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Bethune-Cookman shocks Gators in NCAAs; Seminoles force deciding game

College baseball’s June Madness came to Gainesville on Sunday night as the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats shocked the Florida Gators 6-2 to force a deciding game in the Gainesville Regional. BCU made it to the championship round by eliminating the South Florida Bulls 6-4 on Sunday afternoon.

After Bethune-Cookman starter Donte Lindsay gave way to T.J. Densmore one out into the second inning and two runs across, the Wildcats bullpen was stingy for the rest of the night.

Densmore and Anthony Maldonado combined to hold the Gators scoreless over the next 7-plus innings. Meanwhile, BCU took lead in the sixth, and earned some breathing room with a three-run eighth.

Both teams will have some time to get ready for Monday’s winner-take-all contest. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. at McKethan Stadium.

In Tallahassee, Florida State stayed alive by eliminating Tennessee Tech, 5-3, then defeated Auburn 8-7 in 10 innings to force a third and deciding game. The winning run scored for FSU when J.C. Flowers was hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count with the bases loaded to force in the winning run..

In the Chapel Hill Regional, North Carolina, the number two national seed, ended Florida Gulf Coast’s run with a 10-1 romp. The Tar Heels went on to lose to fourth-seeded Davidson Sunday night.

Gator fans had something to cheer about on Sunday. The Florida women’s softball team advanced to the Women’s College World Series Final on Sunday with a 5-2 win over Washington. They will face defending national champion Oklahoma in a best-of-three final beginning Monday night.


Ariel Miranda’s 4-hitter leads Seattle to sweep of Rays

Ariel Miranda pitched a four-hitter for his first career complete game, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 on Sunday to sweep their weekend series.

Miranda (6-2) struck out a career-high nine and walked one. He has allowed only seven earned runs in 30 innings over his last five starts.

Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer and Mike Zunino picked up two more RBIs in Seattle’s seventh win in eight games. Jarrod Dyson also drove in two runs.

Tampa Bay right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (3-1) pitched 4 2/3 innings against his first major league team, allowing four runs and seven hits.

Kevin Kiermaier had an infield single in the fifth for the Rays’ first hit. Tampa Bay got its only run when Daniel Robertson reached on a triple in the eighth – center fielder Dyson lost the ball in the sun – and scored on Jesus Sucre‘s groundout.

Miranda’s third straight win also was Seattle’s first complete game of the season.

Zunino, a .196 career hitter who had a career-high seven RBIs on Saturday, is hitting .308 since being recalled from the minors on May 22 and leads the team with 13 RBIs during that span.

He hit a two-run single in the fourth, giving Seattle a 4-0 lead.

Cruz began the scoring with his 14th homer in the first. Dyson added a two-run double in the sixth.

Danny Valencia singled in his first two at-bats to give him nine consecutive hits over three games. That tied the Mariners record set by Raul Ibanez from Sept. 22-24, 2004. His hitting surge raised his batting average from .247 to .284.


Rays: C Derek Norris got the day off. He left Saturday’s game in the eighth with back spasms. … Evan Longoria has a lingering neck issue, so he was switched from third to designated hitter.


Rays: RHP Chris Archer (4-3, 3.74 ERA) has been on a record strikeout pace. His 58 Ks set the club record for May. He has 95 for the season, second in the league. He is 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA in six career appearances against the White Sox. He’ll be opposed by LHP Jose Quintana (2-7, 5.60 ERA) on Tuesday night.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Mike Zunino’s 7 RBIs power Mariners past Rays

Mike Zunino hit his first grand slam and drove in a career-high seven runs to power the Seattle Mariners to a 9-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

Zunino, sent down to Triple-A Tacoma for two weeks in May after struggling offensively, had a two-run double in the second, an RBI single in the fourth, and capped a five-run fifth with his slam that put the Mariners up 9-1.

Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-1) allowed one run – a homer by Corey Dickerson to lead off the game – and four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked none in his fourth start since being called up May 10.

Alex Cobb (4-5) was rocked for nine runs and 14 hits in five innings.

Nelson Cruz had three hits, including a solo homer, and Danny Valencia had four singles and scored three times for the Mariners, who won for the sixth time in seven games.

The Mariners erased a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the second on Valencia’s RBI single and Zunino’s two-run double to the gap in right-center.

Seattle made it 4-1 in the fourth on singles by Valencia, Taylor Motter and Zunino. The Mariners failed to add on when Motter was out at home attempting to score from third on a ball that initially got away from catcher Derek Norris.

