Teamwork takes on a deep and different meaning for players on the 12U Gallagher Select Team as they prepare to compete in the United States Specialty Sports Association’s Elite 32 World Series at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The event, which will attract 100 teams in total, will be held from July 14-22.“It’s pretty awesome; it really is like a world series with the best teams in the country,” said manager Kevin Schneider, who was a closer for the Monmouth University baseball team from 2005 to 2006. “This by far will be our biggest test. We will see how we stack up. If we play aggressive, trust ourselves to play the way we can, we will be tough to beat.”That’s not just a bold statement from Schneider about the Hamilton-based team. It has reached the championship game in all nine showcases it has competed in during this spring and summer. The team has won eight of those tournaments, including its latest victory at the Quad State tournament in Glen Burnie, Md .Gallagher Select will play in their final tournament onAug. 4 in Cooperstown, N.Y., where the players will have the chance to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame.The team has also won tournaments in Sterling, Va., Sterling Heights, Mich., Georgetown, Del., Aberdeen, Md., Flemington and Hamilton. Gallagher Select lost at a showcase in Chesterfield, Va., by a score of 4-3.Ranked No. 8 in the country by travelbaseballselect.com, the 12U Gallagher Select Team is part of a program developed by former Major League Baseball outfielder David Gallagher. Gallagher played 17 years of professional baseball, including nine years in the majors with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.Schneider’s group is in its second season after competing last year in the under-11 age level. The team has played with a purpose while winning 105 games to just five losses since it started playing. After beginning with players mostly from New Jersey, the team’s current roster of 13 players resides in states as far as Michigan. Robert Higgins, Nick Hohenstein and Tyler Ras live in Middletown.What sets this team apart is that 11 of its players pitch. Lefthander Tom Sheehan of Manalapan leads the pitching staff with a 6-0 record. The entire staff has measured up well to the challenge, according to Schneider.Certified strength and conditioning coach Matt Russo, who is an authority on baseball fundamentals and fitness methods, assists Schneider. Schneider said Russo’s role with the team is vital when players are competing in five or six high-level games over a short period of time. Paul Urban is the team’s general manager and bench coach. “We started with a New Jersey group, but once we started having success, people wanted to be a part of it,” said Schneider.That includes players like Bryce Bush from Detroit, a versatile infielder and pitcher who swings with what Schneider regards as “ridiculous power” at his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order. There also are catchers Tre Armstrong of Wilmington, Del., and Jack Pogyor of Levittown, Pa., who both travel a long distance for practices, which are usually held at the Mercer County College field. Nick Mancuso, an infielder and pitcher from Levittown, Pa., also joins Pogyor for practices.“This has evolved so nice and turned into something special,” Schneider said. “There’s nothing like that out there. It’s an honor for me that I have kids from all over on this team.”Most of them can play many positions, which Schneider feels benefits players at this age level and considers it a “luxury” for his team. If a player is having an off day, someone else can move into that spot.“We have seen the best players out there on teams that did not win tournaments because they are not into the nuances of winning as a team. We preach that all the time,” Schneider said. “Baseball players don’t get as much credit as they deserve for their athletic ability and talent. We want to give them the opportunity to move around [to play different positions].”Ras and Jake Waxler of Howell can play any position in the field. Higgins is adept at first base but can move around to other infield positions and pitcher. Hohenstein can also play around the infield and pitch. Sheehan plays first base and can play other infield spots when he isn’t on the mound.David Bermudez of East Brunswick pitches and plays in the infield. Bill Gambino from Cherry Hill and Michael Urban of Bordentown are outfielders and pitchers. Riley Maypother ofWall is an infielder and pitcher.Schneider says having rested arms is important after he dealt with his own arm problems from throwing too many pitches throughout his career. Along with having many quality pitchers, which Schneider believes is necessary at this level of competition, the team thrives on defense.“It’s a cliché that pitching wins games but defense wins championships, but it’s those type of things that are important,” Schneider said. “It’s the other things that also help.”That includes prudent and opportune baserunning triggered by timely hitting. Higgins leads off the batting order and is followed by switch hitters Ras and Bush. Left-handed hitters Sheehan, Hohenstein and Mancuso follow them in the order.Blending solid performance in different aspects of the game has keynoted this team’s rise to success and national notice. BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent
By Iacovos ConstantinouAPOEL were the victors in Tuesday’s top of the table clash against AEL with a resounding three nil win in front of almost 16.000 fans at the GSP stadium. APOEL are now level on points with the Limassol team but their superior goal difference puts them at the top.The Nicosia outfit got off to a great start when the unmarked Nuno Morais headed past AEL keeper Karim Fegrouch in the fifth minute. Four minutes before half time Tiago Gomes released Constantinos Charalambides on the right and his cross was headed past Fegrouch by Cesar Santin.It could all have been so different for AEL, who were the better side in the first half, had they managed to convert at least one of the many clear cut chances that fell to their forward line. Fouad Idabdelay was the main culprit, blasting two great chances high and wide.The two goal cushion allowed APOEL to control play in the second half and chances were few and far between, something that suited the home side. The icing on the cake came late on in the game when APOEL’s midfield dynamo Morais ran clear and set Gustavo Manduca up for an easy third.The remaining games of the fifth match day of the playoffs will be played on Wednesday as follows:Group A: Omonia v Ermis Aradippou, Apollon v Anorthosis gameGroup B: Doxa v AEK Larnaca, AEK Kouklion v Ethinkos Achnas, Nea Salamina v Aris
