Nationals

Wisconsin, Ball roll into Penn State for finale

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Wisconsin, Ball roll into Penn State for finale

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris doesn't believe the rumor about Montee Ball, the one about the Wisconsin tailback having a ``down year.''

If 1,400 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns are disappointing, imagine what the Wisconsin star senior can do in a good season.

This is the predicament facing the Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) when Ball and the Badgers (7-4, 4-3) roll into Happy Valley in the regular season finale Saturday.

``I looked at his stats and was like, `He's having a down year?''' Morris said. ``You can't take anything away from that. He might make some big plays on Saturday. We're going to have our plays, too.''

One more touchdown would give Ball 79 career scores, breaking a tie for the major college record set by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) in 1999. With two straight games of at least 191 yards rushing, Ball might be the best player on the cold Beaver Stadium turf.

Temperatures aren't expected to rise past the mid-30s and should fall throughout the game, starting at mid-afternoon. Snow flurries might fall, too.

It's the type of old-school football weather that pumps up the adrenaline of Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.

``It's Thanksgiving, and you're practicing and this is what football is all about: Wisconsin versus Penn State,'' O'Brien said this week. ``I heard maybe it's going to snow, which would be great. Wouldn't that be great? This is football to me, this is football.''

But a game that, on the surface, doesn't mean much in the Big Ten standings. Wisconsin has already locked up a berth in next week's conference title game because the two teams ahead of the Badgers in the Leaders Division - Ohio State and Penn State - are ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions. Officially, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes are the Leaders Division champs.

Wisconsin is the beneficiary of this wacky year - third place in the Leaders Division is good enough to get a shot at getting into the Rose Bowl.

But the Badgers aren't making any excuses. Coach Bret Bielema said he doesn't plan to hold any of his players back in the game, so long as they're healthy and depending on the ``ebb and flow'' of the contest.

Wisconsin would like to bounce back from last week's 21-14 overtime loss to No. 4 Ohio State and regain momentum heading into the league title game.

``I think we need to win this weekend to propel us into Indianapolis,'' center and team captain Travis Frederick said. ``I think we need to take advantage of this week, get better and really get the confidence back in our team.''

At Penn State, every game is treated like a bowl game. It's the closest the Nittany Lions will come to a postseason feel because of NCAA penalties in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

And as if this weekend wasn't going to be emotional enough for a senior class that helped keep most of the team together after the sanctions were announced, the Nittany Lions have new motivation for Saturday - to win without star linebacker Michael Mauti. The senior is out after hurting his left knee last week.

Not only will Mauti be missed in trying to stop Ball, he's also one of Penn State's fiery leaders. Mauti told the team this week not to worry about his health.

``We still have a game to play, he got up and told us that,'' said defensive tackle Jordan Hill, another senior leader. ``We can focus on him after next week. Spoken like a true leader.''

Penn State senior quarterback Matt McGloin can add another accomplishment Saturday in his already-impressive season. The school's career leader in passing touchdowns and single-season passing yardage, McGloin needs one more score to tie Daryll Clark (2009) for the single-season passing touchdowns mark with 24.

Wisconsin has a pretty good group of seniors, too. One more victory would allow the Badgers' current crop of seniors to tie the 2007 class for the school record with 40 victories in a four-year span.

Unlike Penn State, Wisconsin will have two more games after Saturday - the Big Ten title game and a bowl bid, Pasadena or not. A heavy dose of handoffs to Ball might be the solution the Badgers need to forget about last week's loss to the Buckeyes.

``Our guys have had a lot invested in every game this year. And the part I've kind of said all along is they're a very resilient group,'' Bielema said. ``So it's a group I know will bounce back.''

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Follow Genaro Armas athttp://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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With 'Baby Shark' as his new walk-up song, Gerardo Parra broke out of his slump for the Nats

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With 'Baby Shark' as his new walk-up song, Gerardo Parra broke out of his slump for the Nats

WASHINGTON - When Gerardo Parra stepped into the batter’s box for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, everyone in the ballpark knew something was different with the 32-year-old outfielder.

His walk-up song, “Baby Shark”, drew the immediate attention of everyone in attendance. And it would not be the last thing that Washington Nationals fans remembered from Parra on the day.

“I wanted to put on something different,” Parra said postgame. “My [two-year-old daughter Aaliyah Victoria] loves that song. Before the game, I tried merengue, reggaeton, hip-hop, then I said, ‘You know what, I want to put in Baby Shark.’ I'm happy for that.”

After his performance against the Phillies in a 6-2 victory, “Baby Shark” should probably stick around as his walk-up song.

Parra was 0-for-23 when he came to the plate in the fourth inning. Before then his last hit came on June 1 against Cincinnati. Quickly Parra broke that hitless streak and doubled to plate the go-ahead run for the Nationals. He took a first-pitch slider from Zach Eflin and drove home Matt Adams, giving the Nats a 2-1 advantage.

Later in the game, he followed that up with a home run in the eighth inning as the Nats hit back-to-back jacks. It gave Parra, who started in the outfield for Victor Robles, his first multi-hit game since his June 1 appearance and his fourth such game on the Nationals roster.

But paired with his walk-up song, Parra’s sixth-inning assist to get out Bryce Harper is going to make him a fan favorite.  As Harper tried to go from first-to-third on a Scott Kingery single to shallow center, Parra scooped up the ball bare-handed to throw Harper out at third base. Without it there would have been no outs with runners on the corners and Patrick Corbin nearing the end of his start. Instead, the Nats cruised through the rest of the inning to preserve the lead. The Phillies appealed the play but to no avail.

“That's the only chance I had to get Harper,” Parra said. “I know he's an aggressive player and I tried to get everything perfect. Bare-handed, throw the ball as fast as I can. I think that changed the game.”

“It’s 'Mini-me,'” manager Davey Martinez, who played 16 years in the major leagues primarily as an outfielder, said about Parra after the game. “That’s what I tell him too. He came down [to the dugout after the play] and said, ‘You didn’t do that, you never did that.’ I go, ‘Too bad I ain’t got video of it…’ It was a tough play, barehanded, coming up firing. He’s really good, he’s a good outfielder.”  

With “Baby Shark” as his walk-up song Parra went 2-for-4 with a home run and a game-changing assist in a one-run ballgame. It looks like Parra has found his new walk-up song.

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Trey Mancini, the Orioles' lone bright spot, exits game after getting drilled with 92 MPH fastball

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Trey Mancini, the Orioles' lone bright spot, exits game after getting drilled with 92 MPH fastball

Trey Mancini, the Orioles' only hope at an All-Star, exited Baltimore's matinee against Oakland in the top of the first on Wednesday, after he was struck on the left elbow by a 92-mph fastball from the Athletics' starter Chris Bassitt.

Baltimore's Chris Davis pinch-ran for Mancini, who left the game almsot immediately after being hit. 

Baltimore announced on Twitter that Mancini exited the game with a left elbow contusion. 

Mancini, the Orioles' first baseman and outfielder, was a bright spot in a rather lackluster Baltimore lineup.

The only Oriole with a real chance at an All-Star selection, Mancini is batting .304 in 70 games and leads Baltimore with 84 hits, 18 doubles and 16 homers.

The 27 year-old also has one of the highest slugging percentages on the Orioles (.558).

Fans reacted with anguish on Twitter after Mancini exited the game.

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