Cruz got Seattle’s five-run fifth started with his 13th homer, a one-out solo shot to left. The Mariners loaded the bases on a single by Valencia, a walk to Motter and Jarrod Dyson‘s bunt single. Zunino, who had five RBIs in 103 at-bats before Saturday, then drove a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left for his second homer.

Logan Morrison hit a solo homer in the ninth for the Rays, his 16th.


3B Evan Longoria, who left Friday’s game with neck stiffness, was back in the lineup, batting third. Longoria had three singles Saturday before coming out after the sixth inning. … Norris limped off after flying out to center field in the eighth and was replaced behind the plate by Jesus Sucre.


Rays: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3-0, 3.66) starts the finale of the three-game series Sunday at Safeco Field against the Mariners. Ramirez, making his fifth start, lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his last start, allowing four runs on six hits after pitching an inning in relief the previous day.

Mariners: LHP Ariel Miranda (5-2, 4.17), originally slated to start the season at Triple-A, has provided much-needed reliability to the injury-ravaged rotation. He has allowed only six earned runs in 22 innings in his last four starts.

FSU beats UCF to stay alive in NCAA Tournament; Gators outlast USF

The Central Florida Knights had hoped to play Florida State on Saturday, but not with the season on the line. The Seminoles rolled to a 6-1 win in the Tallahassee Regional, eliminating the Knights from the NCAA Tournament and ending their season.

Both FSU and USF thought they would be playing each other in the winner’s bracket game on Saturday night, but Auburn and Tennessee Tech had other ideas.  UCF dropped a 7-4 decision to Auburn on Friday, while FSU was shocked by Tennessee Tech 3-1, setting up the unlikely high stakes game on Saturday.

The Knights never figured out Seminoles’ lefthander Tyler Holton. He allowed only 6 hits and one unearned run while striking out 13 Knights in a complete game effort. Jackson Lueck provided the big blow of the game, a three-run homer in the third inning.

With the victory, Florida State moves on to Sunday for a rematch with Tennessee Tech in a loser’s bracket elimination game. The Golden Eagles lost to Auburn 5-3 in the winner’s bracket game. Central Florida finishes the season with a 40-22 record under first-year coach Greg Lovelady.

In the Gainesville Regional, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats avoided elimination with a 4-2 win over Marist. On Sunday, they will face the USF Bulls, who lost to the Florida Gators 5-1 in 12 innings late Saturday night. Florida moves on to the regional final.

In the Chapel Hill Regional, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles lost an opportunity to make the regional finals when they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Davidson Wildcats. FGCU now must get by North Carolina, the tournament’s number 2 national seed, in a Sunday elimination game to have the chance to meet Davidson in the finals.

NCAA Baseball Tournament providing June Madness

Just call it June Madness. Crazy upsets are the norm in basketball every March, but the first day of regional play in NCAA Baseball Tournament produced some unlikely outcomes.

In Tallahassee, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles scored three runs over the final two innings to stun Florida State 3-1, sending the Seminoles into the loser’s bracket.

Florida State starter Drew Parrish did not allow a runner to reach second base through the 7th inning. After he departed in the 8th, the Golden Eagles bunched together 6 hits to take the lead and pull the upset.

The top-seeded Seminoles will face the Central Florida Knights in an elimination game at Dick Howser Stadium beginning at noon on Saturday. UCF dropped the first game of the day, 7-4 to the Auburn Tigers. Auburn meets Tennessee Tech in the winner’s bracket game.

Earlier in the day, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles made their first-ever appearance in the tournament a memorable one with a 10-6 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the Chapel Hill Regional. The Atlantic Sun Conference champions came from behind three times to finally take the lead for good with a 5-run 6th inning to take control.

The second-seeded Eagles will face the fourth-seeded Davidson Wildcats on Saturday in a winner’s bracket game. That match comes about following Davidson’s shocking 8-7 win over North Carolina, the number two national seed.

In the Gainesville Regional, the Marist Red Foxes were thinking upset, but fell short. They trailed the top-seeded Florida Gators only by 7-6 in the bottom of the 8th inning, but JJ Schwarz hammered a three-run homer for the Gators to provide the final margin.

Florida will face the South Florida Bulls in the winner’s bracket on Saturday. USF defeated the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 9-1 in the first game of the day.

The Bulls built a 7-0 lead after four innings and cruised to the victory. Duke Kunkel, Jr. and Chris Chatfield homered for Florida while starter Phoenix Sanders threw seven shutout innings to get the win.


