Saturday, August 30, 2014

Syracuse Orange Earns First Victory of the Season with a Double Overtime Win Against Villanova

By Julia Morris

What a way to start a season.

Syracuse 2014 Football Team Takes the Field (c) Julia Morris
Despite losing the starting quarterback in the second quarter, the Syracuse Orange (1-0) edged the Villanova Wildcats (0-1) 27-26 in a thrilling, double overtime contest to earn its first win of the season. 

The Orange’s returning starting quarterback, Terrel Hunt, was ejected with 3:24 left in the first half.  Leading up to the ejection, Hunt faked a handoff to running back Prince Tyson Gulley before running up the middle, where he was brought down by Villanova linebackers Joey Harmon and Dillon Lucas.  On the ground, Hunt threw a punch. He was charged with a personal foul and by rule forced to leave the game.  

After the game, Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said he empathized with Hunt and he knows his starting quarterback will bounce back from the ejection.
Over 40,000 people were at the Dome for the Opener (c) Gab Kreuz

“It’s an emotional game…if you’ve never played it you don’t know what it’s like to get fricken’ pummeled…and feel people on your back and people talking to you…and he reacted, we’ve all done it," Shafer said.  "He’s a competitive, tough kid…I love Terrel Hunt, he’ll bounce back and get going."
Shafer also said that when Hunt left the game, it created a chance for freshman quarterback Austin Wilson to lead the Orange’s offense.

“It gave us an opportunity to learn from a situation…it gave us an opportunity to put Austin Wilson in the game and see what he could do,” Shafer said.

The Orange Defense Protecting the End Zone (c) Gab Kreuz
Prior to Hunt’s ejection, the Orange’s offense was highlighted by running back Prince-Tyson Gulley’s 65-yard rushing touchdown up the middle with 6:24 left in the first quarter. The touchdown gave the Orange a 7-0 lead and their first points of the season.

“My line made a great hole for me and all I did was just go through all my reads,” Gulley said.

Gulley’s touchdown was the only scoring play by either team in the first quarter as the Orange defense held the Wildcats scoreless.  Linebacker and team captain Cam Lynch led Syracuse’s defense, registering three unassisted tackles in the first quarter and 15 total tackles in the game. 

Villanova did have a chance to score with 1:32 remaining in the first, but kicker Chris Gough missed a 34-yd field goal attempt that would have put the Wildcats within four. 

Villanova QB Robertson Prepares to Throw (c) Julia Morris
In the second quarter, both up-tempo offenses were on display.  The Wildcats, led by returning starting quarterback John Robertson, put together a 12-play, 60-yard drive in just under five minutes, ending with a five-yard touchdown rush by Kevin Monangai that tied the game 7-7. 

Syracuse responded with its own 14-play, 48-yard drive that took about three and a half minutes.  The drive ended with a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Norton that gave the Orange a 10-7 lead with 6:49 left in the quarter.  A few minutes later Hunt was ejected, but the Orange kept the three-point lead as the half came to a close.

At the start of the second half, Wilson led the Orange down the field, connecting with four different receivers for first downs. The drive ended when Adonis Ameen-Moore rushed for a 2-yard touchdown, giving the Orange a 17-7 lead with 10:04 left in the third quarter.  

“I think as a team we knew that we had to step it up…we had to adjust to the adversity…and I think we did well,” Wilson said.

Momentum Shifts

However, with 2:34 left in the third, the momentum shifted in Villanova’s favor as the Wildcats went on to score ten unanswered points. Poppy Livers, the Wildcat’s offensive captain, returned a Syracuse punt for a 67-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats within three.

The SU Student Section Was Loud Throughout the Game (c) Gab Kreuz
The Orange was held scoreless in the fourth and its 12-0 record against FCS schools at the Carrier Dome looked as though it was about to be broken as the game was winding down. With 7:14 in regulation remaining, Gough made a 25-yard field goal to tie the score 17-17.  Then with just twelve seconds left, Gough had a chance to kick another 25-yard field goal to give his team the victory. 

“We were anxious and nervous…we knew he had missed one earlier so we were just hoping on that…banking that he missed again,” SU linebacker Kendall Moore said.

Gough’s kick sailed too far right, giving him his second miss of the night and sending the game into overtime. 


