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Bengals make LaFell signing official

Published: Thursday, March 09, 2017 @ 2:48 PM


            BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 27: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals carries the ball past cornerback Tavon Young #36 of the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday officially announced the signing of wide receiver Brandon LaFell to a two-year contract.

LaFell was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent with the start of the league new year at 4 p.m. Thursday, but the new deal assures the Bengals of returning their six leading receivers from last year.

“I’m happy to be back in Cincinnati,” LaFell told Sirius/XM radio. “I have a good chemistry with the guys in the locker room, and Andy (Dalton) is a great quarterback.”

In his first season in Cincinnati, LaFell caught 64 passes for 862 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.

Top-ranked Lebanon pulls off stunning 14-13 win over West in regional

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 5:02 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 3:45 AM

Members of the Lebanon Warriors celebrate Wednesday’s 14-13 win over Lakota West in a Division I regional semifinal at Centerville. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Ashley West was one of the few players who hadn’t done much hitting when she stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday.

Then the Lebanon High School sophomore got in the act.

West’s two-out, two-run single to left field capped a five-run rally as the top-ranked Warriors pulled off an extraordinary 14-13 victory over Lakota West in a Division I regional softball semifinal at Centerville.

PHOTOS: Nick Graham’s gallery from the game

“I was thinking, ‘I went 0-for-4. I cannot go 0-for-5. Our seniors deserve more. I have to get a hit,’ ” said West, whose mother Michelle coaches first base for Lebanon. “I think I was more determined. I looked down to my mom at first base and she was like, ‘You got this.’ ”

The Warriors (28-3) had to dig very deep for this one, and not just in the seventh inning. They were down 8-0 in the second.

Lebanon will return to Centerville to meet Mason (26-3) for a regional championship Saturday at noon. The Comets hammered Springboro 13-0 in five innings in Wednesday’s second semifinal.

“I’m numb,” Warriors coach Brian Kindell said. “Obviously it wasn’t very pretty early on. We fell down 8-0 quickly like we really weren’t ready to play, and that’s on me as a coach. We’ll have to get that fixed.

“But we’ve got a senior-dominated group. We’re very, very experienced, and they were not going to quit fighting. As long as you’re alive in this tournament or in a game, you’re dangerous. We proved that today.”

Molly Osborne was 3-for-4 with a double and a three-run homer for Lebanon, also scoring three runs. Teammate Chloe Allen went 2-for-5 with a three-run long ball, and West totaled three RBIs.

RELATED: One bat didn’t survive at Centerville

The Warriors used Alexis Strother, Taylor Lewis and Kat Frank in the circle. Lewis pitched 3.2 innings in relief of Strother, then came back in relief of Frank for the last 1.2 innings to get the win.

It was brutal defeat for West (19-11), which got three-run homers from Casey Bramble and Lauren Betz to surge ahead 8-0 in the top of the second.

And when Lebanon rallied to grab a 9-8 lead, the Firebirds’ Allie Cummins erased that deficit with a grand slam in the sixth.

Cummins also walked twice, singled and scored three times, and Betz added a double and three runs. Megan Brankamp went the distance in the circle for West.

“All you can do is look at them and just tell them, ‘We gave our all,’ ” Firebirds coach Keith Castner said. “You go this far along in the tournament, you’ve got to be ready to play all seven innings. And our girls responded.

“We had about three innings without scoring, and then we came back and starting hitting the ball again and hitting it hard. They found a way to get one more run than us.”

Cummins, a junior shortstop, described the Greater Miami Conference vs. Greater Western Ohio Conference clash as intense.

RELATED: Badin blanked in D-II regional

“It was a game that we all knew was going to happen and a game that we all hoped for,” Cummins said. “I feel great about this team. There’s no team I would’ve rather played with. We’ve been through a lot. We’ve had a bunch of ups and a few downs, but we’ll take this and learn from it for next year.”

Lebanon’s last four runs in the seventh came with two outs and were unearned.

Frank had plated a run on a fielder’s choice to make it 13-10 with no outs. Strother delivered a hard-hit ball with two outs that was mishandled at first base and allowed a run to score. Madison Hartman followed with an RBI single to close the gap to 13-12, and Emily Gibson singled to load the bases and set the stage for West, the Warriors’ shortstop.

