Duke rules the diamond, "Gone" Waddell and a crazy play at the plate in the sports moments of the week :: WRALSportsFan.com

Duke rules the diamond, “Gone” Waddell and a crazy play at the plate in the sports moments of the week :: WRALSportsFan.com

The internet is a big place. Unless you’re 100% plugged in all the time (and let’s be clear, that is NOT recommended), you’re going to miss some stuff.

Let us do that work. You can be a well-adjusted human being and still catch all the best sports moments of the week, with a quick review …

Fond farewells

An unspeakable loss shook the PGA Tour this week.

30-year old golf pro Grayson Murray, a Raleigh native, was found dead on Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after withdrawing from the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

His family later revealed that Murray took his own life.

Grayson Murray was open about his struggles with alcoholism, anxiety and depression in recent years, but that’s not how he’ll be remembered.

Fellow PGA players paid tribute this weekend, wearing red and black ribbons to honor Murray (who was a huge Carolina Hurricanes fan and would often wear their colors when competing on Sundays). They also described a man who was a true friend and helped others who were going through similar struggles.

Peter Malnati, who was paired with Murray at the Charles Schwab Challenge, gave an especially emotional and moving interview, as did fellow Raleigh native Webb Simpson.

Both are certainly worth a watch.

If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

Grayson Murray

Sadly, Grayson Murray wasn’t the only figure to pass on this week.

NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 71 years old.

If you ever watched Walton call a basketball game, you already know he was one-of-a-kind. His stream-of-consciousness style of color commentary was always, always entertaining.

Walton was also a helluva basketball player and, by all accounts, an overall great dude who brought good vibes and was always kind to those around him.

The basketball world lost a giant.

The same can be said for men’s tennis, although thankfully not in death.

Rafael Nadal lost in the first round in Paris on Monday morning, in what is probably the final French Open appearance of his decorated career.

The 37-year old won a staggering 14 major titles at Roland Garros, the most by any player at any one major championship in tennis history.

His overall career record in the event? Equally staggering. 112-4.

That is not a typo.

Duke dominates on the diamond

What a great week to be a Blue Devils fan.

The softball team is headed to the Women’s College World Series for the first time ever after holding on to defeat Missouri in the Super Regionals this weekend.

Sophomore outfielder D’Auna Jennings picked a great time to hit her 2nd career home run. Jennings’ shot to right broke a scoreless tie in the 9th inning of Game 3 and proved to be the difference as Duke held on for the 4-3 victory.

Duke’s biggest test yet awaits them on Thursday afternoon in Oklahoma City.

Their first Women’s College World Series game will be against 3-time defending national champions Oklahoma. The Sooners have as many national titles since 2000 (seven) as the Blue Devils have total seasons in existence.

Duke Softball Fans

If that weren’t enough, the Duke baseball team also had themselves a pretty impressive showing this week in Charlotte, taking home their second ACC Tournament championship in program history.

The Blue Devils cruised through the week, winning all five games by a combined score of 43-15.

That includes a 16-4 drubbing of Florida State in the title game, which was over the moment Ben Miller launched a Grand Slam in the 4th inning.

Miller finished 3/6 with a pair of homers and 6 RBI in the title game. Outfielder Devin Obee, who was later named tournament MVP, finished 2/4 with one home run and 4 RBI to help Duke lift the trophy.

Now, despite the Blue Devils’ excellent run in Charlotte, they were not one of the three in-state teams selected to host an NCAA Regional.

That distinction goes to North Carolina (No. 4 national seed), NC State (No. 10) and East Carolina (No. 16).

The Pirates, in case you missed it, won on Saturday thanks to an epic walk-off steal of home plate.

Duke will be headed to the Norman Regional where, in solidarity with the softball team, they’ll challenge host Oklahoma alongside UConn and Oral Roberts.

Other local teams to make the tournament include UNC Wilmington (Athens Regional), Wake Forest (Greenville Regional) and High Point (Clemson Regional).

Don Waddell leaves Hurricanes, Eric Tulsky named interim GM

A challenging offseason for the Carolina Hurricanes got even more tricky this week when General Manager Don Waddell (somewhat abruptly) announced his resignation.

On Tuesday, Waddell was hired as the GM and president of hockey operations for the division rival Columbus Blue Jackets.

