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Tim Ireland 

Tim Ireland

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the second set against Belgium’s David Goffin during a men’s quarterfinal match on day nine of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.


Sports
editor's pick
Lestini in hunt at AJGA event

CANONSBURG – After Tuesday’s round of the AJGA Junior boys golf tournament at Southpointe Golf Club, Luke Lestini was in a six-way tie for the lead, shooting a 2-over 74.

The second round Wednesday didn’t go as smoothly for the 2019 Observer-Reporter Boys Golf MVP. Lestini shot 4-over 76 and hurt himself with three consecutive bogeys to end the round. Nonetheless, Lestini is still in contention as the tournament enters its final day. Lestini, who plays for the South Fayette High School team, is four strokes back of leader Jean-Philippe Parr of Quebec.

While Lestini’s score was two strokes higher Wednesday than the day before – and he’s now four strokes further from the lead than he was after Tuesday – he wasn’t discouraged.

“I thought I was playing good, for the most part,” Lestini said.

Lestini acknowledged, however, that his round could have been better, especially at the end.

“On my last three holes, I just kind of fell asleep a little bit,” he said. “That’s a not-so-good thing to happen, but what are you going to do?”

Lestini didn’t get off to a hot start, bogeying the first hole. He regrouped to par the next two holes, before taking a 5 on a par-4 to put himself at 2-over.

Lestini then brought himself back to even with consecutive birdies on Nos. 5 and 6, but fell back over par with a bogey on on No. 7. Lestini parred the last two holes to finish with a 37 on the front nine.

Lestini’s 39 on the back nine was identical to the opening round. He held his own on the first six holes, with a birdie, a bogey and four pars. Waling to the 16th tee, Lestini was on pace to best his score from Tuesday.

A possible cause for Lestini lagging on his final three holes was spending several hours in the July heat. Temperatures were plenty hot for somebody to walk nine holes, let alone play 18.

The heat had an affect on Lestini, and he found it difficult to concentrate on golf, while at the same time sweating through his polo shirt.

“It’s hard to maintain your focus, I’d say,” he said. “Just to not get sidetracked from what you’re supposed to do.”

Another factor, Lestini said, could have been the wind on the back nine compared to the front end.

“On the front nine, there was absolutely zero wind, which was nice,” Lestini said. “Then the wind started to blow on the back nine, which made things a little bit harder.”

Lestini enters the tournament’s final round tied with four players, including Shady Side Academy’s Adam Lauer, for fifth place. Looking back on his round, Lestini believes that his standing is an accurate portrayal of his performance. {

“I think the round was close to (Tuesday’s round),” he said. “I didn’t play that bad. I just want to not lose shots where I know I shouldn’t. I think that’s the main thing.”

Behind Canada’s Philippe Parr, two Pennsylvania natives, Erie’s Patrick Kelly and Canonsburg’s Rocco Salvitti, are tied for second place. Lestini is part of a five-way tie for fifth place and Todd Moyer of North Carolina rounds out the top 10 at 7-over.

In the girl’s tournament, Katie Li of Basking Ridge, N.J., has a commanding lead at 1-under, four shots ahead of second-place Rebecca DiNunzio of Norfolk, Va. South Fayette’s Caroline McConnell (+18) is tied for 18th place with two players, including Mt. Lebanon’s Lindsey Powanda.

For Thursday’s final round, Lestini said his success will depend on how he performs out of the gate.

“Make a fast start,” he said. “That’s about it. Just start fast.”


Sports
AP
Trade deadline looms as baseball resumes after break

CHICAGO – Francisco Lindor and the Cleveland Indians, looking up at Nelson Cruz and the surprising Minnesota Twins. Matt Chapman and the Oakland Athletics, trying to run down José Altuve and the Houston Astros. Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals, chasing Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Atlanta Braves.

Baseball ramps up again this weekend, and a handful of contenders have a lot of work to do.

Five of the majors’ six divisions feature deficits of at least 5½ games as play resumes after the All-Star Game, in which the American League beat the National League 4-3 Tuesday night. Life is pretty good for two iconic franchises, with Cody Bellinger and the Los Angeles Dodgers in control of the NL West again and Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees looking down on the rest of the AL East despite a rash of injuries.