“It was interesting,” West said of falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate. “We got flustered, and we haven’t had that this season. I think it was a team effort to get back in it. We had each other’s backs.”

Kindell praised Strother’s effort in getting to first base safely after she hit the ball in the seventh. She hurt her knee on an awkward slide into the base, but stayed in the game.

“They were able to knock that ball down and keep it in the infield, but that kid busted her butt down the line,” Kindell said. “She’s not blessed with a lot of (speed), but that’s just a kid that doesn’t want to lose and doesn’t want to turn her uniform in. I think that says everything about her.”

Cummins looked like she was going to be the hero after whacking a Frank pitch over the fence in right-center field in the sixth. It was her 10th home run of the season.

She’s gotten used to being pitched around or intentionally walked, but there was nowhere to put her with the bases full.

“I knew they weren’t going to walk me with the bases loaded,” Cummins said. “So I waited for my pitch. I sat on it and drove it to right-center. It was a little outside … I just went and got it.”

Asked what she was feeling as the ball disappeared over the fence, Cummins said simply, “I was just doing it for my team. I just had to get my job done.”

Bramble and Alyssa Triner both had two hits for the Firebirds. In the something-you-don’t-see-every-day department, Triner broke her bat on a grounder to the pitcher in the fourth inning.

West is losing seven seniors: Kelsey Braswell, Lauren Haynes, Taylor Bramlett, Megan Edwards, Kerri Bruewer, Emma Rednour and Brankamp.

“I’m sad for the seniors,” Castner said. “They all gave their all, whether it was in the dugout, out at practice, in the field, at the plate. I’m very proud of all of them.”

The Firebirds ousted Lebanon in the sectional finals last year. Kindell said he’s not big on using revenge as motivation.

“I’ve always been the type of person that every year and every team is different,” he said. “If they would’ve beat us earlier in the season, we’d probably talk about it more. But we just recognized the fact that they knocked us out last year and that they’re very, very good.

“It’s crazy. You don’t see many regional semifinal games at 14-13, especially with the caliber of defense and pitching that both teams have. It’s definitely a unique outcome, but one that we’ll take.”

Gibson collected three hits for the Warriors, and Allen, Strother, Hartman and Grace Gressly each chipped in two. Gibson and Gressly added RBIs.

Lakota West 260-005-0—13-10-2

Lebanon 040-050-5—14-16-2

WP — Taylor Lewis (13-2); LP — Megan Brankamp (15-10); HR — LW: Casey Bramble, Lauren Betz, Allie Cummins; LE: Chloe Allen, Molly Osborne. Records: LW 19-11, LE 28-3

D-III regional track and field at Troy

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 1:23 AM


            West Liberty-Salem High School junior Janie Kopus anchored the 4x200-meter relay into the Division III regional track and field finals on Wednesday at Troy’s Memorial Stadium. The relay of Payton Umphries, Taylor Lauck, Lydia Moell and Kopus posted the sixth-best time (1:47.98) to qualify for Friday’s finals. The top four placers in each event advance to next week’s season-ending state meet at Columbus. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
            MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

West Liberty-Salem High School junior Janie Kopus anchored the 4x200-meter relay into the Division III regional track and field finals on Wednesday at Troy’s Memorial Stadium. The relay of Payton Umphries, Taylor Lauck, Lydia Moell and Kopus posted the sixth-best time (1:47.98) to qualify for Friday’s finals. The top four placers in each event advance to next week’s season-ending state meet at Columbus.

Ansonia freshman vaulter Shellhaas follows dad’s lead

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 10:03 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 11:00 PM

Steve Shellhaas owned the oldest track and field record at Ansonia High School, having cleared 14 feet, three inches way back in 1992. Now the Tigers’ vault coach, he figured that mark would fall, just not this quickly.

SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY

Steve’s son, Ansonia freshman Brock Shellhaas, surpassed his dad’s standard in the season-opening meet. “We knew it was coming,” Steve said. “As long as it still said Shellhaas on there, I didn’t care.”

On Wednesday at Troy’s Memorial Stadium, Brock continued to make an impressive ascent in the event by winning the Division III regional (14-8).