Rowdies hosting Independence Day Celebration July 6 with parachute demo, concert

Tampa Bay Rowdies are hosting the club’s largest event of the season – the Independence Day Celebration – Thursday, July 6, at Al Lang Stadium as the Tampa Bay Rowdies take on FC Cincinnati.

Kickoff is at 8 p.m.

The night will begin with the U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team, widely known as the Para-Commandos, delivering the American Flag to the field from an altitude of 12,500 feet.

Para-Commandos are comprised of U.S. Special Operations Command personnel headquartered at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base. Most members are combat veteran special operators from the U.S. Army Special Forces or Rangers, the U.S. Air Force’s Special Tactics Squadrons, U.S. Navy SEALs, or U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Raiders.

After the match, fans will enjoy a free concert by Kool & the Gang, presented by Big Storm Brewing Co., the Rowdies’ official craft beer partner and brewer of Kick in the Grass – a light, refreshing Pilsner style lager.

The multiple-platinum selling Kool & the Gang will get fans moving with top hits including “Celebration,” “Fresh” and “Get Down on It.” Kool & the Gang has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide and performed continuously for the past 35 years, longer than any rhythm and blues group in history. More of their smash hits include “Jungle Boogie,” “Too Hot” and “Fresh.”

The concert is included with the purchase of a match ticket. Tickets for the Independence Day celebration are available online or by calling (727) 222-2000.


Rays’ win in Texas caps winning month of May

Did Wednesday’s game in Arlington against the Texas Rangers signal a turning point for the Tampa Bay Rays? While there is no question the dramatic 7-5, 10-inning comeback win was the highlight of the season, it is still only one win.

A better barometer is established using a larger sample size. The signs are good for Tampa Bay.

A quality team must win on the road, or at least break even. The win in Texas brought the Rays’ overall road record to 13-14.

While that is nothing to celebrate, the good news lies in their road record for the entire month of May. Playing 14 games in Miami, Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota and Texas, the Rays went 10-4.

During the current trip, which now continues in Seattle, they are showing signs of putting the ball in play more often. During the first 6 games of the current road trip, which continues in Seattle on Friday, the Rays have fanned more than 10 times only twice.

Why is this significant? Tampa Bay leads Major League Baseball in strikeouts by a wide margin, averaging more than 10 per game. In the final two games in Texas, they struck out only 5 times each game.

The Rays also lead Major League Baseball in home runs with 83. While making better contact recently, the power continues, hitting 15 home runs during the 6 games of this road trip.

While everyone is making a contribution, how big has Logan Morrison come up? He has hit two home runs in extra innings on this trip, paving the way for a Rays’ victory. Morrison homered in the 15th inning of the Rays 8-6 win over the Twins and in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s victory over Texas.

Evan Longoria has also homered in extra innings on the trip. Morrison would not have had the chance to put the Rays on top Wednesday had it not been for a dramatic, two-out, game-tying homer by Kevin Kiermaier.

Tampa Bay’s pitching has been good enough to keep them in several games in which they have found ways to win later. Wednesday’s game is a case in point.

Thursday provides a welcome day off for a tired group, although the plane ride to Seattle must have been more relaxing after such an emotional victory.

“We’re looking forward to the off-day for sure,” said Manager Kevin Cash after the Texas win. “It’s going to help a lot of guys to just relax, lay around, not pick up a baseball.”

The Rays just completed a stretch where they played 33 games in 34 days in 7 different cities.

Now that they are playing much better away from Tropicana Field, the next step toward a successful season is to perform better at home. They were only 7-9 in May home games.

They can work on that beginning next Tuesday. After spending the weekend in Seattle, they return home to face the Chicago White Sox.

In the meantime, Jake Odorizzi takes the mound on Friday night in Seattle to start the month of June.

Corey Dickerson lone Rays’ bright spot in All-Star balloting

Corey Dickerson is having a monster season worthy of an all-star. Whether he is invited to make the short trip to Miami as part of the American League All-Star team is yet to be determined.

In the first round of American League All-Star balloting released Wednesday, Dickerson is fourth among designated hitters. No other Rays player is among the top 5 in any position.

Seattle’s Nelson Cruz leads designated hitters by a wide margin over second place Edwin Encarnacion of the Cleveland Indians and third place Matt Holliday of the New York Yankees.

Dickerson’s .346 average leads all of the league’s designated hitters by almost 70 points. As of Wednesday, he leads the American League in hitting by one point over Seattle’s Jean Segura.

Cruz and Dickerson both have 12 home runs while Holliday has 11 and Encarnacion has 10. Dickerson leads all designated hitters with 30 extra base hits, while Cruz is second best with 20.