Kendall Moore Addresses the Media (c) Julia Morris
The Wildcats and Orange traded field goals in the first overtime. Gough bounced back and make a 24-yarder to give Villanova a 20-17 lead. Norton answered with a 22-yard field goal to even the score 20-20. 

At the start of the second overtime, Wilson connected with wide receiver Jarrod West for a 17-yard completion that set up a first and goal. Unable to score a touchdown, the Orange positioned in field goal formation.  However, instead of kicking for three, Coach Scott Shafer called for a trick play and kicker Riley Dixon threw a one-yard touchdown pass to pass to Kendall Moore, giving the Orange its first passing touchdown of the game and a 27-20 lead. 

“Pure joy," Dixon said after the game. "I can’t be more thankful to coach for giving me the opportunity and the guys for having my back in the situation.”   

Refusing to go down easily, the Wildcats then followed up with a touchdown of their own as running back Gary Underwood caught a nine-yard pass from Robertson.  Villanova Coach Andy Talley, who has over 200 wins as the leader of the Wildcats, decided to go for two extra points and the victory. Robertson, who led all rushers with 133 total yards, was swarmed behind the line of scrimmage, ending the hard-fought battle and giving the Orange a 27-26 victory. 

The Orange Marching Off the Field after Their Victory (c) Gab Kreuz
Shafer said the win wasn’t ideal but the most important thing was that it was still a victory.

“We’re 1-0 and that’s all that counts.  Was it pretty? No, it wasn’t pretty but we found a way… I’m proud of the fact that we came away with the victory… and we’re going to get better every week,” Shafer said.

The Orange has an extra week to recover from tonight’s game, as it has a bye week before traveling to Mount Pleasant, Michigan to face the Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0) on September 13.  The Wildcats will host the Fordham Rams for their season opener on September 6.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rehabbing Souza leads Chiefs one step closer to division title

By Michael Castellano
Photo by Rick Nelson (for Syracuse Chiefs)

The Syracuse Chiefs moved one step closer to clinching their first division crown since 1989 with a win over the Rochester Red Wings Wednesday night.

Steven Souza Jr., on a rehab assignment from Washington, led Syracuse with two hits including a game-tying double in the bottom of the eighth off Rochester reliever Lester Oliveros. Brandon Laird then singled in Souza to give Syracuse a 4-3 lead. Rafael Martin retired the RedWings 1-2-3 in the ninth to solidify the victory.

Rochester(74-64) opened up the scoring in the first on a 2-run homer off the bat of Chris Hermann. Josmil Pinto later scored on a groundout to short by Delbinson Romero.

Syracuse(78-59) was held scoreless thru the first six innings off a strong pitching performance from Red Wings starter Kris Johnson. Johnson allowed only two hits thru the first six frames while striking out five.

Chiefs starter Aaron Laffey matched Johnson pitch for pitch retiring 10 straight batters after a rocky first inning. The former Met pitched seven solid innings keeping the score at 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh.

After issuing walks to Tyler Moore and Brandon Laird to start the bottom of the seventh, Kris Johnson was relieved by Lester Oliveros. Oliveros loaded the bases and gave the Chiefs their first run of the game off a Jhonathan Solano sac fly. Jeff Kobernus later singled in Brandon Laird to cut the Rochester lead to 3-2.

Xavier Cedeno came in for the Chiefs in the eighth and retired the side in order.

Michael Taylor opened up the action in the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff single off Oliveros. Souza followed up with an RBI double down the left field line scoring Taylor. Brandon Laird singled up the middle scoring Souza to give the Chiefs a 4-3 lead.

"I feel good. Today was defintitely the best I've felt in a couple of weeks," Souza said.

Rafael Martin came in to record the save in the top of the ninth for the Chiefs.

"I like the team we have right now...we're so close to going to the playoffs," Laird said.

Syracuse can clinch a division title on Thursday with a win against Rochester and a Pawtucket loss to Lehigh Valley.

Souza, who was recently named the International League MVP and Rookie of the Year increased his IL leading batting average to .355.

"He just completely changes the complexion of the lineup," Chiefs manager Billy Gardner Jr. said.