REGIONAL SCHEDULE: At Dayton’s Welcome Stadium (D-I), Piqua (D-II) and Troy (D-III)

Brock has cleared 15 feet three times in his high school debut season. He missed three times at what would have been a meet-record 15-2 at Troy. He is ranked among the best freshmen vaulters in the nation and will be favored to also win his specialty in next week’s season-ending state track meet at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” Brock said. “I just have to thank my family, the school and God has blessed me with amazing talent. It’s remarkable. Just unfathomable. It’s a dream come true.”

The top four regional placers in each event advance to the state meet. The 4x800-meter relay was the only running final on Wednesday and there were just a few field event finals. The top semifinal placers in all of Wednesday’s other running events qualified to Friday’s finals.

Steve Shellhaas purchased an indoor tennis barn four years ago in Ansonia and turned it into a year-round indoor pole vault facility. He said about 30 club members vault, including 14 who are competing in this week’s regionals.

Called Ultimate Air, there are two 100-foot runways and pits, a set of high-bar rings and it’s even heated.

“We’re spoiled,” Steve said. “It’s hard to get good, quality jumps if you don’t have a place to jump year round. It’s made a difference in our kids. They’re jumping better, higher and stronger and it’s more time on a pole.”

Brock led an impressive Cross County Conference showing that included Covington junior Jett Murphy (third at 14-4) and Miami East sophomore Blaine Brokschmidt (fourth at 13-8).

Other area boys winners were the Fort Loramie 4x800 relay (8:01.76) by nearly 16 seconds over runner-up Twin Valley South and Botkins senior Josh Miller in the discus (156-3).

The Minster 4x800 girls relay continued an impressive run by winning easily (9:32.20). Second in the D-III state last season, the Wildcats also bested a mostly D-I field earlier this season at the Wayne Invitational. Franklin Monroe senior Nicole Berry set a meet record in winning the shot put (45-0.75).

• Mason set a 4x800 girls meet record (9:10.81) and the Comets also won the boys 4x800 relay (8:03.99) during Wednesday’s D-I regional at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium. The only other area girls winner was Troy freshman Lenea Browder in the discus (139-1).

Like Troy, the D-I meet resumes on Friday with all finals.

• The D-II regional is Thursday at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium with field events at 4 p.m. and running events at 5 p.m. It follows the same format as the other regionals with finals in a few boys and girls field events and running finals only in the 4x800 relay. All the other top semifinal placers advance to Saturday’s finals (11 a.m. field events; 12:30 p.m. running finals).

FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton

PHOTO GALLERY

Reds outlast rain, Indians

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 12:31 AM


            Zack Cozart #2 of the Cincinnati Reds tags out Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians attempting to steal second base during the seventh inning at Progressive Field on May 24, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)

Billy Hamilton scored from first base on Zack Cozart’s two-run single with two outs in the ninth inning against closer Cody Allen to lift the Cincinnati Reds over the Cleveland Indians 4-3 on Wednesday night.

The speedy Hamilton reached after narrowly beating out an apparent game-ending double play — he was ruled safe after a replay review, putting runners at first and third for Cozart.

With Hamilton running, Cozart hit a sinking liner to left. Michael Brantley couldn’t make a diving catch and the ball rolled a few feet away. Pinch runner Arismendy Alcantara scored to tie it and Hamilton also raced home.

Allen (0-2) blew his first save since Aug. 17. He had recorded 22 consecutive saves.

Michael Lorenzen (3-0) pitched the eighth, and Raisel Iglesias retired Brantley with two on in the ninth for his eighth save.

The game was delayed by rain in the top of the sixth inning for 2 hours and 1 minute.

Iglesias retired the first two hitters in the ninth. Jason Kipnis walked and took third on Francisco Lindor’s single, but Brantley grounded out to second.

Carlos Santana drove in all three Cleveland runs. He hit a two-run homer in the third and broke a 2-all tie with an RBI double in the fifth.

Adam Duvall hit a two-run homer in the fourth for the Reds, who have taken two of three from their in-state rivals in their annual series.

Reds starter Lisalverto Bonilla allowed three runs in five innings

Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings. He was removed after retiring the first batter in the sixth. As reliever Boone Logan entered the game, the umpires called for the tarp.

Andrew Miller replaced Logan following the lengthy delay. Logan was credited with an appearance despite not throwing a pitch.

Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup and is being evaluated for a possible head injury. He was tagged out sliding headfirst at home plate Sunday against Houston.