A gesture to remember: Russia player gives ball to Minster hero

Published: Monday, June 19, 2017 @ 9:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 @ 10:43 AM

WATCH: Minster beats Russia in state final on walkoff hit

Thirteen miles separate Russia High School and Minster High School in northwest Ohio. State routes 66, 47 and 112 connect them — and now so does one baseball.

On June 3 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Russia and Minster played in the Division IV state championship final. Minster won 2-1 when senior Jon Niemeyer laced a single down the line in left.

Russia left fielder Trenton Monnin fielded the ball and relayed it to shortstop Dion Puthoff as Minster's Jared Huelsman raced home with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. There was no chance to make a play at the plate. Puthoff kept the ball as Minster celebrated its third title in seven years.

PHOTOS: Russia vs. Minster

The story might have ended there. On the bus ride home, Puthoff joked with teammates about whether he should burn the ball. That would be one way to soothe the pain. In the end, however, after talking with his brother and sister, Puthoff put his disappointment behind him and decided to not only spare the ball's life but to preserve it for a lifetime.

On Thursday, Puthoff called Niemeyer's coach, Mike Wiss, to find out if Minster had held its postseason banquet. When he heard that had already happened, he called a friend who knew Niemeyer to find out where he lived. Then Puthoff drove 15 miles to Niemeyer's home to hand deliver the ball and a letter.

"Jon, I picked this up at the end of the game as something to remember my experience by," Puthoff wrote. "After thinking about it, I realized it would mean a lot more to you to have your game-winning hit ball. You played a great game and I want you to have it. Congrats on a great season and a great career."

Niemeyer wasn't home when Puthoff arrived. Alyssa Niemeyer, Jon's sister, answered the door and accepted the box with the ball and the letter.

Bryan Niemeyer, Jon's dad, didn't hear about the ball until Saturday. That's when he posted a photo of the ball and letter to Twitter. As of Monday afternoon, it had been shared on Twitter 187 times and received 680 likes.

"I thought it was worthy of some sort of notoriety," Bryan said. "I was very impressed by Dion's gesture. It was pretty cool showing what sportsmanship and high school sports are all about. That was a tough way to lose a game, a loss on a walk-off hit. That was pretty big of him."

Scenes from the Division IV state baseball final between Minster and Russia on Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Huntington Park in Columbus.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

Scenes from the Division IV state baseball final between Minster and Russia on Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Huntington Park in Columbus.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

Jon didn't think about getting the ball after the game. It wasn't until he had it that he realized what it meant to him.

"Honestly, I was just surprised he drove all the way to my house to give me the ball," said Jon, who plans to study construction management at Columbus State in the fall. "I hope to see him sometime soon so I can thank him."

Russia coach Kevin Phlipot wasn't surprised to hear of Puthoff's gesture.

"I texted him earlier this morning to tell him how proud I was of him," Phlipot said Monday. "If you knew him, that's in his character. He comes from a great family. His parents did a heck of a job."

Time has helped Russia overcome its disappointment of falling short of its first state championship since 1971. The Raiders finished 24-7 and made their first final four appearance since 1975.

"Right after the game, we were upset about it," Puthoff said. "But we're proud of what we did."

Minster celebrates Jon Niemeyer's game-winning hit against Russia in the Division IV state championship game on Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Huntington Park in Columbus. DAVID JABLONSKI / STAFF(David Jablonski/Staff)

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: DE Cliff Avril may have to retire from the NFL due to injury

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 7:56 PM

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril may have played his last game in the NFL.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Avril will go injured reserve after suffering a spinal injury on Oct. 1 against the Indianapolis Colts that left Avril with numbness in hands and arms.

“He’s seeing a bunch of doctors, seriously looking at a big decision,” Carroll reportedly said during an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

Avril reportedly suffered the injury when he was kicked in the chin while chasing Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett, causing his neck to snap back.

He will now see specialists to make a decision on whether to continue his NFL career, per The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta.

Avril is in his 10th season as a pro. The Detroit Lions selected him in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. After recording 20.5 sacks in 2011 & ’12 combined, he signed a 4-year, $28.5 million contract with the Seahawks.

His presence helped make a ferocious defense even stronger. The spark that he provided helped the Seahawks secure the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship during 2013 season.

His best season statistically actually came last season, when he registered a career-high 11.5 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl at age 30.