The Chiefs return to action tomorrow night against the Red Wings at NBT Bank Stadium. Game time is set for 7 P.M.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

SU Volleyball Players Step Up with New Roles

By: Jessica Eley

Head Volleybal Coach Leonid Yelin © 2014
With the start of the season this Saturday, Syracuse University's head volleyball coach, Leonid Yelin says he is excited to see what his team is capable of this year.

The Orange returns seven players after going 16-16 during the 2013 season. Among the returning players is a 2013 All-ACC selection Silvi Uattara. Yelin said that the rest of the coaching staff and team hope to end the season higher than last year's finish. The Orange women finished in the middle of the pack at 8th place with a conference record of 11-9.

This year, 5'11 junior, Gosia Wlaszczuk, will take control of the offense from her new position as setter. Wlaszczuk made  the transition from outside hitter where the job is to score points by attacking the ball from the left side of the net, to setter where she will have to set the ball for other players to attack. She takes over the role of setter after last year's starting setter, Erica Handley, transferred at the end of the 2013 season.

"We slowly moved her to the setter position based off of her natural talent," Yelin said. "I think Gosia is going to surprise a lot of people because nobody in the nation knows that she's going to be our setter."

Yelin said he can see the improvements the hitters have made to become more aggressive player. They have become stronger at the net with their blocking and hitting. "We have almost everyone back, so it's more mature, more physical," Yelin said.

Junior middle blocker, 6'3 Monica Salkute, will play a bigger role on the team this year. Instead of rotating out for the libero, she will also play in the back row, where she will hit. Coach Yelin said that he hopes to utilize her offensively with her ball attacking skills. Last year Salkute finished second on the team with a .245 hitting percentage.

As the libero she'll wear the contrasting jersey that means she can replace any back row player without a substitution counting against the team. Liberos normally sub in for middle blockers when they rotate into the back row.

Yelin said with SU's sped up offense, ball control will be crucial. He says consistency from all six players on the court will be the key to this year's success.

"For the first tournament, I definitely want to see if we're capable, and how to bring what we were working on during preseason in the game situation," Yelin said. "It's a little bit different when it's practicing and scrimmaging compared to an actual game."

The Orange women open their season this Saturday at 11 a.m. against Delaware State at the Big Orange Tournament in the Women's Building. Temple University's and Niagara University's volleyball teams will also compete at the tournament this weekend.

Monday, August 25, 2014

As the Orange Prepare to Kickoff 2014 Season, Head Coach Scott Shafer Only Willing to Talk About Opener Against Villanova

By Julia Morris

Syracuse Head Football Coach Scott Shafer Speaks About Season Opener
Syracuse football head coach Scott Shafer is entering his second year as the leader of the Orange with a schedule that includes an away game at Clemson, a road trip to MetLife Stadium to face Notre Dame, and a match up with defending national champion Florida State. However, right now the only opponent Shafer will discuss is the Villanova Wildcats, who will meet the Orange for their season opener on Friday night.  Shafer says he wants to take each day as it comes, an idea that was reinforced during a recent conversation with his son Wolfgang, who is a quarterback at Ithaca College.

“I try not to look too far forward…I just try to win every single day and just get a little bit better…I was talking to my son…I said to him, 'What’s it looking like? Where do you think you’ll be? Did you make the travel team?' And he goes, 'Dad, I’m just trying to get better tomorrow.' And I was like, 'Damn right, Wolfgang.'" 

Although Villanova is a non-FBS opponent, Shafer is not taking the Wildcats lightly.  Villanova finished last season with a 6-5 record overall and a 5-3 record in the Colonial Athletic Association.  Shafer says he started practices two days earlier than in the past to prepare his team for Villanova’s uncharacteristic style of play.

"We’ll see trick plays inside and out, all over the place.  I’m sure we’ll have more creative blitzes against us where they’re really aggressive on defense.  They run some untraditional looks on defense so we’re going to have to be on point, keep things sharp and concise as we move in on our game plan."

Shafer also speaks highly of Villanova's head coach Andy Talley, who has won over 200 games throughout his 29 year career as the leader of the Wildcats.

"He’s one of the best football coaches in the NCAA… He’s got a 62 percent winning percentage…this guy can flat out coach."

In addition to making sure his team stays sharp against Talley and the Wildcats on Friday night, Shafer also plans to keep an eye on his young players who will be experiencing college football for the first time.  Shafer says he will encourage his players to take the game one play at a time to make sure that they continue to play at a high level even if they make a mistake.

