NCAA

Record-setting base stealer steps up with Reds

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Record-setting base stealer steps up with Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) Billy Hamilton is ready to show the major leagues that he can steal a base anywhere.

The Reds have invited the 22-year-old outfielder with freakish speed to spring training, giving him a chance to see firsthand what it's like to take off running with a major league pitcher and catcher trying to keep him from taking the next base.

Hamilton set a professional record with 155 steals last season, which he split between Single-A and Double-A. The Reds plan to start him at Triple-A Louisville this season, giving him time to develop his bunting and adapt to his new position in center field.

First, he'll get a chance to attend camp in Arizona as a non-roster invitee. He played in a few spring games last year, but will get a more regular test this time.

Can he steal off these guys?

``People say once you move up, it's going to be harder,'' Hamilton said Thursday, before boarding a bus as part of the team's annual winter caravan to nearby cities. ``But my confidence takes me a long way, not just in baseball. I feel if I get there and have the same confidence, I'll be good. I'm looking forward to it, to seeing what the outcome is.''

A lot of fans are aching to see what happens when he finally makes it to Cincinnati.

Reds fans were enticed by speed when lanky left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman started his career in the minors and hit 105 mph on radar guns with his fastball. He reached the big leagues in 2010 and hit 105 mph again.

The diminutive Hamilton seems to run as fast during the 90-foot dash from base to base - only an optical illusion, of course. However, he has already received national attention for circling the bases in a mere 13.8 seconds during an inside-the-park homer in the minors - the video quickly became a hit on YouTube.

At that speed, he compares favorably to some of the fastest players in the majors.

The Reds' challenge is getting him ready to run the bases in the big leagues. They've moved him from shortstop to center field - youngster Zack Cozart has shortstop locked up for the foreseeable future. They traded center fielder Drew Stubbs to the Indians in the offseason and received 30-year-old outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who will play center and bat leadoff this season, his last under contract.

The way is clear for Hamilton to take over the spot either late this season or in 2014, depending upon how quickly he develops at Triple-A. The Reds sent him to the Arizona Fall League after last season to continue his progression.

``He's probably going to end up bunting a lot,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said on Thursday. ``With his speed, we saw him get a lot of hits that way in the fall league. Bunting and running are his two key tools.''

Hamilton's speed brought him a major career choice in high school at Taylorsville, Miss. He was offered a football scholarship to Mississippi State - he played receiver and returned punts - but decided to pursue baseball in part because his mother, Polly, thought it better suited his 6-foot-tall, 160-pound frame.

``It was a real tough decision,'' Hamilton said. ``I sat down with my family. My mom didn't want me to get hit so much. She liked me taking the baseball route. I'm glad I took that route. It's working out good for me.''

At first, he stole bases solely on his speed. Reds coaches, including former star center fielder Eric Davis, have been teaching him how to read pitchers' moves, which will come in handy as he moves up to higher skill levels.

``His main thing was: Don't be afraid,'' Hamilton said. ``Always have that feel that you can't be thrown out. Always be aggressive.''

Teams started pitching out when he reached base last season, but it didn't matter very much.

``They threw over (to first base) a lot,'' Hamilton said. ``They pitched out a lot. It makes me mad, kind of, when I'm running and they pitch out. But it's their job. It's respect.''

He got a lot of respect last year when he topped Vince Coleman's professional record of 145 steals in the minors during the 1983 season. Hamilton would switch his white batting gloves for gray sliding gloves as soon as he reached base, getting ready to take off.

Unlike Willie Mays Hayes, who would tack his gloves to the wall after each successful swipe in the movie ``Major League,'' Hamilton kept no mementos from his record-setting season, which will be daunting to top.

``It's going to be tough to do,'' Hamilton said. ``Just get out there and play my game and see where everything falls.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

Miami outlasts Virginia Tech in triple-overtime thriller

Miami outlasts Virginia Tech in triple-overtime thriller

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Kameron McGusty scored five of his 21 points in the third overtime to lead Miami to a 102-95 triple-overtime victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday in the longest Atlantic Coast Conference game in 17 years.

Isaiah Wong added a career-high 27 points, and Chris Lykes finished with 23 for the ’Canes (14-12, 6-10 ACC), who won their third straight game and swept the Hokies this season.

The game marked the longest ACC game since Dec. 20, 2003 when a Chris Paul-led Wake Forest team won 119-114 in triple overtime over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Tyrece Radford paced the Hokies (15-11 6-9) with a career-high 26 points.

Virginia Tech had a great chance to win the game in regulation, grabbing a 77-74 lead after Jalen Cone made the second of two free throws with 13 seconds remaining. But McGusty tied the game when he scored on a layup, and the Hokies’ Radford fouled him with five seconds to go. McGusty made the free throw to tie the game at 77, and Radford’s shot at the buzzer was blocked by Keith Stone, sending the game into overtime.

In the third overtime, McGusty hit one of two free-throw attempts with 3:29 left to give Miami a 93-90 lead. Moments later, he scored back-to-back baskets, pushing the Miami lead to 98-92 with 56 seconds to go. Lykes' layup with 20 seconds remaining, and Wong’s two free throws with 10 seconds left enabled the ’Canes to hold off the Hokies.

Wong’s two free throws capped an outstanding night at the free-throw line for Miami, which connected on 29 of 32 attempts.

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The ’Canes lost five of six games in a recent stretch, but are finally healthy, and with all the parts in all the proper places, they’re playing much better. The ’Canes opened the first of three consecutive games on the road in perfect fashion with a triple-overtime victory over the Hokies, and with four regular-season games remaining, they could convert a late-season run into a postseason bid.

Virginia Tech: After a 5-3 start to ACC play, the Hokies are struggling with a young roster that features six freshmen who see significant minutes. They have lost five of their past six games and now face the beef of their schedule with games at No. 6 Duke, vs. Virginia and at No. 11 Louisville.

UP NEXT

Miami: The ’Canes play at Notre Dame on Sunday.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies play at Duke on Saturday.

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Luwane Pipkins, Aplha Diallo lead Providence past Georgetown

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Luwane Pipkins, Aplha Diallo lead Providence past Georgetown

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alpha Diallo had 18 points and eight rebounds and Luwane Pipkins added 16 points as Providence defeated Georgetown 73-63 on Wednesday night.

Kalif Young added 11 points and nine rebounds and Maliek White had 11 points and seven assists for Providence (15-12, 8-6 Big East Conference).

Georgetown led 34-30 at halftime and protected a slim lead through the first eight minutes of the second half. The Friars tied it at 49 on a putback by Diallo with 11:50 remaining and pushed their lead to eight points when Pipkins hit a 3-pointer near the seven-minute mark. In the final minute, Pipkins made three free throws and Diallo two to preserve the win.

Providence scored 43 points in the second half, shooting 60% after halftime, 44% for the game.

Jahvon Blair had 20 points for the Hoyas (15-11, 5-8). Terrell Allen added 16 points and Jamorko Pickett had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Friars improve to 2-0 against the Hoyas on the season. Providence defeated Georgetown 76-60 on Dec. 31.

Providence plays Marquette at home on Saturday. Georgetown plays at DePaul on Saturday.

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