Nationals

South Carolina will face Michigan in Outback Bowl

South Carolina will face Michigan in Outback Bowl

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) No. 11 South Carolina is headed to the Outback Bowl to face No. 19 Michigan.

It's the second trip in five seasons to the New Year's Day game for the Gamecocks (10-2), who lost 31-10 to Iowa in Tampa in January 2009.

Michigan (8-4) hasn't played in the Outback in 10 years, when the Wolverines beat Florida 38-30 to conclude the 2002 season.

Coach Brady Hoke's team went 6-2 in the Big Ten this season, losing on the road to Nebraska and Ohio State. Michigan's other losses came to the teams that'll play for the national title - top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama.

According to STATS LLC, the Wolverines are the only team since at least 1996 to face the teams ranked first, second and third in the AP Poll heading into the bowl games.

It will be South Carolina's fourth Outback appearance overall, second under coach Steve Spurrier. Lou Holtz took the Gamecocks to the Outback January 2001 and 2002, defeating Ohio State both times.

Michigan, which finished second in the Big Ten's Legend Division, will be making its 42nd bowl appearance and has a 20-21 record in postseason play. The Wolverines are 23-7-1 all-time against SEC teams, 7-4 in bowl games.

South Carolina's only losses came in consecutive weeks to LSU and Florida. The Gamecocks finished third in the SEC's Eastern Division and are headed to a bowl for the sixth time under Spurrier.

No other coach has taken South Carolina to more than three postseason games.

``The SEC is an excellent conference and we look forward to the challenge of facing them,'' said Hoke, who's 19-6 in two seasons at Michigan. He was an assistant with the Wolverines when they last played in the Outback.

The Jan. 1 matchup will be third-ever between the Wolverines and Gamecocks, first in a bowl game. Michigan lost to South Carolina 17-14 at home in 1980, but went on the road to beat the Gamecocks 34-3 in 1985.

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Nationals Scene and Heard: Crowd noise makes its way into the stadium

Nationals Scene and Heard: Crowd noise makes its way into the stadium

WASHINGTON -- Suddenly on Thursday, the speakers were alive in Nationals Park.

Out came the voice of public address announcer Jerome Hruska, who was in the stadium. The scoreboard lit up. The light boards around the park were active. By 8 p.m., the stadium lights were on, a benign breeze floated through the park and the intrasquad game was scoreless in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Starlin Castro singled up the middle off James Borque to excite the “crowd.” A cheer came through the speakers when the ball landed in center field. There were also cheers when a player struck out. Such is the nature of intrasquad play.

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So, the park went from echoing silence for almost two weeks to jazzed up three days before the exhibition opener. It was an improvement.

“If anything, it gets you zoned in a little more,” Erick Fedde said. “Crowd noise is something I feel like most are pretty good at zoning out. I didn’t really think about it to be honest. But it was nice to kind of feel like we had a little bit better atmosphere today.”

Major League Baseball went a similar route to the Premier League in order to combat empty stadiums. Sky Sports worked with EA Sports’ FIFA division to create simulated chants and crowd noises designed for specific teams. Here, MLB drew from audio created for the video game MLB The Show.

The video board usage was a distinct improvement from prior days when it only carried a doomsday-looking clock since workouts began July 3. Wednesday, it was filled with normal graphics -- including new ones mentioning who won the 2019 World Series -- throughout the intrasquad game.

“They noticed it,” Davey Martinez said of the players. “With not having like a regular crowd, obviously the echo out in the field, it’s different. We had to click it down a little bit to get it where we thought it was more ‘real’. But they liked it. They liked the noise. They like the music -- they like to dance -- so it was good. We got a great reaction from them, liked it, we’re going to incorporate it this season. We’re going to work out the bugs. It’s definitely a lot better to hear that than listen [to] yourself screaming or hear everyone talking.”

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It’s a work in progress. Wednesday night, Wilmer Difo popped up behind home plate into the stands and a large cheer went up. It was the kind of noise even the most overzealous fan base would not produce.

The noise as a whole was turned down in the final innings, per the players’ request. Martinez thought they found the proper spot for the volume by the end of the night.

“I want to make this last week or so as close as we can to real games,” Martinez said.

-- Stephen Strasburg started for one side. He struck out four consecutive batters after Trea Turner doubled to start the intrasquad game. Not surprisingly, Martinez said he thought Strasburg looked good. He’s in line to face James Paxton in the second game of the season when the New York Yankees come to Nationals Park.

-- Starlin Castro has been piling up at-bats and swings since joining camp July 9. He started late, so he is trying to catch up. He’s also crucial -- remaining likely to hit third during the season -- so the Nationals want to be sure he’s not doing too much.

“It’s a fine line,” Martinez said. “He’s been taking a lot of swings in the cage. Hitting, hitting off the velo machine. I’m not overly concerned with Starlin. He’s just a pure hitter. He’s a good hitter. ...he’ll be fine.”

-- Carter Kieboom made a nice sliding defensive play to his left and was able to get up and throw to first for the out. He also turned a 5-3 double play when fielding a grounder, hearing yells to step on the bag, slightly changing direction to find it, then throwing to first. His education at third base is happening in real-time.

-- Martinez positively mentioned Jake Irvin throwing 95-97 mph on Wednesday when he pitched the bottom of the fifth inning. Irvin, 23, pitched for Single-A Hagerstown last season.

“It’s so funny to watch these young kids come up,” Martinez said. “He walked off the mound and had those big ‘ol eyeballs sticking out. I can remember those days when I was a kid coming out and playing those games.”

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Nationals have perfect response to Twitter's verified shutdown

Nationals have perfect response to Twitter's verified shutdown

On Wednesday, Twitter experienced a large number of hacks into numerous big name, verified accounts. As the social media platform worked to control the problem, it limited the tweeting capabilities for all verified accounts.

Essentially, that means anyone with a blue checkmark is stuck in a social media purgatory where they couldn't share their thoughts. That includes the Washington Nationals team account. 

However, verified accounts still had the ability to retweet other tweets. The Nationals took advantage of this feature in the most perfect way possible, deciding to share some tweets from an account called "everyword" which tweets every word in the English dictionary. Yes, that account does perfectly sum up what Twitter is.

Washington used its retweeting ability to form an incredible sentence on the team's profile: "cant tweet but still champions."

The Nationals have mentioned their recent World Series Championship in almost every tweet since the final out on October 30, 2019, and rightfully so. The accomplishment was a big one, and until someone knocks them off, they have the right to let the world know they are the champions. Twitter may have been in a shutdown, but that wasn't going to stop them.

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Soon after, tweeting rights were once again granted, and Washington wasted no time getting back to their Twitter grind.

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