Wingate Wins DII College World Series, Carolina Hurricanes Eliminated And North Carolina A&T Shows Out At NCAA Track Championships
The Wingate University Bulldogs are the NCAA Division II baseball champions. The Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs and North Carolina A&T University's track team proved they are one of the best in the country. With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk sports is Langston Wertz Jr., a longtime sportswriter with The Charlotte Observer.
Langston Wertz Jr: Hi Gwen. How are you doing?
Glenn: All is well. So Langston, last week, Wingate University's baseball team was in a win or go home position to remain in the Division II College World Series. They got past that, and then this.
Announcer: Zero and 2 to Wolverton, one strike away is Broderson...the pitch...swing and a miss, strike three. Ballgame over! Wingate wins the National Championship. The Bulldogs win for the first time in their history.
Glenn: Langston, how did they do it?
Wertz: Gwen, they started scoring runs. They scored 26 runs in the final five games. They beat Angelo State and then they beat Central Missouri 5-3 in the finals.
Glenn: OK, and this is Wingate's first Division II championship in baseball. Would you say Head Coach Jeff Gregory has a sustainable winning program at this point?
Wertz: Absolutely. My man needs to go ask for a raise right now. They won five straight elimination games against top 15 opponents. They finished the season 39-13. They became only the third team in NCAA Division II history to win the title after losing the opening game in that eight-team format. And Gwen, many of these players are freshmen and sophomores. Eighteen of them from the Charlotte area. Most of them are coming back next season. Wingate is definitely established under Coach Gregory.
Glenn: OK, you heard it right here. Let's move on to the Carolina Hurricanes who were also in an elimination situation last week as well in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And this was the outcome.
NHL Announcer: The defending champs are headed to the final four, the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
Glenn: The Carolina Hurricanes lost at home in game five to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Where did the Hurricanes fall short, Langston?
Wertz: Ultimately, the Hurricanes need an elite goalie. Tampa's goalie had 29 saves in the deciding game. And the reason why Carolina lost, Gwen, is we talked all season about how they were protecting home ice. They lost all three games on home ice in this series
Glenn: What changes and things do you think they need to be thinking about?
Wertz: Well, you got to sign your head coach. He made $600,000 a year the last three years, one of the lowest in the league. And they've got three or four players they need to sign, including Dougie Hamilton. He's an unrestricted free agent. So if you add a dominant goalie, a couple of other pieces, you resign your coach. I think the Hurricanes can be right there, not only next year, but the year after that.
Glenn: OK, Langston, we all know the pandemic is still with us. And while National Football League teams are getting ready for the upcoming season, there are reports that less than 50% of NFL players are vaccinated. Now, earlier this week, Carolina Panthers Head Coach Matt Rule had this to say on the subject.
Matt Rhule: “It’s their decision, I don’t tell anybody what to do. As with any topic in life I always say, do your research but do it from the right sources. You know, talk to doctors, talk to your doctors, talk to our doctors, talk to whomever. You know, obviously making sure our guys know the difference between being vaccinated and being non-vaccinated just...there are differences in the protocols there’ll be differences in training camp. My job is getting people information and let them make decisions and not much beyond that.”
Glenn: And now the Panthers new quarterback, Sam Darnold, the team's leader, is on the list of the unvaccinated.
Sam Darnold: I still gotta think about all those things that go into it. It’s everyone’s choice whether they want to get vaccinated or not. So that’s really all I got on it, I don’t wanna go too into detail but yeah, I haven't been vaccinated yet.
Wertz: That was big news when he announced that this past week. You know, it's really difficult to talk about vaccinations because this is so politicized right now and everybody has their feelings one way or the other. But I do know if Darnold was to miss time because he got COVID a lot of Panther fans, a lot of Panthers players would be pretty upset about it.
Glenn: I know football teams are not hospital systems, but many, such as Johns Hopkins and New York Presbyterian, one of the country's largest hospital systems, are requiring employees and affiliated physicians to get a coronavirus vaccine. Langston, do you see the NFL issuing such a mandate at some point?
Wertz: I just think we've got to wait and see how this plays out. If teams start falling out during the season. I think you'll see changes quickly.
Glenn: So what about those North Carolina A&T Aggies, men's and women's track teams turning it out this weekend.
NCAA Announcer: It is Sturgis from North Carolina A&T, the Aggie wins it. The sophomore from Kannapolis, North Carolina takes the 100-meter title.
Glenn: That was A&T's Cambrea Sturges, who won in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in the NCAA outdoor track and field championships Saturday, setting three collegiate records. Tell us about her.
Wertz: She's from Kannapolis went to A.L Brown. She was dominant in high school. You know, they all kind of thought she was going to be great back then, and she's kind of fulfilling that promise. She's just a sophomore, Gwen. She won 100 and 200 meters. She won the 100 in a wind-aided 10.74 (seconds) which is the fastest all-weather time in NCAA history. Then she ran a personal best, 22.12 in the 200. She's going to make the Olympic team, I think and make some noise. She could be on the medal stand.
Glenn: And for the men, Randolph Ross came in first place in the 400-meter race.
NCAA: Announcer: Randolph Ross, he just won the Open 400 and he's now in the lead on that 120 meters. Randolph Ross takes that team from sixth all the way to the lead. He showed that 400-meter championship speed.
Wertz: Gwen, he ran a 43.85 in the 400, which is just absolutely flying. You know, he's just, he's a son of the coach over there. Also, want to give a shout-out to Providence Day's Anna Cockrell who won the 100- and 400-meter hurdles at the same event for Southern California. She's the second woman ever in history to put that double.
Glenn: As you just mentioned, Randolph Ross is the son of A&T's head coach for the track teams, Duane Ross. Tell us about him in the program he's built since 2012 at A&T.
Wertz: Yeah, Ross is from Shelby. He won a bronze medal in the 1999 World Championships. He ran in Athens, the 100-meter hurdles in 2004. He's been with A&T for nine years. He runs six programs over there and he won four United States track and field Southeast Region Coach of the Year Awards. He's won sixteen MEAC titles, and now he's definitely making a big mark on the national stage with how well his teams did.
Duane Ross: We've been talking about making history ever since Cambrea has been here, even before she was here about doing some things that people say can't be done. We're already planning for next season. I mean, before we left the track, we're already on the phone with recruits about next season
Glenn: Kinda a well-kept secret there.
Wertz: Yeah, absolutely not much longer. And I think this type of performance is going to bring a lot more top-tier track performers to Greensboro to run for them.
Glenn: And finally, Langston, the state high school baseball tournament starts this week. Who are some of the teams we should keep an eye on?
Wertz: Well, the two area team No. 1 seeds. Providence got the No. 1 seed in the 4A class. They're going to host Ragsdale at home. I expect them to make a very deep run. They've been a regional power for years, multiple times state champion. Got one of the best coaches in the state in Danny Hignight. Crest, got the No. 1 seed in 3A, they're unbeaten. They're going to play North Henderson. One other team I'll mention: Hough, which was unbeaten in 4A, got a No. 4 seed. I think they'll probably be pretty angry about getting a No. 4 seed being the only unbeaten team in the West in the 4A side. They'll host East Forsyth, I would expect all three of those teams to make deep playoff rounds to keep me busy until the end of the month.
Glenn: OK, a lot to watch there. Well, thanks as always, Langston.
Langston Wertz Jr. Is a longtime sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.