“This team is capable of some great things,” Yankees pitcher James Paxton said. “You’ve got some really talented players here, guys with a lot of drive, great leadership. We’re set up really well to make a good run the second half here as well.”

The one exception at the moment is the crazy NL Central, where the Chicago Cubs have a 4½-game advantage – over last-place Cincinnati. Yup, that’s right, it’s just 4½ games from top to bottom, with Christian Yelich and Milwaukee a half-game back of Javier Báez and the inconsistent Cubbies.

“Nobody really wants to run away with it,” Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong said. “That gives us confidence as a group to think that we can run away with it.”

It sets up for some very tough decisions ahead of the trade deadline after trade waivers were eliminated in the offseason, meaning no player can be traded after July 31 through the end of the regular season. Players who clear outright waivers can still be claimed and will be eligible for the postseason if they are in the organization before Sept. 1.

Buying or selling will be one tricky call for several teams, all the way to the final days of July. The hard deadline also could affect the prices for some of the top players on the market, possibilities like San Francisco pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman and Detroit lefty Matthew Boyd.

“I know something could happen, but I don’t take a peek at what people are saying,” Smith said. “There’s so much out there, and you don’t know what’s true.”

Cleveland could inject some drama into the AL Central as soon as this weekend, when Minnesota comes to town for a three-game series. The Indians hit the All-Star break with the majors’ longest active win streak at six in a row, improving to 21-6 since June 1 and moving within 5½ games of the division-leading Twins.

“In the beginning it seemed like we were good, then all of a sudden in May we had that stretch where we weren’t playing as good as we wanted to play,” Lindor said. “But right now, we continue to play the game right and we’re enjoying it, we’re all having fun. We all get along, we love each other, we back each other up. We’re having a blast.”

Washington also is having some fun again, moving into position to shake up the NL East after a terrible start to the season . Led by a resurgent Scherzer, the Nationals have won 15 of 19 to pull within six games of the division-leading Braves.

Washington plays Atlanta 14 times in the last half of the season, including seven games in July.

“When we can go out there and play our best baseball and play mistake-free baseball, we’re a tough team and we can compete with anybody in this league,” Scherzer said.

The Nationals have seven players with at least 11 homers, led by Anthony Rendon with 20. But everyone is going deep these days.

Beginning with Thursday night’s Astros-Rangers game in Arlington, the game’s top sluggers resume their assault on an array of home run records. Yelich leads the way with 31 so far, putting together an appropriate encore to his NL MVP performance a year ago.

The majors are on pace for 6,668 homers, which would smash the record 6,105 hit in 2017, and the real heat of the summer, when hits pick up, is only just beginning.

“Guys are working year in and year out on their swings,” Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell said during the All-Star break. “We’re just focused on trying to put a show on for you guys.”

The show is on once again.


State
AP
'I just want to be like them': Fans fete World Cup champs

NEW YORK – Adoring fans packed New York City’s Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday amid a blizzard of confetti to praise the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national soccer team as athletic leaders on the field – and as advocates for pay equity off it.

Crowds chanted “USA! USA!” and workers sounded air horns from a construction site as the hourlong parade moved up a stretch of lower Broadway that has long hosted so-called ticker tape parades for world leaders, veterans and hometown sports stars.

Co-captain Megan Rapinoe and her teammates shared a float with Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro. Rapinoe struck her now-famous victory pose, took a swig of Champagne and handed the bottle to a fan. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher held the World Cup trophy aloft.

Aly Hoover, 12, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, stood at the sidelines with a poster of the face of Alex Morgan, another team star. “I just want to be like them,” she said.

Garret Prather brought his newborn son “to celebrate how the American women made us proud on and off the field.”

The team sealed its second consecutive tournament win by beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday. It will get $4 million for winning the World Cup from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. The men’s French team got $38 million for winning last year.

The U.S. women’s team has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender and pay discrimination. The federation will give the women bonuses about five times smaller than what the men would have earned for winning the World Cup. The case is currently in mediation.

Kate Lane, who watched the parade, called the pay gap “massive” for the soccer players and “across the board” for most women.

“Especially in male-dominated professions,” said Lane, of Limerick, Ireland. “Women put just as much commitment into their work as their male counterparts.”

