, are fuelled up on confidence following a 2-1 victory over in-form Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.It was their second league win in five days and moved them back into seventh place in the table.“When you win against such a top team like Gladbach then you are allowed to be confident,” said Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs. “We are back in the game.”Wolfsburg, last season’s runners-up and German Cup winners, seem to have recovered from their slump earlier in the campaign in time for the biggest European game in the club’s history.“We know that the tie is not finished yet,” Allofs said. “But if we play like we did against Gladbach then we will advance into the next round.”Julian Draxler, who scored against both Gent and Gladbach, limped off on Saturday midway through the second half but is expected to be fit for Tuesday.Max Kruse, who also scored in both those games, picked up a knock but will be ready to face Gent, said coach Dieter Hecking.“Games like the one on Tuesday should heal every wound,” Hecking said.Gent slipped two points behind Belgian league leaders Club Bruges after a 1-1 draw with second-bottom OH Leuven on Friday. Gent failed to find a winner despite their opponents having their goalkeeper sent off.Coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck is still sweating over the fitness of striker Laurent Depoitre, who missed Friday’s match and Saturday training with a bad back and strained abdomen.Serbian centre back Stefan Mitrovic, whose foot injury has kept him out for two weeks, is also a doubt.Yet even if they are depleted, the Belgians believe they have a chance in Germany.“When we were 0-3 down (against Wolfsburg), everyone thought this away tie would be just a city outing for us,” goalkeeper Matz Sels said when asked if he was optimistic about the return leg.“But thanks to the two goals we scored we have made it a contest. We certainly shouldn’t throw it open at the start because it would be deadly for us to concede a goal.”“Even if we only go 1-0 up in the 80th minute it would 10 minutes of jitters for Wolfsburg and then you never know if you have another good crack with the ball,” he said.
Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg stormed to pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix in a mixed Saturday qualifying session for Mercedes, with world champion Lewis Hamilton left at the back of the grid after engine trouble prevented him setting a time.The German put in a one minute 35.402 second lap to seize a 23rd career pole and first of the season as qualifying reverted back to the 2015 formula following complaints from the teams about a new system used in the two opening races.Despite the chopping and changing in formats, Sunday’s race will be the ninth straight a Mercedes has started from the front.That put the German, who last started on pole in the 2015 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, over half-a-second clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was a surprise second.But despite the margin of his dominance, it was a day of contrasts for the Mercedes as Hamilton ran into engine problems in the opening phase of qualifying.The Briton, already carrying a five-place grid penalty for a change of gearbox, complained of a lack of power from his Mercedes engine.Though he did go out near the end of the 18-minute session, the problem was too severe and forced him back into the pits.“These things are sent to try us and I am sure we will learn from it,” Hamilton, who had been hoping to land his third successive Shanghai win in Sunday’s race, told broadcasters immediately after the session.“The car is quick, hopefully they get the issue fixed and we can have a race tomorrow.”Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest and Sebastian Vettel fourth in an all-Ferrari second row.The Maranello-based squad had set the pace in all sessions except Friday morning’s opening practice but their challenge faltered when it mattered in an incident filled qualifying.The session started in damp conditions and was halted twice.The first stoppage lasted 20 minutes as marshals dried up wet patches on the track after Manor rookie Pascal Wehrlein crashed in the opening session, while the second came in the next when Nico Hulkenberg’s front-left wheel came off his Force India.