Nationals

Alabama-Tennessee game a tough Sunseri gathering

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Alabama-Tennessee game a tough Sunseri gathering

Vinnie and Sal Sunseri are on opposite sides of a prominent Southern rivalry, and not overjoyed about it.

Vinnie is a safety for No. 1 Alabama and father Sal is Tennessee's defensive coordinator, making Saturday night's game a highly stressful family get-together in Knoxville, Tenn.

Father and son have almost identical takes on the situation.

It's a ``very, very tough'' week, Vinnie said.

It's ``very, very, very tough,'' agreed his father.

``A lot of mixed emotions,'' said Vinnie, a pained expression on his face. ``Hard. Hard, hard, hard. I'm getting a lot of calls from the family saying good luck to me, but I know they're just giving the same, exact advice to my dad. It's tough. It's really tough. But I'm excited to see my dad.''

If it's hard for them, double that for mother-and-wife Roxann. The trio watched Vinnie's brother Tino, Pittsburgh's quarterback, play during a shared open date for Alabama and Tennessee.

``I had never witnessed it before, but she becomes a wreck,'' the Crimson Tide safety said. ``She's emotional, she - oh, my gosh - she just wishes the best for us at all times. She's so passionate and loves us all so much. Especially when one of us gets hurt, it just kills her inside. She is a fan favorite of all of us and is, honestly, our biggest fan. It's definitely going to be really tough on her. I don't even think she's coming to the game.''

It's a different twist on the traditional Third Saturday in October rivalry.

The Volunteers (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) hired Sal Sunseri in January after he spent three seasons coaching linebackers for Nick Saban at Alabama, giving him a chance to run a major college defense for the first time. His son stayed in Tuscaloosa, where he was a top recruit last year.

``He's done a great job in preparation, what he's done all the way up this year,'' Sal Sunseri said. ``But emotionally for the family it's been really, really, really tough. I didn't imagine it would be this hard, but it is very, very, very tough. But we're both going to be professionals about it. We're going to do what we have to do and go out and try to play our best football.''

The saving grace for the Sunseris is they're not going head to head, so one's success isn't the other's failure.

Vinnie jokes that his sister Ashlyn, a freshman on Tennessee's volleyball team, came up with the only possible solution that won't create more angst in the family.

``She says it's going to be a defensive game in her mind,'' Vinnie said. ``She said, `Hope it's a 0-0 game' and I pick one off and take it to the house. Naw, she didn't say that.''

Sal Sunseri's defense has struggled even as the Tide leads the nation in all the major defensive categories. Tennessee ranks 87th in total defense and 90th in points allowed.

Vinnie, a converted linebacker, has started four games for Alabama and is fourth on the team with 22 tackles after becoming a key special teams player as a freshman. He picked up his second interception last weekend at Missouri.

``Vinnie's a very instinctive player,'' Saban said. ``He's a really bright guy and I think football's really important to him. He works hard at it all the time. He loves to play.''

He doesn't necessarily love playing against his father's team, though. Vinnie said there would be ``a lot of orange and red this weekend being worn in the household'' and a number of family members will be attending the game, perhaps excluding his mother.

Sal Sunseri said the conversations this week are typical father-son stuff, not game-related.

``The family's extremely close,'' he said. ``When we talk, it's more about his technique, how he's playing, asking how I'm doing. It has nothing to do with the game itself. It has to do with making sure he's feeling good, making sure he's healthy; making sure I'm feeling good, making sure I'm healthy. That's basically what the conversations have been.

But Saturday night won't be all business.

``It's going to be hard Saturday night when that kid walks on the field and hugs me.''

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AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

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USA TODAY Sports

A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby Win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS:

Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver named 2018 WNBA All-Stars

Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver named 2018 WNBA All-Stars

On Tuesday, the WNBA revealed the list of 22 players selected by fans, WNBA players and head coaches and media for Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018. 

Two Washington Mystics will be featured in the July 28 showcase at Target Center in Minneapolis.

Elena Delle Donne is making her fifth All-Star appearance and serving as one of two team captains, while Kristi Toliver earns the honor for her second time, and first since 2013. 

Delle Donne recorded her 3,000th career point Sunday night becoming the fastest player in WNBA history to reach the milestone with a 23-point performance in a loss to the Atlanta Dream. It was just the 148th game of her career. 

The 28-year-old is averaging 20.6 points, good for fourth in the league. 

Toliver is averaging 14 points and 4.2 assists. The former Maryland Terrapin is also just a week removed from making her debut as part of the Wizards coaching staff during Las Vegas Summer League. 

The Mystics are 13-9 and atop the eastern conference by 0.5 games. The last time the team had two all-stars was in 2015, when Stefanie Dolson and Emma Meesseman played together.

For ticket information about Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018, fans may visit lynx.wnba.com/allstar/.