She’s hopeful the younger generation is soaking up the message from the women’s team, noting a girl about 7 years old wearing an “Equal Pay” T-shirt.

Earlier Wednesday, team members joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, as he signed a bill that expands gender pay equality in the state. He said women’s soccer players should be paid the same as male players.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, introduced a bill Tuesday that would bar federal funding for the men’s 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation provides equal pay to the women’s and men’s teams.

At a City Hall rally after the parade, de Blasio, also a Democrat, honored the team with symbolic keys to the city, saying it “brought us together” and “showed us so much to make us hopeful.”

After chants for “Equal pay!” from the crowd, Cordeiro said women “deserve fair and equitable pay. And together I believe we can get this done.”

At the rally, Rapinoe noted the diversity of the team: “We have pink hair and purple hair, we have tattoos and dreadlocks, we got white girls and black girls and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls.”

The parade is named for the strands of ticker tape that used to be showered down from nearby office buildings. The tape has since been replaced with paper confetti, which drifted down from office buildings throughout Wednesday’s parade, along with documents and spreadsheets folded into paper airplanes.

The Department of Sanitation said it has assigned 350 workers to parade cleanup, with trucks, backpack blowers and brooms at their disposal.

The team had already started celebrating its record fourth Women’s World Cup title. After touching down at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, players shared a toast and sang “We Are the Champions.”

Team members appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in Times Square on Tuesday to show off their trophy and answer questions from cheering kids.

Rapinoe, the outspoken star who won the awards for the tournament’s best player and top scorer, also appeared on CNN and MSNBC later Tuesday.

Rapinoe told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Republican President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is “harking back to an era that wasn’t great for everyone. It might’ve been great for a few people.”

Rapinoe told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Trump had yet to invite the women’s soccer team to the White House.

Trump had tweeted that he would invite the team, win or lose. Rapinoe has said she wouldn’t be going to the White House. The team has accepted an invitation to visit Congress.


Wild_things
editor's pick
Wild Things spark Frontier League to all-star rout

POMONA, N.Y. – The Frontier League All-Stars defeated the host Can-Am League 7-0 Wednesday night and two Wild Things players had significant roles in the outcome.

Washington first baseman J.J. Fernandez went 2-for-3, smacked a three-run homer in the third inning and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Outfielder Hector Roa played the entire game and went 3-for-5 with a double, three runs and an RBI.

Roa gave the Frontier League a 1-0 lead in the third inning with a run-scoring single up the middle. Fernandez followed with a three-run shot to right field.

Roa scored the Frontier League’s final two runs. He singled on the first pitch of the seventh inning and scored a single by Evansville’s Rob Calabrese to make it 6-0. In the ninith, Roa led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Ten Frontier League pitchers combined for a six-hit shutout and struck out 13.


Columns
A cause for concern: Stopping the coaching carousel

You hear it all the time, from high school coaches.

“We don’t do it for the money. We do it for the love the sport and the kids.”

But that love that coaches show, both locally and around the country, isn’t always reciprocated by school boards and parents.

It has made the term “resign” both popular and vague.

It has put winning coaches in unwinnable situations.

And maybe most embarrassingly, it has allowed parents with children in high school to have the ball in their court far too many times.

So why not change?

It is something a New Jersey state senate bill is trying to do.

In an effort to prevent high school coaches to being fired without cause, a new bill would secure longer contracts for tenured coaches and change rules regarding firing allowances.

New Jersey state senator Troy Singleton introduced the bill in June that would ensure three-year contracts for head coaches who are tenured employees at public high schools and two-year contracts for assistants who meet the same criteria in the Garden State.

The bill also states that coaches cannot be fired or have their pay cut for “arbitrary or capricious reasons” and “only for just cause.”

Unfortunately, several local coaches haven’t been able to escape from the recourse of such complaints.

In December, former Belle Vernon girls soccer coach Tom Cameron was ousted after a heated school board meeting where players, parents and community supporters came to his defense.

Cameron was 25-9-1 in two years and led the Leopards to an undefeated Class 2A Section 3 record last October.

