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Orioles Victorious on Opening Day

With the Boston Red Sox in the visitors dugout, the Baltimore Orioles were in for a tough game. The Red Sox are, after all, the defending world champions. It was not going to be an easy win. But the Orioles edged out the Red Sox by a score of 2-1.

The star of the game wasn't a name that Orioles fans were used to hearing. Nelson Cruz, a left fielder that the Orioles snagged up in the early spring, scored both of the runs for the Orioles. Cruz reached third base after being walked in the bottom of the second inning. He then scored on a double-play ball, putting the Orioles up 1-0. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the score was tied at 1. Cruz stepped confidently up to the plate and hit the first pitch over the wall for a solo home run.

photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Chris Tillman was the starter on the mound for the Orioles. He did not disappoint. He pitched five innings, giving up 7 hits and a solo home run. Tommy Hunter was called from the bullpen at the top of the ninth to get a save and secure the win for the Orioles.

There had been some controversy over moves that the Orioles made during the offseason. Many fans did not agree with the decision to release popular closer Jim Johnson. Yet after Hunter's save sealed the win for the Orioles, Johnson was far from their minds.

Now that Johnson is no longer with the team -- he signed with the Oakland Athletics -- Hunter is the Orioles' new closer. There are high expectations for him going forward with the season. Hunter seemed to have let the nerves get the best of him after his first few pitches in today's game. With his third pitch in the ninth inning, he hit the batter, putting one man on base. He struckout the next batter up, but allowed another batter onto base shortly after that. He was forced to pitch to David Ortiz, as walking him would've loaded the bases and therefore out of the question. But the Red Sox's slugger ended up flying out to left field. With two outs showing on the board, Hunter needed just one more to secure the win. And it came in perfect fashion. Hunter struck out Jackie Bradley Jr., securing the win for the Orioles.

The sellout crowd of 46,685 Baltimore fans appreciated the home victory on Opening Day. No doubt Orioles magic will be alive and well again during the 2014 season.

The Madness Begins

March is one of the best months for any sports fan. March can only mean one thing: the NCAA Basketball Tournament. More commonly known as March Madness, this tournament puts the 68 best college basketball teams against each other in a single elimination tournament.

Each year there are Cinderella stories, teams that knock off stronger teams against nearly all odds, and dominate teams. 2013 March Madness saw teams such as 12th ranked Oregon, 15th ranked Florida Gulf Coast and 9th ranked Wichita State have great success. This year, we may see even more lower seeds have great success in the tournament if the first round is any indication on how the rest of the tournament will go.

 

First Round

The first round of the tournament was played on March 18-19. 4 games were played over these two days to see which teams would move on to the greater field of 64 teams.

Albany and Mount Saint Mary's faced off first with a chance to play top seeded Florida on the line. Albany squeaked out a win by a score of 71-64.

North Carolina State and Xavier was the next game on the slate. North Carolina State handed Xavier a 74-59 loss.

photo credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

On Thursday, Cal Poly faced Texas Southern and Tennessee took on Iowa. Cal Poly and Tennessee took wins in those games and moved on to the second round of the tournament.

Out of these four teams, only one of them is still alive in the tournament and won the right to play in the third round.11th ranked Tennessee went on to defeat 6th ranked Massachusetts.

Second Round

If you root for upsets, then this was your round. Out of the 32 games played, 8 of them were upsets. That's 25% of the games played. Out of those 8 upsets, 2 of them went into overtime, 4 were decided by eight points or less, and 2 games saw the lower seed win by more than ten points.

The biggest headline from the second round was 3rd seeded Duke losing to 14th seeded Mercer 78-71. Duke has been a dominant powerhouse in the NCAA tournament for many years. Under head coach Mike Kryzewski, Duke has made eleven Final Four appearances and have won the national title four times. But a notable statistic is that Duke has also been axed from the tournament in the first round five times. As much as it was an upset, perhaps it wasn't that big of a surprise.

Other notable upsets were 11th ranked Dayton's 60-59 victory over 6th ranked Ohio State, 10th ranked Stanford's five point victory over 7th ranked New Mexico, and 12th ranked Stephen F. Austin's overtime win against 5th ranked VCU.

photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images 

There are always a few teams each year that seem to have been ranked lower than they deserve. This year, it's 12th ranked Harvard. Harvard made it to the third round of the tournament by beating 5th ranked Cincinnati 61-57. Cincinnati is a team that was projected to make it far in the tournament. After seeing Harvard play, it's clear that they are a better team than their ranking suggests.

Harvard tore apart the Bearcats' defense, a defense that's had been terrorizing teams all season. Not only did Harvard perform excellently on offense, but they also held the Bearcats to 36% shooting from the field and 33% from beyond the 3-point line. Cincinnati star Sean Kilpatrick was held to just 18 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist. He also had 5 turnovers. During the regular season, Kilpatrick averaged 20.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and just 2 turnovers per game.