"With some of those young guys we have to do a great job of seeing what they’re looking like before the game...and try to get them to that happy place where there’s...calm controlling their emotions, controlling their spirit, and also controlling their mentality to say, 'What is my job for the next three to six seconds on each play?' If they falter a little bit, we have to do a good job getting their mindset back to where they can succeed on the next play."

The Orange's 2014 season will officially kick off at the Carrier Dome at 7:30pm.  Shafer says he is excited for football to finally begin.

"We’ll have a great challenge, good opportunity, everything we signed up to do is right on our table…and I’m looking forward to getting to Friday night."

The WAER Fraternity

By Emily Hanson

It was a night to honor two of sports broadcasting's finest, Sean McDonough and Bill Roth. Both started their careers at Syracuse University doing play-by-play on radio station WAER. More than 50 WAER alums came back for a reunion weekend to catch up, reminisce and honor McDonough and Roth at the station's Hall of Fame Induction.

Throughout almost every speech at Saturday night's event, one common theme emerged. WAER is like a fraternity, and the students who work at the station share a bond – a bond that extends far beyond senior year.

“We are all very much alike,” Mike Tirico said. “And we are like very few people around. That’s what makes our fraternity unique, special and different.”

Tirico, who calls Monday Night Football for ESPN as well as NBA and college basketball and PGA Golf, introduced inductee Roth for his honor. Roth is the lead play-by-play broadcaster for Virginia Tech’s football and basketball teams and a 1987 Syracuse University graduate.

“It’s not just about being good on the air,” Roth said. “It’s about caring for each other and pushing other. And our group…we cared for each other. We pushed each other. And that’s continued long after we graduated. That’s what makes WAER so great – the lifelong friendships and professional relationships.”

Roth said fellow inductee and ESPN commentator Sean McDonough (SU '84) brought him into the WAER family when he first arrived on campus.

“It’s an enormous responsibility, I think, to go out into the world with the Syracuse name kind of stamped to you,” McDonough said. “There’s an expectation that you’re going to perform at a high level. But I think there’s also an expectation level that you’re going to conduct yourself in a certain way. And a big part of that is reaching back to the people who are coming through here right now and trying to help them, so that someday they may take your place.”

Matt Park, the emcee for the night and current "Voice of the Orange," asked attendees to raise their hands if McDonough or Roth had ever listened to their tapes or given them performance feedback. Dozens of hands went up in a room filled with sports broadcasters for major networks and stations throughout the country.

In fact, many of the attendees, including CBS play-by-play announcer Carter Blackburn and CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara, spoke to both McDonough and Roth’s willingness to help them and offer guidance.

“No lie,” Amendolara said. “Sean and Bill were the two most accessible graduates that I reached out to when I was at WAER. You can’t put value on somebody that tells you you’re doing a good job when they’re of that stature.”  

McDonough and Roth both talked about how much it meant to them to be inducted into the WAER Hall of Fame. They both reflected on their experiences at the station and the people they spent a great deal of time with there.

"I never laughed so hard in my life as I did sitting at WAER in those years," McDonough said. "Just talking to a bunch of funny guys who enjoyed sports and enjoyed having a laugh."

Laughter filled the room many times throughout the night as the men talked about their experiences at WAER. McDonough remembered ambitious freshman Roth coming to his first WAER meeting with a "25-point plan to improve the station on his third day on campus."

Roth joked about McDonough's time as his head intramural coach.

"Sean was the head coach wearing a headset," Roth said. "There was no one on the other end listening."

All jokes aside, many of the nation's top sports broadcasters came back to Syracuse University for this reunion because of their camaraderie and the loyalty they have to the station where they all got their starts. Tirico called everyone who has ever been a part of WAER up to the front of the room for a picture at the end of the night - a picture of  those who will always be a part of the unique WAER fraternity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HOF coach Lin Dunn is gearing up for life away from the court

Coach Lin Dunn reacts after having a
banner raised in her name at Bankers
Life Fieldhouse. (Photo: Brent Drinkut/The Star)
By Michael Castellano

Lin Dunn is about as far from being a New Yorker as her  Southern drawl indicates. She's a Tennessee native, but it's fitting that one of the last stops in Dunn's career was in New York at the world's most famous arena.