Former South Fayette girls basketball coach Matt Bacco resigned after the 2017-18 season concluded. He took the high road by saying it was a good opportunity to make a change and would be a break from the demanding schedule of coaching.

But Bacco also said being a high school coach can be “difficult” and that it’s “well-documented what the state of coaching is today.”

In 10 years, Bacco was 173-78 and his teams never finished lower than third place in the section standings.

The one major concern with the bill in New Jersey is that a power-hungry coach could abuse that power and would be tough to remove.

However, you might not have situations similar to what happened at Waynesburg when longtime football coach Russ Moore was asked by a pair of school officials to “resign, effective immediately” with two weeks left in the 2017 season. No reason for the coaching change was made public.

The Raiders had a 1-6 record but only three seniors and four juniors on their rebuilding roster.

Moore, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the area, obliged with a letter of resignation ending his third stint as Waynesburg’s coach. He retired in 2015 as the school’s football coach and athletic director but returned to the sidelines when a new coach for the program couldn’t be found.

So what is the state of coaching these days?

Most school districts in Western Pennsylvania operate under a year-by-year contract with coaches, meaning coaching jobs are opened annually. For some local athletic directors, who also serve as coaches, they understand the challenge of their peers.

“Here is what I tell young coaches,” McGuffey High School athletic director and football coach Ed Dalton began. “When I first started coaching, five people up in the stands would talk about how stupid I was. And five other fans would hear it. Now, they go home and put it on social media. People read all that stuff and it becomes fact. I don’t know if you can ever put that genie back in the bottle.”

Dalton said the McGuffey School Board is a rarity because it listens and takes the word of administration, especially in the hiring and firing process. Though the district hires coaches to yearly contracts, Dalton agrees that longer contracts to first-time hires would be beneficial, then to evaluate as the contract persists.

“The year-to-year (contract) isn’t always the best plan for the coach or the school district,” Dalton said. “Coaches used to be hired for three to five years. I don’t know many schools hire for three to five years anymore. If you are willing to hire a coach, then you should be willing to give him or her time to get their feet wet and get rolling. At McGuffey, I don’t deal with what other athletic directors have to deal with.”

Similarly, Mike Bosnic, the athletic director and football coach at Washington, said he’s been fortunate that he hasn’t had to deal with many of those situations.

“I have, just like everybody else in Western Pennsylvania, seen some situations that make you feel bad,” Bosnic said. “Whether it’s politically motivated or not, sometimes it just doesn’t seem right.”

The same athletic directors who hire these coaching candidates, with the ultimate support of the school board, too often end up looking sooner rather than later for a replacement.

“There is a lot that goes into it,” Bosnic said. “It just seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find coaches and officials to fill positions. You want to fill them with good quality people. People don’t want to deal with the negative. I’ve been fortunate at Washington. Our community normally understands it’s not all about wins and losses.”

But it seems more and more that r-word comes up again and again. Anymore, the definition of resign usually means fired or forced out, instead of a better opportunity has been found, time with family takes precedent or even that you walked out on your own terms.

More often than not, resigning comes with a whole different story that gets swept under the rug.

Maybe the best part of changing the coaching contracts is that unlike what they are trying to do in New Jersey, it doesn’t have to be approved in legislation. It doesn’t need to be like the private vs. public debate that the PIAA still can’t figure out. It can be solved within school districts.

The bill in New Jersey says if given a poor evaluation, coaches will be guaranteed a year to correct the mistakes.

But was it really poor performance or power abused that forced out Moore? Or Bacco? Or Cameron? Or about 100 other coaches locally in the past decade?

Last month, a complaint led to several Trinity High School girls basketball players and parents rallying at a school board meeting in support of head coach Bob Miles.

In seven years at Trinity, Miles has a 123-56 record and guided the Hillers to six straight WPIAL and PIAA playoff appearances. In 2017, they became the first Washington County girls basketball program to appear in a state title game.

Miles isn’t – and shouldn’t be – going anywhere.

So I ask, like many in charge of these decisions should, who are you going to hire that’s better? Is the next John Wooden going apply for the basketball coach’s job? Is the next Chuck Noll likely to apply for the head coaching position at your local high school?

Staff writer Luke Campbell can be reached at lcampbell@observer-reporter.com.