By Brian HomewoodUEFA has been left to fend for itself in the battle against racism, violence and match-fixing and needs more help from government authorities, its president Michel Platini said on Tuesday.The Frenchman said that a rise in nationalism and extremism in Europe was being reflected in stadiums and that, after several recent incidents of fan violence, European football was risking a return to the dark days of the 1980s.“There are battles that never end, where we cannot ever lower our guard,” Platini said in his opening speech to the UEFA Congress.“I am thinking here of… our efforts to stamp out match-fixing, doping, violence, racism and other forms of discrimination.“In recent months, we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were a thing of the past.“Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago,” said Platini, referring to the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster at the European Cup final in Brussels where 39 people were killed when a wall collapsed after Liverpool fans charged Juventus supporters.“In these battles that we are fighting, we feel as if we have been left to fend for ourselves somewhat,” said Platini who played for Juventus that day.“And yet, these are battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities. We are not legislators, judges or police officers.“I therefore renew my call for greater awareness of this issue among the public authorities, so that we can avoid reliving the dark days of a not-so-distant past – a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums.“We need tougher stadium bans at European level and – I will say it again – the creation of a European sports police force.”Platini, who won a third term as president after standing unopposed, promised to make UEFA more democratic and allow representatives of players, clubs and leagues to sit at the “top table”.“It is time to invite some or all of those branches of the family to join us at the top table – the balance in terms of representation being yet to be decided,” he said.He added: “I regard myself as a simple team-mate – at most your captain. But not the captain of a ship that is being battered by a storm, clinging to the helm for dear life.“I am simply the captain of a winning team.”
Argentina scored two late tries to seal an emphatic 43-20 win over Ireland in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday and continue the Southern Hemisphere’s domination of the tournament.Fresher after having the luxury of resting key players for their last pool match, the South Americans raced away to a 17-0 lead inside the first 13 minutes after Matias Moroni and Juan Imhoff scored tries, but they had to hold on grimly in the second half.Ireland, decimated by injuries and suspensions, responded with tries from Luke Fitzgerald and Jordi Murphy to cut the margin to three points but they never got back on level terms at an electric Millennium Stadium.Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez booted five penalties to keep the scoreboard kicking along and the Pumas sealed victory with tries by fullback Joaquin Tuculet and a second from Imhoff.It was more heartbreak for Six Nations champions Ireland who were bidding to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time after losing their five previous quarter-finals.Semi-finalists in 2007, the Pumas will play Australia or Scotland next weekend for a place in the final. New Zealand and South Africa will contest the other semi.
By Greg StutchburySIX simple words eloquently summed up the impact Jonah Lomu had on rugby union when New Zealand paid its final respects to the former All Blacks winger yesterday.“Too big, too fast, too much,” Lomu’s high school coach Chris Grinter told the thousands of people who had flocked to Eden Park for a public memorial service.Lomu, rugby’s first global superstar, died unexpectedly at the age of 40 on November 18. He had been suffering from a kidney disease for 20 years and was awaiting a second transplant.The service at the ground where the hulking winger once thundered down the touchlines was the last chance for his compatriots to publicly mourn his death and celebrate his life.He will be buried after a private funeral service later this week.Lomu’s casket was carried to a specially built stage by former team-mates, including All Blacks Michael Jones, Frank Bunce and Jerome Kaino.Many of the speakers at the service referred not only to Lomu’s abilities on the field but also to what he did off it by making time for autograph hunters and bringing hope to sick children through hospital visits.Several remarked on his impact as a role model for children in South Auckland, which has a high proportion of Pacific Island families who related to Lomu, who was of Tongan heritage.One such tribute was a song performed by a group of students from Favona Primary School in Mangere, which Lomu attended.“You showed us to follow our dreams, never give up and follow our dreams,” they sang.The service, which was broadcast on both main free-to-air television channels in New Zealand, also included musical interludes from South Auckland artists.Former All Blacks team mate Eric Rush brought an element of humour to the proceedings.Rush repeated tales of an aversion to training and a voracious appetite that brought Lomu into conflict with the strict nutritional edicts of his professional coaches.“It was a love-hate relationship. I loved training, he loved the Manukau city food court,” Rush said.“You didn’t tell Jonah to do anything, but if you asked him, he’d run through a brick wall for you.”World Rugby’s French chairman Bernard Lapasset said Lomu was “a giant” of the game, while former All Blacks coach John Hart said the world never saw Lomu at his best due to his illness.“It is frightening to consider what he could have achieved on the field if he had not played his entire career with a massive medical handbrake,” said Hart.