"I love playing here," Dunn said Sunday."It's a unique arena in a historic city."

Sitting in an empty locker room in the bowels of Madison Square Garden Dunn, 67, talked with reporters after losing her final regular season game against the New York Liberty.

"I don't think I could live here though the traffic is terrible," Dunn said. "We were across the street and it took us 20 minutes to get to the arena."

In a career that's seen her lead teams to the NCAA Final Four, a WNBA Finals Championship in 2012, and being inducted into seven different halls of fame it makes sense that the mecca of basketball get one last chance to see her impact on the game.

Her Indiana Fever went 3-1 against the Liberty this season including clinching a 10th consecutive playoff appearance with a win over New York last Thursday night - tying a WNBA record (Seattle Storm 2004-13.)

Another trip to the WNBA Finals would cap off a storied career that started over 40 years ago.

After only two years of high school basketball Dunn's playing career ended when she arrived at the University of Tennessee-Martin which didn't have a women's basketball team. "It was too rough for girls; it was not socially acceptable," Dunn said.

Dunn began coaching in 1970 at Austin Peay several years before Title IX legislation was passed. She has seen how far women's athletics have evolved since then.

A young Lin Dunn coaching at Austin Peay
in the early 70s. (Photo: Emily Diekelmann)
"I'm real optimistic about it[women's sports], I think we've got something special here and I think it's only going to get better," Dunn said.

After nine successful years at Purdue, including a trip to the 1994 Women's NCAA Final Four, Dunn ventured off to the professional ranks beginning in the American Basketball League.

Dunn coached parts of three seasons for the Portland Power before the league abruptly folded due to financial difficulties on December 22, 1998.

"I was a part of the ABL when they started, but we really didn't have the resources to sustain it," Dunn said.

She was part of the group that started the Seattle Storm in 2000 and began a 14 year coaching career in the WNBA, the last seven as head coach of the Fever.

Although Dunn is retiring from coaching, she won't be too far from the sidelines. "I'm going to be around the game...I'll be a consultant with the Fever for another year for sure," Dunn said.

Dunn was one of the foremost pioneers for women in sports when she began her career and she hopes to continue inspiring others, this time away from the basketball court. "Now I want to do something else, I want to get involved with women's social rights," Dunn said.

She is also looking forward to a more open schedule and traveling where she wants, when she wants. "I'm not going to miss arguing with the refs; I'm not going to miss the 6:30 AM bus I have in the morning...and I don't want to be tied down," Dunn said. "If I want to go to the Grand Canyon next weekend I'm going to do it. If I want to fly to Australia I'm going to do it."

Lin Dunn and Tamika Catchings hope
to lead the Fever to another WNBA
Championship. (Photo: Sam Riche)
But before it's all said and done, before the last buzzer sounds on a historic career, coach Dunn and the Fever have a playoff matchup with the Washington Mystics starting on Thursday in Indiana.

So whenever Lin Dunn's career concludes, whether it be an early ouster from the playoffs or another WNBA Championship what will the legendary coach miss most? The trip to the Final Four? The 2012 WNBA Championship? The countless halls of fame she's been inducted into?

"The coaches, the staff, the players," Dunn said. "I think I'll miss the people more than anything."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Newcomer Taylor, Stalwart Laird Lead Chiefs' Comeback

By Cody Love

(SYRACUSE N.Y.) - Michael Taylor is batting 1.000 to start in Triple-A.  The Washington Nationals' number-three ranked prospect (and top ranked position player) looked right at home in his debut for the Syracuse Chiefs.

Taylor went 2-for-2 with two walks, and his double in the bottom of the seventh drove in the winning run as the Chiefs beat the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 7-6 at NBT Bank Stadium Monday night.

The Nationals have shuffled outfielders in their organization, calling on the Chiefs' top hitter this year, Steven Souza, Jr. to replace an injured Nate McClouth, on Sunday night.  This left an opening for Taylor.

His night got off to an inauspicious start, as he made a great catch on a fly ball hit by Scranton’s Robert Refsnyder, but mishandled the throw, allowing a run to score.  After that, he calmed down and played a great game.