Wesley Saunders was the star for Harvard. The junior guard had 12 points and 4 assists in 30 minutes of play. Although Saunders had a standout game, he was not the only reason that Harvard won. Harvard played as a complete team, which was how they were able to secure the victory. If Harvard continues to play like they did against Cincinnati, they will make it far in the tournament.

Third Round

The third round of the tournament starts today at 12pm ET. Games can be seen on WJZ.

Day 1 at the Olympics

**As to not reveal any spoilers, a "day" at the Olympics will not end until the prime time showing on television**

My major concern with the Winter Olympics is that the competition begins before the opening ceremonies. I can understand the reasoning for this (more events added to the schedule, television scheduling), but it still doesn't seem right to begin without the official opening of the Olympics.

With that out of the way, let's focus on the competition from day 1. Sports on the slate included men's singles and pairs of the team figure skating, qualifiers for men's and women's slope style snowboarding, and qualifiers for women's mogul.

Team Figure Skating

There are four categories that make up the team figure skating: men's singles, pair, dance, and women's singles. The team figure skating competition is new to the Winter Olympics. Teams receive  points anywhere from 1-10 based on their place in each category. At the end of the competition, the teams with the three highest point totals make the podium.

Yevgeny Plusheko [photo credit: AP Photo]

The Russians dominated the ice during the first half of the competition. Yevgeny Plusheko gave a great performance in the men's singles. He performed in front of a home crowd after going through twelve surgeries during his career. The routine wasn't flawless, but it was a great personal victory as he got through the routine and felt great doing it. Ultimately, Plusheko would come in second behind Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu who put together a flawless routine with crisp and full moves.

The Russians continued to amaze during the pairs skating. Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov gave a medal worthy performance, helping Russia gain a score of 19 at the end of the night of competition, putting them in first place.

Team USA struggled in the men's singles category, putting much pressure on the rest of the team to deliver. Jeremy Abbott struggled immensely in his singles performance, falling while landing a quad and only turning a single Axel instead of the described triple. He ended up with a score of 65.65, no wheres near the top three. Pairs team Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir landed a fifth place finish in the pairs competition.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir [photo credit: USA Today Sports]

At the end of the first half of competition, Team Russia is in first place and Team USA sits in seventh place.

Snowboard Slope Style

This is another new sport added to the Olympic games. There are two passes of rails and platforms that the competitors can do tricks off of at the beginning of the slope. And then as the slope goes on, there are three ramps made for jumps with plenty of air.

  • Men's Qualifier

The USA had trouble finding the top spots in the men's slope style qualifiers last night. No one was eliminated, but a straight line to the finals was on the line. The top four scorers in each of the two heats would automatically be in the finals. At the end of the day, no USA men placed in the top four. Chas Guldemond was edged out of the fourth spot on the final run and finished fifth.

Chas Guldemond [photo credit: Getty Images]

A major story in the men's slope style boasts the name Shaun White. The year, White was planning on competing in both slope style and half pipe. But after suffering a wrist injury and crashing during practice on the slope, he withdrew from the competition and decided to focus solely on half pipe.

At the end of the qualifying round, the top eight men moving into the finals are as follows (in order of overall score):

Max Parrot [CAN], Roope Tonteri [FIN], Staale Sandbech [NOR], Sven Thorgren [SWE], Gjermund Bratten [NOR], Peetu Piiroinen [FIN], Sebastien Toutant [CAN], Jamie Nicholls [GBR]

  • Women's Qualifier
Jamie Anderson was one of two women from the USA to make it straight to the finals. She is also viewed as one of the favorites to compete for gold in the event.

Jamie Anderson [photo credit: Getty Images]

At the end of the qualifying round, the top eight women moving into the finals are as follows (in order of overall score):
Anna Gasser [AUT], Jamie Anderson [USA], Isabel Derungs [SUI], Elena Koenz [SUI], Torah Bright [AUS], Karly Shorr [USA], Spencer O'Brien [CAN], Enni Rukajarvi [FIN]
Mogul

Hannah Kearney [photo credit: Getty Images]

The women's mogul qualifying round also took place last night. Defending gold medalist Hannah Kearney dominated the qualifying round with 23.05 points. She made it through the course in just 30.14 seconds.
Kearney is predicted to repeat her gold win from the 2010 Olympics. And after last night's performance, it's quite clear why.
The top ten scorers made it through to the finals. Those top women are as follows (in order of overall score):
Hannah Kearney [USA], Chloe Dufour-Lapointe [CAN], Justine Dufour-Lapointe [CAN], Eliza Outtrim [USA], Perrine Laffont [FRA], Yulia Galysheva [KAZ], Aiko Uemura [JPN], Maximie Dufour-Lapointe [CAN], Audrey Robichaud [CAN], Regina Rakhimova [RUS]

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