Flynn's 2-run homer difference in Bat Cats' 18th straight win
Junior outfielder Cameron Flynn belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning and the undefeated Kentucky baseball team, ranked 16th nationally by Collegiate Baseball, defeated Murray State 2-1 for its 18th straight victory Wednesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Flynn finished 2-for-4 at the plate and his home run was his sixth of the season. He's batting .439 with four doubles.
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Freshman Chandler Shepherd worked a career-long 51⁄3 innings, and allowed no runs, three hits and one walk. He had three strikeouts in his third career start.
The Wildcats are one win away from equaling the school record for the longest winning streak and the best start to a season. The 2007 and 2008 teams both won their first 19 games.
Kentucky will open Southeastern Conference play at home Friday against No. 2 South Carolina.
SPORTS ON TV
HBO's horse racing drama 'Luck' axed
HBO's Luck didn't have much of it.
The low-rated drama, which is set at a racetrack and stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, was abruptly canceled Wednesday after the injury and subsequent euthanasia of a horse used in the production led to widespread criticism. The show already was facing intense criticism from animal-rights activists, who were investigating two previous horse deaths connected to the series last year.
The cancellation comes just days after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent HBO a letter charging that Luck's producers ignored advice from animal-safety experts and created conditions that posed "unacceptable" risks to equine performers.
In making the cancellation decision, the network bowed to the uncertainty inherent in working with live animals — especially when a safety record is already under scrutiny. "While we maintained the highest safety standards possible," HBO said in a statement, "accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future."
In this week's Luck incident, the horse had just passed an inspection by Dr. Gary Beck, a veterinarian for the California Horse Racing Board. The horse was being walked back to its barn at Santa Anita Park when it "reared up, fell backwards and was injured."
"We see several of those injuries in the stable area every year," Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director at the racing board, said in a statement from HBO. "They are more common than people realize."
Although the first season of Luck had only nine episodes, the second season was scheduled to shoot 10. The show's season — now series — finale will air Sunday, March 25.
The show has performed poorly, even by the standards of premium cable. Despite its lofty creative pedigree and all-star cast, the premiere attracted just 1.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Subsequent episodes have struggled to hit the 500,000 mark.
Lions give Johnson record deal
The Detroit Lions signed wide receiver Calvin Johnson to an eight-year contract worth up to $132 million, the biggest deal in NFL history. The player's agent, Bus Cook, said the contract announced Wednesday is worth $60 million guaranteed. That figure and the total value of the contract are both NFL records. "This kind of deal doesn't come around too often," Cook said. "He's the best."
Johnson helped Detroit reach the playoffs last season for the first time in a dozen years. The Lions have built one of the league's most exciting young teams by drafting Johnson in 2007, quarterback Matthew Stafford two years later and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in 2010. Johnson is a two-time Pro Bowler and his 45 touchdowns receiving are the most in the NFL since 2008.
■ DeSean Jackson is staying with the Philadelphia Eagles, agreeing to a five-year contract. The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver already was tagged as the franchise player, and got the long-term contract he wanted.
■ The Kansas City Chiefs signed running back Peyton Hillis, giving the team a formidable duo in the ground game with Jamaal Charles. It could also serve as a fresh start for Hillis, who had a drama- and injury-filled second season in Cleveland after rushing for 1,177 yards in 2010.
■ The Dallas Cowboys agreed to a three-year deal with quarterback Kyle Orton to be the backup for Tony Romo. Orton finished last season in Kansas City after being released by Denver.
■ The Indianapolis Colts completed a new deal to keep receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne's deal is for three years and $17.5 million.
Kentuckian Brown ready to defend title
A year ago, Brandon Brown went to Chattahoochee Golf Club in Gainesville, Ga., looking to break out of a prolonged winless streak on the NGA Pro Golf Tour. This year, the former Eastern Kentucky standout returns to the Milton Martin Honda Classic as one of the favorites.
In 2011, Brown edged Zach Sucher and James Vargas in the rain-shortened event to claim his first victory since 2007 on the NGA Tour, and the golfer from Shelbyville hasn't slowed down since.
Brown won a tour-high four times last season on the Pro Series, and he won the Kentucky Open title as well. Brown finished third in the Golden Hills Ocala Classic last weekend.
"I'm looking forward to this week," Brown said. "Even though the event was shortened last year, I played well. The win last year definitely gives me confidence coming back. I've gotten off to a better start this year than I did last year."
Chapman pitches three innings for Reds
Aroldis Chapman wants to be a starter and took a big step toward that goal with a new pitch and new focus. Chapman pitched more than two innings in a big-league game for the first time, allowing one run over three innings in the Cincinnati Reds' 9-4 loss to the San Diego Padres in a split-squad game. Chapman revived a split-finger fastball while allowing four hits, including a homer to Andy Parrino.
"I threw some split-finger fastballs today," Chapman said through interpreter Tomas Vera. "The Reds asked me not to throw that pitch when I first signed with them but now since I'm a starter they told me to go ahead."
The Cuban defector is being converted into a starter and is competing for the fifth spot in the Reds' rotation. He is the only left-hander among the group. As a reliever, Chapman relied heavily on a fastball clocked as high as 105 mph, but as a starter he needs to develop another quality pitch.
"Chapman had close to seven walks per nine innings," Manager Dusty Baker said. "That's a lot. He was pretty good today. He gave up some hits but only one run."
■ Albert Pujols hit his first two homers for the Angels and Ervin Santana exited after being hit by a line drive in Los Angeles' 9-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Santana left with a bruised right arm after Alexei Ramirez's liner struck him in the shoulder with one out in the second inning.
The last word
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart pulled away on the restarts and pulled into Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, crossing off another track on the short list of places he had yet to win. Wait, this is March, right? Stewart's not supposed to start winning until later in the season, when the sun is high in the sky, the tracks hot and slick.
"The spring has historically not been our strong suit, you're 100 percent right on that. They're not going to move this Vegas race to the middle of the summer so we can win one. We had to figure out how to be good in the spring at some point."