“I felt pretty good once I got settled in,” Taylor said, “I let it speed up a little bit in the first inning, but after I was able to relax, and get that first AB out of the way.  I felt pretty good.”

Taylor was happy that his team pulled the comeback, and that he played a key role.

“I was definitely excited,” Taylor said, “and thrilled that we got that winning run.”

The Chiefs' offense might never have gotten off the ground at all on Monday if it weren’t for the bat of third baseman Brandon Laird.  RailRiders pitcher Nik Turley had not allowed a hit through 3 and 1/3 innings, and looked dominant. 

A walk earlier in the inning left a man on first for Laird, who blasted the nascent no-hit bid apart with a towering home run just to the right of the left-field foul pole.

“He threw me a couple of off-speed pitches and I was just patient,” Laird said.  After getting ahead, he took advantage of a second-consecutive fastball.

“I just wanted to let it travel, and not try to do to much, and just put a good swing on it,” Laird said.  “Fortunately, it went out for a home run, and you know, I’ll take it.”

The solid performances from both a newcomer, and one of the Chiefs’ most reliable hitters allowed Syracuse to maintain its longstanding, but increasingly tenuous hold on the division lead.  They are one game ahead of Pawtucket, with Rochester just a half game out of second.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Baseball More Than Just a Game for East Syracuse's Domenico Cambareri

By Julia Morris

Domenico Cambareri throwing out the first pitch 
©Michael Greenlar 2014

East Syracuse baseball player Domenico Cambareri has minimal speech without the help of a typewriter, but he did not have to say anything for one to see how excited he was to throw out the first pitch at NBT Bank Stadium on Monday night.  Cambareri waved his arms excitedly and smiled brightly before he threw the ball as hard as he could toward home plate.  After the pitch, the crowd erupted into a thunderous applause and many fans could be heard cheering loudly for Cambareri.  

Cambareri, 20,  has autism and struggles to communicate, but that has not stopped him from playing a game he loves.  He is currently a third baseman in the Syracuse Challenger Baseball league, which is an official Little League division specifically designed for children with special needs.  Cambareri’s father, Dom Cambareri Sr., signed him up when he was seven years old.

"We wanted him to be able to play some summertime baseball and be a normal kid," Cambareri Sr. said.  

Cambareri had such a good time, he has not missed playing in a single game since 2001. When the Challenger Baseball program directors quit in 2004, Cambareri Sr. decided to take over because  he saw how the league positively impacted his son and other participants. 

"When you watch them play,  when you see the look on their faces and the effort that they put in and the joy that they experience just by being able to hold a bat and swing it…there’s nothing that can describe the looks on their faces,” Cambareri Sr. said.  

Cory Brocious, who is Cambareri’s mentor in the program, helps him run the bases and throws him balls during batting practice.  Brocious says playing baseball has changed Cambareri’s attitude and outlook on life.  

"Before he was shy and to himself,  now he’s just more active, he’s going out, he’s working out, he’s choosing what he wants to do and becoming more independent,” Brocious said. 

Brocious has also seen  how the Challenger Division has influenced Cambareri to push himself to try things outside of his comfort zone, such as pursuing his education at Onondaga Community College. 

"Dreams that you asked him four years ago would never have popped into his head," Brocious said. "Now he's graduating and going to college, he's becoming a man and I get to see it through my own eyes." 

While Cambareri has certainly had many highlights throughout his 13 years of playing in the Challenger Division, Brocious says throwing out the first pitch before the Chiefs game is one of his top moments.  

"The look on his face...I have no words," Brocious said. "He was absolutely glowing."  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chief Among the Chiefs is the Spirit of Two Unwavering Fans

George and Betty Sterzer
By Lauren Winfrey

(SYRACUSE, N.Y.)  -  Monday evening, as a sizeable crowd gathered to watch the Syracuse Chiefs take on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at NBT Bank Stadium, most of the 2,000 or so people entered the stadium with little on their agenda besides seeing those they knew, chugging a brew, and watching baseball. Good old fashioned baseball—or at least that’s how 84-year-old George Sterzer describes it. Sterzer grew up watching baseball, playing baseball, and now he sits front row at NBT Bank Stadium in a seat reserved for him game after game watching a sport he says allows him a sense of release.