It is unlikely Dickerson, or any Rays player, will be voted into the starting lineup by the fans, but could be selected as a reserve by American League Manager Terry Francona or fellow players.

Among those in the running include Steven Souza, Jr. among outfielders, who is fourth among right fielders in batting with a .277 average. Logan Morrison is hitting only .237, but leads American League first basemen with 14 home runs and has the fifth most in the league.

Morrison could also be a candidate for the Home Run Derby competition, which is beginning to dwarf the game itself for fan interest. Matt Andriese, Alex Cobb, and Chris Archer are possible starting pitcher selections while closer Alex Colome is a probable selection.

The game will be played at Marlins Park on July 11. The next American League voting update is Tuesday, June 6.


Marlins sale still involves Who’s Who of Republican politics even without Jeb Bush

The news began to break on Tuesday evening. Jeb Bush was reportedly no longer interested in purchasing the Miami Marlins, according to anonymous sources.

Bush was yet another among the biggest names in Republican politics seeking to buy one of baseball’s worst performing teams. Others include President Trump’s family circle and a serious investor carrying the name of Romney.

The Bush family has been involved with baseball for decades. George H.W. Bush was captain of the 1948 Yale baseball team and a frequent patron of the Houston Astros. George W. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers in the 1990s.

Before we learned of Bush’s pursuit of the Marlins, news broke in February that current team owner Jeffrey Loria had a “handshake agreement” to sell the team. Not just to anybody, but to Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law and brother-in-law for $1.6 billion.

Charles Kushner, father of White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Joshua Kushner were seriously pursuing the purchase, but halted their bid. The problem developed when Trump was said to be strongly considering Loria for the role of ambassador to France. Loria is a major donor to the Republican National Committee.

“Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest Mr. Loria will soon be nominated to be ambassador to France,” read a statement from another member of the group, Joseph Meyer, Joshua Kushner’s brother-in-law. “If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it.”

Loria is yet to be nominated, leaving open the possibility the Kushners would re-engage if Trump goes in another direction for France. If so, Charles Kushner would need to address questions from his past regarding a conviction for tax evasion.

While Bush is apparently stepping aside, his partner, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is looking for other investors. If the Kushners do not get back in, the Tampa resident’s main competition comes from Massachusetts.

Tagg Romney, a venture capitalist and the 47-year-old son of the GOP 2012 nominee for President Mitt Romney, is making a strong bid and apparently picking up steam. Mitt Romney is not involved with his son’s bid.

In April, former Atlanta Braves’ legend and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine joined the group. In early May, former Oakland A’s pitching star and Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart joined Romney and Glavine. Miami native Alex Rodriguez declined an offer to join.

The two competing groups are said to be offering about $1.3 billion. The Marlins hope to close the sale by the time they host the MLB All-Star Game in mid-July.

Jeb Bush no longer interested in buying Marlins

Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race for the Miami Marlins.

The ex-presidential candidate and former Florida governor is no longer interested in buying the Marlins and has ended his pursuit of the team, two people close to the negotiations said Tuesday.

One of the people said former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who had been part of Bush’s group, is still exploring a bid with other investors. The two people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved aren’t commenting publicly on the status of negotiations.

Jeter becomes the frontman for an investment group competing with a group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Romney group includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Romney and Bush-Jeter groups were relatively even in their price offers. Both bid about $1.3 billion to buy the team from Jeffrey Loria, who bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry.

Four weeks ago, Bush said he was optimistic he could close the deal. But one of the people confirming Bush’s withdrawal said he didn’t put up enough of his own money to have the controlling interest he sought.

The commissioner’s office wants the purchasing group to demonstrate it has enough cash both to close the deal and operate the team. Because of MLB’s debt service rule, more than half of the winning bid could require cash.

Manfred declined to comment Tuesday. A spokesman for Jeter didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Romney has not publicly discussed his interest in the team.

Jeter and Bush were part of rival efforts to buy the Marlins before joining forces. Jeter, a 14-time All-Star shortstop, retired in 2014 after 20 seasons with the Yankees.

The Marlins have said they hope to close a deal around the time of the All-Star game in Miami on July 11.

Bush, 64, lives in Miami. He served two terms as governor from 1999-2007 and was an unsuccessful candidate last year for the Republican nomination for president.

Jeter, 42, lives in Tampa and has long talked of his desire to own a team. Romney, 47, has been a Massachusetts businessman, venture capitalist and political adviser.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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