Harry Kane moved top of the Premier League scoring charts this season with a brace to keep his side on leaders Leicester City’s coat tails.Kane needed only 44 seconds to connect with Kyle Walker’s cross and put Spurs ahead before he took his goal tally to 21 after 16 minutes when Dele Alli picked him out and the England striker calmly slotted home left-footed past Artur Boruc.Bournemouth, bidding for a fourth straight league win to all but secure a second top-flight season, made little impression and Tottenham extended their lead seven minutes after the break when Boruc parried Kane’s shot and Christian Eriksen was on hand to convert.Second-placed Tottenham could have further bolstered their goal difference but cruised through the final stages to move back within five points of Leicester with seven matches leftSouthampton staged a remarkable recovery from 2-0 down with Sadio Mane scoring twice to damage Liverpool’s hopes of moving into top-four contention in the Premier League on Sunday.Philippe Coutinho’s curling shot past Fraser Forster gave Liverpool the lead after 17 minutes and they doubled their advantage four minutes later when Daniel Sturridge finished off a swift counter-attack.Liverpool were well worth their lead but Southampton were a different proposition after the break. Mane had a penalty saved by Simon Mignolet in the 49th minute but he made amends with a close-range finish just past the hour mark.Christian Benteke should have restored Liverpool’s two-goal advantage but shot wide from a good position.From then on it was all Southampton as the visitors, looking heavy-legged after their midweek Europa League clash with Manchester United, sat back in the hope of playing out time.Graziano Pelle shook off the attentions of both Liverpool’s centre backs to equalise with a powerful 20-metre strike seven minutes from time.Mane snatched the points three minutes later with a precise low finish after Mignolet had failed to clear and the ball was played back into the danger area.Victory moved Southampton into seventh place on 47 points, three more than Liverpool.“I do not know about the top four, we are not closer than we were before. There are nine games left, that is 27 points, it is possible, I don’t know,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told the BBC.
The first leg of the Europa League third qualifying round sees AEK Larnaca face a daunting challenge at home to Spartak Moscow, while Apollon visit Grasshopper in Switzerland.AEK have so far breezed through the first two rounds, winning 6-1 and 5-2 on aggregate against Folgore of San Marino and Cliftonville of Northern Ireland respectively but they will be pushed to the limit when Russian side Spartak come to town on Thursday.A doubt still remains over the fitness of key midfielder Vincent Laban but the Larnaca side are confident that the Cypriot international will be able to start.AEK’s press officer, Kyriakos Demetriou told Sport FM that overcoming the Russian giants would be “the biggest achievement” in the club’s history.“We want to go toe-to-toe with our opponent and that the finer details fall in our favour,” Demetriou added.Spartak boss Dmitri Alenichev is more than confident that his side will see off Imanol Idiakez’s side: “AEK are more like a Spanish team than a Cypriot one, but they are older,” he said. “If my players play at their best, the opponent will have little chance of qualifying.”AEK’s home form gives hope for a positive first leg result, as they have only lost one Europa League qualifying match in front of their own supporters in seven previous matches, and won five.Spartak have not appeared in the competition since 2013, when they were knocked out by St. Gallen in the playoff round.While Omonia and AEK entered the Europa League in round one, Apollon, as domestic cup winners, start their European campaign in the third round.The Limassol outfit have been pitted against Swiss side Grasshopper who defeated Iceland’s KR Reykjavik 5-4 on aggregate.Apollon have fond memories of the Europa League, having reached the group stages of the competition two years running, in 2013-14 and 2014-15.Cypriot international defender Marios Stylianou spoke to Apollon’s official website about the threat of Grasshopper, who he believes are the favourites: “We are in for a very dangerous match with a high level of difficulty. We acknowledge that Grasshopper are especially strong at home and very ambitious for the new season.”He added that the aim is to grab an away goal, more than getting the win: “We are going to Switzerland to score, and not to get the best result.”AEK’s match gets underway first, at 6pm Cyprus time at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, while Apollon’s game in Switzerland kicks-off at 8.45pm.