“As you can tell,” George Sterzer says pointing to the plastic tubes attached to him, “I can’t be very active, and it’s enjoyable for me to watch baseball, it’s a pleasure.”   

Dependent on a respirator to ensure proper breathing, George doesn’t travel to the games alone. In fact, he is accompanied by his 95-year-old sister, Betty Sterzer, who is just as sharp and just as enthused when it comes to the game of baseball.

“He’s been coming to the games since he was four-years-old,” Betty says nodding in George’s direction. Betty says she’s been coming to the games a long time too.

The two are season ticket holders and a wealth of information and experience. They’ve seen so much, learned so much, and watched the evolution of the Syracuse Chiefs on so many levels. George and Betty were there last year when Jason Smorol was named the new General Manager of the Chiefs. They’ve witnessed firsthand the changes that came along with new management—a change many might argue has served to boost crowd morale and crowd participation.

“I didn’t mind the other way, because I primarily come to watch baseball,” George says. These other things are alright, and I don’t mind them, and people enjoy it, let them enjoy it. I just want to watch baseball.”

This coming from a man who was alive during the team’s inception in 1934 when the Jersey City Skeeters moved to Syracuse and were renamed the Chiefs—it was in that year George attended his first Chiefs game. 

“I met a lot of players, home players, and visiting players,” George says. “And I don’t want to talk about the visiting players because I’ve seen so many, and some of them have made the Hall of Fame, and I don’t want [them to outshine] the players that didn’t make it because they all made the game enjoyable.”

Monday evening the Syracuse Chiefs posted a 7-6 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. A win George and Betty can now add to the books. 

Syracuse Chiefs New CF Michael Taylor Shines in Debut

By Geoffrey Chiles

Chiefs CF Michael Taylor
Syracuse Chiefs center fielder Michael Taylor’s Triple-A debut began auspiciously enough.

On a deep fly ball to right center, Taylor closed quickly, tracked the ball, and made a smooth catch over his shoulder—until the ball fell out as he went to throw it back in.

The official scorer charged him with an error. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders immediately capitalized to go up, 1-0.

Taylor made his first blunder at the Triple-A level. But for a player who excelled at the Double-A level with the Harrisburg Senators, he knows that rookie mistakes are a larger part of the growing process. 

“I think I was just rushing a little bit,” Taylor said. “After I made the catch, I was just thinking about getting the ball in. I tried to make the play a little too quickly.”

Taylor was near the top of the Eastern League in average (.313, sixth), home runs (22, third), and stolen bases (34, fourth). 

Power at the plate brought him to Syracuse. But if he showed any nerves after his first-inning gaffe, they were nerves of steel.

Taylor shone at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two walks and a game-winning RBI. 

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native showed confidence for someone playing in his first Triple-A game. He walked his first time up, working the count and getting on base. Once on, he took a huge lead although he still wound up being forced out at second.

Taylor walked again in the fourth, and singled to left field in the sixth for his first career Triple-A hit. He put his speed on display and stole his first career base on the second pitch of the following at-bat.

The best was yet to come.

In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor hammered a double to left field to bring home the winning run in a 7-6 victory for the Chiefs. 

The pressure might have gotten to another 23-year-old, but Taylor refused to succumb to it. No matter the pitch, Taylor approached the game with an ease and a smoothness.

“I was surprised,” Taylor said. “(Scranton pitcher Pat Venditte) had good stuff. His slider was slow. That made (the double) tough to hit.”

Once his bat made contact with the pitch, Taylor still wasn’t sure it’d reach the outfield. As he’d shown all night, however, initial doubts quickly transformed to certainties. 

“I was excited,” he said. “I was surprised it got past the left fielder, it looked like it was right at him. The ball had a little topspin on it, I think it took a bad hop. I was definitely excited, and thrilled we got the winning run.”

The Chiefs are clinging to a one-game lead in their division. Stephen Souza, Jr. led Triple-A in batting average (.354) before being called up by the Washington Nationals on Sunday, which is what led to Taylor coming to Syracuse.

Production from Taylor is what the Chiefs need. More than that, his confidence could be infectious.

Decades of Baseball Cards and Memories

By Emily Hanson

Edward Ziemba was sitting in an empty row of seats behind home plate watching the Syracuse Chiefs take on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on a mild Monday night in NBT Bank Stadium. He occasionally flipped through a green binder full of baseball cards.

