Grand slam lifts Florida over Mississippi St. in 1st round
Brian Johnson's seventh-inning grand slam propelled Florida to a 7-5 comeback over Mississippi State in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday. The Gators will play Game 1 winner Alabama on Thursday afternoon, and the Bulldogs will face Arkansas in an elimination game Thursday morning. A solo homer and a two-run triple by Nick Vickerson helped Mississippi State build a 5-2 lead entering the bottom of the seventh. Florida (42-15) then loaded the bases on a hit batter, a walk and a single prior to Johnson's home run.
■ Michael Roth recovered from a shaky start to pitch eight scoreless innings as South Carolina defeated Auburn 7-3 in Wednesday's opening round of the SEC Tournament. The loss damages the Tigers' chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Auburn (29-28) must win Thursday's elimination game against either Georgia or Vanderbilt to have a winning record, a requirement for the national tourney.
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■ Alabama scored five runs in the top of the first inning on the way to a 7-4 victory over Arkansas on Wednesday to open the SEC Tournament. The Crimson Tide (33-24) scored four of the first-inning runs with two outs. Brett Booth had a two-run single, and Andrew Miller and Hunter Gregory each followed with RBI hits, chasing the Razorbacks' starter, Randall Fant (3-4).
■ Eastern Kentucky's ninth-inning rally fell short, and the fifth-seeded Colonels lost to No. 4 Tennessee Tech 6-5 on Wednesday in the opening game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Jackson, Tenn. EKU (21-35) trailed 6-3 heading into the ninth, before sophomore Austin Grisham delivered a two-out, two-run single, but the Colonels left the game-tying run stranded at first base. Eastern will take on Tennessee-Martin in an elimination game on Thursday.
■ Louisville opened the Big East Tournament with a 7-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla. The sixth-seeded Cardinals (29-28) will play No. 7 Cincinnati in an elimination game on Thursday. Junior right-hander starter Derek Self took the loss allowing four runs on seven hits over four innings.
Auburn leading scorer Ross leaving
Auburn leading scorer and rebounder Earnest Ross is leaving the program, Coach Tony Barbee said Wednesday. Barbee said he had "mutually agreed" with Ross and backup center Ty Armstrong "to go in a different direction both academically and athletically." Ross averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds last season while ranking second on the team in assists and steals. Armstrong saw action in 12 games after undergoing off-season knee surgery. The departures put Auburn back at the 13-player scholarship limit.
■ Tennessee has signed center Yemi Makanjuola (YEH-mee MACK-en-JOO-lah) as the fifth member of its 2011-12 class. The 6-foot-9 Lagos, Nigeria, native moved to the United States in January 2010 to attend Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He transferred to Word of God Academy in Raleigh, N.C., former Kentucky star John Wall's alma mater, for the 2010-11 school year. Makanjuola averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks last season. He chose Tennessee over Indiana.
NCAA unmoved by USC bid for leniency
The NCAA has rejected Southern California's bid to reduce some of the penalties imposed last year on its football program, including a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years, according to media reports. A USC spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that the school has received a response from the NCAA regarding its appeal, but he said NCAA rules prevent USC from commenting on the decision until it is released on Thursday.
■ West Virginia head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen acted inappropriately last week when he had to be escorted from a casino by police, Athletics Director Oliver Luck said Wednesday. Luck, however, did not say whether Holgorsen would be disciplined because of his actions at the Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes, W.Va. Nitro Patrolman H.R. Blake said Wednesday that two officers from his department were called to the casino about 15 miles west of Charleston around 3:20 a.m. on May 18 to remove an apparently intoxicated customer who didn't want to leave. Later they learned it was Holgorsen, WVU's offensive coordinator. Holgorsen was asked to step outside, sit on a bench and await a taxi. No charges were filed.
SPORTS IN THE COURTS
Updyke pleads not guilty in tree-poisoning
The man accused of poisoning the trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner pleaded not guilty Wednesday and waived Thursday's preliminary hearing. Harvey Updyke Jr.'s attorney, Glennon Threatt Jr., said Wednesday night that he entered a plea of not guilty for reasons of mental disease or defect. Threatt said the hearing was waived because Updyke had a procedure on his back on Tuesday and wouldn't be able to travel. Threatt said prosecutors filed a motion Saturday for a mental evaluation and gag order in the case. Updyke, 62, was indicted on two felony counts of first-degree criminal mischief, two felony counts for unlawful damage, vandalism or theft of property from a farm animal or crop facility and two misdemeanor counts of desecrating a venerated object.
■ Former Michigan star and NBA player Jalen Rose pleaded guilty Wednesday to drunken driving, telling a judge he was embarrassed to admit that he drank six martinis the night he veered off a snowy road and rolled his Cadillac Escalade. Standing beside his attorney, Rose pleaded guilty in district court in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He faces up to 93 days in a jail, a $500 fine and court costs when he's sentenced July 27. Rose, a professional basketball analyst for cable sports giant ESPN, left the courthouse without speaking with reporters.
COACHES SIDE WITH PLAYERS IN LABOR FIGHT
The NFL Coaches Association is backing the players in their legal fight to end the owner-imposed lockout. The association filed a brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. It says the lockout is inflicting irreparable harm on coaches who rely on summer minicamps and workouts to coordinate with players heading into the season. No individual coaches are identified in the brief.
■ Former NFL kicker Matt Stover will retire after a stellar career in which he scored more than 2,000 points. The Ravens said Wednesday that Stover will make the announcement on Thursday afternoon. Stover, 43, ranks fourth in NFL history with 2,004 points. He made 471 field goals, connecting on 83.7 percent of his attempts — the seventh-best success rate in league history.
Stewart interested in signing Danica
Tony Stewart said Wednesday he'd be interested in signing Danica Patrick if she moves to NASCAR's top series. Stewart is the owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and wants to grow the team from two to four cars. He's given Patrick advice during her trial period in NASCAR, and moving full-time from IndyCar is a possibility when her contract ends later this year. Stewart said Wednesday he's not had talks with Patrick about driving for SHR. He also said he would not field a Nationwide Series team for Patrick.
■ Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will miss a fifth straight week of racing as Roush Fenway Racing holds him out of races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Bayne has been sidelined by what doctors have termed an inflammatory condition. The team said Wednesday he'll make his return next week in the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
The last word
No. 1 NFL Draft pick Cam Newton on speculation surrounding the lockout:
"It's like a case of curiosity killed the duck."