Thiago da Silva won Brazil’s first athletics gold of their home Games on an extraordinary, unforgettable Monday night in Rio, producing an Olympic record of 6.03 metres in the pole vault to beat hot favourite Renaud Lavillenie and send the fans into raptures.A roar to match anything from Sunday’s 100 metres final – produced by a crowd a quarter of the size – accompanied the 22-year-old as he sailed over the bar, leaving the French world record holder and defending champion one more chance to beat him.Lavillenie failed and Brazil had a new, and totally unexpected, hero and their first male athletics gold medal winner since Joaquim Cruz won the 800 metres in 1984.“The gold – incredible,” said Da Silva, who came into the Games with a best of 5.93. “My first time over six metres. My home town wanted me to win.“The crowd were cheering me too much. I had to fix my mind on my technique, forget the people.”There had already been drama aplenty on a night dogged by heavy rain that caused a brief suspension of action.David Rudisha and Shaunae Miller showed that there are different ways to cross the line first, but their gold medals will be the same after thrilling 800 and 400 metres finals.Kenya’s Rudisha, who won the 800m in world record style four years ago, delivered a dominant last lap, striding home majestically to become the first man since New Zealander Peter Snell in 1964 to successfully defend the 800m title.Bahamian Miller, conversely, was tying up desperately but hurled herself across the line, crashing to the track in the process, to just get the nod ahead of American Allyson Felix.There were also golds for Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk, with a world record in the women’s hammer and 19-year-old Ruth Jebet of Bahrain via Kenya in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase.After the drama of Usain Bolt on Sunday, it looked as if the combination of a poor crowd and heavy rain would produce a flat atmosphere just 24 hours later.The pole vault, so often the forgotten event of athletics as it chugs on relentlessly in the background with all the attention on the track, gradually became the prime focus when the crowd realised that the man in green kept clearing.One by one Da Silva’s rivals dropped off but the odds were still stacked heavily in favour of Lavillenie, whose world record of 6.16m meant his final attempt at 6.08 was well within range, despite two failures at 6.03.Brazilians may have been criticised for not being the most sophisticated athletics fans in the world but they knew what was going on enough to take the roof off the Olympic Stadium when the Frenchman failed – though he was unimpressed by their booing as he made his preparations.“There was no fair play from the public,” Lavillenie said. “It is for football, not track and field.“For the Olympics it is not a good image. I did nothing to the Brazilians.”Da Silva’s heroics somewhat overshadowed another imperious display by Rudisha, who two months ago was struggling badly with injuries.He bided his time on Monday and then took control just as he did when at his peak to come home in 1.42.15.Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi took silver while fast-finishing American Clayton Murphy grabbed bronze.In the morning session, Wlodarczyk underscored her total dominance of the women’s hammer with a world record of 82.29 metres to win gold by a massive 5.54 metres.Wlodarczyk now has the eight longest throws in history and is the only woman to clear 80 metres.“I thought, ‘this is that day’,” she said. “It was worth giving it a go because you never know if it’s going to happen again – parents in the stands, fans cheering… I think I’m the happiest woman in the world right now.”Bolt begins the second leg of his triple-triple on Tuesday when he runs in the 200m heats in the morning.The highlights of the evening session include the 110m hurdles final and the final of the women’s 1,500m, which four years ago was so ravaged by doping that it has since replaced the 1988 100 metres final as the “Dirtiest Race In History”.
By Larry FineTop seed Novak Djokovic advanced to the semi-finals of the U.S. Open when ninth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired at the start of the third set of their quarter-final on Tuesday, trailing 6-3 6-2.Tsonga took a medical timeout during the changeover at 5-2 of the second set and had the area below his left knee taped.World number one Djokovic held serve at love to close out the set for a 6-3 6-2 lead but the Frenchman walked off to give the Serbian passage into the U.S. Open last four for the 10th consecutive time.It has been a strange slam for Djokovic, who has played only two full matches in the tournament, gifted by a walkover in the second round and a retirement after six games in the third round before his abbreviated match with Tsonga.Djokovic advanced to a semi-final against France’s 10th seed Gael Monfils, who beat compatriot Lucas Pouille in straight sets. Monfils has yet to beat Djokovic in 12 career meetings.Results from the U.S. Open Men’s Singles Quarterfinal matches on Tuesday 1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat 9-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) 6-3 6-2 (Tsonga retired)10-Gael Monfils (France) beat 24-Lucas Pouille (France) 6-4 6-3 6-3