Ziemba has been collecting autographed cards since 1959.

“I average a thousand cards a year signed through mail and in person,” Ziemba said.

It’s safe to say Ziemba has tens of thousands of autographed baseball cards, all organized by team, in stacks of binders in his room at a Syracuse senior living facility. Every year he sends cards to his four daughters, now ranging in age from 28 to 42-years-old. He raised his daughters to love baseball and often brought them to watch the Syracuse Chiefs.

Ziemba has rarely missed a game since he started attending in the 1960’s. And he rarely misses an opportunity for an autograph.

“I carry cards of even guys on the DL,” Ziemba said. “Sometimes they show up.”

Two boys, also with binders full of baseball cards, came to sit in the row behind Ziemba to talk with him from time to time during Monday night's game. They swapped information on the players and what autographs they were hoping to get that night.

Ziemba spotted Gary Thurman a few rows down from him.

"Gary Thurman, a former major leaguer...He's the guy in the yellow shirt right here," Ziemba said. "I have four cards of his. He's a scout for Washington, and he'll sign all four of them for me."

Ziemba saw the two boys approach Thurman for an autograph between innings. He quickly followed them to get his turn. He walked with a grin back to his seat carrying his green binder. Though he has thousands of cards at home, he brought just one binder with him Monday night to watch the Chiefs play. 

The now retired Ziemba has seen a lot of changes as a Chiefs fan since the 1960’s, but a loyal fan he remains. So loyal that he can rattle off names of players he met decades ago.

He said he’s thrilled with the Chiefs first place standing in the International League North and credits new management for the solid season. He likes to watch the Chiefs win, just as they did Monday 7-6.

Ziemba said the atmosphere is what keeps him coming back. He’s just having fun.

“I’m not a millionaire, but I’m happy.”

Top Prospect's Triple-A Debut Helps Chiefs Edge Out Streaking RailRiders

By: Emily Dick

Syracuse Chiefs vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
SYRACUSE, N.Y.— All it took was a late inning push and a strong debut from a top prospect for the Syracuse Chiefs to overcome the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Monday night.

But it was a rough start for the Chiefs. By the third inning, the team had given up nearly as many runs as it had errors, one coming from new acquisition Michael Taylor in the first inning.

Taylor made a deep catch from a Robert Refsnyder fly ball on the center field warning track, but bobbled the ball as he attempted to get it back in.

“I think I was just rushing a little bit, after I made the catch I was thinking about getting the ball in maybe a little too quick,” Taylor said. 

The RailRiders capitalized on the drop and Jose Pirela scored. 

Another error in the third inning led to a 3-0 lead for the visitors, but the Chiefs answered in the fourth.

Brandon Laird hit a two-run home run and Will Rhymes hit a two-run double with the bases loaded in the inning to jolt the Chiefs' struggling offense to a 4-3 lead. 

The RailRiders came back in the fifth and sixth innings after two more Syracuse errors to lead 6-4.

The Chiefs had enough for one big push in the seventh. Rhymes started the rally with a single to left field. Jeff Kobernus doubled on a line drive to left, scoring Rhymes from first. Brandon Laird later singled on a fly ball to center field, scoring Kobernus and sending Emmanuel Burriss to second.

That’s when Taylor stepped up to the plate, both literally and figuratively. 

With runners on first and second, and a game tied at six, Taylor, who had been playing for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators less than 24 hours earlier, doubled to left, bringing Burriss home for the go-ahead run. 

The 7-6 win snapped the RailRiders' four-win streak and gave the Chiefs a one game lead over the Rochester Red Wings in the International League North.

The Chiefs started the season strong, but have been struggling of late. It didn’t help that star outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. had been called up to the Nationals Sunday night.

Souza led the league in batting average (.354), slugging percentage (.601), on-base percentage (.435) and was tied for first in RBIs (70).

Souza’s departure led to Taylor’s start for the Chiefs, and it’s a team he says he plans to contribute to.

“Coming from a club that’s been struggling a little bit, it’s a good change and hopefully I can help out and we can hold this out and get a ring,” Taylor said.

Taylor ended the night with two hits and two walks. 

The Chiefs will finish up their series with the RailRiders tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m.