Williams' return gives baseball team top tandem behind plate
For some college juniors, the decision to sign as a Major League Baseball Draft pick is simple. For others, not so much.
A 37th-round selection of the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants last year, Kentucky senior catcher Michael Williams fell in the latter category.
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"It was a tough decision," Williams said. "When it came down to it, you just have to go with your heart, and I feel like with the class we have coming in and the team we already have there, we have a good chance to compete in the SEC and make the tournament this year, make a run in the post-season this year. I am just ready to get back there and impact the team and help the young guys out."
Regarded as one of the top defensive catchers in college baseball, Williams will share time behind the plate with junior Luke Maile, who led UK with nine homers in 2011.
"It helps the team greatly," Williams said about the Cats' depth at catcher. "We are both really good friends. We have different personalities and leadership styles, which is a tremendous asset in how we relate to the team and the pitching staff. We have the ability to move between different positions, which creates some versatility. Plus, it really will help keep us fresh so we can continue to produce offensively through the grind of a college season behind the plate."
A 6-foot-2, 220-pound strong-armed and physical catcher, Williams started 47 games last season. He batted .264 (46-for-174) and hit seven home runs.
The Knoxville native said he's not just focused on improving his baseball skills for the next level.
"It is always a big deal to get a college degree because you never know when your baseball career could end," he said.
Men's tennis edges Notre Dame 4-3
Kentucky men's tennis sophomore Alejandro Gomez earned the match-clinching point, and the No. 6 Wildcats earned their sixth win over a ranked foe this season by defeating No. 30 Notre Dame 4-3 on Sunday in South Bend, Ind. UK (9-0) is off to its best start in Coach Dennis Emery's 30-year tenure.
The Cats lost the doubles point, but sophomore Tom Jomby tied the team score 1-1 after his 6-3, 6-1 win over Billy Pecor. Senior Eric Quigley, ranked fifth nationally, gave UK a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish, defeating Casey Watt 6-4, 6-3 at No. 1 singles.
Junior Anthony Rossi defeated Sam Keeton 6-3, 7-5 to give UK a 3-1 lead and set up Gomez to clinch the match. Gomez defeated Niall Fitzgerald 6-4, 6-3.
■ Kentucky's women's tennis team (6-1) picked up a pair of wins Saturday, defeating both Winthrop and Cincinnati 4-0 at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.
Albrecht three shots back in Orlando
Kentucky women's golfer Ashleigh Albrecht opened with a 1-under-par 71 and is three shots off the lead in the UCF Challenge in Orlando, Fla. Albrecht's up-and-down round included an eagle on the ninth hole, a pair of birdies and three bogeys. Baylor's Haley Davis and Auburn's Victoria Trapini both shot 68s. The Cats' Ashlee Rose opened with a 74 and is tied for 32nd.
Overall, Kentucky is in the middle of the pack after the first of three rounds. The Cats shot 9 over as a team and are in ninth place. Baylor, at 4 under, leads Auburn by a stroke.
Tyson runs UK's 2nd-fastest 200 meters
Kentucky freshman Keilah Tyson won the 200-meter dash at the SPIRE Division I Collegiate Invitational in Geneva, Ohio, on Saturday. Her time of 23.69 broke her previous career-best by 0.24 seconds and is the second fastest in school history and a new freshman record at Kentucky.
Mariners first to open spring training
Spring training is officially under way with Seattle's pitchers and catchers holding their first workout. The center of attention for the brief Sunday morning session in Peoria, Ariz., was the team's newest import from Japan.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma did a small amount of running and a little defensive work. He will throw off the mound for the first time on Monday.
"It felt really easy," he said through an interpreter, "because, in Japan, we spend like two hours for the warmup ... . We have a lot of stuff to do, even the fundamentals."
The Mariners and Iwakuma agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last month, plus a little more than $3 million in incentives. He joins a franchise already popular in Japan because of the presence of that country's superstar, Ichiro Suzuki.
Seattle started spring training a week ahead of other teams because it will open its season early, on March 28 in Japan against Oakland. The Athletics chose not to begin spring training early. Their first workout at their facility in Phoenix is scheduled for next Sunday.
"This is the first time to wear the uniform," Iwakuma said, "and I'm really excited to play with the pitchers and the catchers and the fielders. It's really exciting, and I had fun for the practice today."
Indigo River ready for graded stakes
Irish-bred filly Indigo River came from next-to-last to win the $73,950 Sweet Life Stakes on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. Ridden by Joel Rosario for trainer Jeff Mullins, the favorite was sixth in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies coming down the hillside, moved up to fourth as they came on to the main track and rallied three-wide to beat Vionnet by 1½ lengths. Mullins said Indigo River would move up to graded-stakes competition, most likely in the $150,000 Providencia Stakes on April 7 at Santa Anita.
■ Stormy's Majesty and Beautiful But Blue scored front-running victories Sunday in $75,000 stakes races for New York breds at Aqueduct in New York.
Stormy's Majesty held off 4-5 favorite Inherit the Gold by a half length in the Mr. G.J.G with Chuckie Lopez aboard for trainer Dominic Galluscio. The 5-year-old won for the seventh time in 15 starts.
Beautiful But Blue stretched her winning streak at Aqueduct to three races with a 2-length victory over Peggy Jane in the Windswept Wings for 3-year-old fillies. Junior Alvarado rode for trainer Tom Bush. Beautiful But Blue ran the 1 mile, 70 yards in 1:45.42.
San Pail harness Horse of the Year
San Pail, a 7-year-old who won 14 of 16 races in 2011, was honored Sunday as harness racing's Horse of the Year. The champion from Canada also took home the trophies for Trotter of the Year and top older trotter at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's annual banquet in Orlando, Fla. San Pail is the oldest honoree since 7-year-old Savoir in 1975.
Foiled Again, another 7-year-old, was the Pacer of the Year in the closest balloting in the history of that award, edging 3-year-old colt champion Roll With Joe 41-37. Foiled Again was also voted the top older pacer.
The last word
The decline of U.S. tennis might not be a new story, but it did reach a new low at the recent Australian Open. Not a single American, male or female, advanced beyond the quarterfinals in the year's first major event. Former American star John McEnroe said:
"If you had told me poker would outrate tennis 25 years ago, I would have laughed at you. For that matter, golf, bowling, and you could go on and on. I think tennis is way better than any of those. ... We need to do a better job of making it a se xier, more attractive sport to kids that maybe wouldn't normally think about playing it, and then provide an opportunity to do it."