It would be unfortunate if this is the way that his career had to end, but that pales in comparison to the importance of his health. The thing to hope for most with Avril is that he gets great information from his doctors so that he is able to make the best decision.

Duke makes ACC history with record number of players in NBA

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 9:54 PM

Since taking over the Duke basketball program in 1980, coach Mike Krzyzewski has developed a  ton of NBA talent.

Throughout his illustrious coaching career, Coach K has won 998 games — including five NCAA championships — and in turn, has sent well over 50 players to the next level.

Twenty-one of those players are currently on active NBA rosters as the 2017-18 season kicks off. That’s an ACC record.

As head coach of Duke and the United States men’s national team (1990, 2006-16), Coach K has coached over 100 NBA players in total.

The Blue Devils, who were upset in the Round of 32 by South Carolina in March, will open the regular season against Elon on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.

Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph denies potential QB controversy

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 1:31 AM

After opening the season with two excellent performances, Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian has had three-straight subpar outings.

In fact, his play his been so poor that some media outlets are suggesting the Broncos should give their backup, Brock Osweiler, a chance with to work with the first-team offense.

On Wednesday afternoon, Denver head coach Vance Joseph put an end to any such speculation.

“Absolutely, Trevor is our quarterback,’’ Joseph said after practice on Wednesday. “We’re 3-2. As a team, we’re getting better. Nothing has been perfect. No one has been perfect, including myself. Absolutely, he’s our quarterback.”

Siemian was riding high after his Week 2 performance (22-of-32 for 232 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a quarterback rating of 116.0) against the Dallas Cowboys, which earned him a FedEx Air Player of the Week award. In the three games since, the former Northwestern Wildcat has completed 69-of-116 passes (59.5%) for 814 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. More importantly, the Broncos have a 1-2 record in their last three games.

Siemian is fully aware that his play needs to improve in a hurry. After the team’s practice on Wednesday the 25-year-old quarterback made it clear that he is healthy (he suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder against the New York Giants in Week 6) and ready to get back out on the field.

“You’re going to hit adversity during the season, it just a matter of when,’’ Siemian said on Wednesday. “As it just so happens, this past week for us – the Patriots went 17-0 but you’re going to lose games and you’re going to stub your toe. How you do you respond? Especially this week, it’s a big week for us, divisional game. I wish we could play tomorrow and get back out there. We’ll have a good week of work and be ready to win.”

Tennessee QB Jarrett Guarantano breaks down first collegiate start

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 1:17 AM

After three days to digest his first collegiate start, which ended in a troubling 15-9 loss to South Carolina, Jarrett Guarantano saw a lot to be gained from the performance.

“I think it was a very good learning experience,” Guarantano said Wednesday evening on Vol Calls. “I think there’s a lot of things I can learn from and get better from. I think all around it was OK. We didn’t come up with a win, which is really the reason that I’m out there, but I think there’s a lot of stuff that I can definitely get better at work this week.”

Guarantano completed 11 of 18 passes for 133 yards with one pass to Brandon Johnson going for 39 yards but not another going for more than 16. He was sacked 7 times, but didn’t throw an interception. There was obvious downside to the lack of big plays and the sacks, but the positive was that he was reasonably accurate and didn’t put the ball in the wrong hands. 

“I thought he prepared very well all week long,” Butch Jones said. “His confidence, the quarterback intangibles, we did not turn the football over. Particularly in the first quarter, in the first half, we did not have any negative yardage football plays. … If it’s not there, the ability to run and create a couple yards with your legs and stay on schedule. I liked a lot of things, but that was his first game. There’s a growing up progress.”

Guarantano had a chance to win the game at the end, but his pass went through the hands of Johnson in the end zone.

“I thought probably one of the best throws Jarrett had was the last play of the game on the sprint out,” Jones said. “I think that shows you the type of competitor and that type of situation, he saved his best for last, but we just weren’t able to execute.”

Jones was asked if he considers Guarantano similar to Pat White, whom he worked with while an assistant at West Virginia.

“Pat was really the first evolution truly of dual-threat quarterback and being able to run some different things with the RPOs,” Jones said. “Jarrett has some similarities to Patrick, but Jarrett has a lot of differences in terms of being a drop-back passer, being able to do some things. For us, it’s just about staying on course, and Jarrett being a student of the game and really soaking in as much game repetition and live repetition as you can.”