Don Waddell

The Canes sent Waddell off with a well-deserved thank you.

When he took over in 2018, Carolina had missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons and were in pretty bad financial shape.

Now they routinely sell out PNC Arena with one of the most exciting teams in the NHL, albeit one that’s facing a lot of difficult roster decisions this summer.

Enter interim GM Eric Tulsky, who has served as the assistant general manager over the last two-and-a-half seasons and has an interesting backstory.

Tulsky was working as a chemist when he started a Philadelphia Flyers fan blog in 2011. He eventually became a respected analytics expert, was initially hired by the Hurricanes as a part-time analyst in 2014 and worked his way up from there.

He’s a really smart dude who has his work cut out for him in the coming months.

Let’s see what he can cook up.

Countdown to the Finals

We’re getting toward the business end of the NBA and NHL Playoffs and, uh, let’s just say that one sport is more compelling than the other right now.

The NBA Finals are all but decided already. The Boston Celtics finished off a sweep of the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, and the Dallas Mavericks have a chance to do the same against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

If that happens, it would be the first time in league history that both conference finals ended in a sweep.

And, because the NBA already locked in the dates for the Finals, we could end up with an eight-day playoff hiatus, which would be unprecedented.

The NHL, on the other hand, has a couple of series that seem poised to go the distance.

Home ice hasn’t mattered much between the Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.

The Stars got a hat trick from Jason Robertson to grab a 2-1 series lead in Edmonton on Monday night, while the Rangers stunned the Florida crowd with an overtime goal on Sunday.

These two series have it all. Great goaltending, elite skill and a high level of intensity.

Three of the six conference final games have gone to overtime so far, and with how even these teams are, I expect that trend to continue.

(And let’s hope it does, because I can’t handle a full week without playoffs right now.)

Start your engines!

Memorial Day is on the short list for best weekends in auto racing as it hosts both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600.

Josef Newgarden won a thriller in Indy to start the day, passing Pato O’Ward on the final lap to take the checkered flag, and the famed bottle of milk, for the second straight year.

The Team Penske driver is the first in 22 years to win back-to-back Indy 500 championships and, after his win, Newgarden replicated his move from last year by jumping into the stands to celebrate with the fans!

One man who was a little less excited with how the day played out was Kyle Larson.

Normally a NASCAR driver, Larson attempted to do the double and compete in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in one day.

Unfortunately for him, Mother Nature had other ideas.

Weather in Indianapolis delayed the start of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” so his flight back to Charlotte didn’t arrive until midway through the Coca-Cola 600.

Then, the rains made their way down to the Queen City and caused a weather delay there too.

That gave Larson a chance to replace substitute driver Justin Allgaier… but the race was called early due to the weather and Christopher Bell took home the win.

Larson expressed his frustration with the way things played out, but it sounds like he’s going to try again next year.

The center fielder did what???

Finally this week, a couple of must-see baseball moments that should not be missed.

Birmingham-Southern scored a win in the Super Regionals on Saturday to advance to the Division III College World Series.

Why is this significant?

Because when the same day the Panthers begin play at the D-III College World Series, their university will cease to exist!

Birmingham-Southern announced in March that it will officially be closing its doors because of financial hardships after 168 years of operation.

That means this baseball team will quite literally be the last group to represent their school in any capacity.

At the high school level, a center fielder from Ohio pulled off one of the most unique plays you will ever see. He sprinted in from the outfield and tagged a runner out at home plate!

You kind of have to see it to believe it.

With one out in the top of the 6th inning of the district final, junior outfielder Griffin Bruns scooped up a bloop single in shallow center.

None of Bruns’ teammates were covering second base so the hitter cruised in for what looked like a weird double… but things didn’t end there!

For some reason, no one was covering third either, so the batter kept right on running with Bruns trailing pretty far behind.

During the commotion, the catcher attempted to cover third, but he was too late, leaving home plate also uncovered!

But Bruns had other ideas.

He realized what was going on and sprinted for the plate, arriving just in time for an incredible diving tag.

All you official scoring geeks, that’s a triple with an 8-unassisted putout. Bet you’ve never seen that one before!

We’ll see you next week.

Source: wralsportsfan.com