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Sunday, June 1, 2014: Injury creates unusual ending in tennis final

   Leading off today: Let me start off with an apology for being relatively invisible online for most of the past 10 days. The proverbial "circumstances beyond my control" dragged me away from my desk longer than I had expected. I owe some folks responses to emails that I should finally be able to deal with after work Monday.

   Now, though, let's catch up on a few notes from the weekend.

   Unexpected ending at Flushing Meadows: Forget about Vinko Bogataj, the man whose horrific 1970 ski-jump crash opened ABC's Wide World of Sports each week for years. If you're looking for a modern-day "the agony of defeat," try the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys tennis finals on for size.

   Playing in Saturday's final at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., Eastchester senior Taiyo Hamanaka led 7-6, 5-1 and held a match point for the championship ... only to lose the tournament in a literal and figurative painful fashion.

   Facing Webster Schroeder sophomore Matt Gamble, Hamanaka started suffering cramps in his left thigh at 5-1 in the second set and required medical attention. After play resumed, Hamanaka -- who finished second and third in the previous two state tournaments -- held a match point when trouble struck again as the left-thigh cramp evolved into pain and muscle spasms throughout his body.

   Gamble, a quarterfinalist last year, won the game to pull within 5-2 and was leading 15-love when Hamanaka collapsed to the court a final time. Hamanaka was not able to continue and forfeited the match and tournament championship. Though an ambulance was summoned, it did not arrive before the player left with his mother more than half an hour later.

   Joe Abruzzo, the certified athletic trainer hired by the NYSPHSAA for the tournament, attributed Hamanaka's injuries to dehydration.

   "We couldn't treat (Hamanaka) twice, as according to the rules, so he had to be retired for the match," Abruzzo told The Journal News. "What it looks like is that he didn't have enough fluids. He was dehydrated and it caught up to him."

   Even in defeat, Hamanaka saw positives in his final match of the two-day tournament.

   "I think that was one of the best matches I played this year," Hamanaka told the paper. "When I was serving at 4-1, my left thigh was hurting me a little bit. I didn't want (Gamble) to see I was hurting."

   Said Gamble: "He's just a really great player. I'm excited that I won states, but obviously I would've liked to win the match rather than win by default. ... I hope he gets better soon, and I'll text him (Saturday) night."

   Close calls: The four NYSPHSAA boys lacrosse Class A semifinals were decided by a combined nine goals this weekend. Among the winners was Massapequa, whose 13-12 victory against Smithtown East gave the Chiefs their first Long Island championship in the sport.

   Griffin Barnathon (two goals, one assist) scored what proved to be the winner with 4:39 to play.

   "This is special for the coaches, the players and the school," Massapequa coach Tim Radomski told Newsday. "It's a victory for all the guys who played here before."

   Brackets progress: We added brackets for the NYSPHSAA softball tournament this afternoon. Links to updated brackets for lacrosse, baseball and softball can be found at the top of the right column or on our brackets home page.

   Long-standing mark broken: T.J. Hornberger had a habit of writing "4:13.07" on pieces of paper to remind himself of the Section 6 record for the 1,600 meters -- a mark he wanted to eclipse in his senior season at Lake Shore.

   On Saturday, he succeeded by clocking 4:12.77 at the state qualifier to break the 27-year-old record held by Charlie Kern of Sweet Home. A day earlier, he won the 800 meters.

   "This was the best I felt all year because I was injured, so I'm so excited I could run this fast," Hornberger told The Buffalo News. "I was going for 4:13 or faster. I saw my time (after the third lap) and I knew I could get there, so I just picked it up and went as fast as I could go."

   Try matching this accuracy: There will be very few changes in the state boys lacrosse rankings this week in

  
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    light of the fact that the past week's playoff results were likely the most predictable ever if you picked games based on the NYSSWA rankings edited by Neil Kerr.

       There were 35 playoff games from Tuesday through Saturday in the NYSPHSAA, CHSAA and Monsignor Martin Association tournaments, The higher-ranked team won 33 of the 35 contests.

       The only "errors" in the rankings involved Class C Locust Valley, ranked fifth. Locust Valley edged No. 4 Cold Spring Harbor 8-7 in the NYSPHSAA first round and then lost 11-7 to unranked Babylon in the quarterfinals.

       We generally avoid making predictions here, but Neil says the predictability won't hold up in Class A, where he thinks No. 3 Massapequa will beat Niskayuna. From where I'm sitting, No. 3 Penn Yan looks like a candidate to topple No. 1 and unbeaten Cazenovia in Wednesday's Class C semifinals.

       We'll dwell on this more later, but we could have an interesting situation in Class A if Massapequa does hoist the trophy next weekend. Our policy for many years has been that the champion of the NYSPHSAA tournaments always gets a share of the No. 1 spot in our final rankings, but Massapequa did drop a 7-4 decision to No. 2 Chaminade this spring.

       Softball ace: I can think of at least three viable candidates for Gatorade's state softball player of the year award, which will be announced this week. One of them is Brockport senior pitcher Julia DiMartino.

       A year ago, DiMartino recorded the game-winning hit and struck out 18 batters while pitching a one-hitter in the Section 5 championship game. On Friday, she went one better by hurling a perfect game in a 1-0 win over Penfield for another sectional title.

       DiMartino, who'll attend Liberty University in the fall, struck out 14 batters and allowed only one ball to be hit out of the infield.

       "One of the great things about Julia is she just rises to the challenge," Blue Devils coach Chris Carr told the Democrat and Chronicle. "When the moment is big that's when she's at her best. She's proven that throughout her whole career."

       Baseball notes: Sophomore right-hander George Kirby threw 153 pitches and improved his record to 9-0 this season as Rye defeated Lakeland 6-5 for the Section 1 Class A crown.

       The Garnets earned their first sectional title since 1984 as Kirby escaped jams with the bases loaded in the sixth and with two on in the seventh. Kirby allowed six hits and six walks, striking out 12 batters along the way.

       "He just basically wanted to stay in," Rye coach Mike Bruno told The Journal News. "His arm felt fine. I knew his pitch count was getting up there, but we've been saving him this year."

       In Section 3, Auburn capped a great run following a 9-9 regular season by beating Fayetteville-Manlius 8-7 for the Class AA title Friday.

       The lead was 8-4 entering the bottom of the seventh, but a pair of singles, an error, a walk, and a sacrifice fly cut the lead to a 8-7. After Mike Hoalcraft singled, Taylor Smach grounded up the middle and the force was made on Hoalcraft at second. Maroons second baseman John Rizzo's relay to first was in the dirt, apparently extending the inning. However, the umpire ruled Hoalcraft interfered with Rizzo and called Smach out to end the game.

       Auburn's Matt Brooks went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI in the win.


      
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